Port Elizabeth’s best-kept secret, the Perana Z-One was first seen earlier this year at the Geneva International Motor Show. Now it is just months away from production and its sales debut in world markets.
The car is the brainchild of Jimmy Price, who describes it as a “classic, partly retro, ultramodern, traditional two-seater”. He says having impressed at Geneva, the next step is to prepare the production line to make the car for the European Union (EU) market.
“We will start production in September and are hoping to produce about 40 cars a month,” he says. “But there is a lot of work to be done between now and September. We have to set up the production line, and ensure that we meet EU safety and performance regulations, which we have to comply with before we can export to those countries.” The plan is to set up a dealership network across the EU.
The car was so well received that prospective buyers flew from London and wanted to buy it on the spot in Geneva. “On the first of March, we had people flying in from England with cheques — they wanted to buy the car at the show, which we don’t do. It was a number of people, not one or two, a big number.”
Price says the car’s launch created a media frenzy that Hi-Tech will now seek to capitalise on. “We had huge international press. I think at one stage we had over 2-million websites on Google featuring the car during the show. Even if you Google ‘Perana’ now, you will find about 900 000 websites featuring the car. All the biggest motoring magazines in America — Motor Trend, Car and Driver — all featured the Perana. The London Sunday Times had a two-page spread of the car, and an Italian magazine had a three-page spread. It was very positive.”
Price was pleasantly surprised to get compliments even from established industry players. “I think the most amazing thing is that the lot of the important low-volume companies such as Bentley, Aston Martin and Ferrari came up and were complimentary about what we have achieved.” He also received a number of offers from people wanting to set up dealerships for the Perana, which Price has dubbed the “poor man’s Porsche or Ferrari”. It will retail at about £55 000, which at the time of writing was just under R750 000. “We seem to have picked on a niche market that is big enough for us,” he says.
“I saw this as an opportunity to pursue my dream. I built the car with local guys — a small but competent, enthusiastic and professional engineering production team at St Albans.”
With the American car market in the midst of an unprecedented slump, sales of replica sports cars have been hard hit, and Price sees the arrival of the Perana as a timely opportunity to diversify. “It’s timely, considering what is happening in the auto industry. It’s something new and we believe we will be able to exploit the European markets. We can’t be tied to the American markets only.”