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Rodac History Started in 1970

History of the Diesel Pump Rooms in South Africa

February 5, 2012

Hi All

History of the Diesel Pump Rooms in South Africa

My Father, the late Roy da Costa, gave me some information on the history of the Diesel Pump Rooms in South Africa and requested that I try to put it all together in some form of book.

I am, therefore, to gather all the information I can in order to write a book, e-book or maybe put it on the web and would be grateful for copies of any old photgraphs or information you have, including dates, with regards to the Diesel Pump Rooms in SA, for example, does anyone know when Stansfield Ratcliff started?  If you have any information about your Grandfather, Father or how you personally got started in the Diesel Fuel Industry, whether you were a technician or worked as a representative or sales person and would like to share your experience, please let me know.

One of the items I have is an 8mm film clip (remember the silent movies) taken in 1957 by my Father when he and Ronnie Norwitz were building the very first ADCO workshop. (see below)

Brief History

This is a brief history I have collected from my Father, Roy Da Costa, of how it started together with the information I have also gathered.

Stansfield Ratcliff was the first company to start fuel injection in South Africa, and they became the agents for CAV and Lucasfor Johannesburg and the rest of South Africa.

They then started the first Pump Room with Mr. Storm and his assistant, Jock Hughes.

My Grandfarther Mr Emil August Hanrich Horn, decided to leave his present employment  and to start up his own business, HORN’S Diesel Service (PTY) Ltd. His wife worked in an upstairs room owned by a Mr. Hubby who owned Hubby’s Scrap business. Roy da Costa (my Father), who worked for my Grandfather, requested the option of buying shares in the Company but unfortunately his father-in-law,  Mr. Horn, refused and so Roy da Costa decided to set up his own company.  He then contacted Mr. Hubby, who agreed to provide the financial backing, each partner having a 50% share and Roy da Costa then started up a company called Selby Diesel Service.

At this stage, he  needed a test bench and fortunately a company called Automotive Equipment were able to supply him with the only test bench in South Africa, a ROBOTE, which was made in Italy and cost £600.00.

Selby Diesel Service became a successful business but at this stage fuel injection elements were difficult to obtain due to sanctions on South Africa from England.


Associated Diesel (ADCO) started                                                            

ADCO Workshop built in 1957 v01
ADCO Workshop built in 1957 v01

In 1955 Mr. Ronny Norwitz had just returned from Italy with samples of Panschrome Elements from a firm called Union Resurgo.  Their products were very good quality and he started up a company called Associated Diesel Company (ADCO).  He agreed to sell the elements to Selby Diesel and in return, Roy would repair the pumps for his company .

The business continued to expand and in 1957 Ronny Norwitz bought out Mr. Hubby’s shares in Selby Diesel and the company then became known as ADCO, with Ronny Norwitz, and Roy da Costa having a 50% share each.

Ronny Norwitz also owned a filling station and a large empty building  which was used to make wagons.  He decided to close the filling station and build a workshop on the site at the corner of Bree and Sauer Street.  The company continued to expand even more and they decided they needed bigger premises.

Fred Patterson started at ADCO Johannesburg Branch in 1959 as a Storeman and was eventually in charge of the Stores.  He then went on to open the ADCO branch in Durban and they then employed a Mr. Tony Candaras, who was followed by many more employees as they became very busy and they had to employ more staff, including, Cecil Hopper, Brian Snyman, Pat McCarthy, Phillip Mills and a fleet of delivery boys.

Due to further sanctions from England, they decided to manufacture where possible and at this stage, Simms (England) produced an outstanding coupling that was very much in demand.

It was decided to enlarge the premises and a No. 7 turret lathe and second hand milling machine was purchased and, with a few adaptations, they produced a coupling.

Roy da Costa travelled to England several times to visit SIMMS, following which, the Company made 70% of the SPEA Ford fuel pumps with ADCO selling to the rest of the trade.

The Company then moved the Pump Room, taking up 50% of the upstairs of what was previously the wagon factory.

Herbie Steward started at ADCO in 1962 in the Nozzle Recondition Department.  In 1965 he was offered the opportunity of becoming the Branch Manager of a new branch in Cape Town.

Bruce Farquhar started at ADCO as a Diesel Fuel Injection Apprentice in 1964.

The next stage was to consider the manufacture of nozzles and Roy da Costa travelled several times to Union Resurgo, Italy and1963 they granted ADCO a licence to manufacture.

Under licence to Resurgo it was decided to start a company called South African Diesel Injection Manufacturing (SADIM) with Resurgo holding 50% shares and Roy and Ronnie 25% shares each.

Once again, the nozzles were partly completed by the new company SADIM but were sold to ADCO, who in turn sold to the rest of the trade.
The Company then purchased some machinery from RESURGO which was placed on the other half of the upstairs at the wagon building premises.

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