He found suitable premises in Northcliff, Johannesburg and set up Tom Campher Motors operating a fuel station as well as buying and selling Volvos, including offering spares and servicing. He took out a two-line advert in the local press reading: ‘Volvo cars bought and sold and serviced.’ Where he could, he bought up all the existing Volvo spares. VSA continued to bring in new spares until the 1980s, which Tom was able to access but when for political reasons this stopped, Campher had to look for an alternative. The solution came from two Swedish gents and meant registering a business outside South Africa – in Tom’s case he chose Swaziland but the parts still arrived without hassle at Jan Smuts airport on a regular basis. Another way to circumnavigate the politics was to source parts through Greece.
Clearly this was no plain sailing though and the stress of operating the business took its toll on Tom. Thankfully his sons Vic and Gerhard stepped up to the plate after doing their army time and offered to get involved. Vic headed up spares and Gerhard the workshop before the pair eventually took over the operation from Tom in full. Tom moved to Belfast, Mpumalanga to enjoy some trout fishing before moving to join his daughter in Groot Brak and now resides in Canada.
He returned to rallying in the 1990s, this time strictly as a driver in a few Pirelli classic car rallies with a Volvo 122S – the car he ranks as one of the best and most solid items ever built.
Tom Campher Motors, continues today. Under the curatorship of Vic and Gerhard it has moved up the road to Auckland Park and with Volvo officially back in the country is an official Volvo dealership. That doesn’t mean the oldies are forgotten though, with the new cars from the Swedish firm sitting between immaculate examples from the past. And they offer classic Volvo spares and restorations too. With renowned Volvo builder Howard Bates behind the operation, Tom Campher Motors is churning out restored or refreshed vehicles. During our visit we counted two 122s being fully restored, another original example getting mechanically sorted as per the client’s brief and Vic’s P1800 race car being fettled for the next round of the championship.
Oh yes, and there’s a 144 being redone for Vic’s son – passing the passion on to the next generation of Campher.