Birkin Cars Limited, South Africa

Birkin Cars Limited, South Africa

Birkin Cars, Ltd. South Africa


John Watson

Pinetown, South Africa

Birkin Cars, Ltd. is a South African-based car manufacturer. Birkin Cars was formed in 1982. The company's specialty and only currently-manufactured vehicle is the S3 Roadster, a kit-car copy of the Lotus Super 7. The founder and owner of the company is John Watson, a descendant of pioneering race car driver Tim Birkin. John Watson, an automotive enthusiast, was a fan of the classic Lotus Seven. However, the car had since ended production from the manufacturer and could no longer be bought as new. Through the early 1980s, Watson developed and manufactured his own version of the Seven. The cars were unveiled to the public at the 1983 South African Grand Prix. The first shipment of completed S3 Roadsters were delivered directly to be sold at Lotus car dealerships.

Birkin has expanded several times since the 1980s, but has kept its base of operations near Durban, South Africa. The car can be purchased as either a turn-key car, or as a DIY kit, that can be completed by the owner. Several Inline 4 cylinder engines, such as the Ford Zetec and Toyota 4AG can be used in the vehicle. Further developments to the car include using an independent rear suspension as opposed to the previously used live axle.



Birkin Cars has been an international icon since 1983. A company entrenched with a deep motorsport history and rich lineage that captured the imagination of thousands of sports car purists around the globe. After a brief spell in the Australasian market, Birkin Cars is back. The history begins in the back yard of a service station in a small workshop of not more than fifty square metres. The South African Lotus dealer heard about the vehicle and arranged to view it. Based on their observations they offered a contract to John to manufacture cars.

The car made its debut at the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami in 1983. The high profile launch, staged by the RSA Lotus distributors, was attended by Hazel Chapman, the widow of the late Colin Chapman and the Lotus Formula One Drivers, Nigel Mansell and Elio de Angelis. The Birkin S3 was an instant success and an initial build of 12 limited edition cars, finished in Team Lotus ‘JPS black and gold livery, was commissioned by the Lotus dealers.


Birkin Sports Cars PTY LTD

Purchasing a clubman sports car is an extravagance, an investment in lifestyle. Your enjoyment will in part depend on the availability of service and support to help with assembly of your vehicle.  However, it extends beyond construction to exploring the community of other Birkin and clubman owners.  You might want to race or simply rally to enjoy a cappuccino at the end of a twisty road. Birkin Sportscars was formed and is owned by distributors based in each state around Australia.  Every distributor has a passion for the cars, understands their intricacies and can assist with construction, engineering and registration.


Birkin RSA

Birkin’s roots reach far beyond the birth of the S3 roadster. The name ‘Birkin’ first found fame in the hands of Sir Henry ‘Tim Birkin’. This Legendary British racer was responsible for the development of the famous supercharged 4.5litre ‘blower’ Bentley, which he drove to victory in the 1928 Le Mans 24 hour. Birkin’s flamboyant racing career is recorded in his book ‘Full Throttle’ written to inspire young enthusiasts whose interests lay in the motorsport. Birkin swiftly earned an enviable international reputation for craftsmanship and quality.


Birkin S3 Roadster

In 1983 the Birkin S3 was born out of a love for the legendary Lotus Super Seven and has been widely acclaimed as one of the finest quality classic reproductions in the world — quite an accomplishment for this small but dynamic company based in Pinetown, South Africa. Nearly 8000 Birkin S3’s have been manufactured worldwide since 1988 with numerous awards and glowing endorsements in kit car magazines and web rings.

Birkin's S3 is one of only two reproductions worldwide that bear any real resemblance to the original Lotus, although both have been re-engineered in different directions to meet modern safety and emission legislation. The S3 Chassis is fitted with an Independent Rear Suspension. Responsive and exhilarating to drive, the IRS model is a well balanced performance Roadster with incredible road holding and acceleration.  The IRS model offers superior roadholding and ride on bumpy surfaces with a modest increase in price and no weight penalty.




BIRKIN CARS (PTY) LTD has sold its manufacturing business to BIRKIN PERFORMANCE CARS,a company owned by Ralph Smith and Dean Knoop. The company trading as BIRKIN PERFORMANCE CARS has acquired the exclusive rights to manufacture the current Birkin product range (S3, CS3, S3XS and CS3XS) and all preceding models under licence to BIRKIN INTERNATIONAL and to market those products in all countries excluding North America and Canada. BIRKIN CARS (PTY) LTD headed by John Watson will continue with the design and development engineering activities of the company and will provide technical direction to BIRKIN PERFORMANCE CARS on a consultancy basis. In North America and Canada, the BIRKIN DIRECT USA partnership, headed by Tom Carlin and John Watson remains the exclusive importer and distributor for all Birkin products.


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