Spinning in Soweto: the loud and proud history of the Gusheshe
Search Gumtree ads for a second-hand BMW 325i
On any given Saturday night, Soweto’s vacant lots are filled with cheering crowds and smoke as fans gather to watch drivers perform crazy twists, turns and stunts in their boxy BMWis – known as spinning. It’s not drifting, a much faster genre that originated in Tokyo. Spinning is proudly South African and stunts are valued over speed.
While the BMW 3 line remains one of the best-selling series of all time, nowhere in the world does the brand have such a dedicated fan base or glamorised image, appearing in music videos (such as Die Antwoord's Baby on Fire) and songs (Gusheshe Versace Freestyle by Sheen Skaiz and Cassper Nyovest’s Gusheshe), modelling shoots and TV series.
Although spinning and drifting have become mainstream (and the BMW brand is as strong as ever), the Gusheshe (325i) and iBotsotso (325iS) were originally associated with gangsterism and rebellion as well as theft. With a claimed 0–100km/h time of 7.5 seconds and top speeds of 225km/h, they were popular getaway cars during robberies.
This translated into acts of political rebellion. Cars were spun at funerals of activists (and gang members) as an act of defiance.
Nowadays, spinning is a legitimate sport and becoming more regulated. The creation of the Jeff James Spin Hub arena (named after the godfather of spinning) in Soweto ushered in a new era of entertainment and validation.
The enduring appeal of the Gusheshe or more popular iBotsotso is due to the performance and the cost. The E30 was manufactured between 1982 and 1994, while the first 325i models appeared as early as 1985.
The iS models (Evo1) launched in 1990. The BMW 325iS was lightweight and fast, with a rear-wheel drive and small wheels, making it perfect for throwing around in circles. The 50:50 weight distribution is also essential for maintaining control.
A second-hand 325i can be picked up for R20,000, although most spinners will spend more than that on engine repairs and Gusheshe parts as they are hard to come by.
Gumtree head of autos (and BMW collector) Nunben Dixon says the price of vintage BMWs is climbing. “While spinners are burning the tread off their tyres most weekends, their cars are treasured possessions and well looked after. Prices for these cars and their parts are climbing rapidly, although you can still find bargains on Gumtree.
“As popular as the BMW 325i and iS were, they are becoming harder and harder to find, with owners hanging onto them for years. The fact that these vehicles are still on the road 30 years after production says a lot about their quality.”
This article was paid for by Gumtree SA.