Gordon Dyne's Mirage F1 is one of several Mirage F1 mock-ups built from fibreglass on a 1-1 scale during the border war. These replicas were then strategically placed at various air force bases around South Africa to act as decoys for spy satellites. Gordons acquired the decoy from a farmer in Heidelberg. It was a dream eventually realised after many years of waiting and on 13 October the unveiling of the F1 took place at his hangar at Brakpan airfield. Two hundred and fifty invited guests watched as she was towed to her place of honour next to his impressive man cave.
Gordon had approached several companies to quote on refurbishing his Mirage, but alas, none bothered. He mentioned this to Neil Fenton (Techneil) in passing one day and although Techneil had never refurbished an aircraft before the company took on the challenge eagerly since the staff shared the same enthusiasm. Everyone was on board and Gordon gave Techneil the green light early June 2019. It was all systems go!
Neil visited the Aeronautical Faculty at Wits & Zwartkops Military Museum to gain more insight into what the original Mirage F1 looked like and so "Operation Gordan Mirage F1" started in earnest.
The mirage was towed into Apie Kotzee's hanger at Brakpan airfield where the restoration took place. The wings were dismantled and transported to Techneil's factory. Transporting the wings gave the Techneil bakkie the look of an "angel" ……...much to the amusement of all involved.
A new rib cage which was made in Techneils's Factory and fitted inside the wings. Once sanded down, primer was applied to the main body of the wings. A new skin for the underside of the wings was built, primer applied and the wings were finally ready to be transported back to Brakpan Airfield. In the meantime, the decals were sent to Nic Nick van Veenen of C U Marketing where the proofs were drawn up. A new canopy frame had to be manufactured & new plastic fitted onto the canopy frame to complete the cockpit. While work continued in the factory, the other team worked at the hanger as often as possible in-between the regular Techneil work and started sanding down the plane, doing structural repairs and doing more work to stabilise the wings from sagging.
The wheels were the next hurdle…...Techneil could not source old or new mirage tyres for the love of money. After many sleepless nights Neil and his son Warren decided to have rubber moulds made and did a "sandwich" for each set of wheels in order to hold the 4.2 tons of weight bearing down on the tyres. The moulds turned out perfect after which they were then machined to look like the real thing (or as close as possible). The new tyres with new bearings could now be fitted back onto the plane. Most of the nitty gritty work had been done and Gordon gave them the green light for his chosen camouflage pattern to be applied. The first step in this process was to spray paint the primer and thereafter the mustard base colour. Once this was dry the green pattern was spray painted onto the plane and they were now getting closer to their goal.
The decals were ready to be applied. Gordon approached Arthur Piercy and Mark Clulow (who are veteran Mirage F1 pilots), for permission to have their names on either side of his aircraft (as they did on the original mirage squadron planes). Gordon was delighted when they accepted. The excitement was growing with each passing day…. Once the whole plane had been polished, a ceramic overlay was applied by Wayne van Rooyen (Hendlex Ceramic Coating) not only to finish the look but to also protect the plane from the elements. Electronics & lights were fitted and they were now on the final flight path back to base! The plane was brought out of the hangar on a few occasions to do various touch ups ……to their absolute amazement the sight of the Mirage caused a traffic jam on the road adjacent to Brakpan Airfield…...people thought it was about to take off!
The ultimate goal had been achieved in four months!! This has to be the most amazing and rewarding project Techneil has tackled helping to make Gordon's dream a complete reality restoring the Mirage F1 to her former glory!