In praise of my bakkie

I have a venerable old bakkie, which turns 20 this year. It’s a diesel double cab, and I have driven it many hundreds of kilometres. In fact, had I headed up off Cape Canaveral in my bakkie towards the moon, I would have reached it, gone round the back and be half way home by now, so many kilometres has my venerable old bakkie and I travelled.

It still has its original seats, and steering wheel, and tow bar and bullbar and it would be nice to report that it still has its original engine, but it doesn’t. That’s because I have, on occasion, neglected to fill, or change the oil. The first time it happened, I was on my way home from Bronkhorstspruit and, barrelling along at the regulation speed limit I suffered what one might euphemistically call a “catastrophic loss of power”. Nonetheless, my trusty old workhorse brought me home, sputtering and wheezing, and when she’d cooled down we discovered that the oil in her sump was the consistency of chewing gum, if not quite the same virulent pink colour.

So, out came her original engine and in went a second-hand job from Taiwan. Unfortunately that wasn’t quite the same size as the original, nor did it have the same power, so from having been driving a nippy little bus I was now reduced to wheezing around in a vehicle not much faster than a tortoise or a slug. Overtaking became a challenge. Trying to pass even something as slow as a tractor or a combine harvester meant one needed to ensure that the road ahead was clear of oncoming traffic to about Komatipoort before one moved out into the right lane to overtake.

And to get the engine to fit into the vehicle meant that the sump had to be modified. The result was that it never fitted properly and much of the car’s prodigious oil consumption was as a result of it leaking, from about twelve places, onto the ground. When visiting friends I used to leap out on parking and position two flattened cardboard boxes under the engine to catch the dripping oil, as we all know how difficult it is to clean dirty black, sulphurous diesel oil off pristine driveway paving.

Fortunately, that engine didn’t last long, although its fate had nothing to do with old oil. Rather, it had to do with no water, having overheated one hot afternoon in a traffic jam in Pretoria.

So, out came the engine and in went another second hand unit from Taiwan. This one didn’t leak oil, but it could not be connected up to run the car’s airconditioning unit, to which I had become mighty used.

Fortunately, that engine, too, didn’t last long, a lack of oil (or oil the consistency of chewing gum again, I can’t quite remember) taking its toll, and another second hand unit from Taiwan was installed.

Oh, bliss! It doesn’t leak oil, the aircon is reconnected, and it’s as powerful as the original, meaning I can roar away from tractors and combines, and even trucks and skedonk cars (if they’re travelling slowly enough) without having to ensure that the road ahead is clear for fifty kilometres.

But there’s one, slight, small problem. The vehicle is as noisy as hell. It doesn’t worry me much (being a little hard of hearing) but it offends the sensibilities of my family who now resolutely refuse to travel with me in my bakkie.

Which is a shame, because it is an ideal game-viewing vehicle, being higher than a sedan, being rugged enough to cope with corrugated gravel roads, having working aircon and even having a diff-lock (though if I’m honest I don’t think that in the 20 years I’ve owned the vehicle I’ve ever used the diff-lock in earnest, despite having used the vehicle as a mini-plot tractor on occasion when desperate).

And there’s another problem: I can be guaranteed to be stopped at every roadblock I encounter, not only because the cops see a 20 year old vehicle as a sure-fire source of unroadworthiness in one or other respect, but because the vehicle itself is in less that concours d’ elegance condition.

Not that it matters, really, because once we’ve gone through the usual cheery greetings and enquiries about each others’ health, and they’ve checked the vehicles’ and my licenses, the conversation usually turns quite quickly to an offer to purchase. And sometimes the money I’m offered is quite tempting, even if it is a dodgy deal from a cop.

But I’m only ever tempted. A little. Because I’ll never actually part with my bakkie. In fact it’s already written into my will.



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