An SA bakkie story: Fanie and his trusty companion have given a new lease on South African life

Isuzu has been a long-standing favourite among South Africans with their locally produced one-ton bakkies. It always promises to deliver legendary performance, reliability, and go-anywhere ability, trusted for the past 40 years!

An 18-year old model, with almost 2 decades of journeys and adventures behind its name, travelling the majority of Sub-Saharan Africa as far as Eastern Europe is about to undergo an all-inclusive makeover!

Paying Homage 

A highly experienced technical team at Isuzu Motors South Africa in Port Elizabeth are taking a 2000 Isuzu 280 D-Teq 4×4 under their wings for a full restoration.

With Isuzu celebrating 40 years of bakkie production in South Africa, this restoration forms part of paying homage to the Living Legends competition which saw over 150 entries from loyal Isuzu bakkie owners.

“The Isuzu range has been a key player in the growth of the light commercial vehicle segment in South Africa, and in particular the rise of double cab bakkie as the sought-after family and leisure vehicles they are today”, says Dominic Rimmer of Executive Technical Services says.

Isuzu was the first to introduce the double cab to the South African market in 1989, when they first launched their bakkie range.

Rimmer adds, “While the subsequent model arrived in 1997, it set new standards in its segment with its outstanding comfort, superb performance and fuel economy, along with unrivalled durability. It’s no surprise that it was the top-selling one-ton pick-up in South Africa at the time”.

A living legend

To celebrate an exceptionally proud legacy, Isuzu launched their Living Legends competition, where one very lucky Isuzu owner would receive an exclusive restoration of their bakkie, courtesy of Isuzu Motors South Africa.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was won by a retired university professor who embarked on adventuress across Africa and Europe with his Isuzu bakkie – Fanie Olivier from Pennington in KwaZulu-Natal.

Fanie is thrilled to have won and says, “This is such a wonderful thing to happen to me and my trusty Isuzu bakkie. This generation bakkie really built Isuzu’s solid reputation for durability in South Africa, and my vehicle has been unbelievably reliable over the years, despite it having to endure some really tough conditions”.

“I’ve done extensive travelling into Africa, and my longest single trip was driving from Louis Trichardt all the way up to Nairobi and then Dar es Salaam. I’ve also travelled along most of the Zambezi River, negotiated the most hair-pinned road one can imagine from Lake Malawi to Livingstonia in the north, slid effortlessly along the magnificent Tanzam Highway that links Tanzania and Zambia, traversed the treacherous minefields of Mozambique and had the bakkie inspected by lions and elephants in Chobe, Botswana,” Olivier reveals.

Despite the bakkie being a second-hand vehicle that Olivier purchase in 2004, he has clocked close to half a million kilometres to date!

‘Quite an anomaly’

Olivier had his Isuzu shipped to Poland, where he spent time travelling Eastern Europe as a visiting professor at a university in Poznan. It is these travels and adventures enthuse Olivier the most.

“This was the only vehicle I had, and I couldn’t afford to buy another car in Poland, so my Isuzu went with me. It was quite an anomaly, as the people I met had never seen an Isuzu, never mind a bakkie of this type, and certainly not a double cab.

Poland was the perfect door to explore Europe, so between 2004 and 2006 I crisscrossed the continent, from Auschwitz to Amsterdam, Edinburgh to Moscow, Nordkapp in Norway to Athens, and across the Ukranian steppes to Sebastopol.

At every border crossing it was the same thing, as officials, villagers, policemen and fellow travellers converged on the Isuzu to look at it, asked questions and tried to understand this very, very strange vehicle from a very strange place.

Despite sometimes having to run the 280 DT engine on a questionable duet of home-brewed diesel that was little more than old cooking oil, particularly while traversing the back roads of Belarus and Russian”, Olivier expresses great delight in his loved and trusted bakkie.

Reliability defined

Olivier says he’s not big on maintenance, but his Isuzu has been unbelievably reliable over the years. The only two mishaps he has ever encountered has been a broken bracket on the air-conditioner pump and a faulty immobiliser.

Olivier’s true Living Legend 280 DT is set to receive a refresh from the team at Isuzu’s Technical Services division, based at the manufacturer’s Vehicle Conversion and Distribution Centre (VCDC) on the outskirts on Port Elizabeth.

“We’ve never done a restoration like this before, but most of our team was involved in the development and production of this model which remains extremely popular and sought after in South Africa. We are looking forward to the challenge”, says Jessel Vencencie, Vehicle Validation and Support Manager at Isuzu Motors South Africa.

“As soon as Fanie’s vehicle arrives at VCDC it will be given a thorough assessment, including a dynamic driving evaluation and dynamometer test. We will be working closely with our Parts and Accessories team to determine what items are still available for this model an deciding what work can be done in-house or outsourced as necessary.”

Olivier and his wife of four years, Antoinette have been counting down the days until the faithful vehicle is returned with a new lease on life, ready for another lifetime of travelling.

“There are loads of places we still want to see in my Isuzu, and we need to tick off the bucket list items before we kick the bucket”, Olivier comments.

“I’ve never been to Angola or done Sani Pass, and Antoinette hasn’t seen the spectacular Victoria Falls or Chobe. We can’t wait to begin an exciting new chapter with this legendary bakkie, and we’re extremely grateful for this amazing opportunity!”