Globe-trotting Isuzu bakkie to be given new lease on life as winner of Living Legends competition
Isuzu’s revered and trusted locally produced one-ton bakkie range has been a firm South African favourite over the past 40 years, delivering legendary performance, unbeatable reliability and impressive go-anywhere ability.
And now, an adventurous 18-year-old model, nearly two decades of travelling the length and breadth of Sub-Saharan Africa and as far as Eastern Europe is set to be rewarded with a comprehensive make-over. The 2000 Isuzu 280 D-TEQ 4×4 will be undergoing restoration which will be conducted by the highly experienced Technical Services team at Isuzu Motors South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
The restoration forms part of Isuzu’s celebrations for its 40th anniversary of Isuzu bakkie Production in South Africa and is the culmination of the Living Legends competition which attracted over 150 entries from eager and loyal Isuzu bakkie owners around the country.
“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 bakkies as the sought-after family and leisure vehicles they are today,” says Dominic Rimmer, Executive Technical Services.
“The third-generation Isuzu bakkie range was launched in 1989 and Isuzu was the first to introduce and market the double cab in South Africa. 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,” Rimmer adds. “It’s no surprise that it was the top-selling one-ton pick-up in South Africa at the time.”
The Living Legends competition celebrates this exceptionally proud legacy, with one very fortunate Isuzu owner receiving an extensive restoration of his much-loved Isuzu Double Cab Bakkie, courtesy of Isuzu Motors South Africa.
Fanie Olivier from Pennington on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal is the extremely lucky man, whose entry was selected as the winner of the once-in-a-lifetime Living Legends make-over. Thanks to his bakkies remarkable exploits across Africa and Europe where the retired university professor ventured to.
“This is such a wonderful thing to happen to me and my trusty Isuzu bakkie,” a delighted Olivier states. “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.”
Although he purchased the Isuzu second-hand in 2004 and can’t remember the original mileage, Olivier has clocked up several hundred thousand boasting close to half a million kilometres to date.
“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,” Olivier reveals. “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 mine fields of Mozambique and had the bakkie inspected by lions and elephants in Chobe, Botswana.”
However, it’s the time spent in Eastern Europe that Olivier enthuses about most, having had his Isuzu shipped over to Poland where he was based as a visiting professor at a university in Poznan. “This was the only vehicle I had, and I couldn’t afford to buy another car in Poland, so my Isuzu went with me,” he says.
“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,” he laughs. “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,” Olivier says.
Despite sometimes having to run the 280 DT engine on a questionable diet of home-brewed diesel that was little more than old cooking oil, particularly while traversing the back roads of Belarus and Russia, Olivier expresses great delight in that this trusty steed has been as dependable as they come.
“I’m not big on maintenance, but my Isuzu has been unbelievably reliable over the years. I’ll forgive it the only two mishaps that I encountered, which was a broken bracket on the air-conditioner pump, and the immobiliser that was faulty once.”
As a true “Living Legend” in every sense of the phrase, Olivier’s 280 DT is set to receive a well-earned refresh from the team at Isuzu’s Technical Services division, based at the manufacturer’s Vehicle Conversion and Distribution Centre (VCDC) on the outskirts of 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,” says Jessel Vencencie, Vehicle Validation and Support Manager at Isuzu Motors SA. “We are looking forward to the challenge.
“As soon as Fanie’s vehicle arrives at VCDC it will be given a thorough assessment, including a dynamic driving evaluation and dynamometer test,” Vencencie explains. “We will be working closely with our Parts and Accessories team to determine what items are still available for this model and deciding what work can be done in-house or outsourced as necessary.”
Bubbling with enthusiasm, Olivier and his wife of four years, Antoinette, are already counting the weeks, days and hours until the faithful Isuzu is restored and returned with a new lease on life. “There are lots 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 with his wry sense of humour.
“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!”