This past week I spent with friends outside Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. My teenage years happened there and I miss the smell of the red dust roads and citrus orchards. This year I flew and hired a car instead of driving the 750 kms, as done the last two years. The idea was to hire a VW Polo and visit the factory where they are assembled in Uitenhage, 35kms north of Port Elizabeth, and do the factory tour. Neither of these ideas panned out; but the trip did yield a number of automotive finds along the way.
When I arrived at P.E. Airport all the rental Polo’s were out and I was given the option of a Toyota Etios, or the Grand i10, the Hyundai appealed the most. It has a 4 cylinder 1.25 litre engine putting out 64Kw and 120 Nm of torque. Doesn’t sound like much power, but over the week it covered most bases, only needing careful gear selection on the steep hills of Port Elizabeth, and when crossing busy intersections. At 120 kms per hour at 3500 rpm it would travel silently with good cabin sound insulation.
Both the original i10 and Grand i10 are currently sold in South Africa. Europe’s i10 looks like the Grand i10, and is sourced from Turkey, the difference being our Grand i10 is sourced from India and the wheelbase is stretched 100mm. Confusing I know! Keeping the previous generation product on sale is big business for many manufacturers here; the VW Polo Vivo, a slightly repackaged previous generation Polo, see below, remains a top seller alongside the current Polo.
VW assembled their 500 000th Polo in Uitenhage in 2015.
The Polo Vivo and the below picture were snapped in Humansdorp, an agricultural town to the west of P.E. The rain was welcome, the whole country has been in the grip of a drought. In Cape Town we are on level 3 water restrictions, and are making desperate plans how we are going to get through till April when the winter rains arrive.
Still in Humansdorp, I saw a 2000-5 Toyota Condor converted into a hearse. All sorts of vehicles are used as hearses here, the Toyota Cressida station wagon was a popular option.
In Port Elizabeth I captured this beautiful Volvo in the somewhat gritty light industrial North End area, as well as the below Buick Riviera.
The Riv has Northern Cape plates. Plates from faraway places always set me daydreaming. The section of the R355 from Ceres in the Western Cape to Calvinia in the Northern Cape at 255kms is the longest dirt road in South Africa without a town or petrol station in between. This is the road from Cape Town to AfrikaBurn which takes place anually in the Tankwa Karoo, an arid semi-desert part of the Northern Cape.
I was standing wondering how to make a picture out of the God’s Time Car Wash, when this Nissan GTR handily came along.
I’ve mentioned the Nissan Sani before, I heard this one coming long before I saw it, that delicious 6 cylinder wail carving through the traffic on its way to a call, no siren needed..
Down by the beach in the Summerstrand area a Kombi punting horse rides.
Opposite the Opera House part of a sculpture tribute to the Toyota Hi Ace and the Taxi industry. The Hi Ace underpins the huge minibus taxi industry which is a significant source of employment in a country struggling to create jobs.
Port Elizabeth has great architecture and is becoming a sought after destination to stay. Renault’s Clio is a popular purchase here.
The Addo Elephant Park, 72 kms outside Port Elizabeth, was created in 1931 to save 11 elephants in the area on the brink of extinction, and is now home to 350, plus many other species, in an area covering 120 000 hectares. We went for the day and got really close on a couple of occasions. On one occasion I had to fling the car into reverse and get out quickly, no one wins a stand off with an irritated elephant.
A striped Tiger seen far from home in the park, a Danish registered Kombi, Synchro I guess. At the park restaurant English is not necessarily the predominant language! Tourists from around the world flock here to absorb the African bush.
The next day I travelled to Uitenhage, the home of the VW assembly plant. Volkswagen’s have been made here since 1951. Before that, from 1946, Studebakers were assembled in the same plant for a time, as well as Austins.
The above VW beach buggy itteration was very popular in the 70’s, especially with fishermen, they don’t rust, travel well on the sand, and are lockable. I have just one question, how did they get in and out? People really were thinner then..
I had been to the VW Pavillion static display next to the factory the year before, and was hoping to do the factory tour. VW were offering the tour on Radio Algoa as a holiday activity, so I was bit miffed when I phoned to hear the tours were only starting the following week.
the ubiqitous Nissan 1400 Champ in Uitenhage.
This Nissan Exa looks like it leads a tough life but is in great shape, same for the Skyline.
Down at the bottom end of town in the scrapyards I captured this Bedford. Commercial vehicles never used to interest me, but it’s changing..
The Hyundai has a smart attractive interior. It’s standout feature is how spacious it is. I am 6’2 and fairly broad, and after approx 1200 kms I can say it was really comfortable.
A final picture of the Grand i10 covered in Addo dust, with a suitably grand entrance, and a cruise ship in Port Elizabeth harbour in the distance. Hyundai got all the important bits right on this car, I know a lot of people I will be telling to try it out!