CC Global: Capturing Cars During Cape Town Lockdown

At the start of the Eighties Alison and I would go dancing every Wednesday at Scratch, a reggae club here in Cape Town. It cost 50c to get in. Regular price on weekends was R1.50, too expensive for us penniless arts students. The police would hover outside expecting trouble. Alison and I couldn’t afford alcohol let alone anything worse, for us music was the drug.

I eventually drifted away from reggae but keep a deep affection for it. South Africa went into Covid-19 lockdown at the end of March and as an older person I was feeling apprehensive about the immediate future. I resigned myself to reigniting my car drawing habit, what with photography forays being off limits, and frustrated that level 5 lockdown prevented us from exercising outside. One morning I opened my diary and the daily quote was from my old reggae friend, Bob Marley: “Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet”, and right there I thought I won’t let this situation overwhelm me, let’s see what can I learn from it.

Level 5 eventually gave way to level 4 and limited exercise was allowed. We could walk or ride bicycles within a 5 km radius of our homes between 6am and 9am.

I dusted off my mountain bike, desperate for fresh air. By this time I was working from home which meant I had to be at my laptop by 7.40am, showered and presentable from the waist up for Zoom meetings with my team. As we were going into Winter that meant a cycle ride starting at 6am in the dark. I wasn’t holding out for any photo opportunities..

Minutes into my first ride I saw this gorgeous ’71 Ford Ranchero parked at my local filling station. This is essentially a Ford Falcon XY Utility renamed for the South African market. The Falcon name had little traction here, and using the Ranchero name gave the car some American cachet I guess.

While researching info on the Ranchero I found out this particular car is for sale online on Gumtree. It’s still listed at 176 000 Rand, which converts to $10 350, which I don’t think is cheap. It’s a nice straight vehicle but the rust in the doors and fenders needs urgent attention. The ad says it’s a V8 and has air ride, whatever that is. What’s going on with that suspension?

When I was a kid growing up on the shores of False Bay, not far from here, these were popular with private deep sea fishermen who used them to tow large deep V hulled boats which could handle the rough seas off Cape Point.

On weekends I could cycle later, as long as I was home by 9am. Everybody flocked to the beachfront, desperate to get some exercise, for themselves and their cars, which need to stretch their legs too!

Revisiting the W123 Benz in the first image, they are still so plentiful nobody gives them a second glance, but this one got my attention with its wacky paint job. Regarding the back window commentary, ”Always be a pirate.” The world has quite enough pirates thanks!

Here we have a 1980 Ford 1-tonner with a 1600cc four pot engine, based on the Mk V Cortina. The Cortina bakkie was initially introduced here in 1971 and has a great reputation as a tough workhorse.

The Jaguar XJ6 series 11 Executive was assembled at the Leykor plant here in Cape Town up until 1981, two years after series 11 production had ended worldwide.

Even though I’ve known these Jags for so long seeing one in the flesh always comes as a shock. The proportions are just so unlike anything else around here, so long and low, and the green paintwork really suits it. I guess the plastic bag over the grille is to keep out the cold sea air for easier starting. I think the chrome wheel arch covers are a period accessory.

It just struck me all these are all cars from my student days. These were driving past Alison and I as we crossed town to Scratch.

I have returned to work full time now. Cape Town has just passed the infection peak. We are still at level 3 lockdown and can now exercise with fewer restrictions. I’m still figuring out how much life has changed but I’m determined to not get ‘wet’!