Bakkies are as much a part of the SA cultural landscape as braais, rugby and vuvuzelas and you’ll see one pretty much everywhere you go. Old ones, big ones, small ones, moerse fancy ones, ones with canopies, ones with mattresses in the back – you name them, we have them.
But there’s one bakkie that’s unlike the others – the Bokkie bakkie, better known as the Ford Cortina MK3 or the Cortina Springbok, which was produced as a limited edition in 1976.
And one proud owner of a Bokkie bakkie is Brian Rademeyer, an environmental activist who inherited his grandfather’s Ford Cortina MK3 a few years ago and, after learning about its rich history, set about restoring it.
His Cortina is one of a series of only 250 bakkies made to commemorate the All Blacks’ 1976 rugby tour to South Africa.
“My granddad Otto Archibald bought the new bakkie in 1976 and my dad, Hugh, inherited it in 1994,” Brian tells us from the small Karoo town of Prins Albert in the Western Cape, where he owns and runs a guesthouse.
Brian realised how unique the bakkie was only when he inherited it. “I started reading up on it and I discovered how few of them were made,” he tells YOU.
The Cortina MK3 Special Edition Springbok Bakkie was manufactured at Ford’s plant in Port Elizabeth. The body was green and gold with sporty stripes and two springbok heads adorn each door.
It wasn’t only the paint job that was unique, Brian says – it was also the design.
“SA took a Ford Cortina sedan and transformed it into a bakkie. They basically cut a piece from the sedan’s compartment and turned the back into a bakkie.”
voilà! A lighter, fuel-efficient and more comfortable ride.
The engine was also modified to be more powerful than the standard Cortina bakkie engines at the time.
Brian recently took his Bokkie with its shiny new coat on a countrywide tour, from the Western Cape to North West and back. And everywhere he went, everyone from petrol attendants and rugby fans to petrolheads were amazed by this truly SA bakkie.
Just a few years ago Brian’s Bokkie was a far cry from the shiny beauty it is today.
“My grandfather retired to a small family farm near Belfast in Mpumalanga. They enjoyed taking the bakkie on trips to the Kruger Park, but we also used it to transport many loads of anthracite from the coal mines to the farm for the coal stove,” Brian says.
By the time Brian inherited it, the bodywork was faded, the Springbok emblems worn off, the stitching on the seats coming undone. But even after 44 years and about 250 000km, it was still the little bakkie that could.
“It was fairly well taken care of. My dad had been a mechanical engineer and he spent a lot of time on its engine,” Brian explains.
“Initially I thought it’d be a fairly simple cosmetic makeover but what started as a respray turned into a full-on restoration.”
Brian found Gustav Nel and his son, Johan, in Pretoria. The Nels had the experience and the contacts to restore the paint job and mechanical components according to the original manufacturing specifications.
The car’s unique paint-colour codes and original Springbok logo design were sourced, the three-speed automatic gearbox refurbished, the engine made fighting fit, and the suspension and worn components replaced.
“Eventually I spent four or five times what I budgeted for this,” Brian admits.
line with modern legislation, he installed three-point seatbelts and replaced
the original vinyl seat covering with leather.
But other than that, his Bokkie Bakkie is exactly the way it was when it left the manufacturing plant all those years ago.
Ford Southern Africa is impressed too. Dale Reid, the company’s production marketing manager, says the company is grateful to Brian for his “time and effort to ensure that this page in Ford’s history book is being kept alive”.
Letting his Bokkie loose on the open road is Brian’s biggest treat.
“You know you’re driving this because of course there’s no power steering or fuel injection. Nothing is electronic but it’s a dream drive. Driving to Pretoria recently, I managed to keep it at 110km/h – I just have to open the window for fresh air.”
enjoys the attention the vehicle gets too. “Though it borders on kitsch, I
quite like that huge Springbok logo.”
While heritage is important to Brian, he describes himself as a casual rugby viewer rather than a fanatic.
But he’s hoping there will be a big Springbok rugby match soon so he can show off his beloved Bokkie.