Thursday, 27 March 2014

Never buy a car you can’t push

“Never buy a car you can’t push”-Anonymous

Those are great words.  Possibly by someone whom had as frequent vehicle trouble as I have.  Also, I stole it from the petrol station up the road.

I was very fortunate to have grown up in an environment where I would spend most school holidays and at least one weekend per month on a farm.  I was 10 years old when my grandfather passed away and my late granny sold the farm, my uncle Zirk took up a jobs as farm manager on two farms a few km down the road.  What started off on my late granddad’s farm, continued on the farms where my uncle used to work.  All three farms were real bushveld farms, in the Mabula area.  Here you would find cattle, donkeys, a lost horse every now-and-then, peanut-, sunflower- and maize fields, and during winter game was hunted.  You do not need a license to drive on a farm.  You just need someone with patience to teach you how to drive a donkey, a 210 liter oil drum and a donkey car.  Some things you can’t steer and you simply become a passenger in an old tractor tyre steered by rocks and roots of trees.  Does not matter where you start, you never end up where you wanted to.  Coming to a halt is the most frightening part of the journey.  When that tyre goes down on its side you have to make sure you have no body parts protruding else you could end up with a severely bruised or even broken limb.  It was always a good idea to lift your head away from the ground to lighten the severity of concussion.  Swinging on gates was also a favorite pastime.

Then I got older and I turned to things with engines.  First it was my aunt Hannetjie teaching me the basics in Uncle Stanleys almost brand new automatic Audi as an eight-year old.  To this day I’m not sure if he knows about that, and I have no intention of ever telling him!  (Cousins, you keep your mouths shut).  I could hardly see over the dashboard.  From there on things happened at pace.  Tractors, bakkies, cars, motorbikes, BIGGER tractors, eight-ton trucks, massive maize harvesters, almost anything you can find on a farm that had a engine.  If you can say that starting the engine of a pivot irrigation system means “driving” it, I also drove a Rolls Royce!  Those Rolls Royce engines were HUGE!

That was the end of my care-free, car-free life.

My first legally on the road vehicle was a 1983 Yamaha RZ 50 motorcycle.  I borrowed money from my granny, R700 to pay for that bike.  I must add that I paid her all back when I started work.  I used this during my last two school years to get to school and back.  It died a slow death after I stopped using it and eventually was tripped for spares and the rest was scrapped.  Fortunately I never had any major problems with her but ran out of petrol at least once between Valhalla and Rooihuiskraal.  In the early 80’s there simply was NOTHING on that stretch of road except for the odd farmhouse here and there.  I did beg for petrol at one house which was used as a base for a business but was given a cold shoulder by a lady after she chatted to the boss-man.  I caught a glimpse of the boss-man and as I left I thought I recognized him but did not bother to turn back.  Up to this day I believe it was a family member but honestly don’t feel like embarrassing neither of us.  I simply cannot recall how I got home but it was not too big an issue I guess.

Then my dad bought me a 1982 Peugeot 504 1800cc.  Only R1900 at an auction.  She needed a new battery and part of the exhaust system replaced and she was on the road.  I started using her towards the end of my matric year.  I was using my “Rooi Gevaar” for frequent weekend trips between Centurion and Air Force Base Hoedspruit when an Impala simply jumped in front of me one Sunday evening just outside Burgersfort.  The front of the car was wrecked, the two National Servicemen I gave a lift had to get back to Hoedspruit on their own steam that evening, and I could not push the car back to town.  Early next morning I walked back to town, reported the accident, organized for the car to be towed to a panelbeater and then started hitchhiking to Hoedspruit.  A few lifts and many hours later I arrived in Hoedspruit.  My dad later replaced her and she was passed on to someone in need of a car.

The Peugeot was replaced with a 1977 Mercedes Benz 200.4.  Lovely family car, just needed a family!  Once Irma and I got married we still used her for a while but later realized we did not need two cars so I returned her to my dad.  He sadly sold her.  Now this was a HUGE car, and I walked MANY kilometers because of her.  I was working for De Beers at that time, working at a field exploration camp just outside Delareyville.  During a long-weekend I organized for it to be serviced in Welkom while visiting my parents in Hennnenman.  On my way back to Delareyville, at about nine in the evening and somewhere between Wolmaransstad and a little place called Migdol the engine died on me.  I walked the remaining 29.5 km to the camp – I measured the distance the next morning with the bakkie on my way back to the car to tow her in.  The sad part is that only ONE car passed me during my route march that night and the driver did not even bother to slow down.  It later turned out the guys servicing the car did not fit the oil filter properly, I ran the engine dry.

Later, as the family expanded, and Irma and I worked in different directions, we added a 1989 BMW 320i to our vehicle history, filling up the empty space underneath the carport.  Loved the little car but we got to a stage where we would fill up with oil and check the petrol.  She also had a major problem with a temperamental alternator but I was never stranded with her, not even after Irma had a little accident between Kenhardt and Calvinia.

Irma owned a 1992 VW City Golf 1300 she bought shortly before we got married in 1994.  A few hiccups, fortunately all happened at someone’s house where lifts were available except for one instance where she died on Irma one morning on her way to work.  The car started when I arrived at Irma and the broken down car, somewhere between work and home.  We suspect the immobilizer was having a bad day.  Another problem was two flat tyres Irma picked up on the N12 one morning on her way to Alberton.  Fortunately we had a second spare so I could take it out to her and get her going.  We never had a problem again after that until she (the car, not Irma) pulled the disappearing act on us in June 2006.

I replaced the BMW with a Mercedes Benz E220.  I love the car.  However, she has been being very temperamental over the past three years but she has never left me stranded at any place other than home.  No major pushing needed other than shunting her around the driveway and carport!

Irma replaced the stolen Golf with a brand new, green Huyndai Atos which was written off by a jerk in 2012 when he skipped a stop street.  That was the only time Martin and I had to organize a lift home.

In the meantime I bought a Gomoto Freedom 125 to get to work and back.  I bought a cheapy with the idea if I did like the idea of biking again I did not waste too much money.  Good thing.  After only about 17000 kilometers it started giving all kinds of trouble and I could not find a specific spare part.  She died on me one afternoon on my way home on the M1.  Fortunately I could push her home for the last three kilometers.  Martin eventually got her going again and it became his toy, teaching himself how to drive a bike.

The green Atos then was replaced with a white, 2010 Atos.  She is still going strong, never let us down once.

I replaced the Gomoto with a Honda E-Storm 125.  Except for the occasional flat tyre, all fine so far.  One good thing about her, she can be pushed, like I have done many times!