It’s the end of an era, really. For my venerable and much beloved old Toyota Hilux has gone to a new owner. Now 23 years old, and with nearly half a million kilometres on her clock, she’s off to Zimbabwe because spares and maintenance for her there simpler to procure than other, newer vehicles are.
I acquired her in a hurry, my first long-distance trip starting on the very day I took delivery of her, with only 25 000kms on the clock. She’s a double cab job, with a diff-lock, and her first job was to transport my son and , and two old Pony Club ladies, me to the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg. It could easily have ended in tears or as we set out I must have bumped the electric switch that engages the diff-lock, and with it thus engaged we barrelled down the N3.
Now if you have a bakkie with a diff-lock you will know that it shouldn’t be engaged on tar, and it shouldn’t be used at speeds over 50km/h or so. If you do, your bakkie’s manual will warn you, there’s a good chance that you might end up upside down in the veld, beside the road. Providence was on my side that day, however, as I accustomed myself to what I thought were rather unique handling characteristics (this was my first bakkie). So that it was only when, in the hotel parking lot in Maritzburg, doing some tight manoeuvring into a parking space did the sound of flying gravel from the inside wheel alert me to the fact that something was wrong, and I was able to disengage the diff-lock. In addition to the trip to Pietermarizburg she took the family on more than one trip to the Eastern Cape, and towed our vintage tractor and my son to Ficksburg for South Africa’s Guinness record tractor pull, the Great 400 Working. She’s towed countless horseboxes around Gauteng, carrying children and their mounts to and from various shows, and carried loads of s and, bales of hay and sacks of feed, not to mention poles and other building material.
She was the vehicle in which my two eldest children learned to drive, first by pottering around the plot, and then actually out on the road prior to their driving test. And at one stage she was my eldest son’s work vehicle as he started out after school installing and maintaining security systems (this was before one required a license to do so). And, of course, she spent years as one of the prime distribution vehicles for the Indeed, it was on one of these trips Smallholder. that I learned a short, sharp, and very expensive lesson in diesel engine maintenance. Not for nothing does the vehicle’s manual tell one to change the oil every 5 000km, along with the filter. Roaring back from Bronkhorstspruit on the R25 she suddenly developed an alarming cough, as if an elephant was clearing its throat. This was coupled with an eye-watering loss of power, and we limped home, coughing and spluttering. A quick examination of her innards revealed that, not only had I irreparably damaged her engine, but I had blown her turbocharger as well.
At that stage the Smallholder was producing an insufficient pile of cash each month to afford an engine and turbocharger overhaul, so I took the decision to buy a secondhand Japanese import. All that was affordable, however, was a 2,4 litre, naturally aspirated engine to replace her 2,8 litre turbo job. The result was that driving her became like swimming through condensed milk. If one wanted to overtake anything even a wheezing ~ truck one needed to ensure ~ the oncoming vehicles were so small one could barely see them, so slow did he become. Oh, and the fact that we had to gyppo the sump to make it fit meant that she leaked oil copiously. I took to travelling with a pile of old cardboard delivery boxes, one of which Smallholder I’d slide under the engine whenever we arrived anywhere, to mop up the droplets and avoid staining our hosts’ paved driveways. The airconditioning couldn’t be connected to this engine, so was for me sweltering delivery trips . Fortunately, perhaps, this engine blew up too, to be replaced by another which in time, blew up as well. Buying used Japanese bakkie engines is a bit of a gamble. Finally, however, I found a sweet running three litre engine, which doesn’t leak oil, to which the aircon connected, and which is just as powerful as the original 2,8 turbo job. Bliss. Only one problem: somewhere along the line she’s lost an exhaust baffle so she roars like a big truck. And my family no longer likes to drive with me. So for good familial relations if nothing else, she had to go.