Ford’s three day launch of the next Gen Single and Super Cab Rangers included two humanitarian projects that reinforced the power and reach of the motoring industry, writes Oliver Keohane.
In late March I was flown to Johannesburg among a group of other journalists to get behind the wheel of Ford’s next Gen Single and Super Cab Rangers and put them to the test over a three-day drive through some of South Africa’s most beautiful scenery. Equally, we traversed some of the country’s most broken roads.
The cars handled the tarmac with equanimity and the mountain passes with rugged precision, and I returned to Cape Town both enriched and impressed by the experience of riding Ford’s latest offerings in the single and extended cab market. The new bakkies boast a brilliant meeting between technological upgrades and practical capabilities.
You can read my full driving review and get all the specs and details on the various new models here, but the point of this piece is a bit different…
The three-day trip reinforced not only what a quality range of cars Ford has produced, but the capability – and as such, the responsibility – of the motoring industry to reach places seemingly impossible and aid in humanitarian efforts.
I spent most of the journey checking my side mirrors and reversing using the reverse camera technology. The reason being an enormous JoJo tank strapped down to the back of both the bakkies I got the chance to drive.
The first stop we made was towards the middle of day two. The stop would also mark our first venture off-road, which I had been eagerly waiting for over the first 900km or so of tar and potholes.
Great expanses of green grass as far as the eye can see, the rainfall of the morning allowing for the unique air that one breathes only on mountains and in valleys. The beauty of the landscape somewhat disguised the reality of the rugged terrain that we had to manoeuvre through, but after an hour of bumpy, technical driving we reached Tstsikamma Village. Not to be mistaken with the popular Garden Route destination of Tsitsikamma. At the bottom of the valley lies a scattering of small houses, with the backdrop of the Eastern Cape’s impressive mountains. But that’s about it.
Teaming up with the Gift of the Givers Foundation, Ford used the Ranger launch to deliver two JoJo tanks to the village to aid drought relief efforts, something that the Eastern Cape has struggled with for years.
The rainfall of the day was a fitting undertone to the intention of the trip, but it also made the conditions slightly more treacherous.
Option one upon exit was to double back, hit the tar road again and take a three hour drive to our hotel. Option two was to take on the Katberg Mountain Pass. The Chief of the village was wary, and warned us of the dangerous path. The belief among the group was that the bakkies were more than capable and that a one-hour short cut sounded better than another three hours on the road.
Five hours, a ruined prop-shaft, and a hellish rockfall before we finally bid farewell to Katberg. Add to that the use of the tow rope for pulling out one of the 4x2s and clearing a couple of logs off the trail too. 4X4 mode on for those who could, rear-diff lock engaged in anxious hope for those who couldn’t.
It was an exhilarating day and, I felt, an appropriate test for a range of cars designed to be all-terrain workhorses. But the day also reinforced the power and reach of the motoring industry. Cars like bakkies were designed to get to places that would otherwise be near impossible to reach. Putting the capability of these cars to use – in combination with the financial capabilities of a brand like Ford – we were able in a day to build a better quality of life for a village that most don’t even know exists, and would not be able to get to if they did.
The following day we stopped in the little town of Alice, named in honour of Princess Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria. The colonial legacy left in this town though is nothing of grandeur, and our mission was to deliver the last JoJo tank to a primary school with next to nothing, and to plant trees in a conservation effort to sustain the endangered Cape Parrot.
The load bed of one of the Rangers was packed with yellowwood trees, the natural habitat of the Cape Parrot, and along with the trees we delivered the additional means and tools to plant them at the primary school.
Both trips were a powerful reminder of the capability of the motoring industry to effect change in the world, but also the responsibility for brands to do so. Car manufacturers are financial beasts, but their abilities shouldn’t stop at being charitable in a bank transfer.
To engage in communities and undertake projects where a car is an essential part of the humanitarian effort is fitting and imperative for every car brand. If you can take three and 30 journalists to test your new vehicles, you can certainly make a few stops along the way to better the lives of others. Kudos to Ford South Africa.