Isuzu bakkie’s 40-year love af­fair with SA


What do for­mer Spring­bok Rugby Cap­tain John Smit, the first test tube baby, the Walk­man and the movie Grease have in com­mon? They were all in­tro­duced to the world in 1978, the same year when the first Isuzu bakkie went into pro­duc­tion in South Africa.

That year was a sig­nif­i­cant one for one of SA’S roads’ favourites. Whether haul­ing sheep in the Ka­roo or zip­ping be­tween sky­scrapers in Jo­han­nes­burg, the Isuzu bakkie has been syn­ony­mous with the South African way of life for four decades.

The first bakkie to carry the Isuzu badge was built at the Kemp­ston Road plant in Port El­iz­a­beth 40 years ago. To­day, boast­ing three body styles and an ex­ten­sive model lineup, Isuzu bakkies con­tinue to be a lead­ing con­tender in the mar­ket place – tried and tested to be a true leg­end to live the Isuzu Mo­tors South Africa com­pany strapline ‘With you, for the long run’.

The first bakkie was launched at an orig­i­nal sell­ing price of a ‘whop­ping’ R3 485 for a 1.6-litre petrol en­gine bakkie and R4 295 for a 2.0-litre diesel en­gine bakkie.

Jo­han Ver­meulen of Isuzu Mo­tors South Africa said the bakkie has evolved over the years to re­main one of South Africa’s firm favourites.

“Over the years Isuzu ve­hi­cle as­sem­bly ex­pe­ri­enced many changes,” Ver­meulen said. We started pro­duc­tion at the Kemp­ston Road plant where we pro­duced five gen­er­a­tions and moved to the more modern Struan­dale plant when we started to build the sixth gen­er­a­tion.

“With the in­tro­duc­tion of modern tech­nol­ogy, au­toma­tion and lean man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses into au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, we were able to con­tin­u­ously im­prove ef­fi­cien­cies and qual­ity of our prod­ucts. To­day, six gen­er­a­tions later, our modern man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses and con­stant up­skilling of labour, have made Isuzu bakkies one of South Africa’s favourites.”

A pioneer on many fronts, the Isuzu bakkie was the first to fea­ture rack and pin­ion steer­ing and in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion in South Africa. Isuzu was also the first to in­tro­duce dou­ble cabs into the South African mar­ket in the 1990s. Other than its in­no­va­tive na­ture, the Isuzu bakkie has many ac­co­lades in its prover­bial tro­phy cab­i­net, in­clud­ing 15 lo­cal en­durance records.

In 2010 the Isuzu bakkie set 15 over­all speed and dis­tance records over 72 hours at the Gerotek - with a KB 300 D-TEQ bakkie com­plet­ing 12 243.385 km at an av­er­age speed of 170,047 km/h. A KB 250 D-TEQ also achieved a new class record dis­tance of 11 495 567km. The sixth-gen­er­a­tion Isuzu bakkie, which was launched in 2013, is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the long Isuzu’s tra­di­tion of build­ing great bakkies in South Africa, with over 600 000 units built lo­cally to date.

Photo: Quick­pic

A first gen­er­a­tion Isuzu bakkie is still driv­ing around in Vre­den­dal.

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