Isuzu Great Ad­ven­ture Se­ries

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

An ad­ven­ture for you

show but a smelly Kombi and warm beer.

Not great back then but a lovely story to tell 20 years later.

Volk­swa­gen knew about this emo­tional bond be­tween fam­i­lies and their Kom­bis and used it to great ef­fect in its ad cam­paigns. Who will ever for­get David Kramer’s Vol­struis ads, al­ways fea­tur­ing his sig­na­ture red leather shoes and a Kombi. Th­ese days, a celebrity en­dorse­ment might run for a few weeks, but Kramer was the face of the Kombi for 13 whole years.

Th­ese kinds of sto­ries make up the other 50% of why the Kombi is such an icon in South Africa.

A Kombi shrine (or two)

Chris­tian Fi­gen­schou is into Kom­bis in a big way. So much so, that he plans and hosts the an­nual Kaapse Kombi Kult Kamp on his plot near the Vaal. He in­vited us there to view a few of his cars.

Hav­ing seen a few col­lec­tions be­fore, we thought we knew what to ex­pect but we sim­ply weren’t pre­pared for the sheer num­ber of Kom­bis and sto­ries con­tained on one piece of land.

We met Chris­tian as he got out of Gree­nie, which seems to be his cur­rent project ve­hi­cle/ day-to-day ride. He of­fered Gree­nie as the sub­ject of our shoot but the other run­ning ve­hi­cle was just too good to pass on. It’s a red camper­van, lov­ingly re­stored and in per­fect work­ing con­di­tion. To be more spe­cific, it’s a 1969 West­falia Cam­per Chris­tian pur­chased in 2012 from the orig­i­nal owner.

While the pho­tog­ra­pher did his job, we took a tour of the fa­cil­i­ties, which in­clude many other fine ex­am­ples: 22 in to­tal.

The list in­cludes one of two orig­i­nal camper­van con­cepts, an orig­i­nal South African am­bu­lance with the beds still inside, a work­ing ice cream van, var­i­ous other campers in vary­ing de­grees of re­pair and a band wagon. Chris­tian is a walk­ing en­cy­clopae­dia and he told us the story of each and ev­ery car as we passed it. It was al­most as if he loves the sto­ries as much as he loves the cars.

The blue Westy miss­ing a head­light is a prime ex­am­ple of a story saved for the next gen­er­a­tion. It was hand-painted by the band that used it and af­ter the band broke up, the owner wanted to re­paint it and sell it.

Chris­tian felt this would be a crim­i­nal act so he phoned the owner and told him that re­paint­ing it would not be cool, that it had to be pre­served, and that the only way he could do that was to sell it to him. And there it stands...

There’s just so much to take in that you need to sit down and ac­tively re­flect on it all. The Lazy River Road­house is cur­rently be­ing re­stored next to the room hous­ing a few beau­ti­ful ex­am­ples, so hope­fully other peo­ple will soon have the op­por­tu­nity.

We left Chris­tian at sun­set and as we pointed our mod­ern Kombi to­wards Parys, an ar­gu­ment broke out.

“Just imag­ine how won­der­ful it would be to drive one of those old vans from Cape Town to Cairo,” said one friend.

“No thanks, I’d rather have one of th­ese,” said an­other point­ing to the floor of our van. “Driv­ing in a rat­tling old bus at 80km/h would be ro­man­tic for maybe the first three days but it would get old very quickly.”

“You’re not get­ting the idea,” was the re­but­tal. “It’s not about the des­ti­na­tion. It’s the jour­ney that mat­ters.”

We see merit in both ar­gu­ments, but we sure do love the abil­ity to do 130km/h when con­di­tions al­low.

Af­ter a lovely even­ing in Parys, we de­cided to ditch the ho­tel break­fast op­tion the next morn­ing in favour of some­thing else on the main street. Parys is ba­si­cally just one main street that sells ei­ther food or an­tiques, both at a steep price.

The pho­tog­ra­pher spot­ted a new place called Old School Diner with a logo fea­tur­ing a Kombi. How could we not?

Here, in the mid­dle of a small town in the Free State, was an­other venue hon­our­ing one of the mo­tor­ing greats, al­beit from a dif­fer­ent an­gle. This diner ba­si­cally hon­oured the van and all the var­i­ous bands that used one to get about.

how do they com­pAre?

Well, to be hon­est, we’d love both. An old Westy to look at dur­ing the week and to use on spe­cial week­ends, but a mod­ern Kombi for ev­ery­thing else.

It might not have the her­itage but isn’t that what the own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence is all about? One day, 50 years from now, the mod­ern blue Kombi will hope­fully still ex­ist and a whole group of peo­ple will have sto­ries to tell about it.

The mod­ern Kombi isn’t a leg­end yet but it will get there even­tu­ally.

Above: The 1969 West­falia is sparsely equipped, which means the owner has to dec­o­rate it to their lik­ing. We quite dig the hippy vibe in the red van. Left: Thank good­ness for a con­tem­pla­tion spot in the garage, be­cause the sheer vol­ume of vans and me­men­tos is over­whelm­ing. The Porsche 912 is nice as well. Top right: The road­house is cur­rently be­ing re­vamped with an ex­te­rior boast­ing an as­sort­ment of mo­tor­ing mem­o­ra­bilia.

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