Isuzu Great Adventure Series
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.