Suzuki SA has one of the planet's best dedicated 4x4 vehicles, in fact, it has no direct competitor at all - thus the diminutive Jimny is iconic, an instant classic no matter which generation you're talking about. Often times, when a car has been on the market for a little while and sales start to lag, manufacturers try come up with cool marketing ideas to drum up interest. Again, not the case with the Suzuki Jimny that's only in its 4th generation in the last 51 years. Since the 4th generation's 2018 launch there has been a long waiting list for those wanting brand new ones. Yeah, 2nd-hand can be had more readily, but even then they're few and far between. So if it's not to drum up sales, what is the #SuzukiSafari? It's absolutely freaking awesome is what it is!
Suzuki SA have created an experience, not a marketing exercise. Being a trusted partner in adventure, the inaugural #SuzukiSafari not only showed the impressive capabilities of the Jimny, it cemented the fact that there is no need to leave this beautiful country of ours to have an amazing getaway. Having access to a Jimny does make things one heck of a lot easier though because the only limits after that will be permission to cross some local terrain. That's where JJ and the crew from family-owned and run African Expeditions comes in. This family has taken travellers around SA on guided self-drive tours for more than 30 years now, and with the recent upgrade to a Suzuki Jimny as their lead car, it makes sense that Suzuki SA has partnered up with them. The Suzuki SA crew is amazing, as is the African Expeditions crew - birds of a feather and all that.
While I don't own a Jimny, everyone that knows me knows that having one in my garage is a goal, but until then I've been lucky enough to do awesome Jimny things with Suzuki SA, and while we've done many things in the past - this #SuzukiSafari is easily the list-topper. The only thing better than a 3-night, 4-day tour of the Suzuki Berg & Sperrgebiet Route, would be doing it twice in a row or adding a day or two on - but that would be greedy. Actually, while I was on the Safari, I wasn't the only one plotting ways to extend our time on the epic trip. If everyone had their way, we'd still be traversing the dunes and beaches right now.
Day 1 started dark and early with a flight to Upington in the Northern Cape where we met African Expeditions crew and a fleet of new Suzuki Jimnys. Being pretty much in the middle of nowhere meant we had a bit of a drive ahead of us to get to Pofadder, but being in a Jimny that drive was comfy and smooth. We were headed to Pofadder to have some lunch and a briefing on the day's planned drive. After some power burgers, the various partnered-pairings first had to kit their Jimnys out with the Suzuki Safari signage - the same signage that would be in place for the Suzuki Safaris that followed this first one. It wasn't as easy as it looks, but by the end of the task, the Jimny convoy looked great and we headed out to explore.
Our first stop was the old Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a short drive away. When I say old, I mean old. This church was built back in 1872 and has an amazing hard-fought history, and is also a stalwart in the community. Old buildings are awesome, especially when you get to hear the associated stories of triumph and tragedy. From the church we hit the "road" to our camp site for the night.
Our destination was Camp Desert Paradise, which took us through Charles Pass and on to a breathtaking spot discovered by JJ and Suzuki's BC San during a recce session - they dubbed it Bobbejaanspieël Pass. This trek through the desert-like passes was great, the desert terrain looks rough and tough, but the Jimny fleet made light work of things. Seriously, I've praised these little 4x4s for years and I know their capabilities, but my mind is blown every time I drive one away from the tarmac. Bobbejaanspieël Pass was made up of a very loose and slippery kind of shale. I was clever enough to follow JJ up in his Jimny - on foot. This gave me some amazing views and a chance for great pics, but also to see from the outside just how easy the Jimny trundled up the steep and slippery hill. I also set a new heart rate record according to my smart watch, I think I was 2bmp away from falling over while the Jimnys barely knew they were being subjected to a steep and tough pass.
En route we met up with one of JJ's long-time friends - Adam "BlouBul". This man has his house set up miles and miles from anywhere, along a long time dry river bed bordering the hills that separate SA from Namibia. The man has everything he needs to have a happy and stress-free life. A roof, a bed, water, a radio and some small farm animals. He's also a massive rugby fan, and on hearing this one of the chaps with us, Cayne, gifted him with a pair of Springbok tracksuit pants that he got from an actual Springbok player. To say the was happy is an understatement.
After our little roadside pow wow, we carried on through the desert to our accommodation made up of tents, camp chairs, a bonfire and amazing food and drinks. I know I speak for everyone on the #SuzukiSafari when I say that it was a visual overload, nature has the ability to completely humble you.
The second day saw us covering more vast distances along picturesque desert roads towards our accommodation for the next two nights, Die Houthoop. We headed off to Mik Rivier and Klein Pella, with a stop at Karsten's Boerdery, one of the world's biggest premium date farms. It's so cool that SA has things like this, and it's even cooler to be able to see these places first hand. Some of the ladies on the trip especially loved this stop because the idea of a normal shower seemed to beat out the bush showers from the tented camp site. After shower hour, a short presentation on the farm and it's workings and a gift of world-class export-quality dates, we headed out again.
With the terrain starting to be more like soft beach sand, tyre pressures were adjusted and we started along the picturesque route to Die Houthoop Gasteplaas for dinner, drinks and amazing company. Once again, the little Jimnys never missed a beat, there were no struggles, incident or anything. I mean I know these 4x4s are brilliant at what they do, but they continually blow my mind with the ease that they can traverse any terrain you throw at them. This route saw us drive along the Orange River, the Mik Rivier, Klein Pella, the amazingly picturesque Quiver Tree Forest and the famous Spektakel Pass.
The third day of the #SuzukiSafari was easily my favourite. Not really because of the terrain and the Jimny's capabilities making travel easy, but because of the photo opportunities. There are few places as amazing as this part of South Africa and being able to capture the scenes I did is truly humbling. This Shipwreck Route covers amazing beach trails that lesser 4x4s struggler with, we breezed through plenty spots were other cars needed help. While beach sand looks easy to navigate, it's actually not an easy terrain for a vehicle, the wrong wheel speed and you'll dig in, too much weight will do the same. Luckily even a fully loaded Jimny floats across the soft sand. It's also ridiculously fun to do.
We stopped off at the remains of Agenbach House (one of the original farm houses in the area) before carrying on along Atlantic seafront to check out a few famous shipwrecks along the way. I tried my best to capture these amazing vistas, and while I do think the pics worked out pretty damn well, they really don't do the place justice. It's also my first time up close with a shipwreck, the feelings were surreal.
You'd think that a beach drive and shipwrecks would be enough for one day, but this wasn't just a safari, this was was an epic adventure. We headed back to base at Houthoop for an amazing lunch - actually everything we had at HoutHoop was brilliant, just freaking brilliant. With full stomachs, nap time could have been a thing, but there was no rest for the Jimnys. After lunch the #SuzukiSafari convoy headed to the nearby Red Dunes for some more sand fun. This was another amazing sight, in the middle of all the white beach/desert sand there's a massive red sand dune. It stands out from the surrounding white sands, but only once you're near the top of the outside hills leading up to it. If we didn't have a guide like JJ showing us where it's the most fun to play with Jimnys, we would have driven right past it. From the air it's a different story, the red sand contrast to the white sand is almost alien.
We spent a few hours criss-crossing the dune, doing laps of a different kind. Again, these little 4x4s made light work of the soft sand, so much so that all thoughts were on having an absolute blast instead of worrying about maybe getting bogged down and needing a rescue. We all sat in the dune as the sun started dropping below the horizon, taking in the awe-inspiring views. When the temp dropped a little more, we all climbed back in the Jimnys for class. With Suzuki's BC San at the head of the class in his Jimny, we had for a presentation on the current state of Jimny manufacture and availability, along with some interesting stats related to the nomenclature. Best classroom EVAR!
During class we learned that in 51 years, the Jimny has sold over 3 000 000 units worldwide. Here in SA the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations can be found, although there are a few super rare Gen 1 LJs around too if you know where to look. The 3rd generation was the most popular, arriving on our shores in 2008. In ten years of sales, just over 9200 Jimnys found homes, in contrast this 4th Gen Jimny has already sold over 4700 units with every model arriving already having a home to go to. It won't be long before there's more new 4th Gen Jimnys on our roads than the Gen 3. That's brilliant! It's no wonder we were on the stock allocation list before Aus and New Zealand - Jimny has a strong SA following.
The Jimny has always been a Japan-only build, but with worldwide demand continually growing, having one factory making all derivatives for the JDM, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East markets creates a bit of a bottle neck. All the Jimnys you see here were assembled on a new production line in India, starting in Q2 of this year. This means export models can number between 1000 and 1500 units. MOAR JIMNYS - Yeeeehaaaaaa! This is only for assembly though, so that Japanese quality carries on. On a side note, over 40% of passenger cars in SA are manufactured in India. Bet you didn't know that!
This new production means we no have five Jimny trims available in SA, previously being three. There's now the Jimny 1.5 GL AT and MT in the mix, changing up the standard features and giving buyers exactly what they want. Nice one Suzuki!
Day 4 was more of a wind down day, but we still got in some awesome driving along some picturesque roads. After yet another hearty breakfast at Houthoop, we started the trek over the Wildeperdehoek Pass and the Messel Pass en route to Springbok. Of course we had plenty stops along the way to take a look at the amazing view and oddities spotted along the way. For these gravel roads it was a case of leaving a decent gap, listening to JJ's extensive knowledge about everything we could see, and soaking in the awesomeness that is the Northern Cape.
We hit Springbok for a refuel at around lunch time and then racked up an easy 400km of tarmac back to Upington Airport, and then home. Again, there was not one person on the #SuzukiSafari that wanted to head home. That's a clear telltale sign that the trip was not just a good one, but an epic one. The sights and scenes have become amazing memories, stories that will be told around campfires and braais for years to come. I just love how some of my most epic travel memories are linked to the Suzuki Jimny, and I don't even own one. Yet.
Die houthoop Gasteplaas
If you're ever up in the Northern Cape, Houthoop is a place you simply have to check out. It's the coolest oasis of awesome, it's not 5-star, it's 5-billion star! It automatically feels safe and homely and offers up plenty photographic opportunities. It's the perfect place to use as a base camp like the African Expeditions team has done. If I ever find myself back in that next of the desert, Veronica's Houthoop Gastehuis is guaranteed a visit.
I want to thank everyone in this pic for making this inaugural #SuzukiSafari not only a success, but an awesome memory. The African Expeditions team, the Suzuki SA team and the fellow journos and photographers all added to the overall awesomeness of this trip - you guys all rock! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The Ford Ranger Raptor is the ultimate in 4x4 double cabs here in SA, it's the halo model that sits atop the Ford range, the one that people have on their lotto winnings car list, myself included. Every model built has an immediate buyer too, showing that people who want something special are prepared to shell out decent money, and the Ranger Raptor is very decent money. There's a new model planned for the end of 2022, and so to keep prospective buyers happy until then, Ford SA have created the Ranger Raptor SE - or Special Edition. The base for the Ranger Raptor SE remains pretty much the same mechanically and feature-wise, as seen when I had one on test a while back, but the addition of attention-grabbing feature highlights and a sportier interior trim have been added to make the truck just that it just that much more exclusive. And it works!
The main features like the Fox Racing suspension, the amazing Terrain Management System, the super smooth 10-speed auto and the 157kW/50Nm 2.0 bi-turbo diesel all remain the same, which is good because you don't mess with things that work. The combination of the mechanical and electronic bits in the Ranger Raptor are what make the truck special, and sought after. They're so good that I can't possibly think what would change in the next model. It also explains why the limited edition SE version has tweaks centred more around styling and visuals.
It comes in some special colours; Performance Blue, Frozen White, Conquer Grey and Agate Black, and the addition of a pair of red-edged matte black stripes over the truck as well as on the lower body sides, rear wings and tailgate looks freaking rad man! There's also some sticker work surrounding the headlights, much like. Another noice change is having the meaty tow hooks finished in red making a great contrast to the surrounding factory bashplate.
On the Ranger Raptor the flared arches, front and rear bumpers, handles and the grille are all in a single shade of grey, but on this new Raptor SE they've all be made matte black. A subtle change with a brilliant visual impact. They've also added in the sports hoop usually reserved for the Ranger Wildtrak, and it suits the Raptor SE perfectly. The lockable Mountain Top black roller shutter, as seen on the limited edition Ranger Thunder, has been added to the Raptor SE. This addition is brilliant, and makes so much sense on a Raptor seeing as the load bin on these isn't meant for huge loads, but more to store your goodies when you're overlanding at highway speeds.
The cabin sees a few tasteful changes too. The stitching on the seats, steering, door cards is now in red instead of blue - a small but cool change. The instrument panel is also now finished in Raceway Grey, and the red stitching just works with this. The seats in the Ranger Raptor SE are finished in a brilliant Technical Suede and while they look like race seats, they're ridiculously comfortable. Of course they offer up great support during high-performance off-road driving - which oddly happens A LOT in a Raptor. More red is seen in the needles for in dials, proper sporty vibes. The steering wheel also gets red stitching with a red centre locator, and having magnesium paddle shifters added makes for a brilliant visual.
To sample the Ranger Raptor SE, a bunch of us were able to drive a convoy of them from CT International through the Tankwa Karoo. These roads are usually quite uncomfortable, but the suspension in these Raptors is so damn good that it feels like the roads flatten out into smoothness. This is one of those things that need to be felt, words don't really do the drive in the Raptor SE any justice. Bang the drive mode into Baja and you can comfortably exceed highway speeds on gravel roads, it's amazing. You still need to exercise caution though, because if you do manage to cock up on gravel, physics takes over and you're just a passenger.
In the overnighter trip, we had pretty much all kinds of weather, but it made near as no difference to the drive and comfort in the Raptors. It did add in mud, lots and lots of mud, which made for even more epicness, and some rad pics.
The Ranger Raptor Special Edition is not cheap, you're looking at a price tag of R965 300, R45 000 over the "regular" Raptor. There's definitely more than enough changes to warrant the increased price. If you had to try and do all these changes in an aftermarket capacity you'd be spending way more than that price difference, that's for sure. What you have here is a Ranger Raptor that's a little more exclusive, and it a brilliant almost mid-life tweak keeping the nomenclature fresh and relevant until the new model arrives. There's a reason it's touted as the best premium truck (bakkie) available.
There’s a reason there’s so many Ford Rangers are on the roads, not only in South Africa, but worldwide – they’re just damn good. What I like about the range available here in SA is that there quite literally is a Ranger model for everyone. In the upper echelons of the model range, the one with all the bells & whistles is the Ranger Wildtrak, and while they can be optioned with some cool things, some prospective buyers want more. The thing is, these bakkies generally leave nothing wanting, so to sway those fence-sitters who are thinking of buying a new bakkie or wanting to level up their current Ranger, buyers can get exclusivity via a limited edition styling and feature package complete with bespoke nomenclature - built right here in South Africa. In fact, it’s the current model Ranger’s 10th anniversary, a very successful one at that with over half a million of them exported.
The last limited edition Ranger, the Ranger Thunder did great in the market with well over 2000 units sold in the 12-months it was produced. After getting up close with the new Ranger Stormtrak, we’re positive it will be just as, if not even more successful during it’s limited production run. With ethe focus on visuals. Attention was paid to enough of the exterior to be able to identify this as a Stormtrak, and a you can see, the results are great. Starting up front the Stormtrak gets a black mesh grille with red inserts, it gives quite an imposing look and make it look more, well, American-looking. This look is aided by the black insert in the lower section of the bumper too. There’s gloss black 18-inch wheels and these make the black decals and black roof rails just work, no matter the body colour, of which there are four available. It’s a hard choice between the new Lucid Red paint and the typically Ford colour, Blue Lightning. There’s also Frozen White and Sea Grey available. The new 3D Stormtrak logo looks at home on all the colours too.
Round back is where the value is seen and the list price makes sense. Included with the Ranger Stormtrak is the aptly-named Power Roller Shutter. So not only does that load bin shutter look good, but it’s also sturdy and electronically controlled. Thanks to being controlled by a powerful electric motor, the shutter can be locked in any position, and in case you’re showing off the system to mates after a brannas or two, there’s a built-in Anti-Pinch feature so you don’t squash limbs or priceless cargo. The system can be activated from the cabin, inside the load bin and even from the key fob – that’s pretty rad. Added to the shutter, they’ve also included an adjustable bed divider kit that makes it easy compartmentalise the cargo area to better suit the load and stop kak flinging all over the place when you drive the Stormtrak like it’s a Raptor. It includes a 12-volt socket to power accessories when you’re messing about in the rear.
The cabin has typical Wildtrak vibes – it’s rather upmarket but not so much so that you wouldn’t want to take the thing properly off-road. Being this comfortable while traversing off-road trails is the way it should be. To make it a Stormtrak, there’s some very comfortable and good-looking, red-stitched leather seats complete with the Stormtrak logo on the seat backs. The red stitching doesn’t stop there, it runs throughout the cabin on the dash, steering wheel, and shifter. The rest of the stuff is pretty much Wildtrak with Ford’s Sync-3 infotainment and nav system, and the cool FordPass system with functionality allowing for loads of remote control via the FordPass app. It’s a really good selling point, a super handy system that all manufacturers should aim to adopt. Then there’s the usuals like Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Alert, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keeping Alert with Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Alert System, Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist. As I mentioned, there really is nothing missing from the car, you won’t even need aftermarket audio because the stock system plays well, like really well. So many parts of the Karoo were subjected to my awesome YouTube Music playlists.
Being the one of the boss larneys, the Ranger Stormtrak sees fitment of Ford’s cracking 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo diesel lump that makes a healthy 157kW with a massive 500Nm of torque – a reason it can tow 3500kg with ease. The 10-speed automatic transmission is a favourite of mine, it’s so silky smooth and shifts the Stormtrak into the right rev range for every situation at speed. To make sure we experienced this, the folk from Ford South Africa plotted the most amazing route to not only experience the Ranger Stormtrak, but the beauty of this country of ours. We started the great trek from Gqeberha (the old Port Elizabeth just in case you haven’t kept up with the news) along a route that included that amazing Baviaanskloof Pass and plenty kilometres on dusty Karoo roads.
The roads weren’t high-level off-road for the most part, nothing that needed 4-low, but the Ranger Stormtrak was just so damn comfortable and easy to drive that you become oblivious to the fact that the same roads and passes in a lesser vehicle would be an absolutely kak time. Kicking down some stretches of the Karoo sand roads that haven’t seen proper rain in 7 or 8 years kick up so much dust, that when the wind was at its lowest you’d need a good 500m gap between the Rangers in the convoy so you could see where you’re going, and even then it wasn’t bad because we were able to kick it at tar road speeds on gravel with adaptive cruise control doing all the work. The only way for some of the rougher corrugated roads to feel even smoother in the cabin would be to pilot a Ranger Raptor. To add to the lifelong memories created on the drive, part of our route was a road through Addo Elephant Park. These Stormtraks must have something special because we saw elephant, buffalo and lion within 5 minutes. Just awesome.
These Rangers are great, and this Stormtrak edition is definitely one to take a gander at if you’re shopping for a premium bakkie that can do everything while standing out from the rest. Considering what you get, the pricing is spot on for its place in the segment. The Ford Ranger Stormtrak can be had in a 4x2 guise, starting at R790 300, and the top dog 4x4 version lists at R846 500. They all come standard with Ford Protect’s 4-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. There’s also a 6-year/90 000km service plan included to covers six services (15 000km or annually, whichever occurs first). For waaaay more info you can dead on over to the www.ford.co.za website.
More pics from the trip and our amazing country
So we're now transporting ourselves back to around March 2021, sorta due to a fault of my own, but also not. Straight from having the STK camshaft fitted at Delarey Racing Developments, Juliette went for the absolute coolest makeover EVAR! It turns out that there's been quite a few people following the transformation of our owned-since-new Corsa sedan into a little more than your average streetcar. Over the years I've been happy to sit on the sidelines and document everyone else's action on track, or hot cars at a park-off, but something changed and I want to be on the other side of the camera every now and then. I think I'll have to blame Wikus from Delarey Racing Developments though, that session around VKC driving #Caddy96 left quite the impression...
So back on track... A mate of mine, Wayne Bull, told me that the chap who does his car's bodywork was keen help out in my mission and offered to do some work on my car. Now the last time this happened it was a 6-month nightmare, but this wasn't any ordinary body shop. The offer of help came from Frederick Hattingh, the main man and one of the amazing team behind the FIAD Dent Removal Gauteng shop. If you haven't directly heard of them, I'm willing to bet big amounts that you do know of their work...
As you can imagine, I was quite surprised, and in a bit of disbelief because, well, just look as what these guys do! I went through to Fiad Dent to meet Frederick and discuss what would be done. Firstly - and this is something everyone can attest to not just guys like me getting amazing help - Frederick is a brilliant chap with a great eye for the right mods in the right places. You know those people that always put in a little extra, not to make people happy, but because it's just who they are. That's him.
So anyway, back to Juliette. She's a 1.4i CD, and so while the bumpers were colour-coded, the wing mirrors and beadings were left in black. All I wanted done on the looks side was have them colour-coded white, along with the set of Corsa GSi side skirts that I was gifted by Big Boss Auto a while back that needed fitting too. I was gifted a set of race seats by Dylan Huber from Huber Motorsport (thanks so much man!) that he removed from his race SEAT when he upgraded, and so I asked Frederick if he could help fit them, along with a steering wheel my wife bought me and some DRD race pedals given to me by Wikus. Frederick said he had a few little things he'd like to do to the car too, so I gave him free rein on that one. Plans sorted...
TWO WEEKS LATER...
Daaaaaaaaaaamn! So like I said, Frederick went over and above and then some. The man got EVERYTHING right and Juliette was looking absolutely brilliant, all bias aside. I couldn't believe the amount of changes to the car, properly thought out, tasteful changes. I mean yeah, I knew the work would be proper but I wasn't ready for so many cool things. I mean she was in decent condition for her age, but now she's one good looking lil' sedan. Check out these changes!
As you can see, I received a whole lot more than I thought I would, and I'm super happy with everything done. It's like having a brand new car again, which is the best feeling ever. Every single drive makes me feel like a 20-year old again. I cannot thank Frederick and the Fiad Dent crew enough for this, the same goes to their suppliers who came on board to sponsor the tinting and signage things. You guys all rock so much! As you can see, the work is great, and these guys work on so many cars in the show and race scene that you should absolutely trust them with your car, no matter what it is that you need or want done.
Just look at this!!!!
As I was about to leave, Frederick spotted summin' on the side skirt that he wasn't happy with and wanted me to bring the car back so he could sort it. That hasn't happened yet, because in between this awesome upgrade you see here from around March and now, I managed to pretty much wreck the Corsa's engine doing some "preventative maintenance" that did the exact opposite of what I had intended. More on that in a separate post coming soon...
During Lockdown I decided that the family Opel Corsa sedan that my wife gave me needed to be more than just a runaround and so I started planning things to make her as reliable as new along with a wee bit more power. The end result is to be a weekend toy that I can put on the various short tracks I shoot so that I can also have a bit of fun. After 20 years of shooting things, I want some hands-on action in my old age. I'd been posting various updates on what I've replaced on the Corsa on my social media pages and a bunch of awesome friends and companies took notice and offered their services to make the task easier for me. Simon Johnstone from STK Performance got wind of my shenanigans and without a word sent me a 270-degree STK camshaft with an SQP vernier pulley to help with the engine side of the plans. You can imagine the look on my face when the courier arrived. That was in November last year. I then asked Wikus Dippenaar from Delarey Racing Developments if he'd be keen to help fit the camshaft, and in typical Wikus fashion, he was happy to come on board to do the install. This man helps so many people in the industry that he actually deserves an award. Over and above having a fully equipped workshop and access to the every tool and machine available, DRD is run out of Goldwagen Delarey so any little parts needed for the Corsa would be immediately on hand to make the job run smooth.
Personally, the only car I've done any serious kind of mechanical work on has been a Mk1 Golf, and with DRD/Goldwagen being centred mainly on all things Volkswagen, it was pretty much the same for Wikus and Cheandre. With the patient in theatre being an Opel Corsa, I figured it would be just as easy, I mean it's also a small budget car, right? Wrong! While I love this little Corsa, it's small 1.4-litre engine is rather overcomplicated, especially when compared to a Mk1 lump. This extended the task of a few hours into an overnighter, well it technically was done in less than a day, but we left the final start up until the following morning just in case.
Fitting a camshaft on a Mk1 is simple, you make sure you're on TDC and then simply loosen the tensioner pulley, remove the cam belt, remove the cam cover, remove the camshaft caps and remove the camshaft. Then you do it all in reverse but add in a new camshaft and Robert's your mother's brother - you have successfully "dropped in a cam". On the Corsa there's not a normal cylinder head, it's a 2-piece setup that sees the camshaft located in a separate section to the cylinder head - a cam box. We located the only bolts there are to remove this cam box, and it turns out that the Corsa's cam box bolts are also the cylinder head bolts, turning the simple job into some pretty advanced mechanics - well for me anyway. So be warned if you're fitting a camshaft to one of the older generation Opel motors, you will also need a full head gasket kit to get the job done, an extra expense many aren't aware of or ready for, never mind the skills and tools needed.
In adding to the new gaskets you'll need to replace all fluids in the engine too because they all sort of fall out when you lift the cylinder head off. With so many parts stripped away, it's also a good idea to try and replace as many worn components as are available and that you can afford to make sure you take full advantage of an unplanned engine teardown.
With the cam box cover removed, you can see how the camshaft runs through the centre of the cam box. If you could easily remove the front right fender you could do the job with the cylinder head in place, but seeing as cars aren't quite modular like that, it's not an option. When the cam box is removed after taking out the cylinder head bolts, you're greeted with the bare rockers resting on the valve springs, but once you're this far the cylinder head is freed from the sub assembly, and it pretty much has to be pulled completely off because a 200k-km deep gasket just ain't going back in. This was an opportunity to give the head a once over, especially after completing over 210 000km it was kinda necessary. There was a wee bit of carbon build up, likely built up during the car's slow days when the kid drove it. Seriously, Miss Daisy would fire him for taking too long to get to the shops. The rockers and hydraulic lifters all looked brand new, no wear marks anywhere - and as we were to later discover, the camshaft was perfect too. Impressive really.
With the cam box off, the camshaft slides out of the belt end and the new one slides straight back in. It does need to be lubed up thanks to the tight tolerance where sections of the shaft and the cam box work together basically as a bearing of sorts. Wikus is highly-skilled at guiding the big shaft into the tight hole though. Once it's all the way in, a camshaft seal is popped on the belt end to make sure the oil stays where it should be.
After that, the cam needs to be rotated to match the block - being in set at top dead centre - so when you bolt it down tight you have the right lobes pushing the right valves open for the correct firing order. This was where Wikus's brain came in again, it's 100% something I would have cocked up properly, even if I was given drawn instructions. Cheandre, the other hands-on DRD crew member who's yet another top chap, cleaned the carboned up pistons with a drill wire brush and compressed air and stuff, and a close inspection showed perfect pistons and rings with zero play and the cylinder bore had no scarring. Super awesome, especially for the mileage. While the head was off, the same thing was done to the valves and combustion chambers. Even the valve stem seals were perfect, which makes me wonder how some smoking cars out there have been driven in their lives. Everything ended up looking brand new again, which makes me smile. Using a very technical-looking feeler gauge thingymajig Wikus found the EXACT top dead centre to the micro-millimetre and after a new head gasket was laid down, the head was put back on with the timing kept at TDC all round. A little care must be taken here because the rockers and their guides simply rest on top of the valve springs so you have to line things up properly, but the lube stuff used was thick and did the job.
With the head bolted down and torqued to the OEM settings - a mind-boggling process, the bits around needed to be reassembled. A new set of cam belt-side plastics was fitted before the vernier pulley went back on. With the point of the pulley being adjustable and the point of the plastic cover to protect the belt, a plan had to be made. As I said, DRD/Goldwagen has everything you need, and so the outer cover was popped into the laser cutter and a circle with a slightly larger diameter as the pulley was perfectly cut out in seconds. With the modified cover in place I now have easy access to change the timing on the pulley while the belts stay protected from anything that may flick up from the road. That's part of why I LOVE visiting this workshop, it's like being in one of those professional garage build YouTube series, there's no such thing as 'can't' there. During the assembly, a bunch of small old parts and pipes and nuts and bolts that looked a little suspect were replaced, including a new water pump. The old one worked fine, but it looked like rust was about to have a proper lunch on it and seeing as everything was open... A new cam belt tensioner went in along with a new belt and oil filter. The blue plug wires and blue air filter were cool finishing touch to match the blue of the vernier pulley. Wikus and Cheandre also sorted out an induction pipe from the bumper to the air filter giving the 1400 a cool lil' growl. So damn cool!
With everything replaced, assembled and sorted out, the Corsa's engine bay is looking just too cool and it feels great to know that it's also mechanically good again to last many more years to come, well as long as we have dead dinosaurs to feed her I guess. A completely unexpected side effect of "dropping a cam in" but I'm also grateful that there are places like Goldwagen Delarey that still carry everything you need to keep a classic Corsa safely and reliably on the road at an affordable price. Like seriously, the wing mirrors aren't available from Opel SA/GM or whoever owns them now, but the list price for a right hand side mirror is well in excess of R6000. SIX THOUSAND RAND. At Goldwaen Delarey? You're looking at under R400. So yeah, Goldwagen FTMFW!
I want to send a huge shoutout to the Goldwagen Delarey and Delarey Racing Developments crew for all the help during this feature. So very much appreciated guys 🙏🏼. Another huge thanks to Simon Johnstone at STK for sending me the camshaft and pulley - you rock man!
So what's it like having a 270-degree STK camshaft in a 1.4i Corsa? Flippin' rad man! I do love me a small capacity motor, and having one that revs up smooth and fast makes me drive like a little bit of a chop. Thanks to the full custom-built exhaust from TMSS Motorsport the little sedan has that much-loved burble only a good system and cam can make. Now you have to remember that a camshaft doesn't increase power by leaps and bounds, but with the valves staying open a little longer and lifting a little higher, there is a definitely a difference. The vernier pulley allows you to move the new power curve around the rev range so that you can set up the car and the power delivery to suit your driving style and needs.
After the cam fitment, the car drove great for a few days, but the ECU finally caught on and threw a hissy fit. I got some new generic and also some 2nd-hand OEM sensors and things stayed the same. Only after a bit more research did I discover that the only way to sort out the idling and timing on a Corsa is by fitting a piggyback chip. I did manage to find a cool balance when I set the vernier pulley advanced, everything works great but the MIL stays on. It doesn't bug me but it's not right so I will sort it out. Just after I got it running great, I managed a dyno run at DynoSport for shits & giggles and the result was 51.9kW and 89Nm.
Luckily when I mentioned that the solution would be the fitment of a Unichip in a social media update, Opel brain and all round good guy Tristan Palmer contacted me and donated his UniChip Q from his old 2.0 8-valve Corsa. Fitment and tuning of the chip will hopefully follow on in a not too distant update as soon as I have the spare funds. Until then, keep an eye out for the next update that saw the Corsa getting a visual makeover, not that she wasn't a neat lil thing already...
When I was at the instruction day at the Jaguar Land Rover Experience Centre I saw my very first new Defender in the wild, and it has that new retro flavour to it - or in other words, it's awesome! I had to have a few snaps for myself and when my instruction session was over and before the day's second session, I had the chance. The super hot Defender P400 S was parked on a paved road under a tree, and when I said I wanted some pics they offered to move the car for me, but I decided to do something I used to do long ago to practice working with what you've got. I told them the Defender was parked just right and I'd shoot around the car. So the challenge to myself when I do this is to get as many interesting shots as possible working with angles and the surrounding elements with no real control over the light, jus adapting to it. It makes you think and encourages thinking outside of the box, well for me anyway. The first two images are just to show where the Defender was parked and what I had to work with. I used my Canon 6D Mk2 with a Sigma Art 24-70mm f/2.8 and a Canon 70-200mm F/4.0.
I took loads of shots, which I'll upload to the CWM Facebook page when I have a chance, but in the meantime here's some selections that I liked. Have you ever done exercises like this? What have you done? Let me know your thoughts.
One thing I often end up being is The Stand-In Guy, and that's not a complaint in any way at all. Over the years it's seen me attending some pretty amazing events, and this time round was no different when one of the SAGMJ members couldn't make it to a training session at the Jaguar Land Rover Experience Centre in Lonehill, and I could... I knew things were being upgraded at the venue, and I haven't been past in a few years so wasn't expecting what I saw - a state-of-the-art facility that has everything you could need or want to teach proper driving both on and off road. There's also a brilliant restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, and plenty room for training and conferences and the like. There's also a merchandise shop, racing simulators and some really amazing models and displays. The new Defender on steelies is just too cool, as is the half an E-Pace.
The order of the day was to drive a variety of Jaguar models (XE, XF, F-Type, F-Pace SVR and the E-Pace) as part of the Jaguar Half Day Dynamic course while learning about braking, handling and the effects of both active and passive safety systems in simulated emergency situations. After a briefing with Devin Scott, one of the Experience Instructors, we headed out to put the theory into practice, in other words, the fun part of the day. The emergency brake / lane change manoeuvre can be quite intimidating for those that haven't experienced it. You do end up putting a fair amount of trust into the car (and your own abilities), but if done right it can be a life-saving move on the roads out there. We also put the handling to test on a slalom course which thanks to the variety of cars, showed the differences in the dynamics of SUVs vs sedans, all-wheel drive vs rear-wheel drive and even combustion vs electric - something we're going to all need to learn about soon. On that note electric vehicles are just mad man, the Jaguar I-Pace has a ridiculously fast pull off and surprisingly decent handling thanks to the weight of the batteries being low down in the chassis. Feeling this and knowing how these cars react is a must for anyone who will ever climb behind the wheel of an EV. They're deceptively powerful, silent and they're patiently waiting for you to become a viral video when you accidentally mash the accelerator and the car launches.
These events are great, they remind you that you're not the driving god you think you are, which can dent some egos and that's great for a laugh. I won't go into all the tech and theory learned, that's the job of the instructors when you book a course, and you really should. It's affordable, a great Christmas or birthday pressie, you can potentially get an insurance discount, and more importantly it equips you to better deal with surviving our notoriously dangerous roads. Also, can you really put a price on getting to drive the latest Jaguars or Land Rovers in a world-class venue right on your doorstep in Jo'burg? I reckon not.
I did the morning session, and stayed behind to get shots of the afternoon session, but I had to leave before it was over so I didn't manage any skidpan pics. Just imagine the same pics with water everywhere. For more on the experience, click on through to the website. A huge thanks goes out to Marcel, Devon and the third guy who's name has done a runner (sorry guy), as well as the rest of the JLR crew for a great day at the office. See why being part of the SAGMJ is cool?
Here's a few pics, I'll add a full album on the CWM Facebook page.
When you crack an invite from Ford South Africa to attend a round of the SA Cross-country Championship Series, the Ford Parys 400, you clear your calendar and make sure you go. I know from experience, having attended one towards the end of 2019 which also involved the crew from Neil Woolridge Motorsport. It was also at the Parys Airfield, so I knew what to expect and where we'd be headed to see the racers fly by at speeds on gravel and veld that will blow your mind. It's especially scary when you're standing in the path of a Ford Ranger barreling towards you with such speed that you know if the driver just blinks at the wrong time you could end up sharing space with splattered bugs on the grille. Of course with the NWM crew, they're all pros so that won't (shouldn't) happen. Ford Ranger #334 was piloted by Lance Woolridge with navigator being Elvéne Vonk, a name you really should know if you're a fan of motorsport in SA. Ford Ranger #377 saw Gareth Woolridge at the wheel with Boyd Dreyer taking on nav duties.
At the last event like this, we were transported to the spectator points in a fleet of Ranger Raptors, and this year we were in the comfort of a few Ford Tourneo Customs, the perfect long range people carrier. Of course they weren't as fleet on the gravel, but having your own aircon vent blasting ice cold air on you when the outside temps were in the mid-30s was something I wouldn't have traded for much else on that day. There was definitely a noticeable decease in the amount of spectators thanks to the Covid things, but there were still enough people out and about tracking and supporting their favourite drivers to create some small traffic jams and to make the competitors perform that much harder. There really are die-hard motorsport fans in SA, my kinda people.
In between viewing points, we were treated to a fantastic catered lunch at the crew's pits and each of us there was gifted with the coolest Ford Performance/NWM/Castrol Edge-branded camping chair that will accompany to every event I attend from now on. A Q&A session with members of NWM was pretty interesting, especially learning how well the Rangers are faring is what's essentially a higher class. At the end of a clearly gruelling event, the Ford-based teams did great. Gareth and Boyd in Ranger #377 clinched a 3rd overall for the day and the team also claimed the South African Cross Country Series Manufacturers Award as well as the Team Award. Fellow Ford drivers Wors Prinsloo (#T41) took the Class T win with Malcolm Kock (#T28) 2nd. A true blue Ford weekend!
A huge thanks to Ford SA and Neil Woolridge Motorsport for yet another awesome event, there is no better way to watch an offroad event. To the behind the scenes crew making sure all the journos and influencers are treated like royalty, you get the biggest thanks for working so hard on such a hot day. It's events like these that keep the interest and passion for shooting motorsport alive.
In the world of double cab bakkies, there is none (in SA) bigger than Ford’s Ranger Raptor. It’s a monstrous thing with dimensions that exclude it from any normal-sized garage. Ok, sure, the competition doesn’t quite fit either, but if you were to own a competitor bakkie that only just squeezes into your garage, upgrading to a Ranger Raptor would see you needing home renovations to accommodate. In the double cabs I’ve reviewed before, I’ve always mentioned that I’m only ever a fan of these when driving them. Puttering around in my car I bitch and moan about double cab drivers on the highways because the majority (how’s that for a generalisation?) of them drive like twats, but when I’m behind the wheel of one I automatically subscribe to the “when in Rome” way of thinking - that's King Twat to you!. So I either have a problem with big bakkies, or I’m the problem in a big bakkie. You see, you can’t help it, when you’re in such a big beast of a thing it feels fantastic and your manners are quickly forgotten. “What? You dare to try take a that gap in front on me? In that pathetic attempt at transportation? Stay in your lane, inferior being” is pretty much where my thought process goes, and generalising again, it’s probably like that for all big bakkie drivers.
I’ve mentioned that it’s the biggest double cab out there, but I think it’s also the best looking. I’m not picking on the others, they all really do look good for the most part, just not this good. The Ranger Raptor is a top-of-the-line Wildtrak under the skin, but with select changes and all the right curves in all the right places, it’s immediately distinguishable from the Wildtrak. Head on, the first thing that should draw your eyes in is the massive FORD in the centre of the grille. We’ve seen similar aftermarket grilles fitted to other Rangers before, but this OEM piece is just better. I think the fact that it’s flanked by widened fenders helps too, it’s an evil-looking thing, it makes sense why small hatchbacks and single cab bakkies scramble out of the way. In total the Raptor is a good 168mm wider at 2028mm with the wheel track 150mm wider, it's 44mm longer and 22mm higher. The front bumper is different with a spaced fitment that adds to the perception of a bigger overall size, and having it in black instead of being body-coloured just works, no matter the body colour. The bash plate is again a different colour, this time silver, making for a three-way contrast which makes for proper bakkie eye candy. Round back the taillights have a unique design and the badging is a few font sizes bigger. Just below the integrated rear bumper you’ll notice there’s now dual tow hooks, which just looks badass.
The side profile is just brilliant, and the signature Raptor stickers work well. In fact I spotted a Performance Blue Raptor minus stickers the other day and it just looks wrong. Subjective of course, but also, I’m right and you should just accept it. There’s 17-inch wheels that are finished in a satin black, again this works perfectly no matter the shade of exterior paint. They’re wrapped in some chunky 33-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain rubber, adding to that bad-ass look. There’s a sizeable fender gap, which is thanks to the Raptor’s party trick – Fox Racing suspension. This not only raises the body by 50mm, it affords the thing some mind-blowing off-road capability with 283mm of ground clearance. Not in the sense of traversing obstacles, although in the slower technical bits it is massively capable of course. I’m talking switching the electronic drive mode to BAJA, activating all-wheel drive and crossing flat-is off-road stretches at silly speeds. If you haven’t seen any of the testing of this thing on YouTube, you have to. It’s so much fun, and with the power on tap long sweeping 4-wheel drifts are controllable and instantly addictive. Or so I’ve been told…
The cabin is more like something you’d expect in an RS streetcar, there’s absolutely awesome leather and alcantara Recaro race seats, a leather trimmed dash, a chunky leather-bound sports steering wheel, paddle shifters and brushed aluminium accents splashed around the cabin. The instrument cluster shows all the usual info, it does have a sporty look to it too. The 8-inch touchscreen heading up the infotainment system uses Ford’s Sync 3 system, which has always been a favourite thanks to its intuitive ease of use and an abundance of functions and features. The sound system bangs, and somehow it’s quite fitting having it blare my Country Rock playlist while kicking down dirt roads in a Ranger Raptor. All that’s missing is a Stetson, unless my wife is sitting shotgun because she’s always wearing one. There’s ample space front and rear, a compliment of 6-footers will be right at home and not even touch elbows. The Recaro seats are probably the most comfortable I’ve been in, they’re a little wider than usual, likely in anticipation of some of the homegrown farmer types who are usually built on a bigger chassis than us city boys. Tell me that Tim McGraw's Truck Yeah doesn't work in a Ranger Raptor, and I'll call you a liar.
Powering the Ford Ranger Raptor is something most don’t expect, and many hardcore fans don’t agree with. Based on looks alone, you’d think the Ranger Raptor would share the Mustang’s 5.0-litre Coyote V8, the Shelby’s 5.2-litre Voodoo V8 or in a perfect world, the GT500’s 5.2-litre Predator V8. Instead we find four less cylinders and an addiction to diesel fuel. It’s sort of like meeting a 6ft7, 250kg MMA fighter with a tenor voice. So continue my analogy, it’s purely in the voice because said 250kg MMA fighter will be able to pull your arm off and beat you with the wet end, no matter what tone of voice he has. While the diesel powerplant in the Ranger Raptor measures in with a mere 2.0-litres in capacity, it does happen to have a pair of turbochargers attached making some magick, the result being a decent 157kW of power with a massive 500Nm of torque. Them’s good numbers, and with that torque kicking in at just 1500rpm it makes for a fun drive. Mated to this powerplant we find a new 10-speed auto transmission. It’s brilliant, smooth as silk and it doesn’t ever hunt for the right gear no matter what drive mode you select in the Terrain Management System. I do think, and you’d have to check with some more technical people, that there’s some sort of torque limiter built in because all those Newtons don’t seem to kick in off the line when you mash the loud pedal. Lining up against more than one VW Amarok more than once, the Raptor ended up playing catch-up being out-launched from the get-go. Against the same Amaroks while rolling from 100km/h, the Raptor seems to be a much stronger beast and it quickly put the VWs on the back foot - you can definitely feel that torque in your butt dyno. Fuel consumption is rated at 8.7-litres/100km, which is great for a massive thing like the Raptor, except that even on a 200km trip with cruise control set to 125km/h the best figures returned (according to the on-board system), was 11.2-litres/100km. When showing the aforementioned Amarok how nice the Raptor tailgate looks, that figure pretty much doubled. But you know what? I didn’t care. Like the Mustang, I ended up spending two months' petrol budget on this thing in a week, the smiles were well worth it.
The price tag for the Ranger Raptor is high, you’re looking at paying closer to the R900k mark now, and adding in finance and all those fun fees, this going to be well over a bar by the time you’ve paid the bank back. That’s a big chunk of change, especially in the strange times we find ourselves in. There’s plenty awesome cars and bakkies to be had for that price, but if I had the opportunity, I reckon I’d still have me a Ranger Raptor if I was keen on making a big statement. Like the Mustang, this thing makes you feel like a boss no matter if you’re on a sand road, off road, in the veld, on the tar or in the local Spar's parking lot. I think also having it being locally produced is just brilliant and adds plenty braai-time talking points. I initially thought that Ford Performance Blue is the ultimate colour for one of these, but Colorado Red, Frozen White and Shadow Black look just as mean. After seeing one in the metal, my lotto winnings would be best spent on a Conquer Grey Raptor – I don’t think it’s possible to have a cooler factory double cab. If a V8 version does happen one day, that would be pretty cool, but I quite like this one just the way it is. For more info, head on over to www.ford.co.za, or click on the .pdf at the end of the article.
⬇️ PORN ALERT ⬇️
Gotta love it when you have Mustang content following Mustang content, well I do anyway. In the post about the 2.3 EcoBoost Mustang I mentioned that I prefer the turbo 4 over the rumbling V8, and as predicted it caused a few arguments on somme online groups where the article was shared. It seems the general consensus is that if you want a Mustang, it must be the V8 or nothing. Well, if the entry 4-cylinder upset the purists and fans (many of whom mostly argue without having driven any kind of Mustang at all), then this new once-off prototype will have them wanting the Ford top brass hunted down and tortured. There was already an uproar in May when the all-electric Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 full electric dragster was released. Also a one-off prototype, that monster packs a whopping 1045kW of power and over 1 490Nm of instant torque. It was only a matter of time before the men in white coats from Ford Performance tried another mad project. For this one they roped in the talent from RTR for a collaboration and turned their attention and expertise to a different discipline, the result being The Ford Mustang Mach-E 1400, a vehicle set to tear up circuits with actual turns and banks - and drift like an absolute monster.
From the release:
“Now is the perfect time to leverage electric technology, learn from it, and apply it to our portfolio,” said Ron Heiser, chief programme engineer, Mustang Mach-E. “Mustang Mach-E is going to be fun to drive, just like every other Mustang before it, but Mustang Mach-E 1400 is completely insane, thanks to the efforts of Ford Performance and RTR.” The Mustang Mach-E 1400 is the result of 10,000 hours of collaboration by Ford Performance and RTR aimed at bridging the gap between what an electric vehicle can do and what customers tend to believe it can do. “Getting behind the wheel of this car has completely changed my perspective on what power and torque can be,” said Vaughn Gittin Jr., RTR Vehicles founder, motorsports champion and professional fun-haver. “This experience is like nothing you’ve ever imagined, except for maybe a magnetic roller coaster.”
Mustang Mach-E 1400 has taken shape without rules. The Ford design team and RTR used many of the same tools Ford uses for its race cars and production programmes. Aerodynamics are optimised for shape and location, with a focus on cooling ducts, front splitter, dive planes and rear wing. Mustang Mach-E 1400 has seven motors – five more than even Mustang Mach-E GT. Three are attached to the front differential and four are attached to the rear in pancake style, with a single driveshaft connecting them to the differentials, which have a huge range of adjustability to set the car up for everything from drifting to high-speed track racing.
“The challenge was controlling the extreme levels of power provided by the seven motors,” said Mark Rushbrook, motorsports director, Ford Performance. “Mustang Mach-E 1400 is a showcase of the art of the possible with an electric vehicle.” The chassis and powertrain are set up to allow the team to investigate different layouts and their effects on energy consumption and performance, including rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive. Drift and track setups have completely different front end configurations like control arms and steering changes to allow for extreme steering angles in drifting. Power delivery can be split evenly between front and rear, or completely to one or the other. Downforce is targeted at more than 1,000kg at 257km/h.
The 56.8-kilowatt-hour battery (installed) is made up of nickel manganese cobalt pouch cells for ultra-high performance and high discharge rate. The battery system is designed to be cooled during charging using a di-electric coolant, decreasing the time needed between runs. An electronic brake booster is integrated to allow series regenerative braking combined with ABS and stability control to optimise the braking system. Mustang Mach-E 1400 features Brembo™ brakes, like the Mustang GT4 race car, and a hydraulic handbrake system designed for drifting that integrates with the powertrain controls to enable the ability to shut off power to the rear motors. Mustang Mach-E 1400, which is set to debut at a NASCAR race soon, serves as a test bed for new materials. The hood is made of organic composite fibres, a lightweight alternative to the carbon fibre that comprises the rest of the vehicle.
Ford is investing more than $11.5 billion in electric vehicles worldwide and the Mustang is the perfect nameplate to start this exciting chapter in electric vehicles.