4x4, Bakkies, industry, Isuzu, Motoring News, off-road

Globetrotting KB bakkie wins free factory restoration

  • Half-a-million kays later – a full restore
  • Africa and Europe covered by Fanie’s KB bakkie
  • Meet winner of ‘Living Legends’ competition
ISUZU REBUILD: Fanie Olivier, a retired South African university professor, with the 2000 Isuzu 280 D-TEQ 4×4  that’s lined up for a free, but comprehensive, overhaul as a competition prize. Image: Isuzu SA

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa – Isuzu’s revered, trusted and built-in-SA one-ton bakkies have been a firm South African favourite for 40 years – and now there is another chapter…

An 18-year-old model that’s covered the length and breadth of sub-Saharan Africa and even ventured into Eastern Europe is to be rewarded with a comprehensive make-over.\

The year-2000 Isuzu 280 D-TEQ 4×4 will undergo restoration at the hands (and tools) of a technical services team at Isuzu Motors SA HQ in Port Elizabeth.


It’s part of Isuzu’s 40th anniversary of production in South Africa as the culmination of a ‘Living Legends’ competition which drew more than 150 entries from loyal KB owners across South Africa.

Dominic Rimmer, Technical Services boss, told The Corner: “The Isuzu range has been a key player in the growth of the light commercial vehicle segment in South Africa – in particular the popularity of double-cabs as family and leisure vehicles.

“The third-generation Isuzu bakkie range (among them the first double-cabs the country had seen) was launched in 1989. A follow-up arrived in 1997 and was noted for its outstanding comfort, superb performance and fuel economy, along with unrivalled durability,

“It was SA’s top-selling one-ton bakkie at the time.”


The Living Legends competition celebrated this exceptionally proud legacy with the promise of the winner’s vehicle  receiving extensive restoration at the Isuzu plant.

Fanie Olivier, a retired university professor from Pennington on the kwaZulu-Natal south coast, was the winner thanks to his and his bakkie’s exploits across Africa and Europe.

“This is wonderful for me and my trusty Isuzu bakkie,” a delighted Olivier said. “The model built Isuzu’s solid reputation for durability in South Africa; mine has been unbelievably reliable despite covering some really tough conditions.”

READ MORE Isuzu features on Carman’s Corner

He bought it second-hand in 2004 though can’t remember the original odo reading. Since then, though, it has clocked several hundred thousand kilometres and is now close to 500 000.

“I’ve done extensive travelling into Africa, my longest single trip from Louis Trichardt all the way to Nairobi and on to Dar es Salaam,” he recalled.

“I’ve also travelled along most of the Zambezi River, negotiated the most hair-pinned road one can imagine from Lake Malawi to Livingstonia, effortlessly travelled the Tanzam Highway that links Tanzania and Zambia, traversed the mine fields of Mozambique and been inspected by lion and elephant in Chobe, Botswana.”

However, it’s Eastern Europe has been Olivier’s favourite destination. His KB was shipped to Poland when he was a visiting professor at a university in Poznan. “This was the only vehicle I had – I couldn’t afford to buy a car in Poland so my Isuzu went with me.


“The people I met had never seen an Isuzu, never mind a double-cab. Poland was the perfect door to explore Europe, so through 2004-06 I crisscrossed the continent, from Auschwitz to Amsterdam, Edinburgh to Moscow, Nordkapp in Norway to Athens, and across the Ukranian steppes to Sebastopol.

“At every border crossing it was the same thing, as officials, villagers, policemen and fellow travellers converged on the Isuzu, asked questions and tried to understand this very, very strange vehicle from a very strange place.”

Despite sometimes having to run the 280 DT engine on a questionable diet of home-brewed diesel that was little more than old cooking oil, particularly while traversing the back roads of Belarus and Russia, Olivier has been delighted by this truck.


“I’m not big on maintenance,” he said, ”but my Isuzu has been unbelievably reliable. I’ll forgive it the only two mishaps: a broken bracket on the aircon pump and an immobiliser fault.”

Jessel Vencencie, vehicle validation and support boss at Isuzu SA, added: “We’ve never done a restoration like this but most of our team were involved in the development and production of this model.

“Were looking forward to the challenge.”

Restoration will use parts still in suppy or outsourced.


And the last comment from Olivier: ”My wife of four years, Antoinette, and I are already counting the weeks, days and hours until our faithful Isuzu is returned.

“There are lots of places still on our bucket list… Angola and the Sani Pass, and Antoinette hasn’t seen Victoria Falls or Chobe.

”We can’t wait to begin an exciting new chapter with this legendary bakkie and are very grateful for this amazing opportunity!”

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