Hey, we all had to start somewhere right? Contrary to popular belief, the CAR team hail from humble beginnings in the motoring world. Herewith some of our first memorable moments behind the wheel of a car…
Hannes Oosthuizen – Opel Rekord
Despite my “wiry” build in high school, I was one of the best arm-wrestlers. This I believe had much to do with the fact that I was in the process of learning to drive in a base-spec 1984 Opel Rekord 2,0 GL. This car did not have power steering or air-conditioning either. Despite an alarming appetite for exhaust systems, it was one of the most trouble-free cars I’ve ever experienced. The steel GM used back then for its body construction must’ve been near military grade because even though my dad hit numerous bucks and other wild animals on farm roads in the Southern Cape, I don’t recall ever seeing a dent on that body. This meant it was heavy. And without power steering, it was quite a muscle-building process to drive. My mother (not pictured) taught me to drive because she is considerably more interested in cars than my dad, and also because my dad, a conservative fellow with a terrible fear of the dark side of 120 km/h, would have probably had a heart attack if he had to teach me. It was a mostly incident-free process in the end – except for reversing into the only pole within a 5 km radius in Gouritsmond – and I also used the Rekord for my driver’s test, which I failed the first time because I didn’t check my blind spots often enough.
Mike Fourie – Suzuki Samurai
In the mid Eighties my father bought my mum a runabout, a Suzuki Samurai, but it did not stay in the family for very long because its canvas roof let too much wind in and its stability on the open road was suspect. However, in the halcyon days before it became illegal to drive an off-roader on a beach, my father gave me my first driving lesson on a stretch of coast between Boknes and Kwaaihoek in the Eastern Cape (historians will know that the latter escarpment marks the point where the quest of Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias to round the southern tip of Africa ended in mutiny). Well the Samurai’s pokey clutch pedal and long-throw four-speed transmission helped me learn the dark arts of clutch control and gear changing, but I learnt to steer with an ancient Land Rover Defender on the dirt tracks on my family’s farm. As for passing my driver’s licence test, that took two attempts and my mum’s Oxford Green E36 BMW performed ably for the task (although the 318i’s engine mysteriously stalled while I had the wheel at full lock with the clutch disengaged in the middle of the three-point turn manoeuvre). Fortunately, the traffic officer on duty that fateful day didn’t fail me on the spot, as I do remember kinking my neck throughout the test route to demonstrate zealous habits of observation and being ever so polite to him.
Ian McLaren – Ford Meteor
My mom actually taught me how to drive. At the time she owned a light blue Ford Meteor. I clearly remember the first time she asked whether I wanted to have a go at driving the last kilometer to our house. After the car stalled for the third time, she had had enough and we swopped seats again. I maintain, after watching her engage first gear that I had mistakenly had the car in third the whole time, but I guess we’ll never know. She gradually let me drive home from greater distances and soon I became the best driver in the world – just like every other seventeen year old! I will say that I rather boldly booked my driver’s license appointment for the day of my eighteenth birthday and even managed to get a smile out of the traffic officer who wished me a happy birthday as he handed me my license. The rest is history, as they say.
Nicol Louw – Peugeot 504
The 504 was our family transport back in the day and we loved the car. My dad taught me from a young age to park the car in the garage. This was ideal to learn the art of clutch control. One evening my dad took me out on a quiet road in the neighbourhood and jumped out, telling me to get behind the wheel. I did and drove the car a few blocks and would never forget the feeling of driving the car – as well as the trust that was bestowed upon me by my dad! My car driving experiences could not keep track with all the motorcycles I had and enjoyed. Turning eighteen I resorted again to family transport for the driving test and managed to get my license the first time (more grace than skill) in a Toyota Camry 220 SEI!
Kelly Lodewyks – Toyota Tazz
Initially, I learned to drive on a Toyota Tazz. It belonged to my driving instructor and until that very first lesson, I had never been behind the wheel of a car before. It was an easy car with which I could learn to drive and my confidence grew. It took a knock one day though when I missed the corner and instead mounted the kerb. I think that was the only major incident I had… until after I had my licence, but that’s a topic for another time. Even though I started out in a Tazz, I passed my driver’s test in my dad’s CitiGolf. I passed it on the first attempt, but I will admit that I had an earlier appointment, but moved it because I didn’t feel ready for it at the time.
Kyle Kock – Volkswagen Beetle
The first time I got behind the wheel was out of necessity at the age of 14. My dad and I had run out of a fuel in a 1,6-litre Beetle, and while he was gone to fetch fuel from the nearest petrol station I noticed some dodgy oke loitering around the park the old Volksie was parked next to. As he was making his approach, I decided not to tempt fate, and climbed over into the drivers seat to get the yellow bug going again. I turned the key (actually, any old key worked in that old ignition switch) and was glad to hear the flat-four splutter to life again. I engaged the clutch like I’d seen my buddy do on his dad’s Ford Sapphire, found first gear, and let it out slowly. With some momentum, I shifted to second about a kilometer away, and as soon as I saw my dad walking back with a can of fuel I stopped – and quickly formulated a story about a gang of guys standing around the car. My escape was successful! After that I spent much time behind the wheel of that Beetle, as well as my mom’s Honda Ballade automatic and my dad’s (also automatic) Jaguar XJ6 – even if it was only pulling in and out of the garage. After learning I had landed an internship at CAR five years later, I hurriedly set about going for K53 lessons. After a few weeks, I went for my driver’s test in the driving school’s Toyota Tazz. During the alley-docking exercise, I stalled the Tazz and the Ray-Ban-donning traffic officer in the passenger seat failed me for “rolling” the car and not yanking the handbrake instantly. My argument, “How could I have rolled if we’re not even on an incline?” fell on deaf ears…
Juliet McGuire – VW Caravelle
I learnt to drive in my mom’s maroon Volkswagen Caravelle. Let me tell you, this is no easy feat when you learn with gears that are “upside” down. By the time I went for my driving test I was an accomplished kombi driver, so the instructor’s Tazz threw me off a bit. I arrived with a short skirt and low top on… and ended up with the only female tester at the Green Point Traffic Department. I swiftly pulled my skirt lower and my top higher. Things were not looking good. I almost rolled on the hill, but fortunately a few tears got me another chance.
In the end, I passed with flying colours, in fact I only lost 17 points… that’s virtually unheard of! I hope to never ever have to do my driver’s test again, it was the most nerve wracking day of my life!
Can you remember in which car you were sitting when you became a motorist?