When I was 18, I worked for a few months at my mother’s television repair business while saving money for a planned European backpacking adventure. Part of my job description was to drive around collecting faulty television sets and video machines in the morning before returning them back to their owners later in the day. I loved it. Not only did I get to spend the day out on the road, get given biscuits by pensioners who had inadvertently pushed the wrong button their remote controls, but also got invited inside some of the spectacular houses in some of the more wealthy suburbs around Cape Town (while having a glance at the family photos to see whether there was a single daughter in the mix).
Another huge plus (for a young car-less driver at least) was that I also got given the keys to one of the company’s Morris Marina delivery vans. With well over 200 000 km on the clock, I have fond memories of running around town trying to guess where each of the four forward gear slots may be hiding underneath the rubber lever cover, vaguely turning the thin steering wheel in the hope that the front wheels would respond in time, and pressing down on the wet sponge of a brake pedal in good time, just in case the traffic light ahead turned to red before I got to the intersection. I had a near-permanent T-shirt tan on my right arm from resting it on the open window frame and I couldn’t wait for each opportunity to lift the two-way radio receiver to my mouth to say, “Come in for Ian, please,” while there was a girl looking on. It honestly was great fun.
I’m happy to report that the neither the transmission, brake pedal or steering feel in our long-term Daihatsu Gran Max in any way remind me of the old Marina’s vague and unpredictable examples of each. Yet somehow, after recently spending a few days behind the wheel of the Gran Max, I’ve developed a burning desire to start my own delivery service company just so that I can spend more time effortlessly buzzing in and out of traffic again. I could work on my snap-shift gear changes (I love the placement of the gearlever in the Daihatsu right alongside the steering wheel), while smiling at the eagerness of the 71 kW 1,5-litre as it revs freely from its position below the driver’s seat, all the while resting my right arm on the window sill and yearning for days when a two-way radio was the only way to stay in touch with a driver on the road.
I have no problem with the fact that there isn’t a radio fitted to our Gran Max, and I really didn’t miss a rev counter or central locking. I even really like the old ratchet-style handbrake lever. I did however note a few things from my younger delivery days that I would probably miss in the Daihatsu, the first being somewhere to store my pie packets working gloves and clipboards. In the Marina, and indeed in other delivery vehicles that I have driven over the past few years (the Renault Kangoo comes to mind), there’s been a plastic shelf above the driver and front passenger seat for storage of items that could otherwise clutter the cabin. I would also prefer the rear window of the Gran Max to have a sliding function (similar to those found on double-cab bakkies), not only for communication with anyone sitting (uncomfortably) at the rear, but also to create some air-circulation within the cabin. Oh yes, and I’d install a headlight-on warning system because it’s a bit embarrassing having to push your delivery vehicle out of customers driveways.
Mileage now (km): 11 420
Fuel consumption to date (litres/100 km): 9,41
We like: Fun and easy to drive. Willing engine. Lots of character
We don’t like: Lack of storage space in the cabin.