The itch that has been scratched can never be unscratched

The trouble with writing a column every month is not whether or not you’ll find something to write about each time, rather what the subject matter will be. ‘Cars’ is a definite theme. But what emerges eventually is a cycle, albeit a loose one. One month it’s about my current long termer, another it will be about some drive I’ve undertaken, a road I’ve carved along. Or it will be about my bicycle, in relation to my car or commute, or maybe about my kids and their automotive experiences thanks to yours truly. This month however, I return to the subject of my own personal car. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re not aware of what it is and introduce it for the umpteenth time.

Meet my 1983 Toyota coupe. To be specific it’s a Celica Supra, a badge that was eventually split into two very different sports cars, both of which no longer exist in the current Toyota line-up, legendary though they were, although the latter looks to enjoy a revival with the  recent debut of the FT-1 concept. So, ‘yays’ all around. Now, I’ve always liked this particular Mk2 shape, and the fact that it had pop-up headlamps and resembled a super-sized version of the most sought after Toyota import, the Hachi Roku  (AE86) meant the day I found it on sale in a rubbish state (for rubbish money) I couldn’t resist. Since then I’ve very slowly revived and restored… no not restored. I need to be honest with you.

I’m from the Cape Flats. We don’t restore. A better term would be improving as per the owner’s personal tastes, exclusively. In the six or so years that it and I have been together, it’s enjoyed a life very much on the backburner, with me doing just enough to keep it ticking over – unsuccessfully at times. That recently changed when my mechanic came across a set of OEM factory side-skirts from an Australian Supra and thought I might like them. Obviously I liked them very much, and set about planning the next phase of my Celica’s aesthetic. I’d like to add that by now I’d sorted out as many of the mechanical issues as I could, even fitting uprated rear brakes so I’m a somewhat responsible motorist. Right? What followed next was a typical meeting between my preferred car customizer, let’s call him Jason, and I. Something along the lines of, “I just want to spray them black and fit them. Maybe a custom lip…”
Which he obviously understood as “I’d like to turn it into a race car now.”

I didn’t correct him; instead I fired up my trusty vector illustration programme and began slamming, cutting and shutting the bodywork of my freshly rendered version of my Supra with my pen tool, chopping JDM alloys and custom decals into the mix. I was a thing possessed. I showed it to him. “Can I strip the interior?” he asked. Yes. “Do you need the carpet in the boot?” No. “Need more gauges?” No. But he fit those anyway. “How do you feel about a half roll cage?” Um. Do it. Now, Jason and I barely ever see each other until I bring one of my vehicles under his maniacal knife, but at this point we were finishing each other’s sentences. This wasn’t a bromance. This was a synergy of depraved vehicular proportions. “What do you think of this wheel?” he asked. “It won’t fit” I replied correctly. “But it’s so wide, it will fill the custom wide arches perfectly.” I replied with “What are our options if– wide arches!?” Oh yes, I asked for those. Oh my God, what have we done?

I know what it sounds like. It sounds like I’ve ruined a classic Japanese car. I want to reassure you that I have, debatably, a restrained pimp hand. Now. See, I’ve made my automotive mistakes two or three publications and a decade ago, and now operate with a smidge more caution than before, although I’ll admit I favour the crazy Kyushai-Kai style common in Nippon. Google it. Also, don’t judge. A recent trip to Tokyo where I got to hang out with the local car-enthusiast types only intensified my affinity to the Japanese way, and if I am completely honest is almost certainly responsible for my renewed interest in turning my humble 1983 coupe into my own slice of Japan. And before you accuse me of butchering it, I’d like to point out that when I acquired it, it was barely running, was rusted to its core and would have been at the end of its life within a few months. Right now, it’s one man’s embodiment of the zaniest car culture on the planet, a daily runner still capable of turning the heads of the similarly enthused and offering up pure naturally aspirated thrills like a 34 year old banger has no right doing. And that’s okay, right?

 

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Bakkies. Those who have them love them. Those who don’t, often consider getting one for the utilitarian kudos that comes with them. That and the lifestyle of course – that rugged, go-anywhere, braai-anywhere, kerb anything lifestyle that pairs so sweetly with rugby and gravel travel. Since moving to the Northern Suburbs I see them everywhere, in fact I’m entrenched in the lofty things. Old ones and new ones brandishing aftermarket bullbars and factory-accoutrements galore be they stickered with Raider, Drifter or Wildtrak emblems – see even the manufacturers realise that there’s money to be made by out-butching the competition. And it’s all well and good when you’re loading up piles of firewood and an inordinate amount of vleis and maybe even the weekend’s liquid groceries from the shop to your entertainment room but what about everything else?

No really, your week’s groceries – where the hell does it go? Or dare I ask for that matter a laptop satchel, backpacks or gym bags, my girlfriend’s many handbags, that thing being sold on the side of the road – literally anything of fair value. Sure if it’s to the shops and back then no harm no foul, apart from someone opening the load bay at the lights (please don’t do that) you’re quite alright, and even then that’s only a problem if you haven’t locked the tailgate since the load bay is covered by a tonneau cover. But it’s hardly infallible is the cover, as all you have to do is pop a few clips and rifle under its canvas skirt at the goodies within. It’s a superficial sort of protection, only really useful against the thieving wind and nothing more. Since I don’t transport beach sand, feathers or balloons the tonneau doesn’t serve me much beyond creating a smooth aesthetic for my Hilux’s bum, and inadvertently transforming itself into a splash pool for pigeons during winter. Which if you think about it, really just robs them of an even bigger and more impressive pool had it not been there in the first place.

It’s a superficial sort of protection, only really useful against the thieving wind and nothing more.

For a while we’d place valuables under one of the front seats, things like laptops, tablets and so on, but that’s severely limiting as it will accommodate little more than in envelope since this is 2016 and the modern car seat has become an obese thing. We lived on the edge for a while, piling bags behind the passenger pew and reclining it all the way as though the person who had been riding shotgun had fallen asleep just before parking, so as to hide our belongings. But that was tantamount to putting a sign on the door saying ‘expensive stuff here!’ So that didn’t work either.

If you thought this was the type of clever column that solved a common problem then I’ll tell you now that it isn’t, because you’ve in fact come to the end of it and I’m still just as out of ideas as I was the beginning. I realise there’s the aftermarket route, that I could spend money armouring the Hilux with the kind of lockdown peace of mind that even the smallest of hatchbacks come standard with. But no, we’ve instead resorted to rerouting our entire lifestyles around the fact that we cannot buy or store anything of any value unless we can return home immediately afterwards. That, or wear and carry all our belongings whenever we go anywhere for anything. We’re now the folks who visit our loved ones with a shopping trolley’s worth of groceries which we’re happy to leave in their lounge while we’re there. Also, if you ever sit next to someone in a cinema who’s wearing a backpack and carrying a suspicious amount of electronic gear – don’t be too alarmed, he probably isn’t pirating the movie for his torrent base. He could just have gotten there in a bakkie in which case he has no choice, like us.

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