Just get in your car and drive!
That is usually my motto.
I will say, “just go” and add an encouraging albeit non-descriptive, “just go, get in your car and see where the road takes you”.
But before I get in the vehicle I’ll do a few necessary safety checks to ensure that if I get stranded somewhere due to a mechanical problem or a flat tyre, it did not happen because of my own negligence.
Even though my safety checks are basic and my mechanical knowledge goes as far as fixing a tyre and knowing that you can use pantyhose to fix something (even though I haven’t owned a pair of pantyhose since high school), I still do it. It makes me feel safe.
But I’ve never delved a bit deeper into the vehicle, in between the nuts and bolts and auto parts of all sorts. I’ve never asked myself why this and that stay together, how something here is dependent on something there and where it all comes together until I visited the General Motors Plant in Struandale, Port Elizabeth.
On a day that felt like Port Elizabeth’s hottest day of the year I was instructed to wear long pants and closed shoes.
It is not every day that I visit places with a dress code but when the dress code is not formal or semi-formal and instructs to wear long pants and closed shoes I’ll tick yes over and over again.
In my long pants and still-kind-of-muddy closed shoes off I went to the General Motors Plant in Port Elizabeth for a factory walkabout on the General Assembly line of Isuzu to see just where this diehard bakkie’s toughness originates from and to experience 80 years of Real.
Isuzu – 80 Years of Real
This April, Isuzu is celebrating its 80th anniversary; 80 years of extraordinary, 80 years of Real, 80 years of Isuzu Delivers.
While the company started in 1937 in Japan and South Africa caught on a few decades later when in 1972 the country saw its first Isuzu (which was then introduced as the Chevrolet LUV). As the demand for the Isuzu grew, the first Isuzu bakkie rolled off the Kempston Road Plant in Port Elizabeth nine years later, in 1979.
That’s 38 years of Isuzu in South Africa.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
One South African who owns his fair share of Isuzu history is Daniël Kotze who comes from a long line of Isuzu loyalty with a 1979 bakkie which has been passed on to him via his grandfather and then his father. The Isuzu toughness is in the diesel pudding as this model clocked over 500 000 km with its original engine. But that is not all, Kotze – a walking KB encyclopedia – owns 7 diehard bakkies, including the first one which was introduced to South Africa as the Chevrolet LUV in 1973.
2017 is only one drop in the bucket (or is it a drop in the bakkie) of celebrations for Isuzu.
Over the years, as production continued, improved and grew, Isuzu has also made a massive contribution to things that matter.
In 1999 Isuzu helped Mozambique to get rid of illegal arms caches (remnants of the civil war( hidden across the country, and with the Mozambican and South African Police Services they’ve embarked on a mission, Operation Rachel, to seek and destroy weapons and ammunition that were finding its way into South Africa. After the success of Operation Rachel, Isuzu stepped up once again during Operation Mandume in 2007 to clear weapons caches in Namibia and Angola.
Above and beyond other highlights during the last decade like the 72-hour Endurance Challenge where Isuzu rewrote South African speed and distance records for diesel bakkies and the launch of the Isuzu Off-Road Academy, 2014 addressed an issue very close to home.
The Isuzu Rhino Dehorning Project began in 2014 and in 2016, with a support fleet of Isuzu KB 300 4×4 Double Cab bakkies, they headed to the Blue Canyon Conservancy near Hoedspruit, in Limpopo Province, in partnership with Nkombe Rhino (a non-profit organisation dedicated to wild life conservation). To dehorn a rhino is an unfortunate yet painless and harmless solution to the poaching problem in South Africa to prevent the total extinction of one of our big five.
The years have come and gone, from two doors to more doors, over terrain rough, with a vehicle reliable and tough; Isuzu has made a promise, “Isuzu Delivers” and for the last 80 years it has done just that, a hard-working bakkie for the hard worker.
Congratulations on your 80 Years of Real Isuzu! Here is to the next milestone; to future innovation, projects and accomplishments!
Go on a tour and experience it for yourself
The General Motors Plant in Port Elizabeth has opened its doors to the public once again, and trust me, you will leave the GM Plant in total awe.
During my tour, I visited the Isuzu line, but the official 45-minute tour includes the Chevrolet and Isuzu line (only the General Assembly line).
If you are thinking of spoiling that special someone in your life – yourself, an automotive fanatic, an engineer or someone who gets a kick out of precision and order – then put on your long pants, closed shoes and head to Struandale for a plant tour. The tour starts with watching a safety video, putting on a blue GM vest and getting your visitors pass before you reach the General Assembly line.
Rule of the day when visiting the plant is to stay within the marked yellow lines, and, if you change direction to practice the principle of looking left, right and left again.
The Isuzu line produces 11.4 vehicles per hour and the “in total awe” bit comes in when you see the dedication on the line; there are allocated minutes for every task that should be done before the vehicle drives out and away to a dealer, from putting those rubbers into the windows, to adding all the wires and tyres, plus the engine, the seats and putting it through various tests to see if everything is a-okay. There’s absolutely no time for slacking; everything (and everyone) works like a well-oiled machine.
I’m telling you, in total awe…
And more awe because I’ve never delved a bit deeper into the vehicle, in between the nuts and bolts and auto parts of all sorts. I’ve never asked myself why this and that stay together, how something here is dependent on something there and where it all comes together until I visited the General Motors Plant in Struandale, Port Elizabeth.
Product Communications Co-ordinator, Nandi Matomela, said, “We have reintroduced plant tours, due to the growing interest from the public to see and understand the manufacturing process of a vehicle.”
If you want to visit the plant on your own you’ll be happy to know that the size of a tour group is minimum 1 and maximum 15, it is open to all on weekdays and while this tour is conducted by knowledgeable GM employees, this tour is completely FREE. Photography is not allowed during the tour.
Get behind the scenes and be amazed, be in awe.
Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored; all opinions and non-descriptive car-related words, are my own.