It was time to go shopping, and as always, I beat my mother to the car. As fast as my thin legs can transport me, I’m in the passenger seat of the Ikon, impatiently waiting for Mom to get in, switch the ignition on, and reverse up the short but steep driveway up to the road. We’re on the move, being propelled by the small 1.6-liter naturally-aspirated engine, good for 74 kW of power, at 120km/h alongside yellow, barren fields just outside the small town of Robertson. Sometimes at lower speeds, Mom would let me change gears. With no idea that the ability to shift the handle came from a pedal that she was pressing down on, I wrenched it. For the briefest of moments, I was Mad Max, the Road Warrior of the Cape Winelands, and nothing could stop me.
Fast forward to the present day, and I am presented with the final editorial by Braam Peens, editor of the now dissolved Top Gear South Africa magazine. His closing statement: It’s not a good idea to be a motoring journalist right now. There I was, standing at the kiosk at Pick n’ Pay, clutching a publication of the thing I loved to do, recommending me to not do it.
The fact that I did not flinch while during and after reading that sentence, is proof enough of why I am a motoring journalist. Not just a writer, not just a journalist, but a person who makes his living by driving and writing about cars. Someone who can tell you the trim level of a car just by looking at the front grille (It’s the amount of chrome and fog lamps that give it away).
The global automotive industry is currently valued at just under $2 trillion USD, with over one billion of its products being on the road as I write that figure down. That is a lot of cars, varying in all shapes and sizes, being used for a whole different manner of things. For many, the car is simply a utility, a method of a mobility, transport from A to B. That is all well and good, and for those who believe that, I bid you safe travels in your commute.
For those of us left, let us admire and appreciate the design of an Alfa Romeo 4C, the innovative technology of a Tesla X, the bomb-proof reliability of a Volkswagen Polo Vivo, the performance perfection of a BMW M3, and the universal practicality of a Toyota Corolla.
These are the reasons why I am a motoring journalist. These are the reasons why I write.
These are the reasons why an 11-year-old boy in the passenger seat of a Ford Ikon can change a gear and feel like he’s in a Mad Max movie.
By Sam Spiller