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Shy and sensitive used-car sales folk

2015-02-02 19:39

OPEN DOOR POLICY: It can be a minefield finding that bargain car - there are pitfalls. We explain some of the jargon used by the salespeople. Image: DAVE FALL


I regularly hear from a pal in the UK who’s been a car executive for many, many years and to this day he assures me he was always honest with punters – but unable to tell a lie to a female customer!

I asked him about some of his ‘wheeling and dealing’ experiences to maybe help buyers in South Africa secure that once-in-a-lifetime ‘bargain’.


My pal Spike said: “These days, cars are much more reliable and better-made than ever before.

“It’s extremely difficult to ‘clock’ a car (turning the speedometer backwards, to give the impression of a lower total distance travelled); service history is available with every vehicle (via the worldwide trend of VIN numbers) remains the best insurance as to the true identity of the vehicle.”

He went on to say that one would be amazed how little knowledge people have when choosing a used vehicle: “A fair percentage of buyers who visit my forecourt are so naieve… some even thought a hot-hatch was a stolen car, instead of simply a quick performer.”

Generally, people are in the dark when it comes to car-speak.

I mentioned our iconic Toyota Tazz (a vehicle never sold in the UK), known fondly here as a “starter pack”. He thought that was very funny.


Some of the motoring jargon among fellow car salesmen in the UK bears repeating. Others, well, most certainly do not on this family website!

For example, the word “Pinocchio” is a customer who is not telling the truth, a Grinder is somebody who wants more for less, while a Screamer moans about everything.

When talking about cars, if the dealer mentions a Birthday car, it simply means it’s one that’s been in stock far too long. If they mumble something about a Spanish gearbox it means the car has manual transmission (Manuel, geddit?)

If they whisper the word Bidet, it means a car in their stock has a rear wash and wipe (ie: has a rear wiper blade). What, you don't speak French?

A Landmark car is one that just won’t sell – could be due to several reasons, such as white cars do not sell well in the UK, unlike their counterparts in SA.


When a bunch of British car salesmen get together for a pint (usually Guinness) their jargon knowledge really comes to the fore: a blow-over is a quick respray job on a dodgy car; drip-feed means the customer wants to pay by instalments (finance); a Duke of Kent refers to the rent (road tax).

Perhaps the snappiest retorts are to be found when talking money: a George Raft is a banker’s draft; a Bag of Sand is a grand (£1000/R18 000), a Gregory is a Gregory Peck... cheque.

A Pony means £25/R435, a Jeffrey is £2000/R36 000; while a Monkey is £500/R9000.

On the strength of the above, may I suggest if a description of your dream car appears ambiguous when responding to a car advertisement on OLX or Gumtree, do not be afraid to ask the seller exactly what he means.


I've found in my own dealings that car sales people rarely deliberately bamboozle you into signing-up.

The best advice I can offer, if you're looking for a fresh set of wheels, is to be sure take a friend or family member along because they’ll offer you an impartial sounding board – along with an entirely fresh view on questioning the salesperson or, if a private sale, the current owner.

So don’t forget, an SUV is a sports utility vehicle, not a standard urban vehicle, a high-performance car is one that is powerful and not necessarily fuel-efficient!

Happy hunting. And remember, you're doing them a favour by buying, not the other way around...

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