TOUGH TRIP IN A GO: The Datsun Go completed a tough ol' journey of 9800km! Who knew the car had it in it... Image: MotorPress
Cape Town - Two Finnish adventurers completed an arduous 9800km journey across South Africa, Namibia and Botswana in 16 days.
The car that Finns Vesa Eskola and Jarmo Kymenlathi chose for their epic road trip was a Datsun Go.
According to the automaker, the city car emerged unscathed from a demanding schedule that saw the duo spend eight to ten hours each day behind the wheel and averaging about 613km per day on the road.
The challenging drive is nothing new to Eskola, who has clocked up well over a million kilometres on roads across the globe.
A point to prove
The trip was part of a driving ambition first raised with Datsun’s global head, Vincent Cobee, a few years ago. At the meeting, journalist Eskola expressed a wish to drive a Datsun Go from its manufacturing point in Chennai, India to his home in Finland.
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The trip proved impracticable but Eskola has since clocked up the equivalent mileage by driving a Go on epic journeys across Indonesia, Russia and India.
His latest trip began in Johannesburg, whereafter he meandered across to the Kruger Park and then down to Durban. From Durban, he travelled along the garden route to Cape Town and up the west coast into Namibia. Then it was up to the Etosha Pan and back along the Trans-Kalahari highway.
This trip, says Eskola, recalls the road trips that Finns have made throughout Europe in Datsuns and other light passenger vehicles in the 70s and 80s.
Eskola said: “Nobody thought twice about taking on long journeys in cars that today would be regarded as ‘city cars’. Today, people are obsessed with larger cars, SUVs and the like, and wouldn’t even think of tackling a long road in an entry-level vehicle like the Datsun Go.”
Tested: Datsun's Go on the move
The Go is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol capable of 50kW/104Nm mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Eskola added: “Even though the engine is small, the car cruised happily at 140km/h on the long open stretches of road across Namibia. Fuel consumption was a winner at only 6.9 l/100. The vehicle’s strongest points were its height, which was an advantage in areas where there were potholes, and the seats which were great, providing support for all the hours we spent in the car. Carrying the bags for two people - and at one stage - three people - was no problem either.”
9800km, not a scratch?
The only maintenance required during the 9800km journey, says Datsun, were two tyres that suffered punctures on the flinty roads in the desert areas of Namibia.
Datsun also reports that the vehicle did not have a single damaged panel.
Comparing his African trip to those in Indonesia, India and Russia, Eskola said: “South Africa is very beautiful with landscapes that keep changing. The diversity is wonderful and the roads are good.”
Datsun Go collection
Another highlight was a stop in the Free State to view the classic Datsun collection of around 70 vehicles belonging to enthusiast Freek de Kock from DeKelder in Bothaville. The prize-winning vehicles in the collection - an original Datsun GTR, introduced as a sedan in 1971, and the Fairlady - the answer to the British 1960s genre of two seater sports car, but unusually featuring a third seat mounted at right angles to the driver’s seat in the rear of the vehicle.
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Eskola’s advice to fellow Finns about visiting our part of the world: “Do it, but do it at leisure. There is a lot to see, so allocate three months for the trip.”
Welcoming Eskola and Kymenlathi back to Johannesburg, Des Fenner, Datsun South Africa general manager, said the epic trip brought to motorists’ attention something often overlooked by car buyers.
Fenner said: "It is unlikely that many local buyers would drive an average of 613km per day for days on end, but the vehicle has proved that doing this is a breeze."