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2018-05-17 08:30

Charlen Raymond

Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Nampo - the biggest agricultural gathering in the Southern Hemisphere is hosted in the quaint town of Bothaville in the Free State in May 2018.

It’s almost unbelievable to see the amount of attention this little town receives in the space of five days. For years, big agricultural role players have made their way to Bothaville for this epic event and buyers and show-goers alike assemble to see what there is to offer.

It's an event like no other and the 2018 edition is believed to have seen more than 100 000 visitors pass through its gates. That’s pretty intense for the little town but it shows how valuable agriculture is to South Africa’s economy.

And it is for this very reason that automakers use Nampo as a vehicle (pun intended) to showcase their products to wandering eyes.

                                                  Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

A space for city cars

Nampo is especially important for automakers to showcase their latest offerings. Mahindra showed off its new Scorpio Pik-up, Toyota entertained crowds with a 4x4 course demonstrating the talents of its Hilux, and even Ford came to the party with its Mustang, rally driver Lance Woolridge’s (off-road, rally) Ranger, as well as its all-new Fiesta (now available in SA).

Nissan, too, had a few of its models on show, including the Navara, Patrol SUV, and the Rogue NP300 Hardbody 4x4. But perhaps their biggest surprise at the show was the next-generation Micra. A lot more matured, the city car looked pretty fancy in its bright orange hue. Even the front-end can’t be missed, especially the design of the headlights. The interior also sees a big upgrade over the outgoing model and the exterior colour is continued in the interior. 

READ: Prepare to be 'unexpected' with the new Nissan Micra

Nissan was very coy as not to give away too much detail on pricing, but did stress that its new Micra is “very competitively priced”. Guess we’ll have to wait and see when it is launched later in June.

Nampo has transformed from a show catering to farmers to a true motoring extravaganza. The Micra and Fiesta are testament to that as these models show it's not just about big vehicles and farming machinery. It’s about accommodating the broader segment of South Africa’s new car market and it’s about creating an economical space where automakers can continue to breathe life into our economy.

                                                           Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

250km in a Navara

Heading to Nampo would require flying to Lanseria International Airport in Johannesburg from Cape Town, and then driving to Bothaville in the recently launched Nissan Navara 4x2 in SE trim. It was a struggle making the 250km trip down to the festival. Not because the bakkie wasn’t up to it but because traffic was a real pain...the entire way! However, the Navara made light work of the trip. 

Its seven-speed automatic gearbox did well to transfer the 2.3-litre diesel engine’s 140kW/450Nm to the rear wheels. It was evident, however, that whenever the throttle is suddenly planted, the ‘box takes a moment to react and switch cogs. But once engaged, it is easy to not realise that you’ve moved past 120km/h. The manner in which the bakkie picks up speeds is addictive and the reduction in weight (removal of the 4x4 system) does aid driveability in a very good way.

READ: How the Nissan Navara changed the game, forever

The Navara is known for its five-link coil suspension on the rear wheels and the 4x2 model continues to make use of it. Undulations in the road, gravel stretches… the Navara dealt with them without a glitch. Some may not be in favour of Nissan’s direction of using coil suspension, but let it be known that it works.

The Navara 4x2 derivatives retail from R461 900 (R475 900 for the auto) and has a lot of standard kit to warrant a nod in its direction. Apart from the cloth seats, the bakkie has electric windows all-round, a multi-media touchscreen, satellite navigation, steering wheel mounted controls, and cruise control; to mention a few.

Who said those 250km’s were a drag?

                                                                  Image: Nissan SA / Calvin Fisher

Riding with Paulie

Bothaville not only plays host to Nampo but it’s also home to the biggest Nissan/Datsun collection outside of Japan. That’s right. Aficionado Freek de Kock has been collecting Datsuns for many years and has set about restoring these classics to a pristine condition. It’s a time-consuming job but De Kock and his men have been hard at work to make this museum amazing.

Not an easy task as the men mould and fit all panels a car would need en route to its completion and everything is done on the premises. In all, De Kock has well over 120 cars that are in running condition, but, he says, there is even more that still need to be fixed.

As a special incentive for visiting his museum, De Kock allowed for three of his cars to be driven. A Nissan 370Z, a classic Nissan 2.8 Skyline, as well as the most famous and most beloved GT-R: the R34. Better known as the car that best describes and represents the late Paul Walker from Fast and Furious fame. (If allowed, the next few paragraphs would have been an emotional dedication of beautiful vulgarity to describe the experience from behind the wheel…)

This car is a legend - motoring folklore of unparalleled greatness. It’s the car that made Need for Speed II and Forza two of the best motoring games of all time. And to finally have the chance to experience it is reason enough to maybe, just maybe, hang up one’s motoring gloves. But not yet.

The R34 is powered by a 2.6-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine (206kW/293Nm). And seeing that it is the 1999-2002 model, it has a six-speed manual gearbox. Being around 20-years-old the car has lost some of its performance potential, but not that much. It is still epically fast, it still rushes through its revs, and the turbo still whistles when you come off the accelerator. It’s a raw driving experience and one that brings you back to the essence of piloting one of the legendary sports cars of all time. Below 3000rpm the car is a bit slow, but increase the revolutions and allow the car to run at howling speeds. Damn, it is intense! It’s blistering! It’s the underlining of the fact this car used to be great in its day. It’s understandable why people speak of great admiration of the car and why it is loved so much.

I now understand why Wheels24 team member Janine Van der Post had two of these as her wedding cars.

                                                              Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond


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