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GT-R to Bluebird...check out the biggest Nissan, Datsun collection in SA

2016-05-24 08:05

Charlen Raymond

BIGGEST NISSAN COLLECTION: Bothaville not only plays host to Nampo, but also to the biggest private collection of Nissan and Datsun vehicles outside of Japan. Image: Lettie Ferreira

Bothaville, Free State - Every year the quiet town of Bothaville plays host to  NAMPO - the largest agricultural event in the southern hemisphere.

Nampo, an event hosted by Grain SA, showcases the very best of agricultural technology and draws crowds - particularly farmers - from all over South Africa, as well as neighbouring countries.

Though the primary goal of the event is to allow farmers to invest in agricultural equipment, many other exhibits were on show. These ranged from go-karts that rev louder than an old-school Chevy V8, new cars, 4x4s and bakkies.

Off-road at Nampo

Also at the Nampo festival is a stellar 4x4 obstacle course. Many manufacturers use the event as a platform for the crowd to sample the variety of off-roaders that are exhibited. The vehicles that were available for the obstacle course ranged from bakkies to SUVs, quad bikes and trucks.

READ: New crossover for SA - Nissan's compact Kicks SUV unveiled

I was taken around the short but demanding course in a Nissan Patrol. We tackled obstacles that required driving up extremely steep slopes and articulated ‘steps’ that had the Patrol hanging precariously in the air.

But what stood out most about this quick experience was that the Patrol had a) a wading depth of 700mm, and b) can go sideways by as much as 47 degrees! On the side slope (pictured below) we experienced about 25 degrees, the instructor said, and 47 would surely have had me cringing!

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Biggest Nissan collection outside Japan

Bothaville is not only known for the annual Nampo festival but is the home to the biggest, private collection of Nissan and Datsun vehicles outside of Japan. The opportunity to see this collection up close is a pleasure for car enthusiasts and should be part of a pilgrimage for Nissan and Datsun fans alike.

Inside a warehouse, nearly 70 Nissans and Datsuns throughout many decades are displayed in immaculate, tip-top condition. The owner, Freek de Kok, says he started collecting vehicles about eight years ago and over the years the number of cars grew and so, too, did his passion. It’s not only modern-day Nissan 370Zs and R35 GT-Rs that are on show, but also cars that date back almost forty to fifty years!

When we asked him whether there's a car in his collection that holds a special place in his heart, De Kok pointed to an orange Datsun 240Z. The pride and passion when he spoke about the car could be felt and every now and then he’d say “Sjoe, ek hou van die kar” (Wow, I like this car).

In total, 118 cars form part of De Kok’s arsenal, with more than 30 still waiting to be refurbished (refurbishing is done by De Kok and his team). On what the total value of his fleet is, De Kok could not provide an exact sum but to put things into perspective: an original 1969 Nissan GT-R cost him R2.8-million, and his beloved Datsun 240Z was valued at over R500 000. With 118 cars in his collection, the sheer value is staggering!

Is De Kok planning on expanding his collection? Definitely! And he’s got his sights on a Le Mans 24-hour race car.

GALLERY: Reader's model car collection

This grey Nissan GT-R cost Freek de Kol a cool R2.8-million. Image by Lettie Ferreira #Nissan #GTR

A photo posted by Wheels24 (@wheels24_sa) on

Getting behind the wheel of a classic

I was lucky enough to drive two of De Kok's classic cars: a Datsun 2400 Bluebird and a Datsun 280ZX. First up was the Bluebird. It’s a lengthy car, but behind the wheel of the Bluebird I was transported to a classic era of motoring. The car turns heavily, it accelerates with effort, the suspension is shaky, and yet it was an absolute joy driving what was then considered to be a luxury vehicle.

The Bluebird is a throwback to a time when the world was simple and an every drive was a slow cruise. The best aspects of this car were the single, long front seat (baptised the “lover’s seat”) and automatic gearbox. This car will turn anyone into a romantic.

The cruise in the Bluebird was followed by a brisk drive in a Datsun 280ZX. This car is the total opposite of the Bluebird. A real, proper retro car akin to a modern hot hatch. With a V6 upfront and power sent to the rear wheels via a manual gearbox, this car proved to be highly entertaining. Its low-tech suspension results in the car being unsettled, not what you’d drive in 2016.

It's a vehicle for petrolheads and throws a proverbial pie in the face of today’s emission-conscious hatchbacks. 

The Nampo experience

Our country, sadly, is suffering under immense droughts, yet this festival was a shimmer of hope and new life in an environment where the corn have been pushed to its proverbial knees. 

Nampo ranks amongst South Africa's biggest festivals and has garnered the interest of many South Africans and foreigners. It needs to be experienced to fully understand the magnitude of this festival's reach.

Read more on:    nissan  |  free state  |  bothaville  |  nampo

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