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Go ’Bokke! Vehicles emblazoned with the Springbok badge over the years…

2019-09-21 09:56

Ferdi de Vos

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You may have seen the exclusive green and gold Range Rover Sport in the build up to Rugby World Cup 2019 – the brainchild of Land Rover South Africa as a tribute to the Springbok rugby team currently gearing up for the World Cup campaign in Japan. 

This one-of-a-kind Range Rover Sport SVR was created a in three-way partnership with Special Vehicle Operations (SVO, Land Rover South Africa and the South African Rugby Union (SARU). 

According to Land Rover it is the first and only vehicle to be fully finished in the Springboks’ very specific green hue, with the exact Pantone colour match applied to the Range Rover’s bare shell at the very start of its build process. 

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Image: Supplied

Now, this may be disputable, as many decades ago Ford (at the time still under the auspices of the Ford Motor Company of Canada) brought out a special derivative of its Cortina Mk. 3 called the “Bokkie” Edition painted in the green and gold of the Springbok rugby team.

Ford Cortina ‘Bokkie’ Edition 

Released to coincide with the All Blacks tour to South Africa from June to September 1976 under the captaincy of Andy Leslie a limited number of these “Bokkie” models – sporting a springbok head on a stylised S – were released in sedan and bakkie format. Whether it was the correct Pantone colours is an open question…

Still, despite its iconic status in the world of sports no passenger vehicle model has ever been named Springbok, as far as could be ascertain. Yes, there is a military vehicle named Springbuck, an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) manufactured by DCD Protected Mobility, but the passenger vehicle closest to a Springbok car must be the GM Ranger, built locally from 1968 to 1973.

GM Ranger

With insignia depicting a Springbok head, a fair amount of local parts content and marketed as “South Africa’s Own Car” by General Motors, the Ranger ticked all the “local is lekker” boxes but ultimately it was a somewhat unsuccessful exercise in badge engineering.

Even more damning is the fact that it was initially intended to be a Vauxhall. This led to unfavourable press, is it was clear this is no South African car but rather a GM parts bin special. General Motors reacted quickly, hastily rebadging the Ranger with a Springbok on the bonnet and a stylised ‘R’ on the steering wheel and hubcap centres. 

Later the same badging was also used on the door trim and rear seat but in 1970 a copyright conflict with the South African Athletic Association put a halt to further use. Ironically, even while it was discontinued locally it seems the Springbok logo was still used on European produced Ranger A models until at least 1971.

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Springboks in racing Besides Springbok colours for motorsport the Springbok Series was a legendary sports car racing series in Southern Africa with the Kyalami 9 Hour race as signature event. The series ran from 1966 until 1973 when it was cancelled due to the oil crisis, and never reinstated.

However, in terms of racing vehicles a Springbok has been entered by the MD Rallye team from France in Rally Raid and marathon off-road events, including the famous Dakar Rally, from 2007 until 2018. 

This name, also seemingly used in colloquial fashion to describe pickup based off-road racing vehicles, was initially applied to a Nissan Hardbody NP300 off-road vehicle (possibly developed by Glyn Hall from Hallspeed), possibly to distinguish the bakkie based vehicle from the team’s Optimus buggy. The Nissan was later replaced by a BMW-powered coupe with X4 silhouette, and the final entry for the Springbok was in the 2018 Dakar Rally.

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Image: Supplied

Interestingly, the GM Ranger was also developed as a racing car, participating in local drag races in Port Elizabeth and also in a regional race at the end of 1974, as related by Paul Clark on his excellent PDM Clark blog.

But back to the Range Rover Sport; besides custom Springbok logos and bespoke yellow brake calipers the circular plaques on B-pillars and front and rear treadplates – normally reserved for Land Rover’s own trademark logos –feature Springbok insignias and script, the seats and door panels have contrasting yellow stitching and the interior mood lighting radiate a green glow.

Back in ’76, when the green and gold Cortina was released, the Springboks won the series against the All Blacks with three victories to one. Will the Springbok tribute Range Rover Sport SVR in similar fashion contribute to a World Cup victory for the ’Bokke in Japan?

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Image: Supplied

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