What do former Springbok Rugby Captain John Smit, the first test tube baby, the Walkman and the movie Grease have in common? They were all introduced to the world in the same year that the first Isuzu bakkie went into local production in South Africa.
1978 was a significant year for one of the firm favourites on South African roads – whether its hauling sheep in the Karoo, or zipping between the Gauteng skyscrapers, the Isuzu bakkie has been synonymous with the South African way of life for four decades.
The first Isuzu bakkie, carrying the Isuzu badge, was built at the Kempston Road plant in Port Elizabeth 40 years ago. Today, boasting three body styles and an extensive model line-up, Isuzu bakkies continue to be a leading contender in the market place – tried and tested to be a true legend to live the Isuzu Motors South Africa company strapline ‘With you, for the long run’.
The first bakkie was launched at an original selling price of a whopping R3 485 for a 1.6-litre petrol engine bakkie and R4 295 for a 2.0-litre diesel engine bakkie.
Johan Vermeulen, Isuzu Motors South Africa executive: manufacturing and supply chain, said the bakkie has evolved over the years to remain one of South Africa’s firm favourites.
“Over the years Isuzu vehicle assembly experienced many changes. We started production at the Kempston Road plant where we produced five generations and moved to the more modern Struandale plant when we started to build the sixth generation.”
“With the introduction of modern technology, automation and lean manufacturing processes into automotive manufacturing, we were able to continuously improve efficiencies and quality of our products. Today, six generations later, our modern manufacturing processes and constant upskilling of labour, have made Isuzu bakkies one of South Africa’s favourites,” Vermeulen said.
A pioneer in many ways, the Isuzu bakkie was the first in South Africa to feature rack and pinion steering and independent front suspension. In the 1990s Isuzu was also the first to introduce double cabs into the South African market.
Other than its innovative nature, the Isuzu bakkie has many accolades in its proverbial trophy cabinet, including 15 local endurance records.
In 2010 the Isuzu bakkie set 15 overall speed and distance records over 72 hours at the Gerotek – with a KB 300 D-TEQ bakkie completing 12 243.385 km at an average speed of 170,047 km/h. A KB 250 D-TEQ also achieved a new class record distance of 11 495.567 km.
The sixth-generation Isuzu bakkie, which was launched in 2013, is a continuation of the long Isuzu tradition of building great bakkies in South Africa, with over 600 000 Isuzu bakkies built locally to date.