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: The long way Home  ( 6689 )
Jonathan Tee
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V8 because some say "2 heads are better than one"

« : July 24, 2009, 09:35:52 AM »

A classic Cruiser begins a new life in Africa.

The search begins

We had often spoken about one day importing a handful of SWB Land Cruiser 40 series (Toyota’s most successful off-road station wagon, with production exceeding 1.1 million units, between 1960-84) to South Africa as it was never offered in this market.

For me however, it all started in earnest, on our annual pilgrimage to the Khutse game reserve in Botswana.  Somewhere between the border post of Derdepoort and the reserve, I made up my mind to tackle the mountainous task of locating/purchasing/transporting and importing one of my very own.

There are two main markets where one is sure to find a 40, America or Australia; America, where the 40 has achieved cult status, and there are many companies making replacement parts for the restorer, the rock-crawler and everything in-between, is unfortunately a left hand drive market – which makes local import impossible.  Therefore Australia became the focus of my attention.  

Using the internet, “Search is you friend”, and after one or two failed attempts, I called on one of our Aussie based club members for assistance, it is much easier to make a deal if you are in the same time-zone, and for some strange reason many Australians have the idea that anyone from Africa must be behind a Nigerian internet scam – maybe it is time to remind them how they came to be on that island in the first place.

After several false starts, we managed to find a clean, late model 40 with a willing seller, date February 13th.  A few days later the Cruiser was viewed, pictures taken and emails sent across the globe. Within a week the deal was done and the money was on its way, and by March 3rd she was safely in storage pending documentation and a shipping date.

The process of importing a 2nd hand vehicle into South Africa is not an easy one, and not for the feint of heart, before we started many told us it was impossible unless you “knew” someone or were prepared to “pay” someone.  Rubbish, research, phone calls, emails and large amounts of determination and persistence uncovered the answers and lead us to the right people, forms and processes.  One by one we ticked off the required documentation, import permit (ITAC), justification for import (SAVVA, ITAC), Letter of authority LOA (SABS), valuations (various) not to mention the letters and documents from the Australian side or the SARS clearance, customs and duties, and release forms required after the shipment arrives in South Africa.  Add to this the logistics, How to get the vehicles from storage to the shipyard when they are no longer registered for use on the road? Who will handle the shipping? How many can we fit in a 40’ container? What do we need to disconnect, remove, flush or drain before loading? What were we thinking, maybe those warnings were true, and this cannot be done.

July 6th, and finally, all is in order, the journey can begin, and a few days later they are bundled into the container on the docks in Brisbane, the doors are closed, sealed, and the container lifted onto the 1st of many ships for the long sea voyage to their new home, a new continent, and a new life – in Africa.  

Nearly 3 months to the day, the seal is broken and three 40 series Land Cruiser’s are pushed out of the container, to stand for the first time under African skies; filled with building afternoon thunderclouds and breathe and the dry and dusty Highveld air.

Two of the vehicles were destined for Johannesburg, and the container was delivered there for inspection and final clearance which left me with another decision to make, how to get mine home to Cape Town, a distance of 1,450km.  The easy option would have been to load her on a train and collect her a day later for the short drive home, but to me this did not seem like the right way to introduce my new Cruiser to Africa, and that is when I came up with the idea of a gentle drive, the long way home – there would be no straight down the highway for this trip, but rather a slow meander over a few days, taking in the back roads, where possible cruising on gravel, not racing on tar.

All that remained to be done before I could set a date for the trip was to give her the once over to ensure she was fit for such a trip, and so I spent a weekend in Johannesburg, checking the fluids and sorting out a few small items that required attention.  The following weekend we had a celebratory get-together for all the 40’s (6 by this stage) and their owners where we took photos and compared notes, admired engines and discussed future plans, before travelling in convoy for a lunch with other club members.

The 9th November, and I am on another plane, headed to Johannesburg, permits and papers in hand to drive my 40 home, but there is something that is worrying me, I picked up a manifold leak the weekend before, and decided at the last minute to fix it, so as not to cause possible damage to the engine on the drive down.  The exhaust manifold gasket, possibly the original, was the culprit and that night I removed everything required to get at the crumbling gasket, and phoned a good friend to see if I could borrow a replacement.  Up at 6am the following morning, by 8:00 I have the new gasket, and by 10:00 it is fitted and everything is back where it should be, I swing the engine and the 2F roars into life, problem fixed, and we are ready for the off – a few hours later than I was planning, but this is it, adventure time.

The gentle introduction to Africa

I ease the Cruiser out of the workshop and into the stream of Saturday morning shoppers, all rushing about, busy with the weekend. It’s a short trip through the traffic and onto the highway travelling west at first but soon we meet up with the south bound N3.  Now as I said before I could have just followed the main route, 1,450km straight to Cape Town but no, instead of taking the direct route to the Cape, I am headed for kwaZulu Natal (KZN) and a place I have long wanted to visit, the Underberg at the foothills of the Sani pass.  I travel the first 100km at a steady pace, not wanting to stress the old girl, and after an hour we stop for brunch and to check all the fluids are still where they should be and nothing is amiss, the odometer is not working so I have to use the GPS to work out distance travelled and more importantly consumption, as the 40 has a larger engine and a smaller tank than my last Cruiser.  All being in order, we push on to our next fuel stop and the border of KZN 300km from our start.

We stop on the top of Van Reenens Pass, re-fuel, make notes and re-check everything that should be checked, then we are on our way once more and heading down the other side, into the lush green valleys of Natal, the Cruiser is going well and I am impressed that the fuel consumption is better than I had expected.  Passing Mooiriver I head for Howick and it is here we can finally leave the highway, and head down winding country roads, through valleys and over hills, to Boston, Bulwer and the evening stop at the “Tumble Inn” Underberg. It’s been a long day, and I am tired, but the sunset it spectacular, the supper delicious and the bed cosy – well done old girl so far so good.

Up early for a hearty country breakfast, followed by toast with fresh farm honey, washed down with loads of strong coffee.  The road home heads to the south towards Swartberg, but I have time for a short detour first, and so I head north to Himeville and then west on the gravel road that leads to the foothills of the Drakensberg and the bottom of the legendary Sani pass.  As the vehicle is not yet registered in South Africa, there is no chance I can travel all the way to the top of the pass, the SA border control is about half way up the valley, but that is not enough to stop me heading this far and engaging 4WD for the 1st time on African soil.  Even the bottom section of the pass has some nice twisty sections and I enjoy the manoeuvrability of the SWB and the low-down torque of the straight six. I stop for a few photos and hope I can come back and do the entire pass before it is tarred.

The 40 gets much attention, waves and 2nd looks from others on the pass, even Land Rover drivers crane their necks to get a better look at this unfamiliar vehicle.  Throughout the trip wherever we stop, people ask me questions, what is it, where did I get it, how old is it, how much does it cost, and do I want to sell it?  Even petrol attendants make comments like “this one is a strong one” or “she will climb big mountains”.  

Our little detour over, it is time to head south again, and follow the road back to Himeville, Underberg, Swartberg, Kokstad and into the rolling cattle flecked hills of the Eastern Cape, we pass towns, villages and kraals and follow the N2 via Mount Frere, Qumbu, Mthatha(Umtata), Qunu, Butterworth, crossing the Great Kei river, before once again turning west off the national road towards Komga, Bisho and King Williams Town.  The final stretch for the day sees us headed for Grahamstown, but this section of road has stop-go road works, and I seem to get caught at each one, it’s been a long day, it’s getting late, we are heading into the setting sun – tiring stuff.  The scenic crossing of the Great Fish river is spectacular, and helps to ease the tiredness, if only for a moment, the last 60km seem to drag on forever, but we eventually arrive and settle down to a meal, a hot bath, and a cosy bed.

Once again we could stick to the national road that leads west all the way to Cape Town, but I have another (longer) detour planned, and from now on intend to do a lot more gravel road, all the way home.

We leave Grahamstown after a quick breakfast and follow the N2 for a short distance before turning onto the R342 to Patterson, this part of the world is game farm and lodge territory, and we spot plenty of game from the road, buck, ostrich, giraffe, warthog and a large variety of birds. Gravel road cruising the 40 seems to be in its element; she is covering the distance well and even feels more settled and stable on the dirt, despite being on original skinny and tubed tyres, and having rather worn suspension bushes. The going is easy and we stay on the dirt all the way through the Addo region to the lemon growing town of Kirkwood, then to Wolwefontein and Steytlerville for a lunch stop. Next is the rather strange but well know concrete road to Willowmore.  The road is a single lane road with gravel on either side, so approaching traffic each has to put 2 wheels over to the left and pass each other in this way, 2 wheels on the concrete and 2 in the dirt.

Another fuel stop in Willowmore and we head for Uniondale and the reason for this roundabout route, the Prince Alfred pass 67km of gravel mountain pass and indigenous forest road all the way back to the N2 and Knysna, the last overnight stop before home.

At the top of the pass I realise that this is the only section of road in South Africa that I have traversed with all 3 of my Land Cruisers, and stop to take photos in this idyllic setting,  the pass is as exciting as I remember, although this time seemed a little less rugged, admittedly previous time was shortly after big storms, and on that occasion half way through I had to drag a fallen tree from the road before I could continue, either that or turn around and head back the way I had come.  No such adventure this time, but the last few km seemed very washed out, had seen regular traffic, and therefore was badly potholed, shake-rattle and roll, my poor fillings, I most certainly will have to pay the tired suspension some attention, wider tyres should help soften the ride too, and maybe some extra padding in the seats.  

Knysna is no longer the quaint town it once was, but is still good to spend time here, a relaxing bath and a gin or two later and I am ready for a nice seafood supper from one of the many restaurants at the edge of the lagoon.
The final day dawns bright and clear, and the road beckons, the routine fluid checks out of the way, and we are travelling west on the N2 again parallel with the coast past the scenic Wilderness, to George, Albertinia, Riversdale, and Heidelberg, we cannot pass the Blue Crane farm stall without stopping for the obligatory home baked pies, a quick top up of fuel and its onto gravel again for a cross country cruise down to the banks of the Bree river and the Malgas pont – the last hand operated pont in Southern Africa.

The pont is on the opposite bank and as we arrive slowly starts to make its way across the river, before it is half way a vehicle arrives on the far bank and the operators decide to return to collect it first, I can’t say I blame them, it’s back breaking work, and the day is warming up.  After a short wait, the pont has crossed the river and I roll the Cruiser onto the platform, for a brief moment I have a vision of the whole thing tipping up, and drowning my pride and joy in the dark cold water below.  On the short trip over I chat and joke with the operators, while my fellow pont-mates sit in their air conditioned cabins not really partaking in the experience of the journey, something these older trucks really let you do, travelling this way sure puts you more in touch with what is going on around you, the sounds, the smells, you are not detached from the scene you are travelling through, you are enveloped in it, one with it.

Not far to go now, and we are following familiar back roads of the Overberg region, past farms of wheat and a few livestock, there are so many Blue Cranes it’s hard to believe our national bird is endangered.  With the warm sun on the fields and the distant mountains, it feels good to be nearly home, the Cruiser has performed admirably, 2,500km through Southern Africa and not a worry for this 24 year old, every kilometre taken in its stride, yes there are things that can be improved, but it is not difficult to see how this little vehicle has achieved legendary status on every continent and such a huge following around the globe – Welcome to Africa, I hope you enjoy your stay.
« : September 02, 2009, 10:40:35 AM Jonathan Tee »

Keith Richardson
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40's Rule

« #1 : September 22, 2009, 09:27:33 AM »

JT the clarity of some of these pics is awesome

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Adolf Hüster
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Home in Africa!

« #2 : October 17, 2009, 06:53:59 PM »

Never saw that 40 again after it left mah shed!  :jt:

Great story and pics though!  :)
Unfortunately I had to read it in SA4x4 first!  >:(

My Collection!
FJ40 2F 1982 / FJ43 V8 1975 / FJ45 2F 1978
FJ55 2F 1980 Barn Doors / FJ55 2F 1979 Tailgate
BJ74 13BT 1988 / FJ62 4.5EFI 1988
For Trips: 100 VX TD 2001 / 78 1HZ (soon 1HDT) Troopy 2011

Jonathan Tee
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V8 because some say "2 heads are better than one"

« #3 : October 18, 2009, 11:26:54 AM »

dont lie, youve seen a few bits of it since then  ;)

Shaun Cullen
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« #4 : October 19, 2009, 11:40:29 AM »

Nice tyres  8)

And why were we not informed about your visit to KZN?

Enjoy Cruisers - hate Cruiser Politics

Jonathan Tee
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V8 because some say "2 heads are better than one"

« #5 : October 19, 2009, 11:43:38 AM »

It was a flying visit  ;D

Trevor Roux
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« #6 : November 19, 2009, 07:27:26 AM »

Very very very nice :)I enjoyd the reading ;)

76 FJ40 "TURBO TURTLE"           FJ 40 WP
77 FJ45 "ZONJA"                        CN6300
06 4500 EFI GX "TIGERTOY"       CN 10000
10 4500 EFI P/U "DIE OORSAAK"  CN 3600

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