Ford's rainbow bakkie for a rainbow nation

Any colour you like as long as it’s black? We don’t think so.
Any colour you like as long as it’s black? We don’t think so.
Image: Supplied

We wonder what Henry Ford, who famously quipped that you could choose one of his cars in any colour you like as long as it’s black, would have made of this brightly-hued Ford Ranger.

To commemorate the ubiquitous bakkie as a part of SA’s national heritage, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa has created a rainbow Ranger for the rainbow nation, as a one-of-a-kind piece of mobile art. As part of September 24 Heritage Day celebrations, it commissioned its paint shop team at the Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria to #BringIt by transforming a range-topping 2019 Ranger Wildtrak into a uniquely South African artwork.

It a team of five artists, three sprayers, and one assembler a total of 650 hours - mainly outside of their regular shift work at the plant - to produce the bespoke paint job.

Adorned with a giant national flag stretching across the bonnet and the roof, the vehicle's tailgate is decorated with Ndebele tribal art and a map of SA showing the location of Ford's plants in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. The collages flanking both the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle depict an eclectic array of cultural artefacts and aspects of environmental significance to SA and its people, including proteas - our national flower - and ancient San rock art.

"It is a great privilege to be part of the team that worked on this incredible project, and delivering a product that every Ford employee from every cultural background can be proud of," said Queeneth Buthelezi, who led the project.

"What stands out for me about this project is how it merges South Africa's various cultural and heritage symbols and artefacts into one cohesive unit, just like how Ford brings together people from different backgrounds who work towards one common goal," added Wiseman Mngadi.

Tebogo Mohlala's skill with a paintbrush was acknowledged by his co-workers who commented on how life-like his zebras on the side of the Ranger were, while Thabiso Magane's depiction of a Tsonga village gained the admiration of onlookers.

"David Serithi and Given Manzini did the spray work on the flag," said Johan Fourie, Paint Shop Area Manager. "The final process, which requires three layers of clear coat with some preparation in between, followed by two hours of baking for each layer, was done by Daniel Malinga, while Ben Manala was responsible for reassembling the vehicle. The result is absolutely fantastic, and there is no question that we have exceptional talent in our team."

Ockert Berry, VP Operations, Ford Middle East and Africa, said: "This very special Heritage Ranger is built for South Africans, by South Africans. It is both a tribute to Ford's proud 96-year manufacturing history locally, as well as a fitting representation of our nation's rich heritage and diversity."

Ford has been a participant in the South African automotive industry since 1923, when the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker opened an assembly plant in a disused wool shed in Port Elizabeth where local production of the Model T began in earnest. This was only the 16th Ford assembly plant to be launched outside of North America, and provided a foundation for the establishment of the automotive industry in SA.

Fast forward almost 100 years, and FMCSA is now producing vehicles not only for distribution to the domestic market through the company's network of 141 dealerships in South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, and Botswana, but also for export to 148 left-hand drive and right-hand drive markets globally, including Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

Bakkies have come a long way since 1926 when Ford launched the Model T Runabout, which was the world's first factory-built, mass-produced pickup. The Ranger is one of SA’s best selling bakkies and also one of the country’s biggest success stories in terms of vehicle exports. The South African-built Ranger is the top-selling pickup in Europe.

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