QUEBERHA - Another Ford Ranger, another variation you may say. It’s a recipe that works well in South Africa so why change a winning formula?
When Ford introduced the Ranger Thunder the company set a limit of 1000 vehicles but it grabbed the imagination and more than 2000 were eventually built.
So it’s very likely that the Ranger Stormtrack launched recently will do similar numbers as Ford tries to keep the decade old double cab fresh before the new model is launched next year.
The Stormtrak is based on the Wildtrak with a couple of twists and additions. It gets a black mesh grille with red inserts, a black insert in the lower section of the front bumper, black decals on the bonnet and doors, black roof rails and it stands on black 18-inch alloys.
The interior has leather seats with red stitching, stitched Stormtrak logo on the headrests and more red stitching throughout the cabin, including the soft-touch dashboard upper, steering wheel and gear lever.
It’s available in Lucid Red, Sea Grey, Frozen White and Blue Lightning and when we arrived in Gqeberha and saw them for the first time, the colours were really striking, especially in blue.
You’ll notice too that apart from the cosmetic additions the Stormtrack is fitted with a Power Roller Shutter over the load bay that can be open and closed electronically via the key fob, instrument panel or inside the load bay. Apart from the aesthetics, it provides peace of mind when you stop knowing that luggage, tool boxes and anything else is safe from prying eyes and sharp knives to cut the tonneau cover.
Top of the pops though is the adjustable load bed divider kit that allows you to compartmentalise the cargo area to your liking so that you don't have shopping bags, luggage or school bags and kit rolling around causing general mayhem in the back while you’re driving.
The load bed has a drop-in bedliner protecting it from damage and a 12 volt socket for powering accessories like a camping fridge.
It’s a significant addition for the leisure market and when we had our long-term Ranger Raptor I used it constantly on camping and overlanding trips to run one of the two freezer/fridges and the second one from the 220v inverter inside the cabin which is fitted to the Stormtrak as well.
It’s good off-road too, so what better way to put it through its paces than to head into the interior of the Eastern Cape on dirt. There was unfortunately no mud because dams are almost at an all time low and they haven’t seen decent rain in some areas for more than five years.
Heading out on the N2 towards Storms River Mouth for the evening the drive was like an old friend; trusty and easy to live with, the 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel with 157kW and 500Nm cruising along comfortably at the national speed limit in tenth gear.
Storms River Mouth is another reminder of just how beautiful the area is with its clear water, rocky beaches and magnificent sea views.
But we were there to drive almost 1000 kilometres of dirt so bright and early the convoy headed towards Hankey and the Baviaanskloof passing trees hanging heavy with export citrus before entering the Baviaanskloof Reserve to tackle the pass.
Immediately you could see the area was desperate for rain, the bakkies kicking up dust as we wound our way up tight, steep rocky inclines with no rails and a 100 metre sheer drop to the right.
The pass climbs quickly but it’s easily done with the dial on 4H, the Stormtrak reveling in the conditions as we arrived at the top with views stretching as far as the eye can see. We passed wild camping sites and I’ve made a mental note to put them on my list of places to visit, very possibly in a Ranger.
Speeding along long stretches of dirt tracks that make up part of the 459 957 kilometres of gravel roads in Mzansi, the Ranger’s suspension gobbled up imperfections and corrugations with ease, not as effortlessly as a Raptor but at no stage did we feel uneasy or in danger of losing control.
Stopping overnight in Steytlerville on the edge of the Karoo we were booked into the Theatrical Hotel, filled with an eclectic mix of theatre, art and Afrikana decorations.
Owners Mark Hinds and Jacques Rabie bought the derelict hotel 15 years ago and have built a landmark that serves good old fashioned Karoo fare and is packed every Saturday night by people from afar to see the Steytlerville Follies Cabaret featuring pianist Freddie Ferrari and Karoovian diva, Dame Leyla Lamborgini.
By now the convoy was properly covered in dust but the cabin was still virtually spotless, testimony to the build quality at the plant in Silverton, Pretoria.
It was the last day, but before we finished in Gqeberha the Rangers headed to the Storms Mountains on more dusty roads and dry veld eventually descending into a barren valley with high mountains and cliffs and had lunch at an oasis called Witmoskloof Oxwagon Camp. It’s very much off the beaten track between Cradock and Cookhouse.
Guests can stay overnight in restored oxwagons like the Voortrekkers of old although I doubt Piet Retief had running water and a comfortable double bed with crisp linen or regularly ate fresh homemade burgers, bread, butter, jams and cheese.
Driving out of the valley and back on the black top my driving partner and I discussed how privileged we were to see and experience the most beautiful parts of our country and lamented the fact that our politicians (I wouldn’t go so far as calling them leaders) are letting it fall apart because personal interest and greed take precedence over everything else.
They should take a leaf out of Ford’s book, focus on what matters and build the way they make quality products like the Ranger Stormtrak.
Ford Ranger Stormtrak 4x2 - R790 300
Ford Ranger Stormtrak 4x4 - R846 500
The bakkie comes with a six-year/90 000km service plan covering six services, a four-year/120 000km warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assist and a five-year/unlimited kilometre roadside assistance.