What’s a bakkie?

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“Bakkie” is a South African term for a pickup truck or utility vehicle with an open cargo area. It originates from the Afrikaans word for a small bowl or tub. Bakkies have always been popular in South Africa, and the current trend is for high-end models with luxury and safety features. The bakkie’s popularity is due to its versatility and usefulness in a country with a strong outdoor culture.

Bakkie is a term used in South Africa to describe any pickup truck or utility vehicle with an open cargo area. The name originates from the Afrikaans word “bakkie”, which means a small bowl or tub. Open vans have always been extremely popular in South Africa and are an integral part of the local culture. However, tastes in bakkies have matured somewhat, and the average variant on South African roads today is a far cry from the old, battered farm utility of yesteryear. Current bakkie trends include the latest in single and double cab layouts, most of which feature performance, luxury and safety features in line with high-end saloons.

As was the case in most pioneer countries, any vehicle capable of transporting a load from A to B was very important to early South Africans. And, as is the case with most adult pioneer countries, the habit persisted long after the concrete and asphalt jungle replaced the open plains. The perennial popularity of the American pickup truck, Australian ute, and South African bakkie are proof that a vehicle that can haul anything from potted plants to construction debris to quad bikes will never lose its appeal.

Pronounced “bukky,” the Afrikaans term is loosely applied to any small container, bowl, or tub and was probably first given to utility vehicles as a reference to the boxy, boxy wooden cargo areas on early Ford pickup trucks. . With much of the South African infrastructure focused on agriculture at the time, the vehicle quickly found favor with those who could afford to replace the traditional horse and oxen cart and Scotch cart. Even as agriculture began to take a backseat to industry and commerce, the humble bakkie followed the exodus of people to the cities and towns. South Africans have always been great craftsmen, gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts, and the value of the bakkie as a workhorse has never diminished. In fact, as prosperity and vehicle availability increased, the presence of bakkies in family garages skyrocketed.

Today the bakkie is probably more popular than ever just for a slightly different purpose. Though it still hauls one and all, the vehicle is now perhaps more of a status symbol than anything else, with your average 4×4 pickup packing more luxury features than many high-end saloons. At the end of the day, whatever the motivation for adding a bakkie to the stable, it will always remain as much a part of South African life as the sunshine, open spaces and friendly people.

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