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What Is a Bakkie?

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  • Written By: Paul Scott
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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Bakkie is a term used in South Africa to describe any pickup or utility vehicle with an open load area. The name has its origins in the Afrikaans word “bakkie” which means a small bowl or tub. Open pickups have always been extremely popular in South Africa and are an integral part of local culture. Tastes in bakkies have, however, matured somewhat, and the average variant on South African roads at present is a far cry from the battered, tired old farm utility of old. Current bakkie trends include the latest in single and double cab designs most of which feature performance, luxury, and safety features in line with top of the range saloons.

As was the case in most pioneering countries, any vehicle capable of hauling a load from A to B was very important to early South Africans. And, as is the case with most grown up pioneering countries, the habit stuck long after the concrete and asphalt jungle replaced the wide open plains. The evergreen popularity of the American pickup, the Australian ute, and the South African bakkie are all proof that a vehicle that can haul anything from pot plants to building rubble and quad bikes will never loose its attraction.

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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 square, box-like wooden load areas on early Ford pickups. With so much of the South African infrastructure centered around agriculture at the time, the vehicle quickly found favor among those who could afford it as an effective replacement for the traditional horse and ox drawn wagon and Scotch cart. Even when farming 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 handymen, gardeners, and outdoor enthusiasts, and the value of the bakkie as a haul-all workhorse never waned. As a matter of fact, increasing prosperity and vehicle availability saw the presence of bakkies in family garages soar.

Today the bakkie is probably more popular than ever only with a slightly different purpose. Although it still hauls all and sundry, the vehicle is perhaps now more of a status symbol than anything else with the average 4x4 pick up sporting more luxury features than many top 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, wide open spaces, and friendly people.

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