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HomeAutomobileMotoringScaling the Everest heights with 'Big in America' memories 

Scaling the Everest heights with ‘Big in America’ memories 

The swanky new Ford Everest (2.0 BiT 4X4 Sport) sees Edwin Naidu rolling back the years to a beautiful four-month scholarship trip to the US in 1997, during which they were ferried around in a Ford Multipurpose vehicle, not to mention one unforgettable visit to the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

Sometimes the best advertisement for a vehicle is not necessarily the person whose hands are on the steering wheel. Imagine my surprise on the way to an engagement last week when a man in a white Toyota bakkie branded Legend pulled up alongside me behind the wheel of a swanky new Ford Everest 2.0 BiT 4X4 Sport 10 AT and began to speak.

Immediately, I wondered if I had done something wrong. “It’s the first time I’ve seen Everest. Looking good,” he shouted. “Happy Miles!” they said, giving me a thumbs up before driving off. It was my last day with the Ford Everest, but that almost drove me to tears. What a good gesture. There was no bakkie rivalry—just honest admiration.

Made in Thailand, the Ford Everest evoked memories of a beautiful four-month trip to the US on a World Press Institute scholarship in 1997. Yep, to borrow from Cleopatra, those were my salad days. But the memories remain as fresh as dressing. We were ferried around in a Ford Multipurpose vehicle, primarily by Luis Alonso from Venezuela and Hungarian journalist Bela Dajka. It was the first time I realised that Americans go large when they do big. We teased my amazing brothers Luis and Bela, the Burrito Brothers. But what happens in the US stays there. Damn, I miss those guys.

Residing at The Stadium near Macalester College in St Paul, we had many a late-night bonding with fellows from nine other countries, joined by one of the funky host dad David McDonald, now executive director of the program. One following day we had an early lecture on labor matters.

“I was rolling back the years in this beautiful monster in blue while listening to ‘Where Are We Running‘ by the diminutive Lenny Kravitz” Edwin Naidu

Afterward, we were hungry and rushed to eat. I ordered two starters: chicken wings and nachos. When the meals came, the starter, as we know in South Africa, would be four or five miserly wings dunked in sauce, sometimes served with a surly attitude. This was a massive plate with about 13 of the fattest wings brought by someone with an enormous smile to match. The nachos was just as humungous. That was when I discovered that Americans love their portions big. Edwin Naidu

On another occasion, I attended a fair in Red Wing, where I ordered a beer. Not your average 350 ml bottle. This was a jug of Budweiser, almost a litre. Americans do things on a grand scale.

Our visit to the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan, was no ordinary tour. It began early morning with a demonstration of a gigantic piece of metal, the outline of a car. By the time we were ready to leave the factory after lunch and numerous meetings, they had already assembled a Ford Mustang in all its glory. Workers proudly told me they had done the same when former President Nelson Mandela visited the factory on 28 June 1990. However, he did not take the tour because of a hectic schedule, having been released from 27 years of imprisonment in February of that year.

The Ford Everest was a beautiful reminder of a vast experience in my formative years as a journalist. I was rolling back the years in this beautiful monster in blue while listening to ‘Where Are We Running‘ by the diminutive Lenny Kravitz.

Available in only two variants, the Everest is either Sport or Platinum, with the key difference being the engine size and features. I had no problem with the Sport powered by a 10-speed automatic, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder biturbo diesel motor generating up to 154 kW/500 Nm.

The 3rd generation Ford Everest has gone the whole hog on driving intelligent technologies.

Remember I mentioned the US’s penchant for big? Well, the tyres on this Everest are 20-inch alloys. With a claimed fuel consumption of around 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, the Ford Everest is not thirsty for a large vehicle. On a full tank, we got something like 745 kilometres. It was nimble and easy to drive, like the Ford, which transported us across 20 States in the US over four months.

Memories of the US jaunt flowed in Everest. There was always smiling and ever so chatty and engaging Rohit Saran, my other brother from India, the philosophical Denis Mzembe, my brother from Malawi, always fun and illuminating Angela (Anjie) Blardony Ureta, best sister from the Philippines, the quiet and unassuming Sahar El-Bahr from Egypt, engaging Formula One fan Israel’s Biranit Goren, China’s fascinating Ding Zhaolin and dearly departed eternal friend Malgorzata Rzepka from Poland. Gosia, as we affectionately called her, was killed in a car crash on her way to cover a visit to Warsaw by the Pope in 1999.

I keep in touch with Luis, Bela, Rohit, Denis, and Anjie. My adopted host dad David McDonald, who threatened to visit South Africa, used to take me to shows around the city in a three-series Beemer. On the final salute to the board, my address was entitled “From Beers to Tears,” as we bid farewell to one of the most excellent journalism experiences possible, thanks to WPI.

It was a fabulous four months. Not many can say they met and were left unimpressed by a man who would become US president. All 10 of us had a picture with George W Bush Junior when he was Governor of Texas. The world is your bunny chow.

Not just Big in America, the Ford Everest has made its mark in South Africa too, with sales of the previous two generations reaching around 26 000 units. The third generation is big on safety too. It also has gone the whole hog on driving intelligent technologies.

On the way to church, a driver alert that uses cameras to monitor road behavior came up, saying Rest Now! I thought of my pastor, who stalks me, and wondered if he knows I am partial to the odd snooze except when seated near the front. But I am sustained by his inspiring New Year’s message: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Next on Edwin Naidu’s cards: the Everest Platinum!

I am fortunate to have a spin now and then in some fantastic vehicles on planet earth. The Ford Everest 2.0 BiT 4X4 Sport 10AT sells for a princely R965 400. On the final day, I put in some diesel and another compliment from the kind attendant Caltex in Buccleuch: “Hey, Mr. Naidu, this vehicle suits you very nicely!” Perhaps, we will revisit the US nostalgia in the Platinum Everest on the road to Durban when Luis visits in July.

Ford SA Product Communications GM Minesh Bhagaloo, and fleet boss Jacques Wilken, I hope you are reading! Forget Japan, for now. Let’s make Big in America memories.

*Catch Edwin Naidu talking about the latest cars with Itu Banda on Capricorn FM on Fridays at 12:30 pm and with Leroy Gopaul on YOUfm on Saturdays at 8:25 am.

Edwin Naidu
Edwin Naidu
Jack-of-all-trades journalist Edwin Naidu talks about cars on Capricorn FM during the urban lunch adventure with King Bash on Friday.
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