Any colour you like as long as it’s black? We don’t think so. Picture: SUPPLIED
Any colour you like as long as it’s black? We don’t think so. Picture: 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 was 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 SA (FMCSA) 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 transform a range-topping 2019 Ranger Wildtrak into a uniquely SA artwork.

It took a team of five artists, three sprayers, and an assembler a total of 650 hours to produce the bespoke paint job.

Adorned with a huge 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 on the 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 SA’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,” said Wiseman Mngadi.

IT TOOK FIVE ARTISTS, THREE SPRAYERS AND AN ASSEMBLER A TOTAL OF 650 HOURS

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 spraywork 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, vice-president operations, Ford Middle East and Africa, said: “This 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 SA 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 North America, and provided a foundation for the establishment of the automotive industry in SA.

Fast forward almost 100 years, and FMCSA is producing vehicles not only for distribution to the domestic market through the company’s network of 141 dealerships in SA, Eswatini, 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 biggest success stories in terms of vehicle exports. The SA-built Ranger is the top-selling pickup in Europe.