In July 2006 a motorbike accident left Eltheo Hurter, of Newcastle, a T5 complete paraplegic. At thetime of the accident he drove a manual Ford Ranger double cab bakkie and lived in a two-storey duplex. He was told to move to a single level apartment and that there was no way he would ever drive his bakkie again.

Determined not to let his disability get the better of him, or to let others prescribe to him what hecould or couldn’t do, Eltheo adapted his home and his car to his needs. Heinstalled a lift into the stairwell at his duplex and had hand controls fittedinto his bakkie. Within three months of the accident he could use both withease and was back at work.

Driving a manual vehiclewith hand controls is a tough juggling act. The clutch, accelerator and brakeshad to be controlled with his right hand (with levers going up, down andbackwards!!) and his left hand changed gears. Being caught in traffic wastiring and gave him wrist and arm fatigue.

After doing someresearch Eltheo decided that an easier driving option would be an automaticvehicle – but he still wanted a bakkie! Last year he upgraded to a Ford 3.0TDCi Auto Super Cab bakkie with hand controls on the right hand side of thesteering column to control the brake and accelerator. With the gears now beingautomatic he has a much easier ride, especially on the long South Africanroads. Eltheo also installed an Automatic Cruise Control system which allowshim even greater freedom during trips.

Although there are nocontrols on the steering wheel for the radio etc, everything is within easyreach and self-adjusting. The petrol cap and bonnet release are internal sothere is no need to hand your key over to someone when filling up. It is adiesel engine which means that, even for its size, it is more fuel-efficientthan most other bakkies in its range.

The height of thebakkie, when compared to other vehicles, provides Eltheo with a more extensiveview of the road, and other road users, when driving. However this extra heightwould be a serious problem for drivers with an average to weak transfer. Havingconsiderable upper-body strength means transferring into the cab is not aproblem for Eltheo. He practiced a lot, until getting in and out now takes amatter of seconds. He transfers by placing his legs into the vehicle thenshifts his body forward until he is sitting both on the edge of his wheelchairand the door frame of the bakkie. With one hand on the vehicle hand-rail, andthe other on the seat, he pulls himself up and into the driver seat.

The only negative pointfor Eltheo is the indicator switch situated on the right, the same side as thehand controls, sometimes making it a bit difficult to operate both at the sametime. Other than that Eltheo is very happy with his decision to purchase another bakkie.

Unfortunately thecheaper (from R161,220) single cab was not available in automatic and the 3.0TDCi is substantially more expensive (From R234,680). Eltheo did manage toclaim the difference between the manual and automatic model and the cost of theAutomatic Cruise Control system back from SARS which marginally sweetened theprice.

The Ford Rangeris a popular bakkie in South Africa, and with good reason. It’s strong, it’srough, it’s rugged - it’s a real man’s bakkie.AndEltheo is exactly that. Having made many compromises since his accident, he wasnot going to give up his choice in vehicles. Ja boet, forget thatPorsche, real men drive bakkies.