Best Bangers! How to Choose Your Charity Rally Vehicle

We’ve said it many times before, but South Africa has the best second hand car market of anywhere on the planet, so why not be brave and purchase an old vehicle specifically for The Africa Rally? Given the relative value of vehicles in different areas of the world, there may even be the opportunity to […]

Nov 1, 2023

We’ve said it many times before, but South Africa has the best second hand car market of anywhere on the planet, so why not be brave and purchase an old vehicle specifically for The Africa Rally?

Given the relative value of vehicles in different areas of the world, there may even be the opportunity to ship your noble steed home after the Rally, and make your money back… but no guarantees of course!

Here are a few things to look out for when selecting which charity rally vehicle is best, specifically while shopping in South Africa:

  1. Documents & Licenses

First the boring bit, let’s start with the admin of the purchase itself.

Luckily we’ve gone through this process many times before, and are experts at ticking the correct boxes in order to ensure you are able to cross all necessary borders with your vehicle on The Africa Rally, then optionally export it or prepare it for sale afterwards.

While searching for the vehicle in the first place, remember to ask if there are ownership documents and if the vehicle license is paid up to date.  Without the ownership document (a green form), the vehicle will need to go through Police Clearance and aside from costing you more money initially, it leaves you open to further problems if the vehicle turns out to be stolen, or used for nefarious purposes in it’s past.  The vehicle license disc also needs to be renewed yearly and will clearly state the date for renewal at the bottom of it.

These two documents will look something like this:







There are small fines incurred for the disc being out of date itself, but additionally, at point of renewal all outstanding fines (parking fines, speeding fines etc…) need to be paid.  It could well be the case that the reason the current owner hasn’t renewed the license is because these fines are quite high, so beware, you don’t want to end up paying for someone else’s misdemeanors.

As long as everything is up to date, and the correct documents are in place, then we can introduce you to an agency who will complete the transfer for you.  They charge the approximate sum of R4,500.

2. Ease of Fix
One of the main reasons why we encourage old vehicles with simple engines, is because they can be fixed by the side of the road… and by fixed, we mean someone can bodge and blagg someway of keeping you on the road.

Here is a picture of a 1978 Leyland Mini with a knackered fuel pump.  The solution, simply build a gravity fed fuel system and allow fuel to drop straight into the carburetor until a suitable replacement pump can be found.

Upon opening the bonnet of a new vehicle everything is encased in plastic, and in most cases you need a computer to find out what’s wrong.  You won’t find one of these by the side of the road in Africa.

Additionally, old parts for old vehicles are often relatively interchangeable, I mean, all you really need is spark and fuel and you can go anywhere!

On The Africa Rally 2023 you might be surprised to know that not a single Toyota finished, whereas Team 13 in their 1971 VW Kombi Ice Cream Van managed to make it to the finish line despite multiple breakdowns.

Our favourite was when they broke the accelerator linkage underneath the kombi, they simply attached a cable, built a pull system, and managed to drive for about 1,000kms with a hand operated accelerator.

The less moving parts involved, and in particular the fewer electronics, the less that can go wrong!

3. Fuel Economy
We’ve learnt this the hard way, and there’s a reason why we tend to use our 1.6Litre Ford Cortina for the majority of our longer trips.  The larger the engine, combined with the weight of the driver’s right foot, is going to hit your fuel economy.

In our case, our Rally Director has a very heavy right foot, so we were shocked to realise that adding this to a 3litre Ford v6 engine, and a 1976 VW Kombi with all of the aerodynamics of a loaf of bread, means we were only getting around 7kms per litre of fuel.  Yes it’s true that fuel is cheaper in Africa than in most of the rest of the world, but still, it’s nice to be able to drive past a fuel station every so often!

A fine example of a charity rally vehicle. The 1976 VW Kombi.

A fine example of a charity rally vehicle. The 1976 VW Kombi.

4. Ease of Vehicle Collection
Buying a vehicle long distance always has the possibility of going wrong, and there are certainly a few chancers out there that might try to take advantage of the fact you are not personally in the country.  Here are a few ways you can minimise the chance of getting caught out:

  • Try to purchase from a business with a physical address
  • Never send any money ahead of having the keys in your (or your couriers) hand, especially no deposits
  • Try to speak with the seller directly, don’t simply correspond by WhatsApp or Facebook messages
  • Try to send someone you know to check out the vehicle ahead of purchase

Now this is where we do try to help.  We’d love for you to manage the acquisition of your vehicle yourself, but we don’t want this to be a barrier to entry.  As long as it’s not left to the last minute, and the vehicle you are keen to purchase is in the Gauteng area, then we can try to send one of our team down to take a look, and give it a test drive.

To be clear, we aren’t going to find and suggest vehicles to you – it’s worth checking out The Africa Rally Networking Group on Facebook for this – but if you’ve got one where you are ready to buy, and just want the thumbs up that it’s legit, we can make a plan.

The only disclaimer we put in place is that the person we send to test drive will only have a basic knowledge of mechanics, so no promises that there isn’t something on the vehicle that we may have missed.  We also don’t act as middle men for the purchase (the world of international transaction fees is just too much of a minefield), so we ask that you deal with the seller directly for the purposes of payment.

Beyond that, we can find you a storage unit to keep the vehicle safe ahead of The Africa Rally, and get a mechanic to give it a service, or do any work on it which you want doing.

5.  Notability & Infamy
Pulling into a petrol station in rural Africa in a brand new Land Cruiser nobody will pay any attention to you, you’re just on an African journey, driving between Point A and Point B.  Driving into a petrol station in rural Africa in a 1980 Mark 4 Ford Cortina, you are on an African adventure, and guaranteed to make friends.

People anywhere in the world have a natural affiliation with old cars as they bring back memories.

Memories of their parents driving around in them, memories of a simpler time, memories of road trips as a kid or summer holidays.  On top of this add in the fact that this vehicle isn’t in a museum but it’s out in the wild, covered in rally stickers, and it’s come to them as a surprise, rather than them go and seek it out.  Don’t be surprised if people walk over and ask if they can take photos with your vehicle.  We suggest chatting to them about where you’ve been and where you’re going, perhaps ask for dinner or accommodation recommendations.

Before long you’ll have made some new friends!

Having a bit of infamy, or at least ridiculousness about your vehicle will also help if you get stuck.  You’ll find people much more willing to help out of the goodness of their hearts if they truly want you to reach the finish line, rather than just being called upon to do a job.

Drive old, drive ridiculous, be awesome, and people will be awesome to you!

Finally, to talk to a member of The Africa Rally team about vehicle storage, collection, or to be referred to a mechanic, please email us on

About the Author

British adventurer, explorer, and Africa Rally organiser, Paul Clayton, has been lost, stuck, and usually found himself in highly unsuitable ridiculous vehicles on all continents, but Africa is by far his favourite. Since first taking part in a charity rally between the UK and Mongolia as a university student, he has both led and participated in further events, such as the Plymouth - Dakar Rally, the Peru Monkey Run, and is now also the owner of the world's first flying monkey bike. He writes from personal experience, and is never afraid to dive in head first, often without fully knowing what he is doing, but safe in the knowledge that he'll find his way. Do get in touch with Africa Rally HQ, if you've a mad idea for an expedition, and want him to get involved.

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