The psychological effect of cars?

Every bakkie driver is a farmer, all Mercedes owners are snobs, Mini pilots are gay and BMW drivers are Afrikaans cardboard boxes, right? Right. While most of these statements are complete hogwash, the psychological effect of different cars has a degree of truth to it.


Not everyone at NamWheels is an ardent bakkie aficionado but we all agree that a big load bed, chunky tyres and a jack-hammer engine under that bonnet scoop make you feel like farmer Ted. Or Frik, more likely. And some farmers (also wannabes) don’t put up with nonsense – especially in traffic.

So when you’ve got a gigantic fake chrome grill, steel tubing and LED light bars taking up most of your rear-view mirror, it’s just Frik dying to get back his plaas. Most bakkies are too big and cumbersome for town but when you load them up and drive into the veld… it all makes sense.

The other interesting emotion we’ve all had while testing pick-ups from Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, VW, etc. is that we suddenly got more industrious. Because bakkies are so practical, we’d always end up at builder’s shops, plumbing outlets, farms and auctions for a spot of DIY and hard work.

(New) Minis

These trendy cars may be favoured by ouens and vrouens who bat for the other team but we’ve noted a few interesting things during our various tests. Yes, they are incredibly chic but they can also be quite butch with the right body, paint and engine combination. JCW versions will give most hot hatches hot ears.

The biggest thing about new Minis is that they are – with very few exceptions – good fun to drive. Parent company BMW knows a thing or two about sweet handling cars so it’s no surprise that they stuffed the new Minis full of grippy goodness. We don’t care who you bat for, these are fun little cars.


Owners of cars with the three-pointed crosshair aren’t really that snobbish. Yes, this is one of the oldest and most recognised luxury brands in the world but nowadays it’s not the Mercedes drivers who park in the handicapped bay out front and throw their shiny key on the table. It’s usually the Audi crowd…

Ignoring the recent upswing in coolness and hardness of their models, older Mercs are often referred to as granny cars. Reasons for this usually include an older relative who drives their boring beige Benz around Swakop at 70% of the posted speed limit. In second gear with the door half closed and a hat on the parcel shelf.

Well, some of this may be true and possibly down to the way those old tanks drove. Performance was never brisk, steering feedback quite numb at best and cornering rather scary. However – and we know this from personal experience – they are among thee most relaxing and comfortable cars on the planet.

High-performance cars

Similar to what happens when a bakkie arrives for testing, not everyone at NamWheels likes powerful, complicated cars. Those of us who do have noticed a definite trend though, and it goes something like this: the first day is a steep learning curve of controls and interfaces with the odd burst of power.

By the second and third day, most testers start to exploit the full potential of the beast; but only when it’s safe to do so! This brings us to the final step in high-performance car ownership. After a week, the fuel consumption and frustrating traffic conditions make you slow down again.

So when you see an M6 bumbling along a busy road, the owner is not a boring sod who doesn’t know how to handle hundreds of horsies. They’re probably just trying to get consumption under 20L/100km while dreaming of a nice, empty stretch of road where nobody suddenly pulls in front of them.


This… is a big one. The first few BMW’s we tested were thoroughly inspected for faulty indicator stalks and fog light switches. It turns out that Beemers are perfectly functioning automobiles which can be driven in a responsible and courteous manner. Not that you’d want to…

Those unannounced changes of direction, the blazing fog lights and flashing brights are all down to most BMW’s intrinsic feeling of exciting dynamics. They’re lively and agile to pilot so it’s no wonder that mere mortals transform into aspiring F1 drivers when behind a wheel with the blue ‘n white emblem on it.

(I want to…) Paint it Black

Another bizarre automotive phenomenon we’ve observed in recent years is that tired examples of large luxury sedans or SUV’s are eventually painted black. It doesn’t matter what vintage they are or what name adorns either end – Audi, BMW, Daimler, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes, etc. – the last owner will reach for that can of darkness.

We’ve had lots of coffee during a jolly good discussion about this (also look out for our upcoming list of cars that look best in black) and our conclusion about cheap luxo-barges being painted black is that the owners somehow want to convey a sense of menace or intimidation, a-la Mafia or Yakuza.


Transformer, topless, cabrio/let or drop top – call them what you like but convertibles are a special type of vehicle. Where everything else is geared towards efficiency, durability, performance, versatility or – heaven forbid – all of the above, the convertible car is there to make its owner feel special. Right?

What other use could a roof-less car have, other than as a substitute for a bakkie when you’re picking up some planks from the builder’s yard? Nope, the only purpose that a topless vehicle has is to make its owner feel good; and possibly more sexy or interesting. That’s why you don’t get convertible bakkies. Or station wagons.

Most of us at NamWheels lean towards the practical and sporty side of motoring so cabriolets are very low on our scale of desirability. However, we have the wonderful privilege of occasionally testing a convertible press vehicle so we’ve had plenty of opportunity to see what psychological effects this had on us.

First and foremost, you need to be a little bit showy (or confident) to drive around Keetmans without a roof. If you don’t like attention, direct or indirect, then a cabrio is certainly not for you. It is quite an experience to drive around with 11km of headroom so for you introverts we recommend doing it late at night… which makes it even more special.

You can hear crickets in every tree, the loud tyre roar of passing vehicles but also your own car’s burbling exhaust or engine sounds. It’s something everyone should experience at least once – like riding on the back of a bakkie – but we admit that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially when people tune you at traffic lights…

Oh, and one last thing: we live in Africa. For the sake of your backside, avoid black leather in an open car!

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