Do you drive an Aaliyah, or a Half-Past 2? Perhaps a Schabir Shaik is more to your tastes? Confused yet? Olwethu Memani explains...
South Africa has a large, diverse car-loving community. From the spinning kings in Soweto, to the immaculate exotics of Concours South Africa, we are a more petrolheaded nation than most! No wonder we tend to give local names of affection to our cars.
In fact, we have come to love these local names so much that we tend to even forget the real names sometimes! Here are just a few...
"Gusheshe" – BMW (E30) 325is
Today any BMW E30 is called a "Gusheshe", but the name belongs to the E30 325is. Following its arrival on South African racing circuits (and in dealerships) about three decades ago, the E30 325is gained great love in South African townships. It was fast and nimble, so the guys that needed to outrun the cops loved them. It also looked really good – still does – and everyone from eKasi to the burbs’ loves it to this day.
But besides the good looks and speed, the "Gusheshe" has another special talent - it's particularly good at something called spinning, an activity that immediately conjures up images of the iconic box-shape BMW burning rubber while going around in circles, bouncing off the limiter with beautiful baritone notes from the twin tail pipes, produced by its inline 6-cylinder motor.
And it's that "gush-gush" sound which is supposedly the source of its nickname.
"Aaliyah" – Mercedes-Benz (W202) C-Class
Where I come from, the first generation of the C-class, the W202, is called "Aaliyah", named after the late R&B singer, Aaliyah Haughton. But why?
In the film, Romeo must Die (2002), in which Aaliyah stars in alongside Jet Li, there is a car chase scene, and the two stars get away in a silver W202 C43 AMG, sitting on those timeless AMG Monoblock wheels. And just like that, a nickname for the car was born, applying to all W202s in South Africa.
"Half-Past 2" – Mercedes-Benz (CL203) C230k SportCoupe
Aiming to bring two-door Mercedes-Benz style to a broader audience, the CL203 was the sporty coupe variant of the W203, which replaced the "Aaliyah". At the time often criticised by the media (the looks were an acquired taste), the CL203 SportCoupe was however a popular choice in South Africa, where the C230k sold well. And it's that "230" in the name that gave rise to the "Half-Past 2", nickname. And if you like, you can even refer to it as "uHalf-past" and people will know which car you are talking about.
"Schabir Shaik" – BMW (E90) 3 Series
Turns out, the E90-generation 3 Series got saddled with the Shaik name unfairly... You see, not long after infamous Schabir Shaik was released from jail on medical parole, he was spotted (looking healthy and happy) driving a black BMW around Durban, reported to be an E90 3 Series. The rest, as they say, is history. But...
As it turns out, he was not driving an E90 but rather an E65 7 Series. But the name stuck.
"Bujwa" – VW Polo 9n3
Is’bujwa is a popular South African dance style. It’s a dance to upbeat music that requires movement of the entire body, and Is'bujwa dancers are very creative when it comes to their moves and sequences. But it's not only about dancing.
Sbujwa dance crews are also up to date with the newest street fashion trends. So I guess that’s how this hugely popular car earned the "Bujwa" name. This generation of Polo was a hugely aspirational car for the youth, and some models were even fairly quick. And because it's relatively affordable and aftermarket parts are widely available, it's a car that one can be very creative with in terms of customization.
G-String – BMW (E46) 3 Series
Perhaps the most controversial name of the lot goes to the much-loved E46. The E46 was the successor to the E36, which was nicknamed the "Dolphin". It was a smash-hit on the local market and it wasn't long before we came up with a nickname for it, too... the "G-string". However, there are many different stories about how the name came about.
Some say that when you look at it closely from the back, you see the VPL (Visible Panty Line) of said underwear. Others claim that the car got its name from a television advertisement in which a gent (not a loyal one, though) is seen driving a convertible E46 enthusiastically through the streets of Italy, rushing to his wedding, but along the way he is peppered with underwear from adoring ladies standing on balconies.
And then there are those who say that it's actually the steering wheel of the car that resembles a G-string. But regardless of how the name came about, we will always love the E46.
And some others...
These are only a few, and there are many other local names in the streets. The Mini Cooper S is called "Jub Jub", after the controversial hip-hop artist's 2010 accident that resulted in the death of four children. There’s also the 20-20 or Jumbo which is the Mk2 Golf GTi facelift, and the "Vura" which is the VW brand's VR6 Golf/Jetta.
Toyota fanatics also get in on the action, particularly with the Corolla – the fourth-generation is called the "Slant Front", the fifth-generation the "Wet-look" and the sixth-generation the "Bubble".
As new cars are introduced, the most popular or infamous will get nicknames, it is almost inevitable... it's part of our motoring tradition in this country!