The first car I ever drove was a VW Fox.
It was my mother’s car and I got behind the wheel after obtaining my learner’s licence at 17.
As this was 16 years ago, and the car was stolen from a university parking lot on a Friday night not too long after, I cannot tell you what year it was, the mileage, or how much we paid for it.
What I do know, however, is that we bought the Fox second-hand through a private sale after my mother’s previous car – a blue Mazda 323 – was stolen from our driveway.
We had a knack for buying cars in demand.
It was essentially a Citi Golf with a boot, it was white, and it had a 4-speed manual gearbox – with an aftermarket gear lock installed.
A lot of help that did.
A Google search reveals that the VW Fox was a unique model to South Africa, in that the Fox name was used in the country for “a model based on the first-generation Jetta”.
In South America and Europe, the VW Fox was a hatchback which sold from the mid-2000s.
Our VW Fox was slow.
It had a 1300 engine (I think) which sent power to wheels about as wide a two Marie biscuits stuck together.
It was unstable at speeds over 100km/h; did not have aircon, airbags, power steering, or a radio; and noise from the road while driving was borderline deafening.
While it did have seatbelts, these were not often used.
Using the Fox while learning to drive was not an issue. The speeds were slow, my mother refused to let me on the freeway, and we only did alley-docking parking.
After graduating to a full driver’s licence and driving around with friends, however, I am truly surprised we survived.
We would take corners at speeds only meant for a Subaru WRX STI, and the chassis of the Fox would moan and strain – while the tiny wheels whimpered and vibrated.
The Fox was soon dubbed the “White Ferrari” by our group thanks to its cornering performance.
Inside, it was spacious.
It could fit four young adults with ease, and five if the trip required.
It had a large boot, and it was not afraid of driving on dirt roads or small hills when going camping.
The Fox had problems with it at regular intervals.
The mechanic who worked on it – Paul, who lived down the road from where I grew up and operated from a double garage at his house – was always able to fix them at a relatively low price, though.
A continuous problem the car suffered from was overheating due to issues with the radiator.
One fine day several months after I received my driver’s licence I went to fetch my brother from school.
It was the same high school which I had attended, and there is no sweeter return than coming back a year after matric driving a car.
The small road to the school was packed, as parents queued to pick up their kids in the roundabout area in front of the main gate.
I was 500 metres from the pick-up point when steam started to rise from the bonnet.
It started as a few wisps, but quickly grew into gushes of thick, white cloud.
I could go nowhere – the road was jammed on both sides – and I slouched in my seat, wanting to disappear.
Slowly inching forward to fetch my brother, I saw people looking at the steam from the bonnet, and then wave and point. I ignored them.
A school kid, who was walking home, then approached my window and knocked on it.
I am not sure if you have seen it, but there is steam coming from your bonnet, he said.
I thanked him and said yes, I had noticed.
The Fox made a trip to Paul the mechanic the next day and was good to go for another six months.
Before we said goodbye to the Fox, it survived a horrible crash.
I was coming home from rugby practice while at university and it was raining.
The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift has made its way onto DVD and had resonated with me as a driver.
Around two kilometres from home, I accelerated while taking a corner and jerked the wheel hard to the left to “initiate the drift”.
The Fox slapped left, then right, then left again – all the while my foot was on the accelerator to keep the drift in play.
The left-right-left movement quickly turned into a full spin – at least three rotations – and the Fox ramped backwards off a ledge and into a rocky bank alongside the road.
I was not wearing my seatbelt and walked away unharmed.
Unfortunately, the car was not as lucky and the wheels and axles were badly damaged.
The bill to repair the car was around R14,000 – while the insurance value of the car was close to R20,000.
After much debating with the insurance agency, however, the Fox was fixed.
It never drove the same again and did not feel like the car I had learned to drive in. It was a shadow of its former self. The White Ferrari was gone.
But it still took us from A to B and the overheating issues calmed down – until it was stolen from a university parking lot on a Friday night.