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It’s hi ho Silverton! Followed by an excursion in the muddy marvellous Ford Everest

It’s hi ho Silverton! Followed by an excursion in the muddy marvellous Ford Everest
The new XLT and Wildtrak Ford Everest derivatives. (Photo: FMCSA)

After an eventful day on a factory tour of Ford SA’s world-class Silverton manufacturing plant, some offroad moves in the new Everest were in order.

It’s a long stretch to see a connection between convicted serial killer Rosemary Ndlovu and a plant tour hosted by Ford Motoring Company SA (FMCSA), but I have one. On the day I was invited to tour the FMCSA manufacturing plant in Silverton, I was signing off the final pages of a book I’m publishing – Killer Cop, a deep exploration of the devastation left behind by Ndlovu.

Wearing two caps, one of a book publisher and the other of a motoring journo, can be rather schizophrenic at times. While walking through the massive plant, I tried hard to divide my attention between listening to how the Silverton assembly plant is capable of producing 720 vehicles a day while checking whether we’d got all the facts right in the “hitman chapter” of journalist Naledi Shange’s soon-to-be-released new book. 

(For those of you who don’t know who Rosemary Ndlovu is, she’s a former cop who took out insurance policies on members of her family, murdered them and then cashed in on the payouts. The court found her guilty of six murders in 2021 and she’s currently serving a life sentence in Joburg Central for her heinous crimes.)

There came a point when I had to throw Rosemary aside as I was invited on to the production line to add a few grommets to the front light fittings on the new Ford Ranger. The line was moving at quite a pace and my full attention was sorely needed. I must say I did get quite a kick out of pretending that I was actually building a bakkie, but after 20 minutes of doing the same thing over and over again – putting little pieces of rubber into holes to protect the Ranger’s electrical wiring from damage – I think if I had to do this day in and day out, it would do my head in.

ford ranger silverton

Melinda Ferguson checks the nuts and bolts on the Ford Ranger. (Photo: Steve Lawrence)

On the day of the tour, I discovered that the Silverton Assembly Plant, just outside Pretoria, has the capacity to produce up to 200,000 vehicles per year. (This is where the Next-Gen Ranger as well as the Volkswagen Amarok are assembled as part of the Ford-Volkswagen global strategic alliance.) Based on three-shift 24-hour production schedules, the massive factory, which employs more than 4,000 people, is capable of producing up to 720 vehicles a day. By the end of May 2023, more than 22,200 new Rangers had been sold in South Africa, since production kicked off in mid-November last year. It’s like a whole new well-oiled, meticulous world.

On tour day we were also informed about several extra investments that have been added to the R15.8-billion initially committed to the Silverton facility.

“The extensive modernisation and expansion of our local operations is focused on delivering must-have products of the highest quality to our customers in South Africa and more than 100 export markets around the world,” said Ockert Berry, vice-president of operations at FMCSA. 

Some of these expansions to the world-class facility include a revised skid cleaning facility in the paint shop which cost a cool R22-million. (The skids are used to mount vehicle body parts for spraypainting and movement throughout the assembly process.) A further R20-million has been invested in a “DeGould Auto-scan” which takes just six seconds to capture images of every vehicle produced, automatically detecting any defects or damage. 

ford silverton

A Ford Ranger going through stringent quality checks at Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant, just outside Pretoria. (Photo: Steve Lawrence)

“We certainly aren’t resting on our laurels,” Berry said. “We continue to invest in further upgrades to our Silverton Assembly Plant to further improve quality and efficiency, bolster our commitment to sustainability, and create a world-class working environment for our employees.” 

Well-deserved glory

If any manufacturer could take a wee rest to bask in some well-deserved glory, it’s FMCSA. The company has been having quite a year, with the locally produced Ranger being the first bakkie/pickup to win SA’s Car of the Year. But to rub salt into the wounds of other manufacturers, not only did the company take home the gold cup, it also snatched the silver with its premium offroad SUV, the Ford Everest, which clinched second place overall.

ranger wildtrak

The Ford Ranger SuperCab Wildtrak. (Photo: FMCSA)

I recently took the range-topping 3.0L V6 AWD turbo-diesel Platinum model out on a very wet and muddy weekend and was again reminded of how damn good this seven-seater is offroad. After the recent deluge of rain in the Breedekloof, the 7km gravel surface I travelled on was scarily rutted with huge pools of muddy water, making it near impossible to drive. Being a 4×4 enthusiast, I was grateful that the Everest had a generous 229mm ground clearance on offer and a whole lot of off-road tech.

The new Ford Everest Wildtrak. (Photo: FMCSA)

Several cars had got stuck in this muddy mess, with a few khaki-clad  Frikkies and Jannies standing in marshy mud, staring at their vehicles and pulling their receding hairlines out. Being vrou alleen I was a tad nervous to approach where lesser men had failed. I put on some lipstick, switched on the Mud&Ruts drive mode setting and gave it stick. (Not having enough momentum is a sure way to screw it up in mud.)

Clutching my leather-clad steering wheel, I kept a damn straight line through the sludge – turning the wheels causes extra drag and can get you stuck. As I hit the first mud bog, filthy gunk splattered across the windshield. Fortunately, I’d already turned my wipers on and remembered to keep my eyes open. Voilà! I was through.

At the Everest’s launch last year in Mpumalanga, I thought it was just Ford doing blah blah market speak when they claimed that the new Everest is no longer in the same pool as the Toyota Fortuner, but is instead playing in the same turning circle as Toyota’s highly capable Land Cruiser Prado. But after my recent muddy drive, I think they may be right. Powerwise, the  Platinum Everest with its 184kW outstrips the Prado’s 150kW, and when it comes to torque, the Everest’s 600Nms outdoes the Prado’s by 100Nms.

At launch last year, two models were available – the Everest Sport and the one I was doing muddy cartwheels in, the Everest Platinum. Recently, FMCSA increased its lineup to six models, including the first Wildtrak specification (usually found in the Ranger bakkie) which, along with its 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine, now offers permanent four-wheel drive. There’s also an “entry-level”  XLT derivative with a 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine available in 4×2 and 4×4 guise.

While many of us were disappointed when we heard that Ford’s trusty models like the Fiesta, Figo and EcoSport would no longer be available in SA as new cars, FMCSA has made the very best of a lean offering of products by riding high with the award-winning new Ranger and Everest. And then, of course, there’s always the mighty Mustang for more adrenalin kicks.

Ford Ranger pricing (includes VAT) 

(There are 24 derivatives available)

  • Ranger 2.0l Turbo Single Cab XL 4×2 HR 6MT: R494,900
  • Ranger 3.0L V6 Double Cab Wildtrak 4WD HR 10 AT: R1,026,400

Ford Everest pricing (includes VAT) 

  • XLT 2.0l BiT 4×2 10AT: R832,400
  • XLT 2.0l BiT 4×4 10AT: R896,300
  • Sport 2.0l BiT 4×2 10AT: R918,500
  • Sport 2.0l BiT 4×4 10AT: R984,800
  • Wildtrak 3.0l V6 4WD 10AT: R1,084,000
  • Platinum 3.0l V6 4WD 10AT: R1,146,500 DM

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