I’m often asked to tell stories in my little internet space, and the other day I saw someone complain about being harassed by the Ghost Squad. Traffic cops are an irritation to most people, especially us car guys. I thought back to when we were harassed, and I wondered if kids these days do the things we did. I see myself as a true petrolhead, even though I’m not a fan of the word. I’ve been obsessed with cars literally all my life, and I’ve mentioned before that I knew car names before I could speak properly. I was also fortunate to have a bro who used to work on race cars. Our backyard was always filled with Alfas, Datsuns, Toyota Twincams and a very special 333i. I was also fortunate, during my schooling years, to have friends who were car guys, like me. Recently one of them posted a memory on Facebook, and I had to laugh; we caught on so much kak. “We” refers to myself, Mansoer and Nizaam. These days Nizaam drives a Mercedes but is an Opel kop of note and Mansoer is, err…let’s just say he is well-known for writing off cars. He is a danger unto himself, only as he really believes he is as skilful as Ken Block.

Back in high school, Mansoer’s dad had a now classic Ford F100 Pickup. We used to save our weekly allowance so that we could buy R20 petrol for Friday afternoons after school, and “steal” it while his parents were at work. Friday afternoons was when we learned to drag race, on Heide Road. Heide Road was a long road of about 800m, with very little traffic, but was in a residential area. We’d take turns launching the Cleveland V8 Ford like there was no tomorrow, and I must admit, we were rather skilful for 15yr olds. Personally, I think skills are honed when you experiment or as we call it, “catching on kak”. Drifting became popular only recently, but kids were drifting on the Cape Flats when PW Botha was still waving that dreaded finger. Occasionally we’d take on Nizaam, when his dad left his brand new white Cressida GLi6 at home. I loved that car and up to today, the bodyshape does weird things to my nether region. Kids these days get into all sorts of crime and drugs, but we were good boys. We went to mosque regularly, for every prayer, and I guess God does work in mysterious ways. We didn’t really go because we wanted to, but we’d get up at 5am to go for morning prayers cos we could drive with the car, and go do burnouts afterwards. Until Officer Stevens came to harass us. Officer Stevens was a local resident who was also a top traffic cop, and made it his life’s mission to lock us up. The dude really appeared to hate us, although these days the silver-haired Officer often waves to me from his stoep, probably thinking “Jou donner”. 25 years later, I still speed pass his house, and give a rev.  I’m not sure if it was youthful stupidity or puberty, but we got off on trying to outfox Officer Stevens, and even made plans and had exit strategies from our different locations. One Friday, Nizaam picked me up and we went for a joyride. We were at a red light, and it just so happens one of Officer Stevens’ colleagues came home for lunch, and passed us on the opposite side. As he turned and passed us, Nizaam spotted in the rearview that the officer was making a U-turn. With the light still red, he floored the 1GFE 24valve 6-pot Cress, and in a moment, we weren’t just doing 180kmh, but became fugitives. A little 1600 Corolla was never going to catch us, even if it did have blue lights flashing, and sirens blaring. We knew how to outfox the best of cops, and we knew all the back roads. The plan was to go to Mansoer’s house, as their gate was always open and the driveway led all around the house, so the cop wouldn’t see us. I suggested we go a different route though, as no-one ever drives down that road. Nizaam took my advice, probably only because he was concentrating on which direction the sirens were coming from.

We were in the clear, finally. No lights in the distance, no sirens. As we let out a huge sigh of relief, we coasted the Cress home. But then…coming head-on towards us was a little white Corolla, with blue lights. We were treated with such disdain, like we were criminals, when all we did was steal a car and run from the cops. Luckily I was quick-thinking, and since I was still in school uniform, I told the cop I didn’t know Nizaam but he had offered me a lift, and I needed to get home quickly because I was asthmatic and needed my nebulizer. The dumb idiot believed me, and let me go. Later that day, Nizaam came to me, with his bicycle…..hahahahaha. He didn’t even need a seat, as he wasn’t able to sit down after his dad got the news. He was also slapped with a R100 fine, which was like R5000 back then. I guess that paved the way for the outlaws we became, and Mansoer mocked our stupidity ever since. Ah. Mansoer….

Mansoer I’ve known literally all my life, and our adventures and escapades would need a book, not a blog. From doing 240kmh on a mountain pass, to driving a RunX off a bridge, to writing off a Hyundai belonging to a dealer, in a race on the N1, to swapping an Isuzu for a Jap Import on the Lesotho border (now THAT’S a story on its own), we’ve been there, done that. The best story though, was when we went racing with his dad’s Nissan 720 4×4, which we dropped. Yeah, when we were 17 years of age, we could lower 4×4 suspensions, that’s how we rolled. We also bought a set of sidedrafts and fitted it to the bakkie, for Indies on a Saturday night. I’m unsure what Mansoer did that particular night, but the gearbox exploded, and we had to be towed home. His dad had bought a spare gearbox though, and at 4am the next morning, we fitted the gearbox, in the dark silence. By the time his dad awoke, the bakkie was washed, and ready for his  Sunday drive. He was none the wiser. Years later, I remember his dad telling me had fitted a spare gearbox but the guy had sold him a dud. Hopefully he doesn’t read this blog, as up until today, he doesn’t know the dud was actually his original gearbox that we had swopped hahaha!

Thinking back, the things we did weren’t the brightest of ideas, but it gave us experience, it taught us initiative, it made us street smart, it made us street racers, it made us try new things to go faster. We were chased by cops, we were locked up, we could have died because of our antics, but we were always aware of the consequences. Unlike the newer generation who races on public roads filled with cars, with no respect for fellow motorists, and show absolutely no consideration for others, we seeked isolated spots. We made sure things were safe. We didn’t beat up motorists if they got in our way, we didn’t fight each other, we didn’t do drugs or drive under the influence, or have egos. We were just car guys. We are just car guys.