A tongue-in-cheek car review by a single soccer-surf-and-school mom living in Cape Town, South Africa about her Not-Packing-It-In-Just-Yet Volvo V70 and some of the things you might remember yourself while growing up by the sea…

According to Wikipedia I’m driving an executive car’ manufactured and marketed by Volvo between 1996 and 2016 and spanning three re-modeled generations; mine being the first…

It’s good to be first in something and I’m happy my silver-slim 2012 Volvo chassis – referred to as ‘land-shark’ by a surfer-dude friend – is the first-shape model. I might have been able to say a semi-topless one too, if my sunroof motor wasn’t jammed shut by years of collected dust from off-roading in Paternoster up the West Coast.

Ground-up and still driving…

From my driver on-the-ground perspective it’s been a personal journey driving her, one emboldened by all the action three teenagers bring to the mix, together with three generations of smelly sports socks which love to gravitate to its darkest corners.

Add our two bull terrier dogs to the shambolic pile and the Volvo V70 is a groundbreaking legacy of endurance on the road and off… Off-road referring to that one time my eldest son was practicing his reverse take off on our dirt driveway when we rented a precarious three-story wooden house in Scarborough. Precarious for a number of unorthodox reasons, but that’s another story for another day.

Hold the Flashing Lights, Please

According to the multiple AirBnB guests of international flavor who have rented the ‘sea-view room with a King-sized bed’ on its second floor, my Volvo was the car of choice for the roving traffic police of Sweden confirmed by John Neff’s AutoBlog article of Aug 2007 and the updated Volvo version by cops in England announced by Simona’s Top Speed article from Sept 2007.

The first time this news was relayed to me, I noticed a distant expression on my AirBnB guest’s face as he was transported back to another time and place. His body language a mix of surprise at seeing it in-situ in South Africa and one of ‘I’m keeping-myself at a distance’ which spoke of some history back there.

Accelerating along the coastal byways of the sunny southern Cape peninsula on my daily school run between Scarborough and Kommetjie, my Swedish guest’s expression brought to my mind an image of stealth cops lurking in the damp shadows, waiting to run speedsters down in dramatic wheel-spinning car chases through chilly forests in small towns where everyone is stern; either from the cold or the gravity of the consequences of breaking the law.

A squealing wheel spin up a near vertical mountain driveway and my three-month lapsed car license is the furthest I’ve come to breaking the law in my Volvo, but then it was that period over December when time just seems to speed by while feeling festive, especially in a trusty, seal-of-police-approval Volvo V70.

Saloon with a View

It’s hard to tell how the Volvo handles in bumper-to-bumper traffic really because my route takes me along open mountain roads edged by towering rocks and sea. The views are spectacular even for those packed into the load section at the back.

Visuals of the day’s surf are as breathtaking as the only other traffic witnessed on the road… once a squashed porcupine with his needles patterning the road; and the various other school moms with teenagers as tardy as mine, all trying to beat the clock around the snaking bends for that ‘one teacher’ who stands at the school entrance checking uniforms and giving detentions to late-comers. One whose glower makes the mom’s feel just as bad at parenting as the kids at ‘keeping it together’.

One could say that we live in a modern ‘hippy’ community. I try to blend in a bit by covering the Volvo’s rear end with surf and AfrikaBurn stickers but it doesn’t fool the Waldorf mom’s whose cars carry tell-tale rust designs and more leisurely speeds with their later school start.

Wrestling in a Second Life

I admit to a deep affection for my Volvo’s sleek lines reminiscent of a silver bullet at times. I first spotted her from the road, quietly and elegantly parked in a slot of a second-hand car salesman’s yard.

A ‘car-fundi’ friend had agreed to come along and help me choose a ‘new’ car and we were traversing the Main Road of Wynberg’s used car sales gauntlet, with Google firmly in hand, to compare where we might be getting ripped off.

While my car-fundi friend was poking and prodding other middle-of-the-road options suitable for a trade-in in our third lot of the day, I quietly went over and said, “What about this one?”

Bearing right and then left, at speed, around my first traffic turning circle on the initial test drive – guru-friend’s increasingly positive comments confirmed my intuition. I had picked ‘the one’ or it had picked me.

The lovely gloss and re-coaxed carpet plush rendered by the efforts of the gang of car wash attendants at the back of the car lot didn’t last long… but it made me feel special for a while.

Absconding the Big City Lights

The Volvo’s lush interior, sound system, leather seats and air-conditioning were a huge step up from the two door Corsa gifted to me by my brother during my flight from a messy Joburg divorce which had left us stranded and Car-loss by a divorce debacle of epic proportions which included pregnant girlfriend’s and Sheriffs of the Court repossessing my top-of-the-line Landrover Discovery (with all the bells and whistles)… but that’s an another-another story to be told, or maybe a book one day.

The shiny-silver cash-payment Volvo V70 was our first ‘new-life-new-home’ car that was going to feature CT license plates… we were now officially Capetonians!

Bring on the Dead, For Now We Are Living

The most amazing thing about the Volvo is its anyone’s car or rather a car to suit anyone, quite literally through all stages of life.

We’ve fitted multiple surfboards, boogie boards and seal-slick wetsuit clad boys in the back. Leave the hatch open while they perch on the back ledge between sea and the short trip home and they get to enjoy a view of Kings as the road disappears underneath them while they pummel-stone their wrinkled, wet sea feet on the hard tarmac below.

I once taxied a bevy of celebrating 12-yr olds to an ice-skating party at GrandWest. While sourly tested, the suspension and the speakers stood up to the bouncing and singing in tune to the latest pop songs, creating parallel media attention from other cars at traffic lights along the way.

And yes, in Africa, I’ve seen it in commercial use as a hearse. You can fit a six-foot coffin in the back of the Volvo V70. Tint its windows, add some white satin plush and I could be in business.

Luckily, we’re still in the business of living and it’s long boot is perfect for all manner of outdoorsy persons. Lacking a bike rack, we once fitted three mountain bikes and four persons in on the way to the Silvermine Arboretum starting at the top of Ou Kaapse Weg. It’s also fit three supine sleeping adults in the back when rain unexpectedly came down overnight during a weekend festival camping trip.

Friendly-Styled Endurance for The People By the People

The Volvo’s paint job is silver two-toned courtesy of her curb-side parking spot. That of ‘still-intact’ and ‘scoured-silver’ from the beating it takes from the hot sun, the renowned Southeaster and the luxury of outdoor beach living.

The air-con, while gassed, just stopped working one day. Instead, we enjoy daily doses of fresh sea air off of Long Beach. Closer to Longbeach Mall our open windows encourage friendly banter with the familiar faces of the Homeless Talk vendors who work their magazine sales into my monthly budgetary swings as adeptly as I do.

My current mileage is 254 321 km and climbing and I carry my own 5 litre oil can in the storage in the back. We’ve had some adventures for sure, but she’s pulled through ongoing petrol leaks, scraping brake pads, flat battery’s and rocket-red temperatures.

As a single mom having a flat tyre in the friendly Southern Suburbs you are almost guaranteed a good road Samaritan. I once had three kind gentlemen stop one school run morning, which included a passing cyclist, another motorist and a walking pedestrian. They were so helpful that I had to step in with a little delegating with regards who did what, when, while factoring in their different time schedules. The last guy, who clearly didn’t have a job to go to, got the most rewards for his road angel assistance, I guess that’s life – sometimes you give and sometimes you receive and hardly ever in reciprocal sequence.

With Respect, Volvo

Today, I ensure I back up our road travels with a trusty membership to the Automobile Association (AA) – something every single woman should have. And accolades must go to our local mechanic and Volvo specialist Nivan at @maistrymotorsport. He tells me my electronics are shot but always manages to look happy to see me.

I hope to pass my trusty Volvo steed onto my eldest son one day for surf trips with his buddies up the Garden Route, although I’m not quite ready to part with her because she’s fully paid off and I’m saving tons of money on driving a car that’s all mine. Given the choice I would buy another Volvo in a heartbeat, but the question is, should a Mercedes be driving a Volvo… anyone?

Firehorse Media is a South African communications and PR consultancy owned and managed by Mercedes Westbrook, whose career as a journalist, editor, managing editor and independant communications consultant spans 22 years experience in the print and digital media industry. Email her on mercedes@firehorsemedia.co.za or C:+27 789707633.

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