It’s one of the prettiest bakkies ever built so we simply had to track down and drive the only Peugeot 202 Camionette in South Africa...
During the last two decades, we’ve witnessed a complete turnaround in the bakkie segment. Never before has there been such a variety in this sector; many competitors now offer a multitude of different models aimed at the leisure market alongside commercial use. Trace the history further and family duties never entered the equation: back in the day, bakkies were used as workhorses.
A prime example is this rare 1945 Peugeot 202 Camionette. It belongs to the Loubser brothers from Hermanus and has a unique story. Only a few were originally imported and this is the only one of its kind left in South Africa. Production ran between 1938 and ‘42, then stalled before resuming briefly in 1945 and proceeded in earnest from 1946 to ’49 before the vehicle was replaced by the Peugeot 203.
As with many bakkies of the time, the 202 was used by armed forces, in this case the French Army. H Farber in Cape Town, who was responsible for Peugeot and Nash vehicle imports, brought this specific one into South Africa in 1946. The current owner’s father operated the family business, Loubser Brothers, in Vredenburg which became the Peugeot agents on the West Coast after the Second World War. After two further owners, the latter of which traded in the Peugeot on a newer vehicle, the Loubsers opted to keep the 202 for their business.
The engine has been overhauled and the vinyl seats have been reupholstered. However, the side-mounted wood panels for the loading bay are the original units. Around seven years ago, the Loubsers commissioned new parts for the bakkie. Ian Loubser walked me through the upgrades, which includes a new canopy (the structure was already in place) fitted with hardwearing army cloth complete with neat leather straps.
I peeked below the loading bay at the basic suspension system and Ian pointed out the spare wheel is the original Michelin item. “It is not useable anymore but it is a perfect, period-correct ornament.” To the left on the mudguard is an original “Left Hand Drive” plaque which indicates to fellow road users the driver is seated on the opposite side of the car. The 202 has been repainted in its original colour but now has a gloss finish rather than the matte texture that was popular back then.
From the rear, bakkies tend to look quite similar, and that’s no different here, but the front design of this Peugeot is truly unique. Like on the small 202 passenger car, the grille slopes down to a pointed nose while the headlights are placed behind the grille. The battery is sited at the very bottom while the numberplate moulded around the bumper makes you look twice. The front wheels, meanwhile, are covered by flowing arches and the fuel tank is visible behind the passenger door, below the loading bay. When the engine gave problems in 1956, the Loubsers chose to park the 202 for 30 years. It was taken out of storage in 1986 as the family’s late father wanted to restore it. He then used the bakkie as his daily drive for a run to the shops or to dump garden refuse.
In 1978, a Peugeot executive from France visited South Africa and saw this bakkie. Even though it had not run for more than 20 years, he wanted to buy it for the head office in France. According to him, it was the best ex-military 202 model he had seen.
Ian recalls: “As kids, we remember this bakkie standing in an outbuilding not being driven. We didn’t pay it much attention and didn’t quite know what it was.”
With our chat and photography done, it was time for a drive. The doors are hinged at the back and enable easy entrance to the straightforward cabin. Make no mistake, the interior is tight but I slipped in and had good leverage of the large-diameter steering wheel, mainly because you sit so close.
There is no sound deadening at all. The roof and the dashboard are solid metal and incredibly sturdy. There are a few organ-type levers but it is otherwise extremely basic. There is space for another adult in the passenger seat but that’s the extent of any comfort features. The bent, long gearlever protrudes straight from the floor and links to a three-speed gearbox.
The engine started with some help from the throttle pedal and, as I engaged first gear, the lack of synchromesh was obvious. As with all these early cars, it is best to blip the throttle and show mechanical sympathy between gearchanges. There are synchros on second and third gear but it still helps to engage some throttle and guide the lever into each ratio.
After a few shifts, you realise the 202 is easy to drive and the experience is accompanied by a distinct high-pitched engine sound. The 202 quickly hits 60 km/h. This model was one of the last to be fitted with a cable-operated brake system before a hydraulic setup was installed. The result is you need to brake very early. Needless to say, you cannot be in a hurry if you’re behind the wheel...
The large, beautiful Jaeger speedometer indicates the fuel tank level and has an odo reading in the middle; the latter shows a true 156 426 km. The ride is supple and I wondered how performance would be affected were the 202 loaded up. Fortunately, it is used only for special trips and motoring events, to be appreciated by fellow enthusiasts. South Africa has a rich appreciation for bakkies, whether production models or ones developed for racing throughout the decades. In terms of historical significance, this 202 is right up there with the best.
FAST FACTSModel: 1945 Peugeot 202 Camionette
Engine: 1,1-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Power: 22 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Fuel tank: 63 litres
Top speed: 100 km/h
Weight: 890 kg
Wheels: 16-inch steel