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"Africa Calling"

By Pier Fitz Gerald

It all started with a cry for help

June 19, 2005

       In the forums, we had a fellow from South Africa asking for some help with a 'Burb in the bush, so to speak. (You can see more pictures of the 'Burb there in that thread).

       This fellow, Pier, had a dial-up connection and it was a bit difficult for him to get this posted himself. Plus, he needed the pictures so that the Bolters could help him identify his problems.

       He was tickled that he got such good responses and in the meantime, he put together the rest of the story.

       We do believe you will enjoy it.

~~ Editor


From Fitz: 

       I found a left-hand drive 1960 Chevrolet suburban (jet pod lights) but sadly, the windscreen has discoloured (black/yellow) due to sun damage. Is there any way I can get this off or must I source a new windshield? If I do, which model windshield could I use? An Apache (twin headlights), a 1957 pickup (single headlights) or a 1962 Fleetmaster pickup?

       This vehicle I hope to buy has two doors similar to an Apache and a large square bonnet/grille, like a 1962- Fleetmaster. I don´t want to get the incorrect windshield!

       Hopefully with your answer I can find one here in South Africa.

       Many thanks.

Kind regards,
Piers Fitz Gerald


Chevrolet Safari

       I collect old Chevrolets, fix them up and rent them out to the film industry and for still photography shoots. These old Chevs are extremely popular and film shoots pay all my hospital bills! I also drive all my stuff. I have "daily drivers" galore!

       I often head off into the bush to track down these lovely vehicles - sort of a "Chevrolet safari." In fact they are really good to view wildlife - it seems the animal kingdom has some respect for these wild animals!

       I just returned from a Chev "raid" (one week) in my fateful Impala - an excellent "scout" car! I was up in the Krugar National Park (2000 kms) and came across an elephant strolling down a dried up river bed on route to a watering hole - passed right in front of me (picture above - see the edge of my mirror?). Pure magic and luck.

       Itīs not uncommon for tourists to come across an uptight elephant. Some of those tourists have some explaining to do back at the airport rental desk!

        Sadly, there are not many of these Chevrolets around South Africa these days. But the good news is that these amazing


Chevrolets are popular in movies / commercials and glossy magazine shoots. Throw a bale of hay in the back, add some stunning models, and hey, those photographers just love Chevs!

      The reason Iīm keen on the '60 'Burb is that I could head deeper inland to say, Zimbabwe. Alas, my Impala (very apt name here) I fear is too low for the desert and the pot-holed roads of Zim. The 'Burb on the other hand, could get me to areas where the Impala couldnīt. My "scouts" (bus drivers) tell me there are lots of old Chevs out there. Could be a good time. Load up with gas / food, "barter" for Chevs and be out before your man Mugabe wakes up!

      So if you know any Stovebolter, with a windshield for sale, from a 1960-63 suburban (jet pod lights), please tell your man thereīs a Irishman in Cape Town that needs it!

Chevrolet Stars

       I was lucky to follow up on some "tips" and found this lovely 1935 pickup.

       Here she is at a work shoot we were doing for Oreo biscuits (sorry ... cookies), which if I'm not mistaken is an American product.

       Strange thing is none of the animals in the shoot liked these cookies. The producers were panicking when some bright member of the crew had the idea of spreading peanut butter on each one. The elephants / lions / cheetahs / chimps loved them!

       Below is the '35 in another shoot. This desert shoot was up in the wine country. A very HOT day and the 200 cow "extras" weren't too happy.

       Mind you, the bulls looked like they were enjoying themselves. I knew you Bolter's would want to see the picture of the cows. The woman was in the picture. Hope you don't mind.

Life in Africa

The Adventures of The Celt and his first African Chevrolet Pickup

       Stovebolters, a long time ago when The Celt (that's me) escaped from a harsh, Irish Catholic boarding school, he swore he'd dedicate his life to freedom and adventure. Well, 37 years after those school gates slammed closed behind me, I hit the road and sampled life in Boston, New York, Sausalito, Santa Barbara, London, Copenhagen, Malmö and Rome. Along this windy road, I was lucky to meet a young Viking who understood The Celt was serious about freedom and adventure. The Viking, too, had an adventurous spirit and she desperately wanted to escape the harsh Swedish climate and get as far away away as possible from an organized, planned Swedish lifestyle.

       South Africa was in some ways an accident because The Celt was on route back to California. Africa wasnīt on his flight path but sometimes, Stovebolters, one must throw caution to the wind and follow the wishes of the better half. So we arrived in Cape Town in 1997. The plan was to spend six months here and six months in Sweden. We could make the money in Europe and have a more simple, relaxed creative lifestyle down here.

       While out exploring this beautiful city, I spotted the unmistakable roof of an old Chevy pickup on a narrow, hilly city street. There on the windshield was a sign. FOR SALE -- $1600. After some haggling, $600 changed hands fast. Buy hey, Stovebolters, before you go jumping to conclusions, this baby wasnīt exactly what The Celt was planning. Even the Viking had her doubts.

       No sooner had I opened the hood to check the fluids, some movie "scout" screech to a halt near me.

       "Howszit man? Listen, I want your car for a shoot."

       "How much?"



       No sooner had this man screamed off, would you believe another "Howszit" dude stopped. Blah blah, and another movie shoot.

       What could I say? And hey, I still had the hood up!

       This led me into life in the movie industry here. Since then, I've been supplying cars for movie shoots -- mostly Chev 3100 pickups. In the eight years of owning Chevs, I never lock them up -- no one in Cape Town has ever tried to rip them off or damage them. Seems there is a lot of respect for these rugged American vehicles. What could be better than to spend a few hours looking at beautiful models posing next to my Chevrolet watching an amazing African pink sunset?

Back to work

       I just returned from a trip and found a ´49 and ´53 pickup as well as the 1960 Suburban which I hope to buy.

       The '49 arrives in a few days. Time for it to start working. I found it close to the Kruger National Park.

       In the picture to the right, you see the owner has a guest house which was like a movie shoot -- New Mexico -- rustic buildings. I stayed in "The Hitching Post" -- an old Boer Garrison built during the Anglo-Boer War.

       This photo is from a shoot for a German mail order catalouge: "Another Hard Day in Africa."

       All my cars / trucks I drive weekly. I have a permanent bale of hay in the back as a prop. Photographers like that touch and I've got quite a few shoots with that bale of hay!

       Even when I gas up, the friendly African asks, "Papa, you have a cow?"

       Another shoot, on a mountain overlooking Table Mountain, I had to fill the pickup with 25 boxes of Granny Smith apples where two beautiful models lay on top. I drove up the hill about 10 times towing a trailer with six film crew, cameras and a huge "giraffe" view finder in the yellow '48 Chev.

       After the shoot, the Prop Master asked me would I get rid of the apples. I ended up giving them to street kids to sell to passersby. Ever since then, every time they see my yellow pickup, they shout "Hay man. Got any apples?"

       By the way, that's not Pier holding the surfboard in the photo -- nuts! ~~ Editor


Treasures: Shipwrecks, Diamonds and old Chevs

       Yesterday, I got a call from a guy up in Namibia near the "Skeleton coast" -- so called because of the many shipwrecks. He has a few Chevrolet pickups. The town is called Luderitz -- a German who built the town. Itīs also the main diamond area and to get in, you need a pass. Everyone is X-rayed! In fact, if a worker finds a diamond, the mining company offers up to 80% of its value to encourage workers to hand them in. But of course there's always the guy who wants 100%. So smuggling is common.

       Anyway, I may head up there on a Chev Safari and, who knows, I may find a diamond + a few Chevs!

       Is anyone eating their heart out besides me? By the Way, "South Africa" kinda sticks in your head when you're talking about old trucks. It's neat getting a really lllooonnnggg distance call like this. Pier said he had contacted us about a year ago also -- looking for some help. It still didn't quite ring a bell, so we decided to check it out. To our surprise, there are a few others that showed up from our Stovebolt Google:

Johan Kroe's 1948 Chevy 1/2-Ton - April 2005 Ulrich Drescher's 1956 Chevy 3100 - June 2004
Pierre Duraan's 1936 1.5-Ton - September 2003 Pierre Dreyer's 1941 Chevy 1.5-Ton - September 2003

A little more about the artist

       I've written / produced a collection of Celtic Folk Tales on "spoken word" format - three audiocassettes, 15 stories with sound effects and music. I had in mind to do stories from other ancient civilizations - Greeks, Romans, Scandinavian, Inca, Maya, etc. giving children an idea of life long ago. But then I decided to put a hold on that project for a while so that me and my writing partner (my Little Viking) can write our own stories dealing with important topics that affect all of us in this crazy world. I have an animated movie script that I've written. (Africa is a wonderful place for inspiration and stories) I am trying to interest an animation company / producer in The Adventures of SeanO. (Maybe even one of the Stovebolters is one or has some animation contacts!) With so many disturbing visuals shown on TV, I think children are somewhat confused about the world they live in. I would like Sean0 to become a sort of "mentor" showing children a better way to look after the world and all its inhabitants. Topics such as pollution, war, famine, poaching, the ozone layer, disease, etc. are all touched on by our hero and the fun characters he encounters on his quest.

And a final cry for help

       The '60 'Burb is indeed worth restoring but I need that windshield! In order to rescue it, I need to know -- before I buy it -- if I can locate a 1960-63 windshield in the US. The next part is getting to Africa! So if any Stovebolter is coming down to Africa and has some luggage space, perhaps I could arrange for the windshield to accompany you! Any ideas on where and how I can locate / transport a windshield to Cape Town will be much appreciated. Perhaps one of you Stovbolters is even a pilot!

       Remember Stovebolters, live simply, be curious and above all donīt lose that adventurous spirit! Look after yourselves. Thank you again for your help

Warmest regards from a great life!

Piers Fitz Gerald / The Celt
Cape Town, South Africa

v July 2005

Update - August 2005

       Hello all. Thank you again for the lovely article. I have had some good responses for the windshield. It seems that I can get a new one for around $350 + freight to here from the US. I will do some research here to see if I can find an early truck but donīt expect I'll have any luck. I think most trucks are from 1964 onwards. But Iīd still love to rescue it.

       Today is another beautiful sunny Cape Town day. The city is surrounded by a series of beautiful mountain ranges, Table Mountain, Lion's Head, The Twelve Apostles and Signal Hill. Most evenings there are spectacular African "pink" sunsets out over the South Atlantic. If you feel like a bit of exercise, you can climb or take the revolving cable car to the top of Table Mountain and view the city below. Turn around and there's the ocean below. One hour from the city is the wine country with over 200 vineyards to visit. Stunning sandy beaches are but five minutes drive from downtown. I often walk down to sit and watch surfers. Two weeks ago, I saw some whales beside the surfers -- amazing. Great White sharks cruise up and down the coast. A few months ago, there were a series of attacks. One, early morning swimmer, a 78-year old woman, was torn apart by a 3 m Great White. A few local residents saw the shark and cried out in vain. Poor woman. A few weeks later, two surfers were attacked by the same shark. One lost an arm, the other half a leg. They believe the sharks mistook the surfboard for a seal from nearby Seal island. Somehow I can't can't blame sharks -- itīs their backyard. Underwater shark cage viewing is a big attraction here where, to attract sharks, the tour operators toss out food. Sharks can smell food 5 kms away. Recent visitor who've donned wetsuits are Brad Pitt, Ruby Wax, Nicholas Cage.

       I will keep in touch with more Adventures from Africa!

Look after yourself.

Piers Fitz Gerald / The Celt
Cape Town, South Africa

v August 2005

Update - January 2007

Stovebolted Out of Africa

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