Old dog, new tricks... At least that's what I thought before recently attending one of Ford's customer 4x4 introduction courses at Leeuwenkloof in the Broederstroom area.
Our weapon of choice was the long-term Ford Raptor which I knew wouldn't struggle over any of the obstacles but would give my partner a solid background into offroad driving.
We would be attending the event hosted by Gideo Basson and his crew at the Ford Adventure Club as if we were a customer that had just bought either a Ranger, Everest or Raptor (I wish!). Ford throws in an introduction course to the vehicle and how to drive responsibly using all its features when you go off the black stuff.
I wasn't that lucky when I started many years ago so everything I've learnt has been through trial and (often) error, bent panels, broken sideshafts, dinged chassis, and good advice from more experienced friends.
I've had some epic adventures over the years ranging from competition driving, casual weekends on offroad trails to car-crunching, winching, road building, extreme driving in Lesotho in -19 degrees climbing for eight hours to do six kilometres.
Watch our Raptor tackle a section of the course in the video below:
With that in mind I handed the keys over to my partner and allowed her to take over for the day.
We met at the venue and were greeted and checked in (all Covid-19 protocols observed) and received piping hot coffee and muffins while we waited for the rest of the drivers.
Keep in mind that almost everyone of the 16 cars and owners there were new to the game and with regular events like these not only with Ford but most manufacturers do the same, the appetite for leisure vehicles continues to grow.
A PowerPoint presentation set out brilliantly the workings of the various vehicles, explaining the difference between four wheel drive and all wheel drive, permanent four wheel drive and rear wheel drive, the inner workings of a differential, transfer case, 4 wheel high, 4 wheel low, differential lock, ABS and how to switch between functions with mechanical sympathy.
From there he moved on to when and how to use the various settings and explained how to approach different driving conditions using the large array of technology in Ford's offroad arsenal.
Here's one you may not be aware of when fording through deep water. Obviously walk through first to gauge depth and river bed driving conditions and then open your windows and don't put on your seat belt when you're driving to the other side.
Why? So you don't end up like those movies where people drown gasping for air because they can't open the window or undo the seatbelt when things go belly-up.
It was time to get behind the wheel and get dusty and dirty.
The training route is for obvious reasons, not going to damage the vehicle or any egos but it's good enough to allow beginners to understand what they and their vehicles are capable of.
Seeing how the vehicle reacts "live" in its different settings and which setting is best used for a number scenarios gives you a better understanding of why you bought that 4x4 so you don't use it just as a mall crawler.
The beauty of the Ford Ranger, Everest and Raptor is that everything is very easily done simply by pushing a button or turning a dial and the lights on the dash tell you exactly what's going on.
As far as the Raptor is concerned, those big 35 inch all terrain tyres make everything a lot easier and even with someone that's fairly short and light behind the wheel, once you get the hang of it you'll soon be testing it to its limits if you can find it.
Oh, that old dog new trick thing? What I didn't know is that the downhill descent control feature works even if the car isn't in gear. Technology hey?
There are worse ways than to spend a Saturday or Sunday out in the veld with like minded people and in the process making yourself a better and safer driver with a certificate to prove it.
And if you think you know everything, trust me, you don't.