This article considers two cultural products that appeared almost simultaneously at the end of the 19th century
in South Africa – the motorcar and the picture postcard – in terms of their joint avowal of technological progress
and modernity. Both postcards and the motorcar promoted new modes of communication and sociality,
and became effective vehicles of mythic discourse. In order to explore this notion, this article takes as point of
departure a purposive sample of 11 South African postcards between about the 1920s and the 1940s, wherein
the roadscape is the primary topic. It is shown that from the earliest years, cars were associated with leisure
and pleasure in South Africa and were consequently channels through which propositions about entitlement,
conspicuous leisure, class, nationhood, gender roles, capitalism, technology, modernity, tourism and mobility
were expressed. In the discussion of the postcards, attention is given to the trope of the empty land, the
romance of the open road, cars as symbols of freedom, and the lure of mobility, both social and geographical.
The article concludes that the myths of mobility and freedom were embodied by white consumers and that
black people’s experience of automobility was severely constrained by the political realities of South Africa.