Rad rigs: Dr Frankenstein

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Words and Pictures by Andrew Middleton.

Somewhere down south, there’s an event: an annual occurrence where 500 kW 4x4s are pitted against one another – and the clock. A desperate high-speed chase over Australia’s harshest terrain. In its wake, you’ll find blood, sweat, tears and smashed-up trucks. If you haven’t heard of the Outback Challenge, take the time to look it up. You won’t be disappointed by the pix: eight days of gruelling challenges, where only the most expertly-prepared vehicles stand a chance of completing the event. This, then, is a story about one such rig, born to brave the Outback.

At first glance, Dennis’s truck Rad Rigs: Dennis Maytom’s Nissan Hardbody doesn’t warrant much more than a cursory look. It’s just another Hardbody with oversized tyres… or is it? Upon closer inspection, we note a few visual clues that indicate this vehicle’s intent. Of course, once the engine fires up and the chassis rocks from side to side, there’s little doubt about this Hardbody’s long-travelled path from the production line.

While most Outback competitors design their vehicles solely for the challenge, Dennis chose to build a road-legal rig that could travel to and from the event – a 1 000 km journey. His quest began in the summer of 2011, when he doctored, harvested and surgically transplanted all the parts he could get. For the base of the build, Dennis chose a ‘96 Patrol GQ coil-cab chassis, purely for its unrivalled strength. However, the other reason was Dennis’ choice of chassis, was his clear affection for Nissan components.

With some careful anglegrinding, Dennis cut the LWB chassis from 125” to 100”. Then it was time to source the body. Keeping tidy proportions in mind, Dennis found an NP300 Hardbody which had been discarded by an armoured-vehicle company in JHB.

With its smaller dimensions, the Hardbody’s body was the perfect match for the shortened Patrol chassis. Without large overhangs, and the wide-shouldered stance of the Patrol, the result was a nimbler off-road machine. Once the Hardbody’s original mounting brackets had been cut off, new ones were fabricated, and the mechanical marriage between body and frame was complete. Obviously, a marriage as momentous as this one would require a very special engine, and no ‘ordinary’ Corvette motor would do, either. Dennis wanted something truly unique.

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