Words and pictures by Douglas Jones.
Reader DIY project: Building Your own Bull-Bar. An aftermarket bumper can completely transform the looks of your 4×4, and if it is engineered properly, will also enhance your vehicle’s approach angle, as well as make it easy for you to add features like heavy-duty recovery points, built-in spotlights, and possibly even a winch.
Unfortunately, most of these bumpers aren’t cheap, and I also wasn’t particularly impressed with the designs on offer – I wanted a bumper which incorporated more curves and angles.
I started my DIY bumper project with a hardboard (3 mm) template, using multiple pieces to cut, shape and design the bumper’s various sections uniformly in proportion. I then took this collection of hardboard pieces to RCM Metal (021 930 2403) and instructed them to cut exactly the same sections out of 4 mm mild steel. In other words, I didn’t supply RCM Metal with any dimensions, but with only the hardboard cut-outs which I knew would fit together perfectly.
Once I had the steel pieces back from RCM Metal, I welded them together, using both an ARC and a MIG welder – the latter was used on the thinner steel sections, while the ARC welder was used on the mounting brackets that were 12 mm thick.
I used the vehicle’s original bumper brackets to mark out the mounting holes on the new heavy-duty brackets. Each bracket was bolted to the chassis using four 14 mm bolts that clamped right through the chassis. The brackets also double as extended recovery points which can accommodate large D-shackles. In addition, I added two high-lift jacking points which were made from steel tubing.
To complete this package, I cut two slots in the bumper’s side sections and mounted the Colt’s OE indicator lamps. I then fitted a bush-bar on top and installed two 55 W built-in spotlights, as well as two externally-mounted spotlights. The entire job took me about three days to complete. I had originally made the bumper for my Nissan Hardbody, but I later sold that vehicle (with the OE bumper reinstalled) and fitted my custom-made bumper to my next vehicle, a Colt Rodeo. (This adaptation took me an hour to complete, as once the mods were made, the bumper bolted straight onto the Colt). The total cost of the project was about R3 000, (excluding the value of my time), which is a huge money-saver; but more importantly, I had loads of fun tinkering in my garage – not to mention the sense of pride I now get when I look at my Colt’s one-of-a-kind 4×4 bumper.
While we commend Douglas’s efforts, we must mention that airbag compatibility is an important facet of bull-bar design. Contrary to popular belief, airbag compatibility is oriented towards ensuring that the airbag isn’t deployed unnecessarily for minor collisions. Airbag replacement is a very expensive exercise and insurance companies are beginning to reject claims where it’s apparent that such deployment was caused by bull-bars which are not airbag-compatible.
MATERIAL LIST & COSTS
Mild steel plate (4 mm), including cutting and bending R1 800
Powder coating R 900
Steel pipe (76 mm) R 280
Built-in spotlights R 80
TOTAL* R2 740