Words and pictures by Angus Boswell
I had long wanted to replace the fibreglass canopy on my double-cab Hilux Vigo. It was perfectly adequate at keeping out the rain, but it failed to keep out the dust, and because it can’t take much of a load on top, I was reluctant to source a roof rack and roof-top tent.
Ferdie van de Merwe of Rhinoman must have felt my pain, because he offered to fit one of his flagship aluminium canopies, the Rhino-Cab. He is well known in the industry as a supplier to Safari Centre, Opposite Lock, Megaworld, LA Sport, and others, and his factory in Jatex Park, Rosslyn, is set up for production jobbing. And, as I’d seen the canopy at various shows and showrooms, I knew the quality was right up there with the best.
So it was ordered, and, in the midst of the frantic end-of-year rush, delivered in quick time, fully assembled, to N1 Safari Centre in the Cape in a stylish white powdercoated finish with contrasting grey sides and rear door.
Fitment by the workshop crew took just under two hours, including the extra PT of cleaning out the bolts holding the tie-down eyelets inside the load bay, as these had been gunked up with polyurethane bed-liner. The canopy is held by four tower brackets, one in each corner, which bolt to the tie-down holes, so there is no drilling into the vehicle. Once located in position and settled on a rubber seal, the only drilling is through the thick internal corner plates, each bolted through to the tower brackets.
That’s it, except that in my case, I had opted for a camping table from The Bush Company (one of Ferdie’s subsidiary companies), and the drop-down storage frame brackets had to be bolted to pre-drilled holes in the roof of the canopy, and a few strips of adhesive EVA foam strategically put in place to prevent rattling.
This is certainly the best canopy I’ve ever encountered, and, apart from adding a great deal to the looks of the bakkie, it has lots of practical features which became apparent on a December camping trip through the Cape hinterland.
It is manufactured from automotive grade aluminium, which is both light and rigid when folded for structural strength. The entire canopy weighs 65kg. Stainless-steel options are also available in the Rhinoman canopy range. It is an allwelded construction which adds to the rigidity, and the multi-chamfered rear is not just for looks – it adds to the interior packing space. The roof line juts some 10cm above the Hilux’s cab, which indicates just how big the interior is, and the front section is vertical, making it easy to clean between the sliding window of the cab and that of the canopy. The fibreglass unit that was there before made this task quite a challenge.
A lot of attention has been lavished on sealing. The rear door and side hatches open on full-length nylon hinges. These are silent, don’t jam, are secure and provide a seamless exterior finish. There are seals on the bearing surfaces where the hatches close, and a positive-pressure air vent built into the centre of the roof. It’s a discrete standard feature that works brilliantly – along with all those seals – to keep out the dust. I have never used a canopy that does this so well: my food, clothes and equipment remained as dust-free as I had packed them in the morning, even after day after day on dry, billowing gravel roads.
The other thing is that, with fewer windows, it remains remarkably cool inside the canopy. Hot days seem to have less effect, and the stuff inside stays cool. It might be to do with the colour as well, but this is certainly a positive when using a fridge. Rhinoman offers side hatches in vastrap aluminium (checker plate), with or without sliding windows; but, for me, the extra security of the solid hatches makes up for the reduced outward visibility. Reversing requires more mirror work, although the large rear window in part makes up for that.
As to the other features, they are out of the top drawer. The push-in hinges are supplied in standard black, and located horizontally, two on each hatch. They fit flush and work a treat, even when dusty. All are single key coded. Each hatch has two gas lifts, again a nice-to-have, and there are two built-in roof rack/tent sliders built into the roof, inset from the edge.
The canopy has transformed the way I camp. Goods far up near the top of the load bay are easily accessed, from either side, and one can choose exactly which hatches to open depending on the wind and the need. Retail pricing is set at R22 750, including VAT. It’s a great product from Rhinoman, and one I can soundly recommend to bakkie owners looking for a premium canopy.
Tel: 010 010 0060