Words and images by Andrew Middleton
A vehicle that splutters, pops, spits petrol and generally acts like a potential explosion on start-up, won’t usually be top of the list for a first car. Most teenage guys with around R140K to spend would go for something with airbags, seats for the girls and a big stereo. But, for Laslo Walter, this wasn’t an option. The beige existence of hatchback ownership simply wouldn’t do, for one main reason: a new car would be reliable, and therefore boring. After a very brief consideration of a Yaris, Laslo decided nay to that, and opted instead for a barely-running Mercedes-Benz G Wagen, nicknamed Wolf.
He recalls that a relative drove the spluttery Merc and informed him that it was a ‘dog’, and should be avoided like the plague. But Laslo persisted. Being a thoughtful chap, he didn’t take the decision without due consideration: the fact that he was 17 at the time meant that he had a full year to get the old beast going before his driver’s licence test. So, the Merc was bought while Laslo was at school, and an epic project was born. This particular G Wagen had a chequered history. After the engine bay had been modified by an earlier owner to house an M104 3.2-litre straight-six from an S-Class Merc, the 230GE was flown to Australia to tackle the 2008 Outback Challenge.
It was here that the clutch and flywheel disintegrated, resulting in a poor finish: 42nd out of 45. After the abuse meted out in Australia, the old G Wagen came back to SA, where it sat for a while, slowly falling into a state of disrepair − until it was rescued by the intrepid teen. Though the young soon-to-be engineer had every intention of building up the injured G Wagen himself, fate had a different plan. His becoming friends with a 16-year-old adventurer called Adriaan would change the course of the G’s existence and turn it into what we see here today.