Words & Pictures by Andrew Middleton
We’ve seen some pretty ‘Rad Rigs’ so far in this series, but nothing’s been this extreme. Not every day does one hear the thunder of a 6l V8 as a Prado drives by – nor does one get to experience the beast first hand. Frans Bouwer’s fire-spitting and dune-ramping Toyota stands far back from its humble beginnings as a capable but tame SUV. Originally built up by two Capetonians in 2008, the short-wheelbase Prado, aptly named Tyson, was destined for a life of brutal torture. Like Dennis Maytom’s Hardbody (a Rad Rig we featured in August), this Prado has been specifically built for Australia’s Outback Challenge. Unlike the Hardbody, though, Tyson has actually competed in the gruelling event; a remarkable achievement in itself.
The Outback Challenge is to extreme 4x4ers what Formula 1 is to the rest of the petrolhead community – minus the groupies, private jets and fat pay checks. In fact, it’s just you and your rig in the Desert for seven days, with no more than a “Good luck to ya, mate,” as a send-off. Drivers must navigate the terrain around Broken Hill with a GPS through night and day, and when the terrain becomes impassable, the high-speed winches come into play. Speaking of which, Tyson’s Warn winch is rated to 18 tonnes and has two motors!
In 2008 when Tyson first completed the Outback challenge, the beast’s belly was filled with a 5.3-litre Vortec V8 – slightly modified to combat the gruelling conditions and high temperatures of the Outback. Unfortunately, the terrain had other ideas and sent the engine packing with seized bearings. Of course, the Capetonians who had been through hell and back just to get their Prado to Australia weren’t ready to quit. They sourced an even bigger 6l V8 Vortec LQ4 engine in Melbourne the same day, bought it and dropped it in place that very evening. Staying up all night, the duo completed the transplant and got back into the race the next morning despite being knocked towards the back of the field. After clawing their way back to the front runners, the determined pair managed to grab a 9th place.
The Prado was shipped back to Cape Town, where it was spotted by Frans Bouwer; they instantly ‘became friends’ and he bought the beast soon after their initial acquaintance. For racing purposes, everything had been stripped out and the aircon condenser wouldn’t fit in front of the big V8, either but Frans wanted a vehicle he could drive to work on occasion so it had to be comfortable and road legal. I can vouch for the road-legal part; but despite being soundproofed, hard-hitting Tyson is far from a Rolls-Royce.