From ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You’ll rise again, in this I trust. This timeless doggerel from Kev Elmer somehow accurately describes a clanking Land Rover workshop we visited recently. As the poem implies, what Pon Steyn Motors does is take tired old Landies from the breaker’s yard, and bring them back to life better than new.
Pon and Piet Steyn first set up their family business (then known as ‘Steyn Motors’) way back in 1983. In 1994, the two brothers went their separate ways; and Pon purchased the new shop at the base of Sir Lowry’s Pass outside Somerset West in the Cape.
Pon’s son Arno Steyn joined the management team in 2010, and set about using the family’s 60 years of management expertise to grow the business. Today, Pon Steyn Motors offers a wide range of services far beyond that of your typical Land Rover workshop, and employs more than 30 people.
Arno started by improving and replicating designs of popular bullbars for customers at a fraction of their cost. While the fabrication side of the business expanded, the focus remained on growing and managing a massive Land Rover (and military truck) parts inventory. The facility is a famously-recognisable array of warehouses, in which thousands of new and used parts for Series and Defender models of every vintage are stacked, waiting to be bought up or used in the burgeoning refurbishment side of the business.
When asked what has made Pon Steyn Motors so successful, co-owner Arno notes that attention to detail, and quality work, is key. He emphasises that keeping a steady flow of repeat clients is far more important than doing as many jobs as possible. (Speaking of clients, the South African Military is one of them, as is the United Nations.)
The United States, where 4×4 enthusiasts are willing to pay top dollar for a piece of history, is a growing new market for refurbished Defender exports. Although it’s been years since a new Defender could be purchased in that country, primarily because they did not meet new safety standards, that ruling can be side-stepped by using the terms of the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act. Known as the ‘25-year import rule’, it allows for the legal import of any foreign vehicle over the age of 25 years.
It is this crucial piece of legislation that allows Pon Steyn Motors to do perhaps their most visually-appealing work. Wealthy US clients, with a craving for some Defender or Series goodness, will happily pay up to $100 000 for a perfectly-restored classic Land Rover. Pon Steyn Motors has made it their job to source, buy and refit donor vehicles, ready for their stateside clients. These vehicles are mostly sourced inland, where rust is less of an issue; and they are mostly V8s, which are not only cheaper to buy, but also what the Americans most want.
To provide for the growing overseas market, Arno is in the process of acquiring a new facility across the road, more than tripling the current floor space to well over 1000 square metres. This added space will allow them to separate the 4×4-truck and Land-Rover divisions, and improve their capacity to tackle more projects and accommodate more clients – from movie cars, to UN supplies, tour-company vehicles, civil contractors and general Land-Rover servicing. In the future, we may even see Pon Steyn Motors branch out into restoring more than just Land Rovers: watch this space.
So, whether you’re in need of a simple restoration of your prized Series or Defender, or want to restore your pride and joy to ‘as new’, or have a more complex custom build in mind, Pon Steyn Motors can do it all. Every project they undertake – from simple servicing to custom creations – receives the same top-notch quality control.
Pon Steyn Motors refurbishes and refits military trucks and heavy police vehicles for movies and the military, including:
Samil 20, 50 and 100
Mercedes Benz 1517 and 1113
4X4 TRUCK DIVISION SERVICES:
Supply of new and second-hand 4×4 trucks and parts
Refurbishment of parts
Restoration & sales of ex-military vehicles
Hiring of vehicles to the film industry
Supply of parts for UN military vehicles in Africa
Series IIA and III
Defender Tdi 200, 300, TD5, Puma, 2.8i BMW, V8 3.5, V8 3.9, V8 4 litre
Discovery 1, 2 and 3
Range Rover Classic, Sport
LAND ROVER DIVISION SERVICES:
Full Land Rover service centre
Supply of new and second-hand Land Rover parts
Custom-building of Land Rovers (to clients’ requirements)
Land Rover accessories
Export of custom-built Land Rovers to the USA
WHAT’S IN A BUILD?
What Pon Steyn Motors offers their clientele is an exacting build that starts with a complete strip-down of the vehicle to its individual components. It’s a time-consuming, complicated process; but, by the time a restored vehicle leaves the workshops, every nut and bolt will have been inspected or replaced, the engine, transmission and driveline overhauled, and the brakes and suspension upgraded.
For US clients, the only rule is that the engine and chassis VIN numbers must match for export; but, after it lands, the clients can do with the vehicle what they like. More often than not, they’ll chuck out the old 3.5-litre small-block Rover V8 in favour of something much more powerful, and hook it up to an automatic transmission. Pon Steyn is able to supply what is essentially a plug-and-play kit, to make this kind of drivetrain swap much easier once the Landy arrives in the States.
The entire process is completed in-house: from vehicle-sourcing, mechanical overhauls and bodywork reclaiming and painting, to the final assembly and custom interiors.
Every vehicle is extensively tested when complete, and because of the custom nature of each order, almost every Defender which leaves the workshop is one of a kind – tailored specifically to the needs of each client.
Each build starts the same way, after Pon Steyn has located and purchased a neat Defender that’s more than 25 years old. They make sure that all the non-replaceable parts (like the chassis) are mostly damage-free, and that the engine (almost always a 3.5-litre V8) is in working order.
Apart from the core chassis and drivetrain integrity, issues with the suspension and minor sub-assemblies are less of a concern, as these are invariably replaced with new.
After inspection, each vehicle is stripped down to the chassis, which is then galvanised or coated depending on what the client wants. The body-parts are then also stripped down to individual components, and these parts – from door frames to fenders, to the roof – are individually sprayed. The benefit of this exacting process is a consistent, factory-alike paint finish all over, even on the insides of panels.
Once sprayed, the body is refitted to the chassis and reassembled. Any missing or damaged parts are then replaced from the vast stock of spares collected over the years, or replaced with brand-new items.
Wear-and-tear assemblies, like the brakes and suspensions, are usually upgraded with brand-new parts. For example, Arno prefers to use drilled and slotted Terrafirma brake disks and EBC pads, matched with Terrafirma suspension. These new parts not only provide a much-improved ride and better stopping power, but are also better in safety and ruggedness than stock components.
When necessary, axles and driveline components will also be replaced with new ones, or rebuilt to an ‘as new’ standard − depending, of course, on the customer’s request.
Full new wiring harnesses are fitted to ensure that the electrics meet modern standards; and, critically, each body panel is covered in sound-deadening material from floors, to fire-wall, to doors. This offers a major improvement on legendary Land Rover interior noise levels. It’s also the precursor to the final (and most eye-catching) interior refitting stage. This is where the custom-touches reach their zenith, and range from Defenders with anything from Bentley-quality leather seating and large modern touch-screen controls, to more basic versions that keep it original. I took a closer look at one vehicle, and discovered an iPad attached to the dash that controlled everything from lights to air-lockers…
To contact Pon Steyn Motors, simply fill out the form below.