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    Marc Nussey
    Member

    On receiving my latest 4×4 mag (thanks for the subscription, Dad!) for June 2017, my eyes were drawn to the article featured on the front cover – Budget Build. Yay, I thought, finally an article on how to put together an affordable, reliable overlander. All the key words in the first paragraph of the article were there: tough times, innovative ideas, budget-beater. “A practical, sensible choice”, to quote.

    Then I fell off my proverbial chair, muttering expletives in disappointment and horror. Anybody who considers a base price tag of R462k ‘affordable’ either has too much money, too much debt, or doesn’t actually understand what money is. And the article further disappoints. (I’m just beginning.)

    There’s absolutely no innovation here. It’s just about somebody who bought a car and then kitted it out with offthe- shelf stuff. Long-range fuel tank, back-up battery, canopy, suspension, roof rack. Hardly show-stopping. In fact, dead boring.

    Let me state here that, firstly, I think that paying that amount of money on a car, any car, is just stupid. I’d even venture to say that it’s probably more stupid to pay that for a 4×4, as probably half the value of the vehicle is in the stylish trim, the unblemished paintwork, the built-in navigation system, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, etc. This is stuff (besides, perhaps, the navigation system) that has absolutely no value in an overlander. I’d betcha that if this thing breaks down in the middle of Central Africa, roadside repairs are going to involve a long-distance tow and first-class air tickets home.

    Let’s compare a bit… I’ve got an old 1997 Gen2 Pajero 3.0-litre V6. I bought it for R50k secondhand, roughly six years ago. I’ve put 100 000km on it since purchase, and about 50 000km of that was off-road – the odometer currently reads 380 000km. It’s got bush scars, and a little rust around the front window: the joys of living next to the sea. I’ve done absolutely nothing to the engine or drivetrain, besides replacing the timing belt – there’s been no need, as it purrs like a very large kitten. Admittedly, there’s a little smoke on start-up, thanks to old valve stem oil seals, but the compression is still perfect, the clutch is great, and everything just works. It still puts out just under 100kW and about 205Nm of torque. It’s a little thirsty in the city at around 16l/100km, but that drops to 12l/100km on long, dusty roads.

    I’ve done all the improvements myself, besides putting in upgraded shocks. Packing system? No problem, a little planning and I’ve got sliding drawers, extra shelves, a fridge mount… My own design means that I have everything set for the next phase when I want to add on. Total cost R5000, compared to more than R25 000 for a comparable rig.

    Back-up battery? I designed a removable system with inputs for solar panels, chargers, etc. which slots neatly into my packing system for easy removal (depending on circumstances). I still have space for ANOTHER backup battery in front, which is on the cards. I’ve got all I need on tap: 220V and 12V, good for lotsa hours. I did splash out on solar panels, but knowing what to look for, I got two bargain flexible 120W panels which store nicely inside the truck against the roof panelling. Once I’ve finished designing my clamshell rooftop tent, they will be fitted to that – they weigh only a couple of kilos, so no real strain.

    Roof rack and bull bar? Busy doing them myself: it’s not rocket science. Fine, I like building stuff… I’m an engineer, after all. The point here is that I would expect most people involved with 4×4 overland/camping/ exploring activities to be able to do this sort of thing, and I now also have a vehicle which is reliable, has all the mod cons I need, and is easy to fix when it breaks down.

    I think that, at the end of the day, I’ve spent about R25k on my vehicle to make it overland-ready. So, for about R75k-R80k, I’ve got a vehicle comparable to this Isuzu. That’s 86% less money. I’ve got the same functionality, and even the navigation system, which in my case is a Garmin Nuvi. Breaking down some other costs: a yearly service is R3k max and insurance R300 per month (fully comprehensive, though I plan to drop this to fire, theft, 3rd party). Another advantage for me is that nobody steals old trucks. To finish off, I have no idea why somebody would buy a new car at today’s crazy prices. WIN! This month’s winning letter gets a full silicone kitchen kit worth R2440 from Ironman 4×4.

    These nifty space-saving items include a collapsible silicone kettle, a 9-litre silicone tub, a 10-litre silicone bucket and two silicone ice cube trays. The motor vehicle industry is feeding off consumer fear, hooking people into motor plans – and once they’re in, there’s no way out, thanks to massive balloon payments, which means that they have to buy the next model after 4/5 years. No thanks, I’ll stick with my trusty Pajero for the next decade.

    Finally, I would really like it if the mag had a DIY section. You know, covering things like what to do if you’re stuck in a mudfilled donga in the middle of Malawi, and you DON’T have the spiffiest winch or backup helicopter. I’ve seen some novel hack jobs in my time which should grace your pages. You need to stop worrying about the chrome and join us in the real wet, grimy, sticky dirt – that’s half the fun of 4x4ing!

  • Profile Photo
    Sam
    Sam on

    Not the type of person to normally comment, but I do agree with the argument above, and tip of the hat to the writer! There is so much pleasure (mostly unrealized in the section of overlanding community with a lot of extra coin laying around) in attempting a DIY project, and even more pleasure in getting your project done, with the added advantage of having a product or system which is perfectly suited to your needs and wants.

    Profile Photo
    hans1
    hans1 on

    makes sense if you have the know-how and are young enough!for old-timer like me :none

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