Return to: Vehicles & Technical
I have just read Brian Jones’ suspension letter in the March edition. For what it’s worth, I started working in the field in my twenties and had a 3.0-litre Cortina bakkie which I used extensively, and later got a Datsun Safari. In this company vehicle, I did work in far-off places − putting up masts and towers. The only mod on this vehicle was wider wheels. When stuck, I used a “Tirfor” hand winch to pull myself out of the proverbial. This worked like a dream. When I started working for myself, I rebuilt a Datsun Safari for my own use. There were no Ironman 4×4 or Old Man Emu suspension upgrades around; to beef the springs, I took the vehicle to Van Zyl’s Spring Works and had an extra blade fitted all round. Gabriel Safari shocks were the order of the day, plus a set of wider wheels and tyres. That was it. I covered South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Moz and Botswana with this vehicle fully laden, and sometimes overloaded, and did what I needed to do.
Later on, I replaced the Safari with a Toyota Land Cruiser. After the fitted tyres on split rims had done 35 000km, there was not much tread left. I reverted to wider rims and tyres, averaging 100 000km on a set – this being tar, gravel and rocky places with a fullyladen vehicle.
By now, aftermarket suspension kits were starting to appear. I found them overpriced; and they still are, in my opinion. At 70 000km, my original front left shock started leaking, but when my vehicle went for service, Toyota turned a deaf ear. (So much for the 100 000km warranty). I opted for a set of Camil coilover shocks which added about 30mm lift to the Cruiser.
Having travelled the land far and wide in both the above vehicles, I cannot say that I would ever opt for an aftermarket suspension. Since I sold the Cruiser and bought a Prado 120 for my travels, no mods to suspension have been made, and I landed on a bad road that turned even worse between Hogsback and Seymour in the Eastern Cape. I had to build up the road in places, and landed up with the Prado, and a Wilderness trailer in tow, doing a balancing act over boulders to get down the road. Needless to say, the Prado came out unscathed. I will be making my own rock sliders for the Prado and doubt that they will cost what fitment centres ask. As I have said previously in letters, “If it’s for a 4×4, then the price is 4x4x10 to the power of x”.