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Model rebuild: Isuzu Warrior


Tight budget? No problem. With a lower-cost vehicle and some carefully chosen kit, one can build a perfect travel-worthy vehicle.

Tough times demand innovative ideas, and when it came to building a budget-beater overlander, Front Runner sales head Jaco Nel decided to buy a lower-spec Isuzu D-Teq 250 double cab and bolt on kit to just over the value of buying a stock KB 300 flagship. Clever move.

“This was a practical, sensible choice,” says Jaco. “The KB250 does not register any problems on the internet forums, the cost of ownership would be lower due to a smaller fuel bill and lower insurance premiums, and the cash difference between the 250 and the 300 could be used to purchase essential items to make a decent travel vehicle.”

Certainly the 250 D-Teq is no slouch; on paper its 100kW/320Nm loses out to the 300’s 130kW/380Nm, but in practice it’s a tractable engine with plenty of oomph for the long hills, good towing ability and no great thirst for diesel. It is simple and offers good cab comfort, even if it loses out on some convenience items, including leather pews.

The actual cash difference on the list price at the time was R88 000 (R462 000 versus R550 000). This presented the proverbial tight budget for someone wanting to build a credible overlanding rig, forcing some hard choices. One more criteria was that Jaco wanted to use the vehicle to commute, to take his dogs out for their daily walks, and still be able to quickly load up for travel breakaways.


1. Long-range fuel tank To avoid the need for Jerry cans of fuel and the range anxiety that can come with long-distance driving, in went a Front Runner 54-litre long-range tank. At 10 litres/100km this adds 550km or so to the useful range. It works on a gravity feed system and fills from the single standard nozzle, does not affect the vehicle’s centre of gravity as it is fitted below the chassis, and is safer and cleaner than using the Jerries.

2. RSI Canopy Next up was a canopy from RSI, who make a very well designed, quality product, backed up by excellent service levels. This one was colour coded to match the Isuzu, and a VIN number colour match on the 2K automotive paint used means any retouching will be accurate. The finish is excellent, and it has some useful optional features including the cab slider and positive pressure air vent which keeps Jaco’s dogs happy and excludes dust (helped by that tailgate dust kit). Another thing is that the roof rack mounting rails are located on the edge of the canopy, not inboard – creating a better aesthetic.

3. Slimline II roof rack One always wants to take the light but bulky and cumbersome items on the roof when travelling, freeing up internal space, which is where the Front Runner Slimline II roof rack provides a suitable mounting platform, with dedicated brackets for the work light, gas bottles, 45-litre water carrier, axe, spade and hi-lift jack.

4. Cargo slide The load bed packing systems options were determined by the need to carry household goods, make the occasional trips to the dump with garden refuse and accommodate the dogs. And that solution is Front Runner’s Cargo Slide. “Every bakkie should have it,” says Jaco, “because it is both cheap and versatile.” It makes good use of the vertical space inside the canopy, plus can be fitted with Wolf Packs and a fridge slide when required.

Another practical travel addition to the load area was a Front Runner stainless steel camping table, a robust unit neatly finished off with a plastic surround and welded aluminium foldout legs.

5. Dual-battery system Nobody likes to skimp on cooling and lighting, so a dual-battery system was installed, consisting of an Intervolt smart charger from Opposite Lock, which optimises charge from the alternator and performs well even in high-heat conditions. An Enertec 105Ah battery provides the juice, and is contained in one of Front Runner’s very slick metal battery boxes.

6. Tough Dog suspension Also from Opposite Lock was a Tough Dog suspension upgrade, consisting of new front coils, a set of 300kg constant load rear leaf springs, greasable shackles and polyurethane bushes. The goal was to provide comfort and reliable stability under moderate load. The accessories were always going to take up some of the standard vehicle’s ride height, and a 20mm sag did result after the canopy and roof rack were fitted, hence a 40mm lift all round. Vital to this set-up were Tough Dog foam cell shocks all round, with adjustable units for the rear to compensate for varying loads. This system has worked a treat, says Jaco.


At this point Jaco was close to his approximate R88k budget, but there were a few more desires in the bag which pushed things another R30k along the line, but added both practical and comfort elements to his build programme.

And there you have it: a total build cost of R118 000 providing proof that one can sensibly buy a lower-spec model of your favourite 4×4 off the floor, and spend the “extra” creating a travel-worthy overlander with all the bells and whistles that also doubles very ably as a daily driver.

7. & 8. Nudge bar & spot lights First was a matt black Serko by Artav nudge bar. This is a pared away loop bar that is light (so no strain on the front suspension) and adds some frontal protection, but retains all the bakkie’s original parts. It also provides a place to drape a seed net for when travelling in the Kalahari, and a mounting point for a set of Lightforce LED 180 spots. These award winning Aussie-built units sold by Opposite Lock feature seven 10W LEDs, are IP69 rated for water and dust ingress, and provide a powerful beam of extra light with a wide spread, making travel at night that much safer.

9. & 10. Takla seat covers & mats A final stop at Takla had the Isuzu kitted out with a set of Cantech seat covers, which comprise a hard-wearing, abrasion-resistant fabric that is able to withstand the abuses of overlanding, yet is easy on the skin, wicks away moisture, and is also waterproof, washable, and carries a limited lifetime warranty. Just the ticket for a hard life that does not affect the originals. Another indulgence that will be sure to retain the vehicle’s pristine qualities far into its life is a set of Takla floor mats – grime busters where you need them most.

Front Runner Isuzu Images

The Cost

Load Bed Cargo Slide MKIII/Medium: R6 995

Isuzu DC (2013-current) Slimline II Roof Rack Kit: R5 995

Dust Kit Tailgate: R745

Canopy Slimline II RSI DC Smart Canopy: R5 995

Isuzu D Max 2nd Gen 2012+Aux 54L P/D: R4 750

Sub-Total: R18 485


Pro stainless steel camp table kit: R4 195

Hi-Lift jack bracket: R750

LED 4inch Spot Light including bracket: R1 395

Tie-down ring female (pair): R75

Gas bottle holder universal: R795

Spade bracket ratchet type: R425

3m Hella curly extension cord: R189

Water tank with mounting system -45L: R1 495

Spare wheel clamp: R525

Spare tyre mount braai grate: R995

Sub-Total: R8 819


Serko by Artav nudge bar black: R2 450

Tough Dog Suspension: R27 040


Battery System

Intervolt: R6 495

Enertec 105A battery: R2 579

Front Runner battery box 105Amp: R805

Cabling, plugs and consumables: R1 091

Sub-total: R10 970


Lightforce LED 180: R11 990

Wiring harness: R885



Takla seat covers: R6 200

Takla floor mats: R3 250

Sub-total: R9 450


RSI Canopy

Canopy: R23 570

Aire vent – side mounted: R641

Front panel cab slide window: R927

Side door sliding windows: R2 850

Sub-total: R27 988


Essentials: R80 706

Nice to have: R37 371

Total: R118 077


Get the klit

N.B: Prices are correct at first quarter 2017, but supplied as a guideline only.