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Overlander for Hire: Part III

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VIEWS

In this Series we look at what it take to build a “Class O” Ford Ranger for the Avis Safari Rental fleet. We follow step-by-step the modification process from standard to tough overlander. This month: Cooper tyres and Takla seat covers and mats…

The Rubber

As with any overland vehicle, tyres play a vital role in the Avis fleet – but in this case, with poor tyres their entire business model would crumble. For this reason, Avis Safari Rentals have selected the best in the business for their vehicles, to ensure client safety and satisfaction while reducing cost per kilometre.

Every year, hundreds of tourists rent any one of the 130 or so vehicles in the Avis fleet and travel, on average, 8000km per trip. The likelihood of a puncture during this time, considering many of the drivers are untrained or inexperienced, is extremely high. The replacement of said tyres is costly, but, more importantly, Avis customers can be severely inconvenienced or put at danger by punctures. For this reason alone, only the toughest rubber will suffice. The sharp-edged rocks in Namibia are particularly harmful, and a tyre with a thick sidewall is imperative. That said, the tyre must also provide a comfortable ride over thousands of kilometres of tarred roads leading up to the African adventures. Given these varied demands, the heavy-duty Cooper S/T Maxx all-terrain was selected. This tyre is a Light Truck specification with a massive load rating of 1549kg, which may seem excessive, but adds a factor of safety when considering the impacts, steep descents and off-camber situations it will be put through.

According to Avis, the large tread blocks and a durable compound result in a tyre that rarely punctures, resists chunking and lasts longer than any other competitor they’ve tested. Avis data shows the cost per kilometre of use is up to 30% less than the nearest competitor product, despite a high initial purchase price. Tyres on the Avis fleet have historically been changed at between 30 000 and 50 000km depending on their condition, but with the new Coopers, Avis hopes mileage records will be smashed.

Takla Seat Covers & floor mats

As each of Avis’s Ford Rangers will eventually be returned to stock trim and sold off through Avis Pre-Owned, it’s vital the interiors remain mint. The only way to ensure a neat interior after around 60 000km of off-road use is a quality set of seat covers and hardy floor mats.

An experienced fitter had the job of installing the covers waxed in less than an hour, snugly fitting the Ranger’s fabric seats for the next year or two. Takla’s high-end products are made from a synthetic fibre that’s completely waterproof and stain resistant. The benefits of a seat cover being completely waterproof extend beyond simple spill protection to passenger comfort too, as sweat will not be absorbed into the seat.

A laminated foam layer provides a snug fit that at a glance makes it easy to mistake the seat cover for the original seat. Of course, when the covers start to look grubby, they can be removed and tossed into the washing machine along with your socks.

Takla floor mats for the rear bench and both front footwells are also fitted – a vital additional protection for the original carpets against the ingress of mud, stones and other bush gunk. In addition, they improve noise insulation, making the Ranger even quieter on the long road.