Words and pictures by Andrew Middleton
It was early 2012 when the inspiration for this build project belligerently butted its face, in albeit a peaceful place: Paradise 4×4 Trail. The name may sound dreamy, but this sandy track carved from the Garden Route boasts a particularly tough obstacle, dubbed Fugly – a sandy climb riddled with cross-axles that’s defeated many a Cruiser, Hilux and Land Rover. And, back in ’12, Pierre’s Nissan Navara.
At the time, a host of vehicles had failed to conquer the…umm, flippin’ ugly dune, and while a number of 4×4 owners stood fuming at the base of the obstacle, a stock-standard Jeep Wrangler sauntered through the crowd and cruised up the dune without a hitch. The audacious driver then had the nerve to turn around and re-tackle the dune in reverse.
With sand in his Navara’s headlights and a lowly view from the dune’s bottom end, Pierre was indignant. A defeat like this could never happen again, and a need for revenge on the obstacle set in.
Pierre immediately bought himself one of the first 3.6-litre Rubicons on the market. Initially, he thought he’d keep the Jeep standard, but this hopeful thinking didn’t last long – and soon four 36” tyres were spooned onto the Jeep.
Of course, this minor modification started a relentless pursuit to create the most capable road-legal Jeep in South Africa. Now sporting immense 40” Maxxis Trepador tyres and nearly a metre of suspension travel, the Jeep is practically unrecognisable; and could be mistaken for another brand altogether.
Despite its seemingly excessive price tag of nearly two-million rand, Pierre’s 3-ton Wrangler is purpose-built and has no frilly features. The Jeep is designed for extreme challenges, such as the Pit Bull 4WD series; but the true beauty of this ride lies in its road-legal status – Pierre can drive from his home in Middelburg to any competitive event. Pierre even drives the Jeep to Mossel Bay on occasion, and if it weren’t for the exhaust system’s demented howling, you wouldn’t know you were in anything this outrageous. That is, until you pull up at a traffic light and sense the eyeballs upon you – and note that the surrounding hatchbacks look like speed bumps.