A custom canopy for the Triton’s downhill backside
Charl Carstensen from Durbanville almost single-handedly transformed his Mitsubishi Triton into a very neat tour and play vehicle. He is, after all, a mechanical engineer and he wasn’t put off by the Triton’s angles and curves. He even created computer models of his canopy so he was sure it would fit perfectly. “It’s our weekend play and tour vehicle,” Charl says. It’s reassuring to know that he can now easily drive on rough terrain without worrying about damaging his bakkie. “Now it’s possible to get to camp terrains that are off the beaten track,” he says. “And I can also camp in proper style!”
It’s especially his neat canopy on the Triton’s unique load bin that draws attention. We found out from Charl how he did it.
Have you owned modified 4x4s before?
In 2012 I bought a new Suzuki Jimny and built rock sliders, bash plates and load system myself. I lifted the suspension and body by 50mm and put on a Burnco bumper and bigger tyres. But ultimately the Jimny was a bit lightweight and it was also very cramped inside, especially with two dogs who always travel with. I then bought a 2006 Mitsubishi Pajero SWB GLS 3.8 V6. That’s where my love for Mitsubishi started. I also lifted its suspension with 50 mm, and put on rock sliders, an ARB bull bar, a 63mm Powerflow exhaust, and 32-inch Maxxis Bighorn tyres. I frequently toured with both vehicles.
Why did you choose the Triton instead of another model?
I really liked a friend’s Colt 3.0 V6 so I bought the Pajero. And then I became a Mitsubishi man. Mitsubishi’s are also very reliable. The Triton is a superunderrated bakkie. It has a lot of cabin space and good wheel articulation. It comes equipped with a lot of extras that other bakkies still don’t have. For example the one-touch function on all four windows, electric seats, mirrors, lights, back window, a Super Select 4x4 system, Euro NCAP 4-star safety rating (in 2007 already) and some even have heated seats. I’m a petrolhead and I’m crazy about Mitsubishi’s bulletproof six-cylinders. You plough with a diesel! I also saw in Australia, Thailand and Brazil that they’re easy to modify.
When did you buy the Triton and for how much?
It’s a 2009 3.5 V6 double cab 4x4. I got it for a bargain price in Johannesburg in 2015. I paid R145 000 when the book value was R180 000. I flew up the Saturday morning, got in the bakkie and drove back. I was home that same day. It had a full service history with 154 000km on the clock. People always worry about fuel consumption with petrol bakkies. But I feel I can budget
for fuel, but not for stuff like diesel pumps, turbos, injectors, etc. on a diesel bakkie. After that four of my friends also bought 3.5 V6 Tritons in Johannesburg!
Why did you decide to build your own canopy instead of buying one?
I saw that very few places built canopies for Tritons and that those that do exist are ugly. All the canopy’s rear doors are at a 90-degree angle, which I don’t like. I made my canopy with a 15-degree curve to the front, which fits much better with the bakkie’s lines. It also allows the front of the canopy to follow the cabin’s shape.
How did you go about building the canopy?
I first bought the hinges, rubbers and components to take the measurements. Then I designed the canopy in the computer program Solidworks and had the stainless steel cut with a laser and molded. I tack-welded the whole canopy together to see if everything fits. After that I welded it with a TIG welding machine, cleaned it with a grinder, had it spray painted, and then started putting it together. I had the holes for the hinges, windows, roof racks and locks cut in with a laser which made the assembly easier.
How long did it take to build the canopy?
It took me about three months of building it after hours and on weekends.
What was the most challenging part of building the canopy?
The most difficult part was to get the curves of the bakkie’s load bin right. The load bin also bends in front at the cabin.
What’s unique about your canopy that you won’t find on bought ones?
You won’t be able to buy a canopy like this for a Triton. The canopy’s back door and front complements the shape of the bakkie. At the side doors I also put the lip at an angle so water can’t gather there. The canopy is very strong and I used button head stainless steel bolts instead of pop rivets.
Except for the canopy, what else did you do to the Triton?
I lifted the suspension and built stainless steel bash plates, a fridge slide and a spacer for the drive shaft. I also added 15-inch Racing Hart rims with BF Goodrich KO2 tyres, Burnco rock sliders, 160W LED spotlights, and a 63mm Powerflow exhaust. Inside I put in a 72-litre fridge, LED bulbs, and a dual battery system. I also installed a new radio with Bluetooth.
What’s your favourite thing on your vehicle?
Except for its roar and the canopy, I love the electric back window function for my dogs. And the spotlights are awesome because I’m a bit night blind.
Are you planning on adding more or changing anything on the vehicle?
I’m currently busy building a front bumper.
What advice do you have for anyone who also wants to build a canopy?
Always get examples of your components so you have the exact measurements. And double check all measurements. First cut examples from thinner and less expensive steel to test your curves before you order the final parts.
OFF-ROAD READY (below). The Triton is also fitted with a dual battery system, a fridge slide, bash plates and off-road tyres.
MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE (above). Charl planned his canopy meticulously and tack-welded the components first to make sure the final product (left) is perfect.