MY WHEELS

A cus­tom canopy for the Tri­ton’s down­hill back­side

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

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.

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