BEAST Boetie AND THE

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - ADVENTURE DRIVE - Text: Danie Botha. Pho­to­graphs: GG van Rooyen. Left: The big-in-size Toy­ota LC79 D/C V8 seems rather, well… small com­pared to Han­sie Coet­zee’s 6x6! Be­low: The stan­dard Cruiser V8, with an empty ‘bak,’ rides okay on gravel. The heav­ier 6x6, with those big

SOME­TIMES, one par­tic­u­lar ac­tion can change things. Like Joel Stran­sky’s drop goal in the 1995 Rugby World Cup fi­nal, which saw South Africa win the ti­tle ahead of the much-vaunted All Blacks team. The Rain­bow Na­tion ide­ol­ogy gained some trac­tion, Nelson Man­dela and team captain Fran­cois Pien­aar spoke words of wis­dom, and an Amer­i­can guy called Clint East­wood made a film about it.

Some time ago, Han­sie Coet­zee, owner of TJM Pre­to­ria-East and 4×4 Mus­cle Trucks, de­cided that he needed some­thing else to grow his busi­ness in the fu­ture. Some­thing with a big­ger profit mar­gin than fit­ting a bull bar on a Ranger. Some­thing that only his com­pany of­fered in South Africa.

He started look­ing at var­i­ous op­tions. From ex­treme por­tal axle builds, to bakkies with 40inch wheels. One con­ver­sion re­ally caught his eye: a 6×6 con­ver­sion on Toy­ota’s pop­u­lar Land Cruiser 79 pick-up.

He found a com­pany in Australia that builds th­ese ve­hi­cles. With pay­loads of up to 3.5-tons, the 6×6 Land Cruis­ers are used for a va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing min­ing, military, fire fight­ing and recre­ational pur­poses.

Han­sie con­tacted the com­pany, and stated his in­ter­est to be­come the lo­cal dis­trib­u­tor of the prod­uct (even though the com­pany’s ba­sic 6×6 would have re­tailed for about R5 mil­lion in SA). The re­sponse was not quite what he had hoped for: the com­pany said it was speak­ing to an­other lo­cal dis­trib­u­tor, and that they wouldn’t be en­ter­tain­ing Han­sie’s in­ten­tions. Ba­si­cally, they told him to bug­ger off.

It was the spark that Han­sie needed: he de­cided to not only build his own 6×6, but to build a bet­ter one than the Aussies. His 6×6 Land Cruiser would be the best in the world.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with a cus­tomer who was in no par­tic­u­lar hurry for his ve­hi­cle, a brand new Cruiser bakkie was ac­quired late last year. Han­sie, who also owns an en­gi­neer­ing shop, set about de­vel­op­ing a 6×6.

First, the chas­sis was ex­tended by 950mm. But Han­sie did not just cut the chas­sis and add in some extra steel. With a tough military ap­pli­ca­tion in mind, he ef­fec­tively over-en­gi­neered the de­sign, us­ing high ten­sile Do­max 700 steel with CNC bended edges for the re­in­forced beams. Do­max, in­ci­den­tally, is a harder steel than used for the Cruiser’s orig­i­nal chas­sis. And a stock Cruiser’s chas­sis is pretty much solid and sturdy.

Since there was more space un­der­neath the ‘bak’ to work with, Han­sie de­signed a 236-litre fuel tank that lives be­tween the re­in­forced chas­sis beams. How­ever, when the first cus­tom pro­to­type landed up in his work­shop, he promptly sent it back. The stan­dard of crafts­man­ship was just not good enough; Han­sie de­manded only the best for this all-in project.

When he even­tu­ally re­ceived the up-to­stan­dard, pol­ished stain­less steel tank, it was mounted on spe­cial vi­bra­tion mounts, to en­sure the tank won’t get dam­aged due to flex or when the Cruiser has to tackle re­ally bad dirt roads. It’s all in the de­tails, they say.

In time, the third axle was added, as well as a full TJM Gold Edi­tion sus­pen­sion that com­prises shocks and leaf springs (at the back). Coet­zee is quite fond of big­ger-is-bet­ter wheels, so his Cruiser rides on mas­sive 37-inch wheels. The

spe­cial bead-lock rims were im­ported and re­tail for about R7 000 each, and are shod with Cooper Dis­cov­erer STT Pro tyres.

De­spite the big wheels, the ac­tual sus­pen­sion lift is just 2.5-inches (63.5mm). Han­sie and his team de­vel­oped cus­tom wheel arches for the Cruiser, which en­sure that he can fit up to 40-inch worth of wheel to this ve­hi­cle. The body­work was cut to ac­com­mo­date the big­ger arches, but it also en­sures that, even in ex­treme 4×4 (or 6×6, in this in­stance) con­di­tions, the wheels won’t make con­tact with the body­work.

Han­sie says he prefers to limit the sus­pen­sion lift, as it keeps the cen­tre of grav­ity lower, and en­sures a bet­ter-han­dling and safer con­ver­sion. It also looks bet­ter, he reck­ons.

The heart of the 4×4 Mus­cle Trucks’ new 6×6 though, is the cus­tom de­signed trans­fer gear­box. Man­u­fac­tured from air­craft-qual­ity alu­minium 6082 T6 ma­te­rial, and with an alu­minium bil­let ma­chine hous­ing, the gear­box al­lows for full 6×6 ap­pli­ca­tion, with a dif­fer­en­tial lock on each diff pro­vid­ing even more grip.

But that’s only part of the story. The gear­box of­fers a se­lec­tion be­tween 6×2, 6×4 and 6×6 drives. The driver can choose be­tween two-wheel drive for light ap­pli­ca­tions or 6×4 for tougher jobs. Es­sen­tially, you can en­gage both rear axles, or you can en­gage the mid­dle and front axles. Or you can go full fat, with the 6×6 ap­pli­ca­tion. The Cruiser’s en­gine and driv­e­train have also been up­graded, with an Onca 4×4 per­for­mance ex­haust, en­gine man­age­ment chip and a heavy-duty clutch.

The bak is a sin­gle cab Cruiser pick-up ver­sion that has been mod­i­fied and strength­ened. This bak was used to en­sure mod­u­lar fit­ment of ex­ist­ing Cruiser pick-up ac­ces­sories. For in­stance, a canopy that fits on the stan­dard sin­gle cab Cruiser will fit per­fectly on this 6×6, too.

Coet­zee dipped deep into the Onco 4×4 ac­ces­sory bin for this high-end build. Ditto with Front Run­ner, as well as Alu Cab and Hella. Th­ese are some of Han­sie’s pre­ferred sup­pli­ers. Just the Hella Lu­mi­na­tor HID lights on this unit are worth R40 000!

We’ll get to the pric­ing a bit later. First, time for some driv­ing im­pres­sions, as the stock Cruiser 79 dou­ble cab V8 takes on its 6×6 cousin at the Mc­Carthy 4×4 Club’s tracks at the Rhino Park com­plex, east of Pre­to­ria.

BOETIE. AND THE BEAST

Driv­ing the stan­dard Cruiser pick-up V8 the 100km or so to the Rhino Park com­plex, a few things are very clear. First, the gear ra­tios are very, very short. So when you drive at 120km/h, the big V8 en­gine spins at 3 000r/ min. In a cabin that is not ex­actly plush and sound proof, the noise of the high-revving oil­burner does get a tiny bit in­tru­sive.

Left from top: Okay, so the heavy Cruiser 6x6, with a GVM of six tons, is not ex­actly in its el­e­ment on a puny lit­tle axle twister such as this. It likes to chase the hori­zon more. The heart of the Cruiser’s 6x6 tal­ents: a cus­tom-de­signed, made-from-air­craftqual­ity-alu­minium, trans­fer gear­box.

Be­low, clock­wise from top left:

A 236-litre fuel tank, three live axles, and plenty of TJM sus­pen­sion bits. Sand tracks. Which we’re not sure you’ll ever need for this 6x6! A great deal of ef­fort was made with the de­sign of the rear wheel arches to al­low enough space for the huge 37-inch wheels. Onca 4x4 sup­plied the bull bar and other pipe work. Hella sup­plied the six HID driv­ing lights.

That said, there is a very good rea­son for those short ra­tios, the Cruiser hail­ing from Ja­pan and all, where no de­ci­sion is made with­out proper due con­sid­er­a­tion and test­ing. Sim­ply, it al­lows the Cruiser V8 to haul ex­traor­di­nar­ily heavy loads with­out break­ing even the tini­est sweat. Which is great if you plan on haul­ing ex­traor­di­nar­ily heavy items. For a more leisure-type ap­pli­ca­tion (as seems to be the case with most Cruiser V8s th­ese days), it’s not quite as ideal.

An­other trait is the hard sus­pen­sion set-up, with live axles at both ends. Ob­vi­ously the set-up is also tuned for hard work rather than com­fort at higher speeds. Over­all, the ride leans to­wards the agri­cul­tural side, prob­a­bly just as its cre­ators de­signed it to be. It is a tough-as­nails work­horse, of course.

Roll in the mas­sive 6×6 Cruiser. And mas­sive it cer­tainly is! With the 37-inch spare wheel on the re­place­ment rear bumper taken into ac­count, the 6×6 is just over a me­tre longer than the stan­dard dou­ble cab. But it’s the height and girth of the mod­i­fied LC79 that is even more im­pos­ing. It stands nearly a me­tre taller than the stan­dard bakkie, what with all the ac­ces­sories and an­other 37-inch spare wheel on the roof rack.

Un­der­ground park­ing ar­eas are clearly no-go zones for this Cruiser. Stan­dard park­ing lots can be a chal­lenge, too and a re­verse cam­era is still on the menu to be fit­ted. But this Cruiser was not cre­ated to mount a pave­ment at the mall. In­stead, it’s in­tended pur­pose is to over­land. And to carry up to 3.5-tons of extra weight with no has­sles.

For that pur­pose, the 6×6 Cruiser has been re­cer­ti­fied with a gross ve­hi­cle mass (GVM) of six tons. That means it re­quires a Code 10 li­cence to drive.

What is it like to drive then? Firstly, the big­ger wheels have en­sured taller gear ra­tios. So, un­like the stan­dard Cruiser V8, the ra­tios more re­sem­ble a nor­mal pas­sen­ger car, not a work­horse lorry. Driv­ing in top gear at 120km/h, the 6×6’s V8 en­gine turns over at a more over­land-friendly 2 500r/min.

Thanks to the Onca 4×4 per­for­mance ex­haust sys­tem, the V8 en­gine sounds great. The ride qual­ity is bet­ter than that of the stan­dard Cruiser. The com­bi­na­tion of the big wheels, TJM sus­pen­sion and plenty of weight en­sures a softer, more pli­ant ride.

On the sub­ject of weight: this 6×6 weighs a lot. There are

the over-en­gi­neered chas­sis re­in­force­ments, the huge fuel tank (that was filled to the brim when we drove it), and all the extra weight from the eight big wheels and ac­ces­sories. On the open road you don’t feel it so much, but on a tight 4×4 track, grav­ity comes into play.

Although this pro­to­type was not up to full 6×6 op­er­a­tion when we drove it, with lock­ers on two of the axles (front and mid­dle), the Cruiser cer­tainly had enough grunt and abil­ity to scale ob­sta­cles. Yes, on a tight and tech­ni­cal track, grav­ity and size count against it. And that breakover an­gle won’t do so well on a sharp crest either. In­stead, this Cruiser far prefers to chase the hori­zon.

An­other crit­i­cal com­po­nent that will be up­graded is the brak­ing sys­tem. Cruiser pick-ups are not renowned for their ex­cel­lent brakes, so with all the extra weight, Han­sie will com­pre­hen­sively up­grade the sys­tem.

The six-wheeled Cruiser be­haved re­ally well on tar and gravel. It didn’t even mind the puny lit­tle axle-twister ob­sta­cles too much.

WANT ONE? HERE’S HOW TO GET IT…

4×4 Mus­cle Trucks will be of­fer­ing three ver­sions of its Land Cruiser 6×6: a ‘Base’ model, a ‘Military’ ver­sion and lastly the one you see on th­ese pages, the ‘Ex­clu­sive model’.

Pric­ing for the Base and Military mod­els re­main to be con­firmed, but the Ex­clu­sive will re­tail for R2.95 mil­lion.

For that booty you get a brand new LC79 dou­ble cab V8, the six-wheel drive con­ver­sion, eight 37-inch bead-lock rims and Cooper Dis­cov­erer STT Pro tyres, the mas­sive 236 litre stain­less steel fuel tank, a Warn Pow­er­plant winch, TJM sus­pen­sion up­grade, cus­tom Onca 4×4 rock-slid­ers, cus­tom Onca 4×4 bull bar, cus­tom Onca 4×4 rear bumper with spare wheel car­rier, cus­tom wheel arches, a rub­berised load bin and the free-flow per­for­mance ex­haust and Unichip en­gine man­age­ment sys­tem.

The pro­to­type unit you

see on th­ese pages has been fit­ted with so many extra-cost ac­ces­sories, we’d need an­other six pages to cover them all. No ex­pense was spared: only the lat­est and great­est from AluCab, Front Run­ner and Hella were fit­ted, and the total value of the ‘op­tional ex­tras’ amounts to more than R200 000.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Since news of the Pre­to­ri­aborn Land Cruiser 6×6 broke on so­cial me­dia plat­forms, 4×4 Mus­cle Trucks have been in­un­dated with en­quiries from all over the world. The big draw­cards ap­pear to be the price, and Han­sie’s ob­vi­ous at­ten­tion to de­tail.

Yes, R3 mil­lion is no small change but that price still un­der­cuts the clos­est in­ter­na­tional ri­val by around R2 mil­lion. Seen from that per­spec­tive, it is a rel­a­tive bar­gain.

And re­mem­ber the MercedesBenz Ge­landewa­gen G63 6×6 we fea­tured in 2015? That Benz re­tailed for R13 mil­lion.

Af­ter in­vest­ing lit­er­ally mil­lions of rands in the de­vel­op­ment of this spe­cial Cruiser, Mus­cle Trucks is now close to pro­duc­tion of its 6×6. Han­sie’s at­ten­tion to de­tail and the high level of crafts­man­ship are bound to en­sure that this project turns out to be a roar­ing suc­cess, both here in South Africa as well as in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

We reckon, some­where in Australia, a few com­pany ex­ec­u­tives may soon be re­gret­ting the day they gave a young en­tre­pre­neur from Pre­to­ria the cold shoul­der.

Clock­wise from left: The Cruiser dou­ble cab V8 is nowa­days a pop­ulist leisure ve­hi­cle. Work­horse gear ra­tios en­sure it can lug around ex­tremely heavy loads. The 6x6 takes this abil­ity to the next level, with a load­ing ca­pac­ity of 3.5 tons. The Cruiser 6x6 han­dles gravel roads in its stride, of­fer­ing a more pli­ant ride that the stan­dard bakkie. The big Cruiser, ready to take on Africa. Thanks to mc­carthy4x4.co.za for the use of the club’s venue for this photo shoot.

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