The man behind 4×4 Megaworld
Businessman, father, racer
Deon Venter was born in Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape. With a father in the motor trade his whole life, a love of cars and 4×4s was deep-etched into his soul early on. Deon grew up in Klerksdorp and went to Milner High School before joining the army in 1983 and spending his first year at infantry school in Phalaborwa. “I’m a petrol and diesel mechanic by trade. I did my diesel side with Nissan and petrol side with Toyota,” he says. “I have a great love for off-road racing which comes from my bike days. “I raced my first desert race and roof at the age of 16 and carried on from there to where I am supporting my sons today.”
Where, when and in what did you learn to drive?
I learnt to drive in a Chev Nomad. My sister learnt at the same time and she was one of those who had to look down at the gear lever when changing gears so we would be all over the place. I learnt fast so I didn’t need to go with her anymore.
What was your first car? What happened to it?
My first car was that same Nomad. My dad pimped it up a bit for me and it was a jol. We went everywhere with it, from Sodwana to Oxbow Lodge.
There were no roads there in those days and we used to stay at the picnic spots next to the road. It was safe then. We were four mates and just needed fuel money and we would be gone.
How did the move to 4x4s happen?
When I started to work, I bought my first 4×4, a Datsun tracker, a great bakkie. At that stage Nissan could do no wrong in my eyes.
There’s also an apparent passion for all things Toyota… and you have a bit of a collection in Klerksdorp?
My love for Toyota only came along after I started my own business and I had about 30 Ellerines bakkies to service every month and I realised all the other manufacturers weren’t as reliable as a Hilux.
Today I own plenty Toyotas but I’m a dead man if my wife discovers just how many: from Toyotapets to the latest models, some are for rebuilds and some are waiting for their moment.
And how did you get into the outdoor business?
I got into it very early as I could see it was really difficult to make good money with labour. I realised I had to sell something. We had grown up outdoors and loved it so was
a easy choice, this is also where I met Colin, my business partner. He was bringing in ARB and Old Man Emu. I gave him a call and never looked back.
What were the challenges in the early days of the business?
I have had many business challenges, especially at start-up. While I was in the army my parents went bankrupt so when I got back I was on my own. I was very lucky. My wife, Bev, and I have been together since school and when we started off, I didn’t make enough money. She supported me all the way and we made it.
What is your favourite 4x4 of all that you own or have owned?
I have been asked many times what car I would buy if money was no object and my sons always answer ‘a Ferrari’. To be honest, though, it would only be until I got locked up. Then would be back in a 4×4.
And your daily driver?
My company car is an early 200. I never really loved the car but it was used for business. My personal car is a double cab cruiser with all the bells and whistles. I love it but am a little ashamed to say so because it feels as if I’m cheating on my 2004 EFI which I bought from the legend Pikkie Labuschagne in our area 13 years ago (she’s my old girl and will go to my grave with me).
Times are relatively tough out there in the market… what advice can you give a young business owner?
My dad always said if you make the first three years you have made it but this is not true. The bigger you get, the more difficult it is as you have everybody having a go at you. But, with your family behind you and a great work team – from cleaner to senior management – the sky is the limit.
There are many dishonest people out there but I can honestly say: for every one bad person there are hundreds of great ones. Some time you have to lose a bit, but stay ethical.
Deon’s love of all things motoring was instilled in him from a very young age, thanks to a father in the automotive industry. He transitioned from enthusiasm to love the moment he first got on a motorcycle, which eventually led to full-on racing.After leaving the army, he needed a job and decided to sell some cars. Noting the amount of aftermarket accessories being imported into South Africa, he decided to turn his attention to that business model instead.The result of all that effort is 4×4 Megaworld, with outlets all over South Africa. It’s one of the most recognisable brands in the business, so Deon has done rather well for himself.He currently resides in Klerksdorp, where he surrounds himself with his family and a selection of Toyotas.His racing genes have been carried over, as his son, Jason, regularly competes in the National OffRoad Racing series.
Far left: A regular sight at the National Off Road Championships: the 4×4 Megaworld Hilux, driven by Deon’s son, Jason. Above: With his Chevrolet Nomad, properly dressed for the occasion. Right: After getting his first job, Deon moved on to a Datsun Tracker bakkie. Below: Deon trading stories with Jeremy Bergh from Alu-Cab SA.
In a (favourite) nutshell:Food: lamb chops Movie: any skop, skiet en donder Singer: I’m not fussy Hates: unethical businesses and people Place on Earth: Sodwana no question about it. But it’s nearly impossible to go today without having trouble Holiday: My dream is to do a trip from Musina to Cape Town along the border. Only gravel roads, for months.