After tragedy struck, Hennie Prinsloo from Pretoria dealt with his trauma by taking on an ambitious project: redesigning the nose of his Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen.
My 24-year-old daughter had battled cancer for 12 years and passed away in September 2011. My wife couldn’t bear the heartbreak and succumbed almost exactly a year later. I was emotionally shattered, and to keep my mind off everything I decided to tackle a massive automotive project. One night, looking at my MercedesBenz, I decided that I wanted to change the front end – give it a dramatic overhaul. Given my background as an aircraft technician and as an engineer at Safmarine, I was certain I could do almost all of the work myself. I started pulling the nose apart and shaping it. I would sculpt a new nose and then decide it was not what I had in mind. So I started at the beginning numerous times. Truth be told, over the course of four years there were stages I thought it wouldn’t be possible. And right from the start people warned me that putting a rounded nose on a square body wouldn’t work. But I continued to sit in front of the Merc for hours, moulding a new front end using clay, metal hangers and even wood. Two years in I really thought I had taken on too much and was ready to give up. After about a three-month break, I gave the project another go with renewed vigour. While browsing the internet one night I came across an advertisement for Bullet, an Australian aftermarket company that specialises in building bolton superchargers specifically for certain engines. I decided then and there that while I was reconstructing the G-Class’s nose, I might as well also go full bore and do a supercharged Lexus V8 conversion as well. The result is 340 kW and 580 Nm. It still has the diff locks and is still a fully functional 4x4 with air con and all the standard luxuries. It’s to be expected that a vehicle with this sort of conversion is a bit thirsty, but mine averages about 16 ℓ/100 km, which is very reasonable when you consider the amount of power available. In the end, I did need help. The leather straps that keep the bonnet down were created by one of the local leather shops in Pretoria, and the wooden panel trim along the profile was also shaped by one of my friends. The project took me four years, and as far as I know it’s the only one in the world that looks like this. go! Drive & Camp says The unique work is evidently quite popular as Hennie gets pulled off the roadside often by inquisitive people wanting to take pictures of it.