BAKKIE PROJECT

Our bakkie project con­cludes this month, and the last off-road mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the BT-50 is a proper sus­pen­sion sys­tem. Of course.

Go! Camp & Drive - - CONTENTS - Text Schalk Jonker Pho­tos Lourens Pi­eterse and Evan Naudé

Ev­ery month over the past year we’ve added some­thing new to our long-term test ve­hi­cle, a brand new Mazda BT-50 3.2 4x4 SLE bakkie (dou­ble cab, au­to­matic) to ul­ti­mately trans­form it into a hardcore off-road ve­hi­cle. We started with a set of BF Goodrich T/A tyres and fol­lowed with a steel rear bumper, bull­bar, winch, bash plate, run­ning boards, alu­minium canopy and spot­lights. But the time has come to re­turn the bakkie to the man­u­fac­turer, and as a swan song, this month we fo­cus our at­ten­tion on the sus­pen­sion.

Pick-me-up

The BT-50’s orig­i­nal sus­pen­sion sys­tem, how­ever well it might have been de­signed by Mazda’s lab coats, was ul­ti­mately not able to han­dle the weight of all the off-road gear we added. Things like the canopy and es­pe­cially the steel bumper in front and at the back made the bakkie a lot heav­ier and the sus­pen­sion suf­fered un­der the weight of th­ese ad­di­tions. It was vis­i­ble to the naked eye, with es­pe­cially the front that sagged heav­ily.

Mic van Zyl of Iron­man 4x4 gave the bakkie one look and had the an­swer for us… the new Add-a-Leaf sys­tem. When you go off-road­ing with such a heav­ily loaded ve­hi­cle the ground clear­ance is usu­ally a prob­lem and it be­comes necessary to lift it. But it’s about more than that. The sus­pen­sion must still en­sure a safe and com­fort­able ride, re­gard­less of whether you use it to drive to work or whether you’re trav­el­ling with your en­tire fam­ily and all your camp­ing gear to the bun­dus.

Mic says the Add-aLeaf sus­pen­sion is a good com­pro­mise re­gard­ing ride qual­ity… and it’s also a more cost-ef­fec­tive way to lift your bakkie. >

Ba­si­cally it’s a sys­tem that gives your ex­ist­ing leaf springs a note­wor­thy boost. Not only does it sup­port the ad­di­tional weight but it also pre­vents the springs from get­ting worn. It also im­proves han­dling and en­sures a more com­fort­able ride. And it in­creases the ve­hi­cle’s ground clear­ance.

To the shop

Jo­hann “Tyres”Viljoen and his skilled team at 1st Align­ment Cen­tre in Stik­land, Cape Town, did the mod­i­fi­ca­tion. The Iron­man 4x4 Add-a-Leaf sys­tem con­sists of two ta­pered leaf springs with anti-fric­tion in­serts and new cen­tre bolts. Jo­hann and his team added the new leaf springs to the BT50’s ex­ist­ing ones and fas­tened it with new bolts. To­gether with the new leaf springs, 1st Align­ment Cen­tre also re­placed the front coil springs and front and rear shock ab­sorbers with new ones and bal­anced the wheels again. We waited a day, but we’re happy to re­port there is a marked im­prove­ment in ride qual­ity.

WE HAVE LIFT-OFF. The BT-50 rides no­tice­ably higher now than it did in its stan­dard guise.

HIGH AND DRY. As you’d ex­pect, chang­ing a ve­hi­cle’s sus­pen­sion is no easy feat. It took an en­tire day to do the mod­i­fi­ca­tions but it was worth the wait.

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