Text: Danie Botha
Photography: Jannie Herbst
After Leisure Wheels’ long-term Nissan Navara 2.5 dCi 4x4 was involved in a small on-road incident, an idea was born. That original idea has now developed into something rather big. 37-inch wheels big. This is how it happened...
The Navara is comprehensively insured. Following the mandatory hat-in-hand moment with Nissan’s officials, we were armed with a comprehensive list of Nissan-approved panelbeaters. Shortly afterwards, we had acquired the necessary three quotes. With the repair bill ranging from R37 000 to a whopping R54 000, we conceded that panelbeating must indeed be a much more lucrative business than journalism. And that’s where the first seed was planted. If it was our bakkie, we reasoned, wouldn’t it just be easier to replace the shattered bumper with an aftermarket bullbar, replace the headlight, and let a friend of a friend of a panelbeater sort out the little bit of damage to the fender and bonnet, rather than face higher insurance premiums, lost bonuses, and so on?The little seed soon germinated, and evolved into something bigger. We shared our ideas with Nissan South Africa. We spoke to LA Sport’s Lionel Lewis. We spoke to other knowledgeable people in the aftermarket industry. But we’re also going cream-of-the-crop when it comes to suppliers and product partners, and the team that will build the ultimate Nissan Navara 4x4. Firstly, the team is the highly experienced crew of LA Sport in Pretoria. Under the direction of Lionel Lewis and TJM’s Louis van Niekerk, the team will set about creating a unique machine. Possibly the most “ultimate” Nissan Navara 4x4 the world has seen.
PROJECT NAVARA update: when the going gets BIG!
We recently went to visit the project Nissan Navara 2.5dCi 4x4 in Pretoria, where it is currently being given a new coat of paint, and custom side body panels. But let’s first go back a few weeks, to LA Sport’s shop in Pretoria. There Lionel Lewis’s henchmen fitted a complete TJM off-road suspension, along with a 60mm body lift. The TJM brand hails from Australia, and LA Sport is the official local distributor. The company started manufacturing off-road equipment in 1973 for the Aussie market, where 4x4s are often used in tough and extreme conditions. The TJM XGS suspension, as fitted to the Navara, consists of new springs up front, springs and shock absorbers at the back, as well as polyurethane bushes. The springs are not just any old springs. The TJM XGS Suspension lineal and progressive rate coils are manufactured to TJM’s exacting specifications on computer-controlled coiling machines, then spot peened, load tested and finally, powder coated.
The springs are designed to provide a smooth and comfortable ride when the vehicle is not carrying a load, and improved stability and load-carrying capability when that heavy load is added. The TJM XGS shock absorbers are also specially developed for extreme 4x4 usage. The 60mm diameter expanded body, with its large oil capacity and high-temperature oil seal, can keep its cool, even when the going gets very heavy duty. It also features fully welded mounts, polyurethane bushes, and extra strong, twin-tube construction. This is one shock absorber that relishes a tough work-out. The TJM XGS polyurethane bushes are also a high-grade component, manufactured specifically for tough 4x4 applications, and offering a far longer life than rubber bushes. Next up is the TJM Airtec snorkel system. But a snorkel is a snorkel is a snorkel, right? Yes and no. Yes, they all perform the same function, and that is to keep water and dust out of engines. But there is more to the Airtec snorkel’s case than just being a handy off-road accessory. All Airtec snorkels are designed according to a specific vehicle’s profile, and according to its styling, and looks. So you get a specific snorkel for a Navara, a specific snorkel for a Hilux, and so on. The result is a snorkel that not only does its job very well, but also looks good, fitting in with its host’s profile. The wheels… now this was more of a challenge to fit than the suspension and snorkel. The LA Sport crew had to manufacture a special adaptor for the Mickey Thompson rims to fit the Nissan’s standard hubs. They also had to modify the body in places to enable the front wheels to turn as they should. Soon, the bakkie will go in for its new coat of paint: a camouflage-green, in a matt finish. Then, in time, the rest of the accessories will be added.
This Nissan Navara is going to be a beast. A beautiful 4x4 beast.
PROJECT NAVARA update:
With the custom wheel arches in place, the snorkel fitted, and the bullbar modified to fit in with the wider front-end, the Navara is… jaw-droppingly imposing, even without its new coat of paint!
The bodyshop team will now focus on finishing all the modified surfaces and doing the final preparation before the bakkie goes for its new coat of paint. Custom LA Sport side-steps will also be added to the package. Indeed, the Navara project is looking bigger and more imposing by the day! But those big Mickey Thompson tyres and wheels sure do make a difference to the Navara picture. The 38-inch Baja MTZ 5269 tyre is designed for serious off-road use, especially for extreme mud conditions. Specialised LA Sport adaptor plates anchor the eight-stud Mickey Thompson wheels securely onto the Navara’s standard six-stud hubs.