If you know anything about travelling in Botswana, you will understand why a call for such a beast – is nothing – but a necessity. Harsh conditions dominate the travelers experience in this part of the world. With a self-drive safari rental vehicle this is the perfect match! From badly corrugated roads of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to the deep river crossings of the Moremi and Delta, its important to have the correct set up for such a mix of terrain. Wild Wheels has just the right offering. Of their fleet of 8 vehicles, they have a single cab V8 Land Cruiser, 4 double cab Toyota Hilux Revo’s, two Nissan NP300 (Hardbody) and 1 double cab Land Cruiser 4.2 Diesel. They have the perfect pick of vehicles best suited to the customer but also the terrain. If you are looking for a 4X4 rental company with friendly staff, good advice and offerings then Wild Wheels is your answer!
After being on a long waiting list for this vehicle from Toyota, it eventually arrived and was in line for some serious upgrades! We started off by taking off everything we don’t need. These are accessories fitted at the factory that won’t be needed for this build. Removing the cab rail and load bin spare wheel mount to allow for the rubberizing team over at Canopy Centre to rubberize the load bin and later for the Rhino-cab canopy to be fitted.
Before rubberizing, the fabrication team installed load bin skins. Because the load bin of a cruiser is a single sheet panel, to protect this we add in a layer of sheet metal to form a “double layer” and reinforce the internal section of the load bin. These are primed with a grey metal primer to avoid any form of corrosion.
After the load bin skins and rubberizing is complete, the vehicle can be brought back into the Hi-Range workshop to continue with the rest of the works. The next few days have been laid out for the team! Before we start, we will lay the accessories out and form the order in which this puzzle will come together.
The Hi-Range team got started with getting the original suspension out and replacing it with none other than the trusted Tough Dog suspension from Opposite Lock. Tough Dog has been rated “suspension of the year” for several years in a row in Australia. Great thing about this, is that our conditions are very much like the Australian outback. So this makes a very strong competitor for this terrain, and perfect match for a rental vehicle!
The guys got on with removing the Toyota front bumper, to be replaced with a full replacement bull bar from Opposite Lock. This will increase frontal protection and ground clearance on the front for a much better approach angle on steep inclines. Not that we have much of those in the flat arid deserts of Botswana.
Whilst busy on the front, Elvis and his team got cracking on installing the Intervolt EBI (Electronic Battery Isolator) dual battery system. This is to enable us to power up the fridge, lighting and some additional power points in the canopy from the Enertec 105ah deep cycle battery without affecting the main starter battery. Intervolt is ideal for our extreme temperatures. This means that when the vehicle is stationary, the fridge and lighting can be operated without compromising the main battery. When the engine is running the second battery is being charged by the main battery’s charging system. The auxiliary battery is secured down with an under bonnet Front Runner battery bracket which is bolted in with no additional modifications needed.
At the rear end, the other half of our team has started installing the rear bumper which is also a double spare wheel carrier. This bumper makes use of the original cruiser tail lights. So the only additional wiring is for the number plate light. ONCA wheel carriers have proven themselves to be a very strong contender for our harsh conditions! Perfect solution for a rental of this kind.
Once the guys were finished with the front replacement bumper, they joined the team at the back to start with the vehicle specific Front Runner draw system. This requires some intricate work as we need to install wooden decking to simulate replacing the floor of the load bin. Between the front of the load bin and drawer system there is a 67L water tank. The plumbing for this runs under the load bin to a lockable tap bolted to the tow bar.
We also have a cut out on the rear left side for a 40L 12V fridge which can easily be accessed from the side door of the canopy. The fridge is secured down with SecureTech cam buckles to a rubberized fridge bracket that was fabricated by our fabrication team. The lid of the fridge was also rubberized to protect the lid from any sharp objects scratching the fridge whilst also being housed in a custom made “bikini” canvas cover.
On the driver side of the vehicle we have a CADAC 3kg gas bottle which is held up on the decking with a Front Runner universal gas bottle mount. There is a CADAC cooker top to be used with the gas bottle.
Now that we have the decking for the draw system completed, we are ready to get the Rhino-cab canopy on. Rhino-cab is a popular match for the cruiser. They are a strong lightweight aluminium canopy that can give a lot of room in the back for safe storage. This canopy accommodates the Rhinoman table bracket which is secured to the inner lining of the roof. We also installed the Rhinoman kitchen unit with our own custom-made canvas cutlery bag which houses the stainless-steel cutlery set. The kitchen can easily be accessed from the side door which is perfect for those road side coffee stops.
Roof rack is now in line to be installed. The front Runner roof racks are a modular design. Great thing about this concept is that accessories can easily be mounted to the rack. This helps with easy fitment. This specific rack uses a gutter mount system, which enables a quick and easy installation to the cab of the cruiser without the need to make addition holes or modifications to the vehicle. On the canopy we put a load bar kit from Front Runner for the roof top tent to be mounted to.
After a successful roof rack fitment, we are ready to get the rack accessories on. So, mounted to the side of the rack, we have a Hi Lift jack, axe and spade. This way they can easily be accessed in times of need for recovery.
On this specific build, which is a 4-sleeper rental, we will be fitting two Howling Moon roof top tents to this vehicle. Howling Moon have been manufacturers of tents and other tent-like equipment for over 20 years. Their products are very good quality. However, because of the height of this vehicle, we must put a ladder extension on the ends of the ladders. The ladders also support the base of the tent when it is open.
Not much can be done with the interior besides a set of Wild Wheels branded Melvill & Moon seat covers. This protects the seats from wear and tear but also can be easily taken out and washed between rentals.
From a navigation standpoint, we have a Garmin Drive 40LM which the customers can use to locate important tourist attractions and main towns. We have a SPOT Trace which Wild Wheels Management can use to monitor their customers’ travel routes to ensure the customers are safe. They can also see if the customers have stopped and could potentially be stuck.
In the draw system, we have neatly packed away all the necessary recovery gear and other camping necessary bits and pieces one would need while out in the bush. These items are listed as follows –
· ARB Tyre repair kit
· ARB Compressor
· SecureTech recovery kit
· Spare wheel mount braai grid
· Braai grid cover
· Front Runner cutlery set
· Front Runner Grip & Go Sandtrax
· Front Runner Expander Chairs
· Front Runner Extended Jack Adapter
Now that we have all the gear in and installed on the vehicle, we are ready to send it for branding at Signarama, then to have wheel alignment done at Tiger Wheel and Tyre. Once the final works are done, the vehicle can stand in line to be collected and handed over to a happy customer.