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Project Navara gets (top) geared up

14 December 2011

Project Navara, Leisure Wheels magazine’s popular 38-inch Nissan Navara that has been doing the marketing rounds in Southern Africa for the past two years, recently got geared up for a short but rather interesting driving experience.

Richard Hammond, presenter of the popular BBC Top Gear television series, alongside Jeremy Clarkson and James May, was in SA for the filming of a BBC program – Richard Hammond’s Engineering Connections – at the Vulture Rehabilitation Centre near Hartbeespoort Dam.

Janus Janse van Rensburg, one of the world’s biggest Top Gear fans, was informed by a good friend working with Hammond on the program that the star was in town.

Besides being a Top Gear groupie, Janus is also one of the most passionate Nissan fans you will ever meet in your life. He also happens to work at Nissan South Africa, where he is the principal engineer for market research in the Research and Development Department.

Janus’ friend arranged an informal interview with Hammond – and the Nissan engineer duly decided to make the most of this rare and unique opportunity.

Janus contacted Leisure Wheels magazine. As a long-time fan of Project Navara, and knowing that Hammond likes big and chunky machines, he wanted the British television icon to meet this locally built icon.

So Janus fetched the Navara from Leisure Wheels, and took it to meet Richard Hammond, the legendary BBC motorman.

“Traditionally Top Gear has not been very keen on Nissan. At least, that’s my perception. I thought that, even if I make the smallest of impressions on Hammond with Project Navara, it can only be a good thing for the brand,” explains Janus.

And an impression he sure made! Hammond also drove the big-wheeled Navara, with its 2,5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine churning out 500 Nm of torque.

“He was very, very taken with the Nissan and in his own words called it a monster!” says Janus. “He was especially impressed by the power from the 2,5-litre engine, but added that he would have preferred shorter gear ratios – the standard ones are still used in the Navara, and the bigger wheels do impact on the drivability.”

Hammond digged the styling and the look of the bakkie, continues Janus.

“He particularly made mention of the colour, which matches the rest of the big and chunky package to a tee,” says Janus.

The encounter was brief, but in a few minutes Janus managed to impress his motoring idol. For Janus it was so, so worth it. Richard Hammond returned to the UK with a few snaps of the Nissan on his camera, and a story to tell. And a young motorhead engineer from Pretoria not only got to meet an idol, but also shared some motoring brotherhood with his idol.

And lastly, all we know is that, with dedicated and enthusiastic people like Janus Janse van Rensburg in their team, Nissan can indeed take over… the world.


  • Herman

    I have to say – I am not a Nissan fan, but the looks of this vehicle realy impressed me. I love the coulor and what I could see of it. Why you use Hammond to stand next to the such a vehicle (mess up the picture) only you guys will know. Anyway, look forward to read the March issue to see what’s happening to the Nissan Navara.

  • Blythe Majors

    what size of wheels and tires are these?