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OFF-ROAD TEST

OFF-ROAD TEST – Toyota LC 79 Pick-up & Jeep Wrangler Rubicon





31 October 2016


A Toyota Land Cruiser 79 V8 is big and powerful. A Jeep Wrangler Rubicon V6 is big and powerful. But what if they just aren’t, well, big and powerful enough for your requirements? What if you need something… extraordinary? Then you ask specialist accessory companies like 4×4 Muscle Trucks and Zone Offroad to create super-sized monsters like these!

Back in 1995, the Rugby World Cup was hosted in South Africa. Big, burly and muscled rugby players travelled from all over the world to compete for the William Web Ellis trophy. Among all that testosterone, there were players who seemingly defied the laws of nature, the laws of Newton the laws of everything. One such player was the late Jonah Lomu. The All Black wing was 1.96m tall, weighed 120kg and he was fast. Memories of Lomu running over most of his opponents will remain forever with rugby supporters across the globe.

Simson and BronX, the two 4×4s on these pages, are battering rams like Lomu was. They are bigger, stronger, faster, meaner and more imposing than their more subdued, standard siblings. When they arrive at a 4×4 track, owners of other 4×4s stop, stare and point. Most enthusiasts would come over and gawk at the sheer size of the machines, enquiring about this and that. There are always the on-lookers who will make remarks like: “Duh! I don’t need 38-inch wheels to go off-roading in my 4×4.” But that’s just a standard egotistical defence mechanism because their stock Land Cruiser pick-ups, compared to these behemoths, look like prams in a parking lot of muddy quad bikes.

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No costs were spared on these machines. R125 000 for a supercharger? No worries. It’s in the details, too: what started off as two spotlights on a bull bar eventually ended with no less than 12 LED spotlights and one LED light bar. And for no particular reason – like seeing in the dark – either. It just is what it is.

BronX, the mega-Jeep
The first time we met Bronx, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, was a few years ago. Owner Corne van der Merwe competed in the Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge, and back then, the Wrangler was pretty much as stock as these Jeeps go.

A few years ago, Corne became the local distributor of JW Speaker LED lights from the USA, a highly rated product, and the lights soon sold up a local storm. Even more recently, he acquired the Zone Offroad business, focusing on Jeep accessories and products. For Jeep fanatic Corne, it was like working in his dream job: the chance to build cool Wranglers, and get paid for it.

Next, the Midrand-based business started importing Sprintex superchargers from the USA, and Zone produced the first, factory-quality V8 Hemi-powered Wrangler in SA, thanks to a bolt-on American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) kit.The supercharger conversion is particularly popular, with kits fitted across SA and even in Namibia. Bronx the Wrangler was soon sporting a supercharger upgrade.

The pending South African 4×4 & Outdoor show stirred the Zone pot, though. Corne and his team decided Bronx needed a makeover to really, really cause a hoo-ha on the Zone Offroad stand. Bronx needed to be turned into BronX. Under the skin, the team upgraded the suspension with 3.5-inch AEV RS Dual Sport suspension and Fox external reservoir adjustable shocks. There is also that supercharger and a free-flow exhaust system… these upgrades, have resulted in about 200kW of power (the installation cost of the supercharger is about R125 000). Corne fitted 37-inch Cooper STT tyres and Rockstar  2 20-inch rims.

To make sure those big wheels turn properly, a ring and pinion 4:88 modification was made to reduce the ratios. These mods make the Jeep all the more capable in an off-road environment Corne also wanted Bronx to stand out in a crowd of modified Jeeps. Besides the standard fare like the Smittybilt bumpers, stinger front bumper, the extra underbody protection, and obvious JW Speaker light replacements, Corne decided to go one step beyond: he specially imported a set of Smittybilt front and rear fenders from the USA.

This modification alone set Corne back almost R30 000, all in the name of creating a stand-out-in-the-crowd-of-cool-Jeeps kind of Jeep. And to round it all off, he covered Bronx in a layer of Line-X XS-100: a polyurethane and polyurea formulation that not only protects the body, but also looks the ruffian part. This unique finish gives the Wrangler a rugged, more hardcore look. In total, Zone Offroad added about R525 000 worth of extras to this Jeep, turning one very capable Jeep Wrangler Rubicon V6 into a super Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

What’s it like to drive?
Mighty fine, that’s what. With the supercharger and free-flow exhaust adding plenty of drama, this manual Jeep covers ground very quickly indeed. And it doesn’t mind rough terrain either the AEV and Fox suspension makes light work of any challenge. On a tight technical track, the Jeep’s relatively compact dimension and shorter wheelbase, its formidable wheel articulation, the twin diff lockers and plenty of horsepower ensure truly spectacular 4×4 ability.

Simson, the Super Cruiser
Jaco Flemix always wanted a Toyota Land Cruiser. His daily driver is a virtually standard two-wheel-drive Toyota Fortuner 3.0D4-D. But one day, Jaco decided it was time to tick that dream box… so he phoned Hansie Coetzee at 4×4 Muscle Trucks with a plan: Hansie was to build him the biggest, meanest Cruiser in the land. And since he was at it, best Hansie spare no costs in creating Jaco’s Super Cruiser.

And so landed a brand new Toyota LC79 Pick-up V8D4-D in the Muscle Truck workshop in Pretoria East. For starters, Hansie decided to keep the engine and drivetrain pretty much standard. It only features a 76mm free-flow exhaust and electronic chip upgrade. For the rest, it’s all stock, including the gear ratios. If there is one aspect of all standard V8D4-D Cruiser models that owners mumble about, it is the low stock gear ratios. So when you drive 120km/h, the engine revs unusually high in top gear.

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The massive 38-inch Mickey Thompson tyres on custom 20-inch Muscle Truck rims (at almost R100 000 for the five wheels and tyres) have no ill effect on the driving experience. The bigger wheels actually improved the driving, as the 4.5-litre engine now turns over at lower revs at cruising speeds. And it’s not as if that V8 turbo-diesel engine is lean on torque: it produces 430Nm of torque from just 1 200r/min. Like the Jeep, the Cruiser also gets a trick Fox suspension, as well as a few other unique party tricks. 4×4 Muscle trucks prides itself that it not only builds cool-looking 4×4s, but also 4×4s that can actually 4×4. Properly. For instance, the leaf-sprung rear suspension is fitted with scissor shackles.

These shackles can be loosened – much like a sway-bar disconnect system to drastically increase the rear wheel articulation on extreme 4×4 tracks. Superior Engineering and Onca provided a whole lot of extra suspension tricks, too, and together with the Toyota’s inherent 4×4 ability and standard front and rear differential locks, this Cruiser is every bit as capable as it looks. The pipework is another unique feature. Hansie decided not to attempt to reinvent the wheel with his own front and rear bars, and partnered up with Cruiser specialists Onca 4×4 for these items, as well as the extensive piping. The latter consists of side bars, as well as an extensive frame for the bak, where the spare wheel lives. Interestingly, the side bars feature a modular fashion, so they come in sections that can be replaced, separately, if damage occurs, instead of the entire bar having to be replaced.

Which brings us to the 12 LED spotlights and one LED light bar, and the big question: but why? It all started with two spotlights on the Onca front bar. Hansie and Jaco agreed that this was just not on, so the light bar was added. But this still didn’t seem quite right. Two lights were added to the frame on the bak, and two more on the bonnet. But still the balance was lacking so four more lights were attached to the rollbar. All the lights were custom colour-coded in red and voila, the ‘balance’ was finally spot on. That’s Simson, the Super Cruiser. The Cruiser that is just a bit larger than life. And that makes standard Cruisers look very much inadequate.

What’s it like to drive?
Pretty much like a standard Cruiser. Apart from the custom leather upholstery, the cabin is very much standard, so from behind the steering wheel, Simson feels like a stock Cruiser 79 to drive. On the plus side, there is the extra burble from the V8 engine, thanks to the free-flow exhaust this is a huge improvement over the efficient, but slightly boring, stock exhaust. Off-road, one has to obviously consider the extra girth of the machine… with its custom wheel arches and the massive Mickey Thompson tyres, it is quite a bit wider than a standard Cruiser. It’s also a lot taller, so underground parking lots are a no go for the Super Cruiser. For the rest, you just have to be ready with a handful of answers and explanations whenever you stop, well, anywhere. Average Joes just love this Cruiser.

Summary
Bigger is better, the saying goes. And in the case of these two 4×4s, that certainly seems to ring true. They are bigger in presence, in price, in size, in ability, in attraction. Both of these vehicles are the stuff 4×4 dreams are made of. And unlike some other builds like this, these two brutes actually have the bite to go with the bark – they are the real 4×4 deal, through and through. They are truly… super 4×4s.

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Simson
R63 000 Fox external reservoir adjustable shocks
R9 850 Fox stabiliser ATS
R5 790 Toyota LC rear blade springs
R3 570 Toyota LC heavy duty coil springs
R1 400 Spacers for rear wheels
R18 250 Onca front bull bar
R5 766 Onca Dually’s flashmount
R15 700 Onca side bars
R12 190 Onca rear bar (with towbar)
R11 950 Onca rocksliders
R1 950 Onca front skidplate
R2 690 Onca front differential protector
R2 880 Onca rear differential protector
R1 180 2x Onca spot mount
R19 199 Onca roll bar
R6 714 2x Onca monster (winch) hooks
R30 950 Onca Superflex arm
R5 840 Onca front panhard
R7 500 Onca tie-rod
R7 500 Onca drag link
R12 851 Onca drop shackles (scissor shackles)
R13 950 Onca free-flow exhaust system
R4 850 Maxtrax sand track
R595 Custom spade bracket
R2 100 High-lift jack
R45 000 5x Mickey Thompson 38-inch (15,5 x 20)
R40 000 5x Custom Muscle Truck rims
R15 000 Custom Muscle Truck wheel arches
R5 500 Spray painting and colour matching
R1 050 Mud flaps
R374 765 Total (accessories only) Excludes fitment

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BronX
R39 450 3.5-inch AEV RS Dual Sport suspension
R30 780 Fox external reservoir adjustable shocks
R10 400 Smittybilt XRC modular front bumper
R5 200 Smittybilt XRC Stinger
R12 950 Smittybilt XRC rear bumper
R12 950 Smittybilt XRC front fenders
R14 250 Smittybilt XRC rear fenders
R16 000 Smittybilt 10 000lbs winch
R11 000 JKA underbody armour
R11 500 JKA bonnet
R10 000 Inner tube and Gusset front and rear diff
R34 000 Ring and pinion 4:88
R12 000 JW Speaker headlights
R7 800 JW Speaker driving lights
R9 250 JW Speaker 7150 floodlights
R6 750 JW Speaker 279 tail lights
R51 300 5x Cooper STT 37-inch (13,5 x 20) tyres
R31 350 5x Rockstar 2 20-inch 12J mag wheels
R6 350 Takla seat cover
R125 000 Sprintex supercharger (including installation)
R4 999 Maverick cargo net
R8 500 Synergy steering brace
R15 600 Free-flow exhaust system
R5 600 Spartan grille
R25 000 Line-X body coating
R980 Number plate relocation bracket
R523 109 Total (accessories only) Excludes fitment, unless otherwise stated

Text: Danie Botha
Photos: Kian Erikson