Lionel Lewis of LA Sport needs no introduction in 4×4 circles. His SUV and bakkie creations are legendary. But over the last few months, Lionel has widened his horizons. His creations are getting a whole lot bigger…
Text and photography: GG van Rooyen
Exactly one year ago (issue 118, page 34), we featured a rather unusual creation. It was an Iveco Daily 4×4 given the LA Sport treatment – eye-catching wheels, chunky tyres, a snorkel, spotlights, an articulated flatbed, a front bumper, a rear bumper and two winches. The point of this vehicle? It was intended for hardcore applications – to recover 4x4s in difficult situations, for example.
At the time, these unique Daily vehicles had been built for an authorised Iveco dealer and not for Iveco SA itself.
However, the company took notice and, a couple of months later, knocked on Lionel’s door. They had dream project for him. Iveco SA wanted LA Sport to create a replica of its 507 Dakar Rally truck for marketing purposes. Moreover, Iveco didn’t want it just to look like a Dakar truck. It had to go like a Dakar truck as well.
There were some limitations. A proper Iveco 507 Dakar truck has around 670 kW to play with, but generating that kind of oomph costs a lot of money. Building such a racer wasn’t practical, but Iveco still wanted the replica to offer the kind of thrills that go with riding in a proper Dakar truck.
Lionel was flown to Italy where he was shown an existing 507 replica, and then let loose to create his own version of it.
He was given an Iveco Trakker 380 4×4 to work on. Even in standard guise, this is a formidable vehicle. It has an Iveco Cursor 13 engine, which is a six-cylinder, 12 880cc turbocharged oilburner that develops 279 kW of power and 1800 Nm of torque. Off-road features include full-time 4×4 and three diff locks.
To build this unique 507 replica, Iveco SA had the truck’s engine tuned to create 372 kW (500 horsepower). Importantly, this performance improvement was actually achieved by Iveco itself, ensuring that the truck would remain robust and reliable.
What was LA Sport’s role? Most importantly, Lionel and his team upgraded the truck’s suspension significantly, fitting the Trakker with a real Pro Fender racing set-up.
LA Sport also went to work on the cabin, stripping it to create an interior far more like that of a racing vehicle. A custom-built roll cage and three Sparco bucket racing seats were installed. The dashboard was chopped up and clad in metal to represent that of a Dakar racer. A Sparco racing wheel was also fitted.
On the outside, some chunky off-road tyres were fitted, as well as very effective spotlights. Of course, the truck was also given a paint job in Dakar livery.
“Essentially, 90% of the components are standard,” says Lionel. “Working on a truck like this was a real education. With smaller SUVs and bakkies, you’re used to problems creeping in. If you drive a smaller 4×4 hard, things are going to break. Not on this truck. We’ve driven it hard – even ramped it – but it just keeps going. I’m amazed at how robust it is.
“It is also extremely sure-footed on gravel. You’d expect a big truck to be very bumpy on bad roads, but it isn’t. Taking it round a sharp corner is easier than doing so in a bakkie. It inspires a lot of confidence.”
This has been a dream project for Lionel.
“This has been a very special build for me,” he says. “Considering where LA Sport started, this is the culmination of a lifelong love of customising 4x4s.
“Where do we go from here? How do you top this?”
If you want to see this Dakar Iveco 507 replica up close, it will be on display at many shows in 2015. Iveco and LA Sport will be showcasing the truck at the Getaway Show, Beeld Show and Johannesburg International Motor Show. You may even get a chance to ride in it, so keep an eye on the press for details.