Nissan Navara project hits the BIG time

Text: Danie Botha
Photography: Jannie Herbst

It’s one of those things that happened by accident. And we mean that quite literally.

Earlier this year the long-term Nissan Navara 2.5dCi 4×4 was involved in a first-gear incident while towing an off-road caravan. At an intersection a fellow road-user attempted to briskly dart across the road in front of the Navara, not realising that a big Nissan Navara and a big Jurgens Safari Xplorer off-road caravan don’t exactly stop on the proverbial dime.

The low-speed incident caused seemingly superficial damage to the bumper, the left headlight, the left fender was slightly damaged, and there was a small scratch on the bonnet.

No matter. 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.

And now, several months after that incident at the intersection, our plan has finally come to the point of reality. But instead of just replacing the front bumper and headlight, and sorting out the small dings, we are going big. Very big.

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 4×4.

Firstly, the team is the highly experienced crew of LA Sport in Pretoria. Under the direction of Lionel Lewis and TJM’s Louis de Jager, the team will set about creating a unique machine.

Another major ingredient is the wheel/tyre combination. After consulting the experts at LA Sport, who build custom vehicles on a daily basis, it was decided that 35-inch off-road tyres would be just too, er, small.

So the famous American brand Mickey Thompson, through official local distributors ATS Motorsport, are supplying massive 37-inch Baja Claw tyres, as well as suitable, heavy-duty off-road rims.

A range of 4×4 accessories will be added too. This will include a new TJM bullbar along with a heavy-duty winch, TJM Airtec snorkel, a full TJM off-road suspension system, a 60mm body lift? to name a few.

A major change will be the colour of the vehicle. The original black may be very trendy, but that beautiful glossy paint job scratches very easily in the African bush. So it’s more suited for a boulevard cruiser, and not for a pukka 4×4 with massive off-road capabilities.

So the body will receive a new coat of paint, in a specialised matt finish, to prevent scratching when the going gets off-road. Along with the new jacket, the wheel arches will also receive special attention to compliment those big Mickey Thompson wheels.

To add an extra bit of flair and style to the exterior, performance accessory specialists Autostyle Motorsport will supply new xenon gas-discharge headlights and trendy LED-style taillights.

It doesn’t end there.

The interior will also receive attention, with a host of upgrades. This will include seat trimmings, and the latest and greatest in in-car entertainment (DVD and sound) and navigation.

In standard trim the Navara 2.5 dCi 4×4 is already the most powerful turbodiesel bakkie on the market, with 403 Nm of torque at 2000 r/min. However, in standard trim, the diesel engine is rather refined? almost too refined for what we have in mind.

So SAC Diesel will be tinkering with the exhaust system, to see how many extra horses they can bring to the party. And a performance exhaust system will give the Navara a more purposeful growl too.

And lastly, to make sure that the Nissan Navara is covered in the African bush, specialised 4×4 and off-road insurance company Tuffstuff is providing comprehensive insurance and assistance cover.

The result?

Possibly the most “ultimate” Nissan Navara 4×4 the world has seen.

Next month we will give more details of the actual customising process.

We can’t wait.