Text: Stephen Smith
Germans are known as perfectionists, for working hard, and being methodical, and Jurgen Cobarg certainly doesn’t let his nation down at all in these regards. He also runs a shipbuilding company, and there’s no room for imprecision there either. No wonder, then, that his Land Cruiser has been built to exacting standards, with years of experience and forethought evident at every turn.
Jurgen bought his Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Up 4.2 diesel in 2006, from the dealer in Park Rynie. Considering that Jurgen lives in Durban, and Park Rynie is on the South Coast, we thought this was a little strange, and asked him why he had gone all that way to buy his vehicle.
“True,” he said, “there are dealers in Durban, but Halfway Toyota in Park Rynie has an excellent reputation. I wanted my conversion to be done by the dealer, so that all of the manufacturer’s warrantees remained intact. I investigated Halfway Toyota and asked other people who had used their workshop, and all the reports were positive. I went and had a look around, and got a good feeling. It was the right decision too, because in the three years that I have had the vehicle, not a single thing has gone wrong with either the vehicle, or any of the work that Halfway did on it.”
We asked Jurgen how he decided what modifications to make to his new Cruiser, because he doesn’t seem like the kind of man who walks into a dealership and picks accessories that’ll make his car look good.
“If you do this sort of thing for over 20 years, you tend to know exactly what you need, and what you don’t need,” he replied.
So what 4×4 did he have before the Cruiser?
“I changed from a Land Rover 90. And before you assume that I now have something against Land Rover, and that was the reason for the change, let me tell you that I had that Landy for 10 years, and I have nothing bad to say about Land Rover at all. I did over 140 000km in it, mostly on holiday, and many of those kilometres off-road, and nothing ever went wrong that couldn’t be fixed then and there. The real reason I changed from Landy to
Toyota was that I wanted a two-seater, so that people couldn’t ask for lifts! I also wanted a simple, mechanical vehicle to minimise problems that couldn’t be fixed in the bush,” says Jurgen.
And where has he been in his Cruiser?
“In the past three years I have done about 50 000km in the Cruiser, all of it on holiday. We’ve been to Mozambique, Namibia, and Botswana a few times (in both the wet and the dry seasons), Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya.
Jurgen has spared no expense in creating his ultimate Cruiser, and the attention to detail, and the amount of thought and preparation that must have gone into this conversion, is amazing.
One of the very first things that he fitted was new suspension: “I drove a standard Cruiser Pick-up, and it was very agricultural. The suspension is way too hard, unless you are using it for heavy load work, and it is very uncomfortable. I almost decided not to buy one. Then I drove a Cruiser that had been given a modified suspension, and the difference was like night and day. I ordered my own Cruiser straight away, but with correctly set up Old Man Emu suspension.”
So Jurgen’s Cruiser has Old Man Emu shock absorbers all round, as well as medium-duty Old Man Emu coil springs in the front, and heavy-duty Old Man Emu leaf springs in the rear. Jurgen also fitted Firestone air bellows in the rear to assist on extra bad roads.
ARB differential locks have been fitted front and rear, along with a compressor to run them. They have been fitted so that you can only lock the back diff, and then the front one, and not the other way around. This is for safety reasons, as a front diff lock greatly changes the driving characteristics of a vehicle, inhibiting steering control.
On the front of the Cruiser is an RV bullbar, on which are mounted two Hella pencil beam spotlights, fitted with 100W Osram blue globes. Also fitted to the bulbar is a low-profile TW 4500kg winch, for when not even the diff locks are enough!
An ARB rear bumper has also been fitted, along with a swing mount for a second spare, the original remaining in its normal position under the vehicle. Speaking of tyres, Jurgen decided on BF Goodrich 265/75R16 Mud Terrain tyres, on steel rims.
In addition to this, Jurgen fitted an aluminium steering linkage guard, an 80-litre Frontrunner long-range fuel tank, and a raised air intake.
The modifications continue under the bonnet, where he has replaced the standard battery with a more powerful one, as well as a second, 100-amp deep cycle battery, and a National Luna split charging system. This is also where the compressor for the ARB diff locks can be found.
Perhaps the most interesting item, though, is the Algae-X fuel conditioner. This is part of the extensive knowledge brought across from Jurgen’s boat-building background, where diesel engines are also used. Apparently microbes attack diesel, and cause sludge. The Algae-X fuel conditioner prevents sludge from forming, and extends the lifespan of filters, the injection system and even of the engine. The unit is locally available, easily fitted into the engine bay, requires no maintenance and the fuel is cleaned whenever the engine runs.
Other examples of boat-building technology that Jurgen incorporated into his Cruiser are: a special high-density foam (imported) that he used for seals to the canopy, and which are totally impervious to dust and water, and retain their shape indefinitely; the aluminium mesh he used for various storage compartments; and the waterproof auxiliary 15- and 30-amp external plug points.
Inside the cabin Jurgens fitted a number of standard items, like Melvil & Moon seat covers, a Navstar two-way radio, a Garmin Street Pilot 7200 GPS unit, Sandgrabber floor mats and more. But he also custom made a toolbox that fits behind the seat, aluminium door storage pockets, and an aluminium container that fits above the dash, for extra storage. And everything that could possibly move is held in place with yacht quality stretch cord, to eliminate rattles and loose objects.
On top of the cab is a Front Runner aluminium roofrack, with, amongst other things, a 121-decibel low frequency yacht horn fitted to it!
When Jurgen started to look for a canopy for his Cruiser, he knew exactly what he wanted. He started approaching various companies to see if they would custom make one for him. Some companies said yes, but he wasn’t impressed with their workmanship, until he found Alucab in Cape Town. Jurgen had designed an aluminium canopy with five-door access, as well as a 1,4 x 2,2-metre sleeping space on top, and Alucab made it to his specifications, and to the build quality that he required. The roof of the canopy opens up, assisted by gas struts, revealing a comfortable rooft op tent.
On top of the canopy is a fixed mounted Siemens 120W high performance solar panel, also specially imported and used in the boat industry. This is linked to a 10-amp regulator, a charge indicator, and another 100-amp deep cycle batt ery. Jurgen says that this solar panel can actually charge all three batteries, and keep them in perfect working order and fully charged at all times, even in overcast conditions.
Mounted to a wall inside the canopy is a high-capacity water filtration system, based on those used by NATO, but homemade. It pre-filters down to 5 microns, as well as using an acti vated carbon filter, and then is filtered down to 0,2 micron by a Doulton Kieselguhr ceramic filter. Jurgen uses this when filling the five 20-litre jerry cans he keeps in his vehicle, and then re-filters the water through the same system before using it. Filtering 20 litres takes just three minutes or so.
In addition to all these remarkable modifications, Jurgen’s Land Cruiser has all of the more standard features that you’d expect, such as a roof-mounted spade, a gas cooker and spare cylinder, an ARB drawer storage system, an Engel 40- litre fridge, a comprehensive kitchen unit, internal and external lights, an aluminium table, two awnings and more. There’s even a bookcase in the back, which is a great idea.
Everything in the Cruiser remains permanently in the vehicle so that there is virtually no packing to be done before a trip, and everything is securely mounted to avoid ratt les and moving. Also notable is that everything can be operated with the minimum of fuss by just one person.
We asked Jurgen how he had gone about designing his ultimate expedition vehicle, and he was modest in his answer:
“Speaking to others,” he said, “because you’re not as smart as you think you are, and someone else has already done everything you can think of.
“And when you’re making something, do everything twice: once on paper, and once in practice. Make little cardboard templates of everything, so that when you make the real item it fits perfectly first time.”
What are the most useful modifications that he’s made?
“Well, the diff -locks are invaluable”, he answers. “They make a huge difference off -road. When you are well and truly stuck, lock the diffs, and off you go… well, mostly.
“The extremely noisy horn is also useful, because even donkeys listen to it!”
We ask Jurgen if there is anything else he is planning to do to his vehicle. He replies that there are always things that can be improved.
But, in the case of his Cruiser, we’re not so sure about that.