The BIG deal

Asking Durbanite Pierre Grobbelaar if he has owned any 4x4s in his lifetime is a bit like asking a correctional services officer at Polsmoor if there are any prisoners there.

“I’ve owned a few,” he begins, modestly. “A Suzuki SJ that got me into the world of 4×4. A Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Prado, Ford double cab, Mazda double cab, Toyota double cab, a Land Rover Defender 110 TD5, a Landy Series 3 and the Nissan Pathfinder. I’m looking at buying another Defender.”

Pierre definitely seems to like 4x4s, then.

His daily ride is, perhaps surprisingly, the Defender 110 TD5. He uses the Landy to commute about 50km to work.

“Driving the Nissan is great. It’s smooth, powerful, comfortable, quiet and the air-con works really nicely. But the Defender needs to be driven. Like in really driven, where you have to take it by the scruff of the neck, and drive it. I love that part. So you’re not just a passenger in a plush and comfortable environment. That’s why I use the Pathfinder mainly for longer distance trips,” he says.

Ah, the Pathfinder. When Pierre was looking at a big and powerful 4×4 that could not only tow his boat but also do the hard 4×4 yards, he initially looked at a Toyota Land Cruiser 100, selling at more than half-a-million rand.

But instead of selling the 88 000km-old Nissan, which he had bought new in 2006, Pierre decided to look at the options available to turn the Pathfinder into the 4×4 he wanted it to be.

“The standard Pathfinder is really good in mud and sand, but the ground clearance limits its application in more hardy and extreme 4×4 conditions. So I contacted Robert Hale at Dune Off-road, and the company got suitable Calmini suspension bits from America. With the five-inch lift and the trick suspension, which includes sway-away coil overs at the front, the uprated suspension now provides much more articulation. Along with the mud terrain tyres and good-looking ProComp rims, the Nissan is the complete package. Power, traction? and ample ground clearance.”

A particular challenge, says Pierre, was finding rims that not only fitted the Pathfinder’s non-conformist six-stud hubs (with a PCD closely resembling that of a five-stud hub), but also fitted in with “the look” Pierre had in mind.

“Most of the wheels that fit the Pathfinder look as though they would be more at home on a Bedford truck. Eventually Robert tracked down a set of ProComp 8Jx17 rims. These not only fit, but also look the part.”

The Nissan’s standard four-litre V6 engine provides plenty of power in standard trim. But since this Pathfinder was already on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body building course, Pierre thought it fitting to up the Nissan’s muscle power, too. The whole “in for a penny, in for a pound” deal.

“The engine is ‘chipped’, and it now delivers about 215 kW of power. I also considered a performance exhaust system. A friend of mine fitted a system to his Nissan Navara V6, but it was very noisy on the open road.

So I decided against that, what with the mud terrain tyres already making a bit of a racket on tar roads. In time I might do the branches, and maybe a milder exhaust conversion. But for now I can live with 215 kilowatts,” he says.

With the extra height, combined with the powerful V6 engine and towing a boat, the Pathfinder must have a bit of a drinking problem?

“Every sport has its injuries,” says Pierre, philosophically. “You can’t expect this kind of performance and frugal fuel consumption. As is, the Nissan drinks about 19 litres/100km. With the boat in tow, it’s closer to 25 litres/100km. Still, I wouldn’t change it.

“I actually took the 2,5-litre turbodiesel Pathfinder for a drive, too. It was the automatic version, but there was a bit of turbo lag, which I didn’t need. With the V6 petrol engine you just lightly tap the accelerator pedal and off she goes.”

And what about more upgrades in the future?

“Nah. I think she is good as she is. I have been on the lookout for a suitable nudge bar, but I still haven’t seen one that I feel compelled to fit to the Pathy. I’ve got the more aggressive, more off-roady look that I was after, as well as all the 4×4 capability I will ever need.”

With the five-inch lift, special shocks and suspension parts, as well special off-road wheels and Mickey Thompson mud terrain tyres, this Pathfinder addresses the standard Pathy’s ground clearance concerns.

So, instead of looking like a cage fighter but really being a judo champion under the skin, this Nissan not only looks like a cage fighter on steroids but goes like one too.

It’s just lovely.

The shopping basket

What How much

2006 Nissan Pathfinder 4.0 V6 AT 4×4 (retail value) R230 000
Calmini 5 inch suspension kit (including sway-away coil overs at front) R34 900
Camil rear coils ad shocks (for towing purposes) R5 600
5x Mickey Thompson MTZ 265/70/17 tyres R14 900
5x ProComp 8J x 17 rims R13 400
TOTAL R298 800
* Accessories supplied and installed by Dune Off-road (