Text: Danie Botha and GG van Rooyen
Photography: Jannie Herbst
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking. Flight Pappa Alfa Tango Romeo Oscar Lima is ready for take-off. Please fasten your seat belts, sit back and relax, and enjoy your flight with Nissan and LA Sport. Cabin crew, your positions for take-off, please.”
It’s been a recurring, haunting, beautiful dream – ever since we visited the Kalahari’s sand dunes with LA Sport’s Nissan Patrol, a few months ago. We had unintentionally flown the Nissan Patrol, after cresting a steep dune. The landing in the soft Kalahari sand was not subtle – the heavy Patrol didn’t kiss mother earth as if it was its sister. Instead it smacked terra firma hard. Very hard.
One would have expected, after a landing like this, that some mechanical parts might have opted out, claiming early retirement. After all, only purpose-built off-road racing vehicles are designed to fly like this.
But the Patrol 4.8GRX was still in perfect fighting shape, which bears testimony not only to the Nissan’s inherently robust and tough nature, but also to the top-of-the-range aftermarket kit fitted to it by LA Sport, which had turned an already amazing 4×4 into a super one.
The work included the fitment of the latest TJM XGS Gold suspension upgrade, which played a major role in cushioning the Patrol’s landing so ably. Other upgrades included a TJM Airtec snorkel system, a big lump of TJM bullbar along with a heavy-duty TJM winch and two Cibie spotlights, specialised off-road rims fitted with the latest Goodyear MT tyres with Kevlar inserts, and a Front Runner Windcheetah roof-rack.
But back then the Patrol was a bit of an experiment – like an experimental aircraft, taken for its maiden flight, but far from production ready. LA Sport still wanted to add some equipment to the Patrol before its final destiny was revealed. But wait, before we get to the future, let’s look at the present.
Now our Patrol is ready. Ready to take on the world, and anything along the way. And to do so in a self-sufficient way, too.
Lionel Lewis from LA Sport and his team have made several modifications to the Patrol since you last saw it. It starts at the front, where the Patrol now sports a TJM Type 17 bullbar. This impressive piece of equipment, like the bullbar it replaced, is airbag compatible and allows the fitment of a winch and spotlights. Although the Type 13 bullbar originally fitted to the Patrol (see issue 76, page 16) was indeed a fine piece of off-road kit, its visual appeal was less than flattering, we thought.
Sure, if you hit anything but a 14-wheeler Oskosh truck with the bullbar you would probably be able to continue on your journey. But seen directly from the front, the Nissan Patrol had lost a bit of its Nissan-ness. The headlights, the Nissan badge, the grille? we thought the Nissan became just another 4×4 overlander – and we wanted more.
So Lionel and his men set to work on the bullbar, customising it to a TJM airbag compatible spec T17. The main and most solid section, which also houses the TJM OX 9 500lb (4,5 ton) winch, was retained, but the snazzy and bulky pipework that protects the lights and grille were removed. This created a sleeker, cleaner look for the Patrol’s business end.
Lionel was also faced with a bit of a challenge at the other end of the Patrol – the tail. Here the 17-inch wheel with standard 275/17 spare tyre lived in a standard Nissan cover, attached to bigger of the two rear doors.
Which may possibly have been fine, except that this special Patrol was now fitted with much bigger, Lionel-size 305/17 Goodyear tyres. We obviously needed a full-size spare wheel.
However, this fitment challenge required a bit more input and development work than the bullbar. First the team, together with Corrie Nortjé from LAS Manufacturing, used a computer program called Solid Works
Drawing to design a completely new rear bumper for the Patrol. It’s called a LAS PRO Carrier and replaces the original bumper. In addition to a spare wheel carrier, the design includes a removable tow bar, hi-lift jacking points and recovery points. There are also built-in trailer and Brad Harrison plugs.
After fine-tuning this design, it was time to get real. LAS Manufacturing was tasked with the creation of this 100% original and local development. Now, after months of planning, development and finally fitment, the new steel rear bumper is fitted to the Patrol. And as usual, Lionel and his team have done an amazing job.
Not only is this new bumper more hardy and Africa-friendly than the original, it is also more practical. Although the original spare wheel cover and holder were certainly up to the task, the new item makes the wheel much more accessible – no bad thing if you’re in the middle of the bush.
Lastly, the exterior was enhanced by the addition of an awning: The brand new LA Sport PRO Series 270˚ Awning. This handy contraption fits to the left side of the roof-rack and opens (as the name suggests) to 270˚.
The awning can be opened in seconds and has no poles, so it’s ideal for those impromptu lunch stops.
Next, Lionel shifted his attention to the Patrol’s interior. Here the plan was to make it more of an “overlander”. In other words, to make it more self-sufficient when it heads for Timbuktu.
First LA Sport added a dual-battery system – but this was not a straightforward exercise. There is not enough space in the Patrol’s engine bay to fit that second battery, because the bay is brimming with 4,8-litres of straight-six engine.
So Lionel moved the second battery to the load area. The battery is housed in a plastic container and can be removed when it isn’t needed. Of course, this portability also means that the battery can be used as a power supply when you’re camping in the bush.
The load area was also fitted with a LAS PRO Drawer, which is a slide-out drawer system. Ideal for overlanding, this system allows you to neatly pack foodstuffs, valuables or whatever else away – so everything has its place.
And lastly, a 50-litre LAS PRO Cool Fridge was installed. This is obviously one accessory you can’t do without when overlanding. How else are you going to keep those beers cold? And if you really want to, you can even store meat and other perishable goods in there, too. Good thing there’s a lot of space in this fridge.
Right, so there you have it. One standard Nissan Patrol, which is already one heck of a 4×4, turned into a Super overlanding machine that is perfect for driving from Cape Town to Cape Point in Alaska.
And if there are any Voyager miles to claim with the Patrol along the way to Cairo, then you can rest assured that as far as flying 4x4s go, this is about as good as it gets – as we showed in the Kalahari.