Hellboy, the comic book and big-screen hero: a fictional superhero with superhuman strength, endurance and some resistance to injury. Hellboy, the Jeep: a real super-4×4 with super off-road talent, overlanding ability and, well, a hefty fuel bill. We went for a spin…
Custom Jeep Wranglers are a dime a dozen. In fact, a stock Wrangler is as rare as a metro police officer who actually cares about road safety. But every so often there’s this one Jeep that makes you sit up and take notice. One that not only stops the traffic in the looks department, but that also has the ultimate ability to match the show.
Muscle Trucks’ Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is such a Jeep. They call it Hellboy. Featuring almost R500 000 worth of upgrades, Hellboy is an extremely capable off-roader that you can live with on a daily basis. And, you can still use it for overlanding for a family of four.
There’s also the look of the thing… it really is an imposing hunk of metal.Built to showcase the company’s bigger-wheeled building prowess, Hellboy features some run-of-the-mill upgrades as well as a number of unique custom touches.
Hansie Coetzee, owner of TJM Pretoria-East and Muscle Trucks, says that creating Hellboy presented some unique challenges. “There are many custom Jeep Wranglers out there, so to create something really unique and out of the ordinary, you need some deep pockets,” he says. But a fat wallet is one thing – all the money in the world won’t necessarily buy the attention to detail found in this Jeep.
The Hellboy story started with a stock Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 3.6 Rubicon AT that Coetzee bought specifically as a custom project base vehicle. The 3.6-litre V6 engine produces 209kW of power and 347Nm of torque in stock trim, so the mill remains 100% stock.
“I prefer a quiet and refined drive, and since the engine has plenty of horses on tap, we left it standard,” says Coetzee. Coetzee changed the ratios in the Dana front and rear differentials, swapped out for cogs that allow the Jeep to run on the much bigger wheels (38-inchers) with no issue or hassle. In fact, Coetzee reckons the bigger-wheeled Jeep drinks almost the same amount of petrol as a stock Rubicon V6, using, on average, around 17 litres/100km.
To fit those big Mickey Ts and custom rims (worth about R100 000), the stock Wrangler Unlimited’s suspension obviously had to be upgraded. Cue the sound of the cash register again. Hellboy is fitted with an AEV 4.5-inch (11.5cm) suspension lift and Fox shocks all-round, as well as a Fox steering damper. This upgrade is worth almost R120 000. The specially reinforced differentials and modified ratios added R40 000. But this R160 000 has endowed Hellboy with super-4×4 abilities.
Wheel articulation (especially when the front stabiliser bar is electronically disconnected) is astounding… getting a front wheel to depart terra firma is a 4×4 challenge in itself. Add the custom differential ratios, the huge mud terrain tyres, acres of ground clearance as well as standard lockers for the front and rear diffs, and Hellboy truly is as unstoppable and ‘super’ as you can wish for in a 4×4.But a super-4×4 was just one part of the design brief it also needed to be a practical overlanding 4×4 for a family of four (parents and two small kids).And as any Wrangler owner will attest, this is no easy task. Space is at a premium in this modern classic.
So Coetzee and his team improvised and came up with some innovative solutions to old Wrangler issues. For one, there is no space in the engine bay or a discreet space in the cabin to fit an auxiliary battery system. You can fit it into the load area, but then there is no space for a drawer system. A custom battery box was created that houses the Ctek dual-battery control system and the deep cycle battery, and that also leaves enough space for a full-size drawer system and fridge.
The cleverly designed rear cargo area houses two tents (one for the adults and one for the kids), as well as four camping chairs. Coetzee is not a big fan of long-range fuel tank products that are available for the Wrangler, and he prefers to add jerry cans for the roof. So there’s a 4×4 Muscle Trucks aluminium roof rack. This rack has a unique party trick: if you want to remove the hard top on a Wrangler, you usually have to remove the roof rack, and it ends up being quite a hullabaloo. This product bucks that trend. Instead, it is hinged at the back and simply lifts up and out of the way. The rack is also fitted with an Alu-Cab Shadow awning.
Hellboy not only looks the 4×4 part, it can actually do the overlanding 4×4 bit, too. Talking about looks: no superhero Wrangler is complete without some more regular Jeep Tupperware. So Hellboy is fitted with a Bad Boy grille, Bush-wacker flat fender flares, Smitty-bilt front bumper, rear bumper (with sparewheel carrier) and rock sliders, and a Warn Zion 10 000lb winch with plasma rope. To round off the picture, there’s R50 000 worth of GEM light bars (as well as upgraded headlights and taillights) – all LED.
At almost R500 000 worth of extras, 4×4 Muscle Trucks really had to dig deep into the proverbial pockets to create Hellboy, the Jeep. Considering a stock Unlimited Rubicon will set you back almost R620 000, Hellboy is worth around R1.1-million if you had to replace it. But judging by the looks and theory, it is all well worth it. Time to drive it then…
oh my greatness!
Getting into this Jeep is the first surprise. The doorsill is about one metre off the ground, so you can expect your 90-year-old granny to use some swear words if she had to get in and out of this Jeep. Hellboy looks like it could raise hell but it’s a bit of an anti-climax when you fire up the 3.6-litre V6. Instead of all hell breaking lose, with a horde of untamed, bloodthirsty wild hyenas howling and yelping and growling, it’s all very quiet, refined and standard.
And it’s not as if the stock V6 engine is lacking any get up and go with that 209kW on call, and with the five-speed automatic gearbox reasonably willing and paraat, Hellboy can cover ground very briskly indeed. On the open road, cruising at 120km/h, it easily maintains its momentum; the cabin (with its decent sound system) a cocoon of relative luxury, considering the beastly nature of this contraption.
The Wolwekloof 4×4 trail, situated east of Pretoria and home to Trompie Off-road, boasts some tough obstacles that will give most 4×4s a right workout. But with low range selected and the front sway bar disconnected, driving Hellboy here was a bit like going to target practise at the local small arms range… with an elephant tank.
With the lockers and with all the wheels that remain in contact with the ground in ridiculously tough situations, you can simply crawl in first gear, up, over and through everything. Sure, it is obviously wider than a stock Rubi, but if you are planning to compete in the Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge where you have to aim through narrow gates, this is an easy-enough-to-deal-with characteristic. The height of the beast is also a factor. Although this is not such a big issue in the bush (just mind the overhanging branches), you will cause quite a spectacle if you try to park this Jeep in an underground parking area.
To even remotely test Hellboy, you have to be a little bit crazy… like driving up a 90-degree rock. And Hellboy didn’t mind at all – such superhero stunts are right up its alley.
How big can it be? – Hellboy
This 4×4 is one of the most capable off-roaders we’ve ever experienced, and it strikes a great balance between real-world usability and extreme 4×4 talents. You can use the Jeep as your daily driver. You can head to Namibia with the family on a real overland adventure. Or, you can go grade five obstacle hunting. As the character Hellboy said in the 2004 feature film of the same title: “How big can it be?”
Not big enough. Nothing is big enough for Hellboy, the Jeep Wrangler.
Driving Hellboy here was a bit like going to target practise at the local small arms range… with an Elephant tank
- The 4×4 Muscle Trucks team initially wanted to fit 40-inch wheels on this Wrangler, but there were no wheels available in that size. So a set of Rockstar 2 20-inch rims were procured and customised. The plastic appendages on the wheels were replaced with custom steel versions, and a custom protective ring of steel (the red ring) was added to prevent damage to the actual rims. In case this ring does pick up damage, it is much more cost-effective to replace than the entire rim.
- The Jeep is fitted with an imported LED lighting system that is mounted on the engine skid plate. It uses a Bluetooth application that Coetzee accesses via his smartphone, and you can virtually choose any colour of the rainbow. The system was primarily designed for 4×4 driving at night, so your spotter can see what is going on under the Jeep’s belly.
Quotes (from Hellboy movie)
Hellboy, to character Liz Sherman: “I can promise you two things.
One: I will always look this good. Two: I’ll never give up on you…”
Hellboy to character Sammy: “Look, I’m not a very good shot… [holds
up his huge revolver]… but the Samaritan here uses really big bullets.”
Character Abe Sapien, to Hellboy: “Behind this door, a dark entity.
Evil, ancient and hungry.”
Hellboy, answers with a sigh: “Oh well, let me go and say ‘hi’.”
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 3.6 Rubicon AT ‘Hellboy’
|Bad Boy grille||
|Bushwacker flat style fender flares||
|Smittybilt XRC GEN 2 front bumper||R18 500|
|Smittybilt XRC GEN 2 rear bumper with spare wheel carrier||R30 500|
|Smittybilt SRC rock sliders||R10 500|
|Warn Zion 10000lb winch with plasma rope||
|AEV 4.5-inch suspension with Fox upgraded shocks & steering damper||
|Rockstar 2 20” x 12J rims & Micky Thompson MTZ 38 x 15,5 x R20 tyres||
|GEM spot lights and light bars||
|Upgraded LED headlights and tail lights||
|Drawer system and load rack||
|Ctek battery system dual d250s with custom battery box||
|4×4 Muscle Trucks roof rack system||
|Alu-Cab Shadow awning||
|Reinforced differentials s and custom ratios||
|Total * Prices exclude fitment||
More information: 4×4 Muscle Trucks, Tel: 012 809 0090; www.tjmptaeast.co.za