The Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge is a tough business. Even though it is based on standard production 4x4s, time and again first-time competitors are found wearing that eyes-wide-open look after they’ve finished the first 10 obstacles.
In fact, some newbie drivers arrive at the competition full of bravado, knowing all the (4×4) answers. But later, after those first 10 challenges, they are much more timid. The main protagonist who causes this turnaround in attitude is one Sakkie Coetzee.
Sakkie, in conjunction with the event organisers from Bridgestone South Africa,creates the obstacles that are designed to not only test machine, but man and woman, too. Each obstacle is designed to test a specific skill set, and to test it to the fullest.
So our stock-standard shorty Mitsubishi Pajero 3.2Di-D GLS really had its work cut out. On paper, the Pajero certainly has the 4×4 hardware to smoke this competition. It features Mitsubishi’s Super Select II 4WD system that allows for a selection between four settings: the default 2HIGH (only the rear wheels are driven), 4HIGH (where all four wheels are driven but the centre differential remains open so you can drive it on tar, too), 4HLc (where the centre diff is locked and the drive is split 50/50 between the front and rear axles) and 4LLc (4WD low-range with a 50/50 split).
Further bolstering its off-road prowess is a rear differential lock, engaged via a button next to the steering wheel. The three-door Pajero also has a claimed 235mm of clearance, is relatively compact at 4.4m long, and has a tight turning circle.
It has plenty of grunt too, with 140kW and 441Nm of torque (peaking at 2 000r/min). The power is regulated by a stability and traction control system, the latter only disengaged when the rear differential lock is engaged.So in theory this Pajero should fare pretty well in an off-road environment. However, there are some limiting factors. We removed the standard side steps (destined to be damaged)and fitted Front Runner rock sliders (R3 485 excluding fitment). They bolt straight onto the Mitsubishi’s existing side-step brackets, so they are very easy to fit and remove.
The Pajero’s monocoque design (where the chassis is integrated with the body) means that there is not a lot of wheel articulation on offer. So we upgraded the suspension by fitting aftermarket Tough Dog shock absorbers and springs (from R16 500 for the set, excluding fitment), courtesy of 4×4 accessory outlet Opposite Lock.
These Australian products are adjustable at the front (nine settings) but the rear unit is not adjustable (apparently due to monocoque chassis set-up). The 41mm internal bore shocks feature tricks such as a twin-tube design, 18mm double chrome-plated rod and a three-year/100 000km warranty. The fitment was done most efficiently by Opposite Lock’s Boksburg branch.
The Pajero’s standard tyres (Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts 265/65 R17s) were designed more for highways than byways. So we changed them for a set of Bridgestone’s more off-road-oriented Dueler all-terrains (about R2 500 per tyre), in the same size. So the result of our first round of upgrades is about 50mm worth of suspension lift, tyres that afford more grip and protection in tough off-road conditions, and meaty rock sliders.
To put the new hardware to the test we asked 4×4 legend Sakkie Coetzee to put the Pajero through its paces on his tough Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge qualifying track, before we hand our tame Pajero over to other teams. Sakkie headed to obstacles one to four at the McCarthy 4×4 Club’s so-called ‘walle’. There he scored full marks on each obstacle. Yep, 400 points out of a possible 400.
So there is no doubt that the Pajero has the right 4×4 stuff. However, the test did highlight the need for more underbody protection after a fuel line was damaged. And one particularly slippery, steep climb proved that, in some situations, the traction control is more effective than the rear differential lock. Overall though, the Pajero 3.2Di-D GLS proved to be a highly capable 4×4 competition vehicle. It even impressed Oom Sakkie and he normally only has eyes for Isuzus.
Some TLC for Deziree LAND ROVER 109 R6
Deziree the Landy did not see much action this month in order to fix an oil leak on the rear differential. That has now been completed so her rejuvenation process can start in earnest, kicking off with some attention for her 45-year-old aluminium body.
Text & Photos: Danie Botha