Text: Danie Botha
Photography: Jannie Herbst
In the beginning of 2010, Martin Zechner was in crisis.
You see Martin, who had emigrated from Austria in 1968 and founded the now highly successful Betterect manufacturing company in 1974, loves to watch sport on television. Any sport really. But especially soccer, rugby and cricket.
“The crisis” had originated many months before the Soccer World Cup kicked off in June, in Soccer City. That’s when Martin and wife May agreed on an overland trip through Namibia and Botswana, along with some friends.
To fulfill all their overlanding needs, the seasoned off-roading couple had, a few years earlier, bought a pre-owned but pristine Ranger Rover V8, circa 1999. They absolutely love the great outdoors, and the Rangy was just the ticket to take them to the bush in consumate luxury.
The Range Rover had already been upgraded some, for previous excursions. It got a Stage One engine conversion from Rob Green Motorsport, which not only endowed the Rangy with more power, but also a delectable V8 rumble from the twin exhaust pipes.
And a winch. And a new set of BF Goodrich tyres.
But this business with the soccer, and the world cup. Nein! Nein! Nein!
He was going to miss the German and South African soccer games. The cricket. The rugby. And? the soccer! For a long time Martin was downright miserable about the fact that he was going to miss all his favourite sports on the box. Especially the soccer.
Then, a few months before the world cup kicked off in Johannesburg, Martin and May visited their daughter Heidi, and her husband Justin, over a weekend.
“Martin seemed a bit grumpy, so I asked him what the matter was. He mumbled something about sitting in the bush in Namibia and Botswana, and missing the World Cup altogether. And the rugby, and the cricket. And the soccer. I worked in the car sound and entertainment industry for many years, and my dad used to be the managing director of Pioneer SA. So I made a logical suggestion: why not kit the Range Rover out with a full entertainment system, including satellite television? Then he can watch sport when and where he wants to,” says Justin.
Being an engineer, with a pragmatic view on such matters, Martin’s engineering and manufactuing brain started spinning at top revolutions.
Maybe it wasn’t impossible? Maybe? it could actually be done! And maybe he could watch the soccer, the rugby and the cricket. And? the soccer!
So started the process of turning an average Range Rover V8 into a classy, mobile cinema – high definition satellite television et al.
With Justin tapping into his vast background of the car-entertaiment business, and with Martin’s engineering and manufacturing know-how, the pieces of the puzzle slowly started falling into place.
“One of our biggest challenges was to find a flat-screen, high definition screen that would fit into the load area of the Range Rover, according to Martin’s clever brakcet design,” says Justin.
After searching high and low, and after weighing up all the options, they finally settled on a Samsung 32-inch LCD television. Martin then fabricated a unique, fold-away bracket from high-quality stainless steel. With the Samsung screen fitted, the bracket folds in behind the rear seats, at the same angle as the seats.
So the loadbay was still a loadbay too, and the television’s screen lives out of harm’s way, facing the rear seat backrests.
When it’s television time, the sturdy bracket simply folds up and flips over, to reveal the big 32-inch screen.
Next followed the satellite dish. Martin created another custom bracket for this, which presides on the Range Rover’s roof-rack. When driving the satellite dish is stored safely “inside” the rails of the roof-rack, with as little as possible wind resistance. When it’s time, Martin simply hooks up the dish to a special bracket on the roof-rack, aim it at the satellites? and there is television.
Since the extra electrics would require some more electric power, the Range Rover was booked into LA Sport West Rand, for the fitment of a dual-battery system. And to charge the second battery LA Sport connected two retractable solar panels (for which Martin had manufactured a custom slide-out panel), for when the Rangy is stationary. All the wiring and the battery system were neatly installed on one side of the loadbay, out of the way.
“The idea was to create a practical solution, so the loadbay area still had to be a loadbay area, and not one filled with speakers, televisions, batteries, and so on,” says Justin.
Since Justin hails from the car-sound business it was probably inevitable that the Range Rover would get some proper sound too. After all, rugby without Hugh Bladen’s clear commentary would just not be, well, rugga!
So the Range Rover’s next stop was at the West Rand-based Mobile Accoustics. The company installed an Alpine subwoofer, Alpine splits, two Alpine amplifiers, a graphic equalizer, the DStv High Definition PVR decoder? and a 250GB Slim PS3 gaming console. So, when there’s no sport on the box, Martin and friends can always create their own sports with the PS3 console!
However, Martin and May are outdoors enthusiasts, and responsible ones at that. So they never intended to listen to Hugh Bladen at 150 decibels in the peaceful and quiet surrounds of the Epupa waterfalls in Namibia.
Or with Das Deutchlandlied (the German national anthem) or Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika blaring out at full blast in the Kruger National Park.
For this reason the sound system is connected to state-of-the-art Sennheiser RS120 wireless headphones.
But there was a small practical hick-up? although everything worked like a charm, one needed to flip up the 32-inch screen in the loadbay to control all the functions. It worked yes, but it wasn’t very user-friendly.
A solution was at hand, and it came in the form of an in-dash car-entertainment system from Planet Electronics – the same kind of unit that does service in our Project Navara.
Besides for the bonus of the GPS mapping that comes standard with this entertainment system, the system is hooked up to all the other gear, so Martin and May can now control the sound and PS3 systems while on the move. They can even watch a DVD.
By that stage the kitty for the sound and entertainment accessories had been stretched to about R110 000.
And so, in the beginning of June, the couple set off on their epic journey through Namibia and Botswana. And so the World Cup kicked off, with South Africa facing off against Mexico in the tournament’s opening game. And there, in a remote camping site in Namibia, Martin and May shared in the South African euphoria when Bafana-Bafana striker Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the world cup’s first goal.
They watched Gemany progress to the finals against Spain. They watched some rugby. They watched some cricket.
They had a ball, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Indeed, the trip was perfect. Well, almost perfect.
If the Germans had just won that world cup final against Spain. Then Martin Zechner’s overland trip, in his Range Rover SPORTS, would have been utterly complete.