These days, the Voetspore team uses Toyota Land Cruiser pick ups for their epic overland trips. According to Johan Badenhorst though, there’s one aftermarket accessory that no bakkie owner can do without… and that’s rubberising the ‘bak’.
I am often amazed when I see a brand new vehicle at our shop, with less than 100 kilometres on the clock, and a job card the length of Grace Mugabe’s Christmas shopping list.
Why were these items not included by the manufacturer? Many of these are not optional extras. They are essentials. Best example is probably the rubberising of a pick up. This is always the first port of call when we prepare our Voetspore vehicles for an expedition.
Whether you use a pick up as a workhorse or as a leisure vehicle, it needs to be rubberised. Over the years we realised that there are a variety of rubberising products available. This may be the reason why vehicle manufacturers don’t include it as standard on a pick up. It is something like fitting a radio of your choice in your car during the period when few vehicles had factory-fitted music systems.
Like radios, there is a huge difference in the quality of the various rubberising products. We learnt, as many other things in life, only the best will do. Going the cheap way more often, over a period of time, ends up being the expensive way. To have rubberising redone or to suffer the consequences of a poorly applied product can cost you dearly.
The last five years we did the rubberising for the Voetspore expedition vehicles with Tom Wilson from Pollycraft. Tom has been in the business since 1983, and over the years he learnt what is best and what should be used for each application.
First thing to realise is that with rubberising of between 2–3mm thickness, a product that most suppliers would offer at less than R2 000 for a pick up, is merely a waste of money.
This product tears easily. This results in rust developing under the rubber skin. Blood from hunted animals, loaded on the back of such a pick up, penetrates between the rubberising and body. This is not very hygienic at all.
One of the products that Tom applies to vehicles is Econo Polyurethane Lining (EPL). This product is between 4–5mm thick, much more elastic and 25% stronger than the inferior product. It withstands sunlight reasonably well and at a price of around R 2 500 per double cab, this product is popular. It should be noted, though, that it cannot withstand chemical spills. That is why we choose, on Tom’s advice, the “Rolls Royce” of rubberising: Quality Polyurethane Lining (QPL).
QPL is 75% stronger than standard rubberising. It is virtually impossible to tear this 5mm thick product. It can withstand oil, blood, petrol, diesel and most chemicals. It can withstand heat up to 100*Celsius. On Voetspore expeditions, we found this to be very handy, especially using the back flap of the pick ups as tables when cooking, putting hot pots and kettles on the rubberised flap. Previously the rubberising would melt under the cast iron pot.
Not with QPL. It is non-toxic, too and creates no static electricity. At just more than R 3 500 per pick up, we believe this is money well spent.
Just having the best product available is half the battle won. Just as important is how it is applied. This is where we are comfortable with people who have been in the business for decades. Once applied, the rubberising must last the lifetime of the vehicle.
Tom and his team, in the preparation of the vehicle, do no grinding or sandblasting. The surface is also treated for rust before the application is done. Side walls, lately often only one skin thick on many vehicles, are treated with two applications. Curing of this product takes 48 hours.
One of the most important aspects of Tom’s application, one that only comes with years of experience, is the finishing he applies. Especially on the top the bodywork, where the canopy or the cattle rails will be fitted, needs to be smooth as to be water and dust proof.
QPL is available in most colours (except white). This carries a premium of 25%. Over the years we stuck to black, and have always been happy.
Apart from safari vehicles like ours, Tom and his team do panel wagons, ambulances and trailers. For all ‘open’ vehicles, having the bodywork rubberised is essential. They have also done the interior of a 76 Cruiser with good effect. This prevents scratching and even provides higher levels of sound proofing.
Rubberising is an essential part of preparing a safari vehicle. It may not be the most noticeable of the changes made in getting the vehicles ready, yet it is one of the most important.
Text and photos: Johan Badenhorst