Having Lionel Lewis of LA Sport as your father has its advantages. For one thing, your first car doesn’t look anything like the usual student runabout.
Anél Lewis is in grade 12 and has just turned 18. She doesn’t have her driver’s licence yet, but she soon will. “I hope to get it during the holidays,” she says.
When Anél does get her hands on that coveted passport to freedom, she’ll be driving something rather interesting. Unlike other students, who are happy to be given frugal hatch-backs or wheezing jalopies, she will be driving a Nissan Patrol.
And because Lionel has something to do with it, this won’t be a standard model. No, Anél will be driving one of the most striking and intimidating Patrols around.
They spotted the vehicle late last year while holidaying in Jeffreys Bay. A dealer was asking R135 000 for the standard 2004 4,8-litre petrol-engined Patrol. Lionel thought it was a bargain.
“What Anél really wanted was an old KZ-TE Hilux,” says Lionel. “But to get your hands on a decent example of one of those would set you back around R150 000.”
The Patrol seemed like a better deal: comfortable, capable and very plush.
“The Patrol is one of the most underrated 4x4s in the country,” says Lionel. “And I blame Nissan SA for that. They’ve never marketed the SUV properly.”
Lionel bought the Patrol and set to work on it. He started by fitting an LAS Profender adjustable suspension and Dick Cepek rims, shod with massive 38-inch Mickey Thompson tyres. To ensure that the large wheels fitted properly, he modified the arches, opening them up to suit the new tyres.
At the front, Lionel installed an LAS replacement bull bar, fitted with a Warn winch and large spotlights.
The rear received a new bumper with a carrier for the 38-inch spare tyre and a second arm to hold a jerry can, hi-lift jack, work light and spade. Other extras include a snorkel, roof rack and rock sliders.
The result is a striking and attention-grabbing Nissan Patrol, especially when it’s piloted by a young and dainty blonde.
“The Patrol attracts a lot of attention,” says Anél. “I’ve got my learner’s licence, so I took it to school once, accompanied by a friend with a licence. People couldn’t stop staring at it. They loved it!”
But didn’t she want a more, well, “girly” car? Perhaps a cute Mini or Fiat 500?
Not for her. “I wanted a 4×4. I never even looked at a small passenger car. I’ve grown up with 4x4s. I couldn’t imagine driving anything else.”
But that doesn’t mean the Patrol won’t take some getting used to. “It is so big and wide. You really need to be careful,” says Anél.
The fuel consumption of that burly 4,8-litre engine is another issue. It sucks fuel.
“I think that was my dad’s plan all along,” laughs Anél. “Perhaps he wants to discourage me from going anywhere by making sure I never have any money for petrol!”
Despite these issues, she loves the Patrol. But perhaps she shouldn’t get too comfortable with it. Lionel seems tempted to sell it.
“I’m seriously thinking of getting rid of it,” he says. “I’ll buy her something else. It’s time for a new project.”
What would he ask for the Patrol as it stands? R300 000? Lionel hints that he’d let it go for around R285 000 – quite a bargain for “one of the most underrated 4x4s in the country”.
Whatever Anél ends up driving, you can be sure that it will be a rough and tough 4×4. She will also be going into the family business.
“She’ll be studying marketing next year,” says Lionel, “And when she’s not busy studying, she’ll be helping out at LA Sport. She’ll organise events – that sort of thing.”
Anél was born into the 4×4 lifestyle. Leaving it behind simply isn’t an option.