After struggling to find an affordable V8 Defender Hi Cap, ‘Dirty’ Dawie de Beer converted his V8 Discovery 1 into a very tidy pick-up
Dawie de Beer is just your average South African boertjie. In the week, he works as a digital-optimisation specialist for one of Africa’s biggest banks, while on the weekend he likes to get dirty. Now before your mind starts to wander in the wrong direction, by dirty I mean jumping into his V8 Discovery 1 pick-up and driving it through the biggest mudhole that he can find. Fortunately for Dawie, his house on the old Transvaal highveld is only 800 metres away from the impressive Hobby Park 4x4 trail. This is where I meet up with him to see the Discovery – nicknamed the Green Olive – in action and admire the pick-up conversion. “The great thing about living so close to this off-road track is that I can push the Land Rover home if anything breaks on it,” jokes Dawie.
I first met Dawie about a decade ago when covering the Defender Trophy in South Africa; he was one of the event’s marshalls. While there was loads of torque and testosterone flying about at the event, Dawie was the epitome of cool, calm and collected. Not even the malaria-carrying mosquitoes could get under his skin. Dawie likes to busy himself with all things Land Rover when not on duty at the bank. He is a senior instructor at the Kyalami Land Rover Experience, and has also acted as a guide on official Land Rover expeditions: “I get paid to go on holiday with Land Rover customers, so you just know you are going to be in good company.”
So how does a digital-optimisation expert get into Land Rovers? Before his Land Rover-owning, instructing and guiding days, Dawie used to own a Nissan Sani. Obviously he got pretty badly stuck on one occasion. The Land Rover gods took pity on him and sent a Defender 90 to help him. Dawie took out his pathetic little nylon rope; the Defender owner laughed and took out his pretty comprehensive recovery kit. That moment forever changed Dawie’s life. “I wanted to be that guy with the Defender and the proper recovery gear. The Nissan Sani had to go,” he confesses.
Dawie’s first-ever Land Rover was a former NAS 90 V8, which was imported to South Africa in 1994 as part of a rather unique project by Land Rover South Africa. At the time, BMW owned Land Rover and so they fitted a 2.8 six-cylinder BMW petrol engine as one of the project’s prototypes. Unlike the 2.8s that they would go on to officially produce, Dawie’s had no limiter installed – which meant he could give the racer boys in downtown Pretoria a real run for their money.
No true Land Rover enthusiast ever owns only one Land Rover. Over the years, the 2.8 was followed by a Td5 Defender 90, Td5 Defender 110 double-cab and Discovery 3. As with many men, a mid-life no-wife crisis followed, leading to Dawie selling all his Land Rovers and purchasing a BMW M135i. This does not mean his love of all things Land Rover was on the wane. The green oval tattoo on his forearm serves as a permanent reminder of this.
One Saturday, while watching a Ford-versus-Land Rover competition at his local 4x4 track, Dawie could not help but notice a 1996 V8 Discovery 1 ES Limited Edition that took second place. Just for the record, a Defender and not a Ford took first place. Dawie offered the V8 Discovery owner £1500 cash for it. The offer was accepted and Dawie now had a base vehicle for his Discovery pick-up project: “I was pretty happy with my purchase. It had electric seats, all-round climate control, electric windows and two electric sunroofs. All the comforts that a Defender does not have.”
His original plan was to buy a V8 Defender Hi Cap, but this was a more affordable and comfortable option. After seeing the Longranger 4x4 advert in LRM, Dawie investigated the possibility of importing one of their Discovery tray back kits to South Africa for his pick-up conversion. The import costs were too high, and so Dawie decided to rope in the services of Tiens Herbst from the nearby Success Panelbeaters and Off-road Centre. His instructions to Tiens were simple – to turn the Discovery into a bakkie. Bakkie is South African slang for pick-up. Although Dawie originally wanted to bobtail it, Tiens was confident of building a classy-looking pick-up.
As Dawie enjoys getting down and dirty when off-roading, Tiens had to ensure that his Discovery pick-up was more capable at the conclusion of the build. Once the front and rear plastic bumpers had been removed, the approach and departure angles immediately improved.
Dawie and Tiens did everything possible to ensure that the Disco could handle pretty much any extreme off-road condition. To that end, Dawie decided to retain the pretty hardy XJS shocks, but asked Tiens to install 130 coils all round and a rear ARB locker. This was followed by a compressor from a Discovery 3 (which produces more air, more quickly). As he was planning on driving through some seriously muddy obstacles, he also went for steel wheels with 33-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A tyres.
Since the car was a V8, Dawie didn’t think fitting a winch would be necessary. Tiens did install 5mm-thick aluminium bash plates in both the front and back, though, and strategically placed a few drain holes to give it a helping hand drying out, for whenever it got wet. Specially fabricated steel bumpers were added for extra protection, too. This also helped to give the Discovery a more aggressive look.
After walking around the Discovery, I can only conclude that Tiens is a perfectionist – his attention to detail is of the highest quality. In fact, it’s clear for anyone to see that loads of thought and planning went into getting the pick-up just right. For example, when the rear door was removed Tiens retained the hinges and catch so that when he installed the spare wheel carrier he could use them to secure it. His reasoning was simple – everyone knows that the bits from a Land Rover are durable and reliable, so why replace them with something inferior?
To complete the pick-up look, a black powder-coated roll bar was installed, while the rear load area has been professionally rubberised – a popular option to prevent damage when loading and unloading. Dawie also installed cargo rails and several tie-down eyelets for added security, while an axe and spade are neatly bolted onto the sides of the load area – just in case he wants to chop down a tree or dig a hole.
As with all Land Rovers, this is a never-ending project. After showing me what the Disco can do off-road, Dawie is quick to admit that he normally drives it way too hard, which has led to overheating problems. He plans on upgrading the suspension to a full Fox system, so that if the shocks get damaged he will be able to repair and replace the bits himself.
At some point Dawie will also give the V8 a good old overhaul, which will give him the perfect opportunity to install a reliable and much-needed engine-management system. This will enable him to use the optimal settings for various situations such as saving fuel or driving through serious off-road obstacles. For now, Dawie has just installed a front-to-back freeflow exhaust to ensure it sounds like a V8, but with the added precaution of a small box to keep the cops away.
So far he has spent in the region of £7000 creating his dream Discovery pick-up. Last August, Dawie took his pride and joy up the famous Sani Pass, a trip of over 620 miles. Sadly it was anything but straightforward, thanks to a few technical issues. “On the way down the pass my transfer case lever broke. I had to take it out of centre diff-lock with a spanner. Then, on the way home, the UJ broke and came off. I thought it was the transfer case falling out, but it was just the propshaft hitting the tar. I stopped, took off the prop, engaged diff-lock and drove it home.”
So, does Dawie miss the safe packing space in the back of a regular Discovery? “It is just me and my boy, so we don’t really need any additional space. We pack our clothes and sleeping bags behind the seats, and the rest just goes on the back. So what if it rains? It would be senseless to build a canopy for it.”
Before we part company, I had to ask Dawie why he christened his creation the Green Olive? “I am a rum and Pirates of the Caribbean fan. In the movie Jack Sparrow has the Black Pearl, so I decided to opt for the Green Olive. That, and I think pirates and rum drinkers have a spirit of adventure that Land Rover fans normally crave.”
Most Land Rover Experience instructors have seen it all, but Dawie takes being laid-back and unflustered to a whole new level. “That is why I drive Land Rovers. You are guaranteed to have an unusual and exciting experience, and in the end they always get you home.”
Dawie, however, does come clean about the unexplainable frustrations that also go hand in hand with Land Rover ownership. “Some mornings it just does not want to start, and there is no explanation, because the night before it started without any drama. It might just be that I did not treat it well in the past week. Land Rovers need constant reassurances and love. You have to go and greet your Landie each morning, even if you don’t plan on driving it that day, and assure it that you will be taking it out to find some mud soon.” Truer words have never been spoken.LONGRANGER 4X4|||||||||||||||||||||
Fancy doing something similar to your Discovery? See www.longranger.net
for more details or call them on 07836 598895. They now stock Discovery 2 pick-up kits