I DON’T BELIEVE that another industry can quite compare itself to the 4×4 equipment industry. It is unique. Most, if not all of the equipment manufacturers and many of the equipment retailers in South Africa are a result of a personal wish to turn a hobby into a career and business. As a result, the products created are designed, developed and tested in the actual environment where the end user will enjoy them. Few products are simply the result of an idea someone had, ending up as a product. If this has been the case, which has happened from time to time, the product either fails and vanishes, or someone, with better qualifications to design and develop it, has taken it over and improved it until it has been acceptable to the off-roading community. A good example of this is Venter Trailers, the makers of well respected light trailers. They decided that the 4×4 market would be worth entering, but they did so without genuine off-road experience among their designers. As a result their early efforts were poor to say the least. It took another five years for their designs to come right, and while not at the top of the heap, now make a respectable off-road trailer. By comparison, a company that has been in business for a far shorter period, Echo 4×4 Trailers, began with off-road expertise, their first products worked and their current products rank among the best off-road trailers on the market today. It’s because of a genuine love of the outdoors mixed with understanding of the rigours of expedition travel, that enable designers to produce products with not only design insight, but strength and reliability built in as well.
This chapter serves the industry that supports the 4×4 community and the community itself. It lists the most respectable and long-lived contributors. I have not excluded some manufacturers or products on the grounds that I do not like one or more of their products, because it’s only my opinion, and had the dislike been widespread, the product/s would have made their way into obscurity on their own.
Equipment manufacturers and retailers
Among the largest 4×4 equipment manufacturers are African Outback Products and Front Runner. These companies make equipment ranging from roof-racks to packing systems, mostly light-duty manufacturing. Heavier steel making is generally handled by smaller organisations such as Onka and Burnco, building bull-bars and rear bumper spare wheel swing-arms. Some companies, for example Echo 4×4, are both manufacturers and retailers. Among the largest 4×4 retailers are LA Sport, 4×4 Mega World and Safari Centre. Many smaller shops such as Baillies Offroad and LR Service Centre are highly specialised in one or two vehicle makes. The list that follows is in no way complete.
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