The South African 4×4 accessory market is polarized into two camps: 4×4 Mega World and LA Sport. Equipment retailers, as a rule, support one or the other. 4×4 Mega World are the importers of ARB and OME while LA Sport import TJM and XJS. Between these two big players, they have also polarized local manufacturers too; Mega World no longer sells African Outback Products and imrt their own Chinese made roof racks, while LA Sport sells Front Runner equipment from a few other smaller suppliers. As a result, many stores, especially 4×4 Mega World, has a small limited brand list, relying heavily on their hugely popular home brands.
What follows is a list of manufacturers, importers and retailers.
A company of 4×4 enthusiasts designing, developing and building aluminium canopies, packing systems, boxes, consoles as well as stainless water tanks, trailer fittings and various other off-road accessories. They also do extensive custom work for all types of vehicles. Alu-Cab has offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg. www.alu-cab.co.za
Innovative and clever, Alu-Cab pioneered the high-quality off-road canopy. And they are still at the top of their game. Customizing, there are one of SA’s best, while build quality has progressed from good to excellent. I highly recommend them.
One of South Africa’s largest 4×4 equipment makers, African Outback was part of the stable owning the importation rights to Engel and Old man Emu and ARB but has fallen away. They are now joint owned with Big Country 4×4. They produce a broad range of products including roof-racks, roller drawer systems, pick-up canopies, roof-rack accessories and more. Once sold at all 4×4 Mega World stores, African Outback has no fixed home in South Africa after a dispute with 4×4 mega World late 2011. They can be ordered from Safari Centre stores, among others. I believe they are part of a major buy-out by the Imperial Holdings Group. www.africanoutback.co.za
Generally speaking, Outback Products are good and some are outstanding. I have used their racks for over a decade and cannot fault them but their add-ons, like Jerry can brackets and gas bottle brackets are poorly designed, weak and badly made. They make an excellent canopy, having copied to a large extent AluCab’s, and while excellent, I think AluCab’s is a bit better. They make an excellent 207° awning (The Ostrich – but it’s far too heavy).
The authors project. I build overl;and vehicles for clients cherry-picking the best from SA’s entire 4×4 insustry. No store can do this. And it doesn’t cost the client any more! They get my services for free. If you need a suspension fitted, or a roof rack, then don’t come to me. But if you want an package, then you can use all my expertise to get a vehicle designed and built for you. Click here.
Husband and wife team Stuart and Kathy Baillie, run ‘Baillies’, one of the most respected fitters of off-road accessories in the country. As a result of Stuart’s personal love of Land Cruisers, his work is mainly, but not exclusively Toyota Land Cruiser. Baillies is also the importer of Safari Snorkel and also custom builds fuel tanks, axle protectors and other items of practical use to overlanders as well as game viewing vehicles. Products sold include EFS, Firestone Air Springs, Onka bull bars, IFE Engineering wheel carriers and many more. They are based in Kyalami, Gauteng. www.baillies.co.za
Stuart Baillie is one of the pioneers in this industry and he is one of few that has focused on one vehicle type. My vehicles have been prepared by Stuart. If it’s a Land Cruiser question you have, ask Stuart.
BIG COUNTRY 4X4
Big Country is one of the small companies making a wide range of items for common and less common four-wheel drives. Based in Rangburg, Gauteng, the team has a lot of passion for what they do and being small, will do customized work. Late 2011 they joined with African Outback, I believe as part of a major buy-out by Imperial Holdings Group. www.bigcountry.co.za
I have not had a lot of experience with Big Country’s products, but as a first impression, I am impressed. Good attention to detail and some excellent, well thought-out products. If you are looking for a roof-rack, they make a very good one, probably the best in SA.
A Cape Town Based company making rear bumper replacements, bull bars and packing systems, mainly for Toyota Land Cruisers. Particularly strong and practical equipment. They also sell well known brands like Old Man Emu and ARB. www.kumnandi.co.za/burnco1.htm
This is the well known brand available at Makro and Game Stores, both huge discount chains. Is it any good? Yes. Sometimes very good. For the past ten years I’ve probably used more of their gear than any one single manufacturer and I have to say, rarely been dissatisfied with a product. www.campmaster.co.za
Trailer makers well distributed throughout the country, they have been innovators in the off-road trailer industry. www.conqueror.co.za
Undoubtedly focusing more on profits than anything else, the company has grown from a small home-grown business to a big, impersonal one. As a result they have lost sight of quality and design. Many of their accommodation designs are so complex that they take far too long to set up to be enjoyable. Better get a caravan than one of their trailer/tent combos. Far too many reports of disgruntled and unhappy customers for me to recommend them, and their electrical installations are below average in design and fitment quality.
One of the pioneers of the off-road trailers in South Africa, Desert Wolf has evolved into a company building a wide range of trailers for varying markets, including camping and outdoor, military applications and civilian defense. They were among the first to build trailers from stainless steel, and to build modular systems where one trailer can be made to work in differing configurations. www.desert-wolf.com
While the product is good, in my experience the service was very poor.
Based close to Pretoria, Echo began life as an off-road trailer manufacturer and from its successes in this, has grown into a one-stop 4×4 accessory and expedition equipment centre. Echo trailers are amongst the most innovative in the industry. Echo also produce their own range of electric components for vehicle and trailers, such as split-charge systems. www.echo4x4.co.za
Tent and trailer combinations are reported to be too complex and many customers complain that the time it takes to set up everything in the camp, unlike when demonstrated in the store, is too long. So be aware of this when the products are being demonstrated. Build quality is good, but not excellent.
EFS once produced springs for OME, they are probably the third biggest Australian brand of suspension. I often feel that OME has taken a bit of a rest, while many others are forging ahead with better designs. EFS is one of them. www.efsafrica.com
Don’t fit OME until you’ve tried EFS. And you will save quite a bit and get as good, if not better performance and a longer warrantee.
One of the pioneers of the roof-top tent, Eezi Awn has confined itself to building awnings and roof top tents. Eezi-Awn has been and remain a leader in the marketplace and their tents still receive accolades as they did when first developed well over a decade ago. Their awning is also one of the best available. Their products are available from almost every 4×4 equipment outlet, countrywide. www.eezi-awn.co.za
One of the pioneers still at the toip of their game. Check out their new 270° awning! It’s brilliant.
4xforum.com, 4xforum.co.za, 4xforum.co.uk
4xforum.com is the author’s website and where you are reading this. Established in 1996, it was one of the first dedicated 4×4 websites created in South Africa. As a pioneer it maintains its high standards and remains one of the most popular 4×4 sites in the country. It tries to be not only the country’s, but the world’s most comprehensive 4×4 website. 4xforum.com’s own forum was closed in 2007 but was reopened early 2012.
One of South Africa’s well established equipment manufacturers, they build roof-racks, roof rack accessories, drawer systems, awnings, roof-top tents, fuel tanks and just about every 4×4 thing you can think of. They have a store attached to their factory in Kyalami near Midrand, and supply their products to the LA Sport chain and some others including Safari Centre, and recently, 4×4 Mega World. They are one of SA’s most exported 4×4 brands.
Front Runner, over the past half dozen years, earned a reputation for providing poor after-sales service often faulting the customers and not their products when anything went wrong. But I think it was largely due to lack of direction and less to do with product. Although, their rack feet are too weak and should be regarded as light duty, as breakages are common. They blame overloading, when in reality, it’s a poor design. Early 2012 they changed tack drastically, as if new leadership has stepped in and are about to launch a new rack design and I hope the old feet will be gone for good.
Kevin Bolton is without doubt South Africa’s most respected GPS guru. His advice is as good as you will get anywhere and his prices competitive. He has made a significant contribution to the country’s GPS community. www.gpsconsultants.co.za
Cape Town based Hannibal make some excellent gear for the serious adventurer, including a particularly strong roof rack and awnings and excellent roof-top tent, side tent and rack accessories. Hannibal make equipment for a wide range of vehicles. www.hannibal.co.za.
Some of SA’s best 4×4 products… if you can get them. I think they are more focused on exports than servicing the local industry.
INFOMAP, IMP AND T4A MAPS
InfoMap is South Africa’s second largest paper map publisher and produces maps covering all of Southern and some of central Africa. Their maps are unique because they contain, unlike others, info specific to the adventurous traveller including GPS coordinates and minor tracks and routes. IMP was created by the author, but was sold in 2008. www.infomap.co.za
T4A, produces what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive digital GPS-receiver enable digital map product, highly recommended for the overland adventurer. www.tracks4africa.co.za.
Jurgens CI Trailers. Makers of caravans for decades, Jurgens now builds a wide range of trailers, all of which are excellent value. They are best known for the XT120 off-road trailer, the Oryx small caravan and Safari, full-size caravan. Well built, practical and if you like caravaning in the bush, you must take a look here. www.jurgensci.co.za
Howling Moon make a range of tents and camping equipment. Their roof-top tent is innovative and their ground tents excellent quality and designed people who actually go camping, not just sit at a desk and design things. Their range of equipment ranges from camp chairs, to awnings, to tents.
Most products are well made and good quality, particularly the roof top tent, which is the country’s second best. Avoid the camp stretcher – it’s over-designed, heavy and uncomfortable.
LA Sport is South Africa’s second large equipment retailer and are the importers of Australian XGS suspension and TJM bull bars, LA Sport stores are scattered countrywide and are also found in many smaller towns. Other brands supported include Front Runner’s broad range, National Luna Freezers, Cibie lights, Mickey Thompson, Alu-Cab and many others. You may not find ARB, African Outback, Old Man Emu, or Engel in a LA Sport store, unless you ask. www.lasport.co.za
LR SERVICE CENTRE
Probably South Africa’s best Land Rover maintenance specialists. Owned and run by off-road challenge competitor Mike Porter, LR Service Centre is based near Cape Town. My advice: If you are in the area and want to buy a used Rover, take it to Mike for evaluation. Land Rover spares are also much cheaper than at LR dealerships, as they are from similar Land Rover spares importers all over the country. British 4×4 www.british 4×4.co.za is a good example. LR Service Centre www.lrservicecentre.co.za
4×4 MEGA WORLD
One of South Africa’s largest 4×4 equipment retailers and the importers of the Old Man Emu, ARB and Engel brands. Large and well stocked stores each with its own workshop dot the country. You will not find XGS, TJM, National Luna, Alu-Cab and many other local and imported brands in a Mega World store. E.g. if you want a fridge, don’t ask for anything but and Engel, and if you want suspensions, OME is all they’ve got. As a result their stores are sometimes limited for choice. www.4x4megaworld.co.za
The best reason for going to Mega World is that because they are the the importers of ARB and OME, they can discount them and you’ll probably get them cheaper there than anywhere else. Otherwise their nick-name of ‘Mega Bucks’ is well earned.
Another pioneer of the 4×4 equipment industry, Northern has become a specialist fuel and water tank manufacturer. They are based north of Johannesburg and supply equipment retailers across the country with equipment that has earned an excellent reputation. www.northernoffroad.com
Onka is a manufacturing company of enthusiasts involved with heavier manufacturing of bull bars, rock sliders, rear bumper replacements and spare wheel carriers. They are based east of Pretoria. Their products can be ordered through various retailers including Baillies Offroad, Alu-Cab, Winelands 4×4 and others. (011 979 2690)
Products are nice-looking, well made but sometimes unnecessarily heavy. They do some nice Land Cruiser stuff.
One of South Africa’s largest camping retailers, Outdoor Warehouse is worth mentioning because while they are not specialist 4×4 equipment outlets, they do import and sell a wide range of equipment for the overlanding enthusiast. Brands include popular Weaco freezers, Staun and many more. Their stores can be found in almost all major towns and are owned by one of the country’s large retail groups.
R&D OFFROAD & GOBI-X
R&D is one of the smaller manufacturing and fitment centres that has been around a long time. Based in Cape Town they produce a range of high-quality gear including pick-up boxes, rear bumper replacement wheel carriers, packing systems, dog guards, rock-sliders and bash plates. Overall attention to detail and quality is excellent. They work on all makes of 4×4.
I highly recommend the crew at R&D and Goby-X. They are one of SA’s best smaller, home-grown 4×4 equipment workshops. And this is because the quality is outstanding! I highly recommend them.
Safari Centre is one of the pioneers of 4×4 equipment retail in South Africa and in its early years imported Engel and built their own roof-racks. Today they comprise retailers and fitment centres and have several individually owned stores across the country. Safari Centre stores generally have a broader range of equipment than most, because they stock brands not normally found together. For example, both Engel (imported by 4×4 Mega World) and National Luna, Outback and Front Runner racks, all found in the same store. All stores have their own fitment workshops. The Gauteng stores are being bought out my Imperial Group and the Cape stores remain independent.
Quality depends on individual stores. It’s a pity that the big corporates are stepping in to this industry, as they will no doubt drive prices up, because that’s what they are good at. The best 4×4 outlets are without doubt the home grown shops, because the owners are passionate about 4x4s and what they can do. So, good luck Safari Centre – ‘I Am Imperial’.
STEVE’S AUTO CLINIC
While Steve’s Auto Clinic is by no means the only performance enhancement specialists in South Africa, I have listed it here because it is has spent considerable effort in catering for the needs of the 4×4 community at large, developing a wide range of products, with a sound reputation. www.steves.co.za
What began in 1996 as an idea for a smarter seat cover, Takla has become South Africa’s leader in the development of vehicle interior protection products. It appears as if most of the ideas in the seat cover and interior protection part of the industry have their origins at Takla. www.takla.co.za
Typical of the home-grown companies that built this industry, Takla is SA’s leading seat and interior protection brand and have been since they began in 1996.
Husband and wife team, Dewald and Christine Coetzer, run a busy shop and small retail store, and no doubt because of Dewald’s years doing the 4×4-thing and his in-depth knowledge of the subject, the workshop seems always busy. It is the only dedicated 4×4 equipment supplier in the Helderberg (±40 kms West of Cape Town) and retail many brands such as Dobinson, OME, ARB, Echo tents and trailers and many others. I can recommend their services.
A Chinese suspension manufacturer. Cheap and cheerful?
Cheap and cheerful is something that is appropriate for slippers and pajamas, not parachutes or 4×4 suspensions. As I write this, I have never heard a single report of a customer happy with their IronMan suspension, but dozens of reports of failed springs and broken components and reports that overly hard, or fine when new but sagged within six months. Often, at first they are great but after just a few months, serious sags result. Pay the extra and save your money. www.suspensionsolutions.co.za
Bilstein Shock absorbers. Afrishox. Ted (011) 493 5730.
Koni Shock absorbers. Steve (011) 918 1629.
Old Man Emu Suspension. 4×4 Mega World branches.
XJS Suspension. LA Sport branches.
Afrispoor. 013 569 4323 www.afrispoortrailers.co.za
Alu Predator Extreme. 044 878 2548 www.offroadtrailers.co.za
Buzzard Industries 031 569 3826 www.buzzardindustries.co.za
Bantam trailers 021 948 4383 wwwbantamtrailers.co.za
Bermac Trailers 031 562 9821 www.trailcamper.co.za
CampMaster Trailers. www.campmaster.co.za
Conqueror 016 349 6533 www.conqueror.co.za
Desert Wolf 012 811 1168 www.desert-wolf.com
Echo 4×4 012 345 3333 www.scho4x4.co.za
Jurgens 012 797 7300 www.jurgens.co.za
Venter trailers 0861 836 837 www.ventertrailers.co.za
4X4 VEHICLE HIRE
The country’s 4×4 vehicle hire industry has been criticized for old vehicles, dilapidated equipment and lackluster service for years. The big players are Britz Africa, Hertz, Caprivi and Taurus. This criticism is well earned because few have off-road experience and often the equipment that goes with the hired vehicles is often overused and overdue for replacement. Small operators are generally better at providing good service as so often they themselves are overlanders.