TRUCKING IN SA: A Richards-Bay based dealer is importing and modifying Dodge Ram trucks for the South African market. Image: Dodge
RICHARDS BAY - Who said you can't own an American muscle truck in South Africa? Fully-modified, right-hand drive Dodge Ram trucks are imported and modified from US Trucks and are available locally.
US Trucks has sold over 200 modified Dodge Ram trucks to customers in South Africa after identifying a demand for this niche market in 2006, reveals company owner Thinus de Beer.
IMPORTED AND MODIFIED
De Beer said: “Left-hand drive vehicles cannot be legally registered in South Africa and, as a Dodge Ram enthusiast, I made the decision to import a few models and modify them for resale.
“At any given time, there are typically 18 trucks on order, which equates to a three- or four-month waiting list. The greatest demand has come from fishing enthusiasts that need powerful vehicles to tow their large boats, however an increasing number of trucks are being sold for everyday use too."
IMAGE GALLERY: Ram trucks available in SA
According to de Beer, the conversion process takes approximately nine days to complete. He said: “All mechanical and gearing components, brake boosters and electronics are moved from the left-hand side of the vehicle to the right. We predominantly purchase export-spec vehicles from Europe, so the dashboard readings have already been converted from imperial to metric measurements.”
The company strives to retain as much original equipment manufacturer (OEM) components as possible, says the owner: “It is important to maintain the same look and feel of the OEM vehicle, and the largest adjustment is made to the section of protruding dashboard where the speedometer and odometer are located. While moving it from one side to the other, it is essential to be mindful of the original style of the dashboard, and to recover it carefully again.”
Due to the intricate nature of modifying the vehicles, de Beer does admit that the conversion process is costly. “During the modifications, there are numerous components that require a considerable amount of man hours to complete. As a result, the conversion equates to approximately R200 000 over-and-above the import price of the vehicle.”
The trucks include the top-of-the-range 3500 Series mega cab 4x4 Laramie, which comes standard with luxury features such as leather interior and on-board electronics.
It's powered by a 261kW 6.7 litre Cummins ISB turbodiesel engine, which boasts 1 085Nm to enable a 1.3 ton payload, and tow loads of up to 6.9 tonnes. The mid-level 2500 Series crew cab 4x4 Laramie model is powered by the same Cummins engine.
De Beer said: “Given the growth in demand from urban customers in particular, we are considering the option of establishing a Johannesburg branch in the foreseeable future."