You’ll see them around Jozi and, in due course, other cities across the country as the concept of the Isuzu Off-Road Academy catches on with aspirant 4x4 enthusiasts – a fleet of KB bakkies kitted out to take on anything the bundu can bash them with.
TO THE WOODS - WITH FRIENDS: This particular forest is part of the Louvain 4x4 and conference centre in the hinterland of George. It's where Isuzu launched its off-road academy.
The Isuzu guys from General Motors in South Africa launched the concept in February 2011 with an off-road refresher course for a number of motoring journalists (and an introduction for some) at the Louvain guest farm and 4x4 paradise off the R62 in the Langkloof inland from George.
The boldly emblazoned fleet of Isuzu KB 3.0 and 2.5 litre D-Teq Double and Extended cab bakkies is based on the KB72, a series of bakkies used to establish South African time, speed and distance records at the Gerotek banked oval west of Pretoria in 2010 – the 72 representing the number of hours the trucks thundered around the track in the hands of invited drivers... one of them me.
GMSA experts have applied their knowledge of African conditions to the SA built Isuzu KB range – thicker steel in many places, especially the tailgate - which means the local product has a tougher shell than any other KB anywhere in the world.
The Hummer H3 uses a KB chassis, there’s an SA designed central locking system and theft alarm and the recovery (towing) points are especially strengthened for rugged African off-road use.
WHAT GOES UP... Climbing a gradient as steep as this is tough enough but descending takes more skill than engine muscle.
As Isuzu product manager Ryan Visagie said in his presentation before we hit the trail at Louvain: “Isuzu has been in South Africa for 30 years and we make the product perfect for local conditions; now we want to train their owners, current and future, in their correct off-road use in this initiative that we hope will still be going long after most of us here are gone.”
Cheerful, Ryan, but we got the picture...
The courses will be centred on the 4x4 facilities at Gerotek but 10 primary venues have been identified across South Africa and, Visagie said, courses would be set up their as demand dictated. No private vehicles will be allowed.
The initiative will run in partnership with Driving Dynamics and Continental Tyres under the control of former racing driver Grant McLeery and his off-road team.
GOING NOWHERE: Recovering stuck vehicles comes with the training - and the Isuzu course will show you how to do it easily - and safely.
Visagie added: “We want to show Isuzu owners how to get the full potential out of their 4x2 and 4x4 KB’s, to give them the skill and confidence required to go far off the beaten track. Customers who have been on the course, with its safe and controlled environment, will be in a position to make better use of the technology in their vehicles, be it for work or leisure.”
The one-day course costs R1999 but the first 500 candidates will enjoy a cut-price offer of R1000. You can book through the Isuzu website or by calling the academy on (011) 431-2000.
“There is a lot that one can learn from this academy,” Visagie added. “A good example is driving safely on gravel roads. Many drivers are reluctant to engage 4x4 on ordinary gravel roads but our instructors encourage the use of 4x4 high range whenever one ventures off tar – it gives better control of their vehicle
“Those who attend the course will be able to take advantage of the enhanced lifestyle opportunities that owning a 4x4 vehicle allows.”
LOOK AT ME: There'll be no mistaking the Off-Road Academy vehicles out on the open road - another obstacle on the Louvain off-road trails.
Course candidates will be tough through a number of modules that include, but are not limited to, off-road driving theory, inclines and declines, side slopes and water crossings and tyre pressures. Instruction will also be given on the correct method (and equipment needed) to free a stuck vehicle from sand or mud.
More details on the academy, course content, images and value added services such as official Isuzu Off-Road Academy gear, are available on the official Isuzu website.
Isuzu range and prices
ISUZU KB PETROL
KB 200 LWB Fleetside - R154 000
KB 240 4x4 Fleetside - R254 500
KB 240 LWB LE a/c - R209 700
KB 240 Double Cab LE - R262 500
KB 240 Double Cab 4x4 LE - R323 500
KB 240 Double Cab LE KB72 - R268 400
KB 240 Double Cab 4x4 LE KB72 - R327 000
KB 360 V6 Double Cab LX - R327 300
KB 360 V6 Double Cab 4x4 LX a/t - R387 900
ISUZU KB DIESEL
KB 250 LWB - R178 150
KB 250 LWB Fleetside a/c - R190 050
KB 250 D-TEQ LWB Fleetside a/c - R213 800
KB 250 D-TEQ 4x4 Fleetside - R264 600
KB 250 D-TEQ LWB LE - R232 600
KB 300 D-TEQ LWB LE - R269 000
KB 250 D-TEQ Extended Cab LE - R262 900
KB 300 D-TEQ Extended Cab LX - R295 900
KB 300 D-TEQ Extended Cab 4x4 LX - R342 500
KB 250 D-TEQ Double Cab LE - R301 600
KB 250 D-TEQ Double Cab 4x4 LE - R347 000
KB 300 D-TEQ Double Cab LX - R341 200
KB 300 D-TEQ Double Cab LX a/t - R348 500
KB 300 D-TEQ Double Cab 4x4 LX - R385 400
KB 250 D-TEQ Double Cab KB72 - R307 400
KB 250 D-TEQ Double Cab 4x4 KB72 - R350 400