Richard van Ryneveld joined the inaugural RAW 4×4 Atlantis fun day last month, with close to a hundred 4×4’s in all shapes and forms descending on the dunes for some fun in the sand and sun.
I have a problem, a major problem! And it’s all due to Kevin Louw! His white Toyota FJ Cruiser probably has a lot to do with it too! Actually, it’s a great story to tell. It’s a tale about family fun and games in the rolling white sand dunes of Atlantis, some 45 minutes from Cape Town. It’s about an event called the RAW 4×4 Atlantis Fun Day.
But I’m battling to write this story. I have writer’s block on steroids. And it’s completely Kevin Louw’s fault! You see, he’s the one who sent me full tilt down the four-wheel drive YouTube wormhole (www.4wd247.com). But wait, perhaps I’d better explain?
I was covering the Atlantis event for Adventure Afrika magazine. I had contacted Dries du Toit, who oversees business development for the RAW 4×4 brand, prior to the event. I knew that RAW 4×4 is a top Australian manufacturer of suspension equipment designed and tested in some of the toughest and harshest terrain in the world. I was to meet Dries at the Atlantis Dunes offices at 6:30 on the action-filled day. Being old-school, I hate to be late and arrived at six. It was still dark, but Dries was already waiting at the gate in his hard-to-miss Toyota with the vibey RAW 4×4 branding boldly displayed on either side. While Dries and his team started setting up for the participating vehicles I ambled around, sticking my nose everywhere I probably shouldn’t have.
That’s when I met Kevin Louw, the poor guy I’m blaming for my procrastination in writing this story. Seeing a RAW 4×4 decal with ‘Sponsor’ attached to his FJ Cruiser, I thought he’d be a great source to chat to. It turned out that his FJ was completely kitted out with the RAW 4×4 suspension kit. Dries had offered him guest status at the event.
Parked next to Kevin’s FJ Cruiser was a Toyota Hilux D/C GD-6 belonging to Andrew Caldwell. He was also a guest and had the full RAW 4×4 suspension kit fitted to his vehicle. Like the organisers, Andrew and Kevin were also early birds. I asked Kevin how he found out about the RAW 4×4 suspension. He answered: “I did tons of research on every suspension system known to man, but then I found this YouTube stuff on a bunch of Aussies called 4WD 24/7. They’re probably some of the most hardcore off-roaders on the planet, and they only use RAW 4×4 on their vehicles. I was sold.”
Kevin promised to forward a couple of these YouTube videos to me when he got back home that night and headed out into the dunes. With that I was down the wormhole and I have only recently emerged, just in time to finish this story for my ever-nagging editor.
Both Kevin Louw and Andrew Caldwell had their full RAW 4×4 suspension fitted by Attie Theron of Tyremart in Durbanville. I’m going to tell you more about Attie, Tyremart and Kevin and Andrew’s experience with their suspension later in the story. For now, let’s get to the day itself.
Standing on a high dune with the iconic Table Mountain as a backdrop, it was obvious this was going to be a fun filled family day. Seeing over a hundred 4×4’s of every shape, hue and colour lined up in rows for the day’s briefing was something to behold. They ranged from stock standard 4WD’s of every marque, a bunch of FJ Cruisers and some brutish V8’s, to some heavily tuned Nissan Patrols fitted with BMW motors and a couple of little ‘sandflea’ Suzuki Jimny’s. I loved one in particular, belonging to Grant Alexander of Eco Logic. As the eco compliance officer, he and his Jimny flew around the dunes all day ensuring this environmental hotspot remained pristinely clean throughout the day.
Fun, family and fierce power
Spectators of all shapes and sizes lined the dunes overlooking the vehicle fest, to get the best vantage point. There were grandpas and grannies, moms and dads, babies in arms and kids jumping like locusts in the pristine white sand. As the day began there was everything from the almost imperceptible humm of a stock standard beginner’s 4×4 to the roar of a huge V8 and everything in between. I’d almost forgotten what over a hundred 4×4’s sounded like. There was no doubt that this was going to be a jol. And it was.
The organisers had split all the participating vehicles into ten groups. Set up in the dunes were eight challenges that cleverly tested both experts and beginners alike. Some were time based, while some of the spectator magnets – like the dune challenges – had longer run-ups for the beginners and shorter ones for the experts.
In Kevin Louw’s group of FJ Cruisers was Annemarie Groenewald and her co-driver Colette Kuhn. It was only Annemarie’s second outing in the sand. Man, this girl certainly doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear and came flying up the tallest dune challenge. While chatting to Colette I learnt that she rides a 650 BMW scrambler! “Do you ride sand?,” I asked. “Yes, if I’m moving. My legs are quite short.” I sheepishly admitted that sand was also my downfall, even on my small 250 dirt bike!
The people behind the scenes
One of the untold stories of a gathering like this is the people behind the scenes. People like Kobus Vermeulen, of KMX Events, who kept this event running like clockwork. Then there was the team from Medics in Motion who were on hand in case of an emergency. And let’s not forget Grant Alexander, the environmental compliance officer from Eco Logic, whose little white Suzuki Jimny could be seen buzzing about in the dunes as he made sure that at the end of the event all that remained were tracks. The good old Cape wind would eradicate those in a matter of hours.
And hiding even deeper in the shadows was safety officer, Elrese Stander, from EcoSafety. Without Elrese and her competent crew this event would never have taken place. She was responsible for liasing with relevant authorities for all the permits, overall security of the event, the safety of participants and spectators and waste management. Quiet and in the background, but what an incredible woman.
From talking about scramblers to being blown away (pardon the pun) by Jacques Basson’s absolutely immaculate army green Land Rover Defender. The throaty roar of his V8 Chev 5.3-litre motor still gives me chills as I write. In the ‘Roar of Flavour’ department were a bunch of of seriously macho Nissan Patrols all fitted with the legendary 3-litre BMW M57 motors. The genius behind this build is Llewellyn Edwards. Adding to the ‘pure power no additives’ was a fire engine red Toyota Hilux SFA and his mate in a white Hilux. Both these beasts had Lexus V8’s hiding under the bonnet.
There was also a straight-six XJ Jeep Cherokee, which I christened the yellow submarine. It was driven by Corné Snyman with his lovely co-driver Natasha König. I sensed love in the air and offered my services as a wedding photographer. Beaten-up old hacks like myself need to be flexible in these tough times, you know.
Interestingly Corné had grown up off-roading literally before he could walk. Turns out his father, Danie, used to write a 4×4 column for Die Burger newspaper some time ago. That’s what I so love about events like this. It’s about men and women, families, and their stories – and, of course, some legendary vehicles thrown into the mix.
As the promotional poster rightly claimed, it was indeed a fun-filled day. Cudos to the organisers, KMX Events. Rounding off the camaraderie and spirit of this event was the prizegiving at the end. The sponsors certainly dug deep into their pockets for the final encore. There were prizes galore. Probably the happiest guy at the event was Jaco Meissenheimer, who walked away with the grand prize – a full RAW 4×4 suspension upgrade for his vehicle to the tune of some R40 000. Every person at the event was a winner, though. It was a fantastic fun family day, and I can only hope RAW 4×4 decides to hold many more of these events in the future … hint, hint!
More about RAW4x4Suspension
RAW 4×4 might be the new kid on the block in the suspension game in South Africa, but it’s no newcomer to other markets. If fact, RAW 4×4 is one of the top brands in the fiercely competitive Australian market. Designed to withstand the toughest and most demanding terrain in the world, the brand is a perfect match for the South African four-wheel drive fraternity. The range consists of various heavy-duty shock absorbers, coil and leaf springs, polyurethane bushes and torsion bars.
RAW4x4 is a one-stop shop for all your suspension upgrade needs. Another positive for future customers is the fact that the brand has been brought to South Africa by the well-known GUD Holdings. I’m sure everyone has fitted a GUD or Fram filter to their vehicle at one time or another. The holding group also handles other well-known brands such as Indy Oil, Safeline Brake Pads and Holts.
Something that struck me when talking to Kevin Louw and Andrew Caldwell at the start of the event was this; they both spoke about being thoroughly quizzed on what their off-road vehicles are primarily used for. What weight did they carry? What was their expectation of upgrading the suspension? Interestingly, both Kevin and Andrew had their full upgrades done at Tyremart in Durbanville. Tyremart is one of the principal fitment outlets for the RAW4x4 suspension upgrade.
CONTACT: +27 71 892 2367 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.raw4x4.co.za
The customer is always right, not?
Getting out of the YouTube wormhole and purposefully cutting off the Internet I turned on my recording to hear Kevin’s RAW 4×4 suspension experience. Kevin has a highly stressful job, with a large staff complement under his supervision. So, he’s a pretty organised guy and his immaculate Toyota FJ Cruiser reflects this. “I have always chopped and changed cars, but when I got the FJ, I decided this was a keeper and I was going to build it up,” he says.
He had researched 4×4 suspensions for years and RAW 4×4 came up on numerous occasions. “That’s when I found the Aussie guys like Shauno at 4WD24/7, initially known as 4WDAction. This crazy trio bundu bashes the harshest and roughest terrain all over Australia. Just watch the videos, you’ll get it,” he says with a deep chuckle.
“I can’t claim to give you an unbiased comparison though,since my old shocks where pretty shot when I made the change.” He explains that the FJ had massive body roll going into corners, feeling like it wanted to slip out from under you.His face lights up as he gives his take on the new RAW 4×4 suspension. “When I drove out of the Tyremart in Durbanville after Attie Theron completed the fitment in one afternoon, the body roll was almost zero. The car grips the road extremely well with the Hankook Dynapro AT2 tyres I’ve got on and corners superbly.”
Kevin enthuses about the top-class service he received when first speaking to Dries. “I asked a lot of questions about the stiffness of the coil springs and which shocks to fit, but what impressed me most was the fact that they asked me a lot more questions than I asked them, which shows their commitment to the needs of their customers.” These questions included things like what his plans were for the FJ, what was fitted in terms of weight and so on. “They did all the homework for me, listening to my requirements to give me the best ride for my specific vehicle. This was something I had never experienced from any other supplier in all my years of off-roading. To top it all, the RAW 4×4 suspension is very competitively priced!”
Andrew and his co-driver Gideon van Nykerk, in a 2019 Toyota Hilux Double Cab GD-6 were also at the Atlantis dunes before the rising sun bruised Table Mountain. I asked Andrew when, where and who had fitted this RAW 4×4 suspension.
“I fitted it in the middle of last year. Our company has a good relationship with Tyremart in Durbanville. They’re literally next door to us. We have a large vehicle fleet and always get superb service from them, so the choice was relatively easy,” came the answer. He goes on to explain that he had considered and researched various suspension brands when Attie advised him to hang on and wait for the top Australian brand, RAW 4×4, to launch South Africa. “When Dries came to see Attie, I was called in to chat to them. What I heard impressed me enough to give them a try, and I’m very happy.”
As he rightly points out: “A Hilux is not the most comfortable ride compared to luxury 4×4’s. It can get bumpy at times, but that is what one would expect from tough work horse, isn’t it?” He says the new suspension certainly took a lot of the ‘bump’ out of the vehicle. “It’s a much smoother ride than on the standard suspension, while the other benefit – a higher ground clearance – is also quite handy.” He tells of days before he fitted the new suspension. “You would come home from a day on the dunes, the front bumper pushed in or the bash plate is bent. No more worries of that kind anymore,” he enthuses.The guys at Tyremart fitted the whole kit of four shocks, front coils and the rear leaf springs and shackles in a morning – super efficient. He also explains that the RAW 4×4 kit even has a special bracket to compensate for the self-adjusting headlights of his latest Hilux.