Aspirations to start a game reserve, stock it with wildlife and develop it for tourists to enjoy are often just the first step in a long list of things to consider. What also needs attention is acquiring
a quality fleet of vehicles that remains reliable and serves you well for years to come.
A brand ideal for harsh African terrain is the Toyota Land Cruiser that has a proven history, and sales figures that attest to its quality and durability.
The first Land Cruiser was produced in 1950 and released in 1951. At the time it was known as the Toyota Jeep BJ, based on the military Jeep used in the United States. It was only in 1954 that the name was changed due to trademark issues.
This model produced 64kW from its 3.4litre, 6-cylinder engine and easily climbed parts of Mount Fuji only reached on horseback before. The Land Cruiser’s reputation grew and, two years later, 289 soft-top, 4×4 utilities were sold. The F Series was adopted in 1954 and, five years later, Toyota released a pick-up version with the choice of high or low range for those keen to traverse rugged terrain. The company released its first station wagon in 1967 and the Land Cruiser FJ-55V became a legend in South Africa too.
The brand’s sales attest to the quality of these vehicles. By 1965, Toyota had sold 50 000 Land Cruisers and, three years later, these figures had doubled. Popular in 120 countries by 1973, the Land Cruiser’s sales reached one million in the early 1980s.
Rodney Drew from Tiger Canyon Private Game Reserve near Philippolis in the Free State owns many Land Cruisers. He started buying low-mileage Toyota Land Cruisers long before he got involved with Tiger Canyon and game farming. “I had a future use in mind, but no idea what the future held,” he says. By 2010, he had a collection of vehicles, 12 of which are used at the reserve today.
Four of his 79 Series Land Cruisers were converted into closed, game-drive vehicles able to carry up to
10 passengers. However, only six guests at Tiger Canyon are accommodated per vehicle to allow for better game-viewing, photographic opportunities and comfort. Three single-cab Land Cruisers are for everyday duties and the station wagons are perfect for transporting staff.
“The 80 Series, which Toyota stopped manufacturing in 1997, is still the best Land Cruiser ever manufactured in my opinion,” says Drew. “The combination of simplicity, gear ratios, four-link coil spring suspension and a never-die straight 6-cylinder engine make it the best vehicle to have in rough terrain.” Tiger Canyon uses the Land Cruiser 80 Series for exclusive, photographic game drives as the coil suspension gives a much softer ride than the leaf spring of the 79 Series. “It can handle the rocky and rough terrain and get guests up close to wherever the tigers are,” says Drew.
The reason for using Land Cruisers boils down to reliability. “The suspension, transmission and engine were built to last in, and are ideally suited to, extreme conditions, which is exactly what they endure at Tiger Canyon,” Drew says.
“They are very reliable off-road machines, which over time gain the owners’ confidence by carrying out their duty without breaking down when the going gets tough.”
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