Now this is a bakkie! Bloemfontein-built Brandt BRV could be SA's best-kept secret

• Brandt BRV has been in business for the last 18 years.

• The design of their single cab bakkie takes inspiration from the first-generation Defender.

• A 2.8-litre Cummins diesel engine powers this vehicle.

For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za

Home-grown

The introduction of the Ineos Grenadier, unambiguously inspired by the Land Rover Defender, has caused some terrible grinding in the transfer cases of traditional 4x4 maker; and this has been further exacerbated by Jaguar Land Rover recently losing its trademark battle against Ineos over the Defender's shape.

Possibly emboldened by the finding in favour of Jeep by the US International Trade Commission (USITC) in its infringement case against Mahindra and its Roxor vehicle (a Jeep CJ lookalike), Land Rover tried to protect its Defender design in the UK, but the Intellectual Property Office declined to grant a trademark for its design, ruling it is not distinctive enough.

Ineos is now moving ahead with its launch plans for its spiritual successor to the old Land Rover next year. At the same time, locally, a home-grown upstart company based in Bloemfontein (we had previously reported on BRV in 2018) has released the latest version of its own 'Grenadier'.

No, the company has no relation to Honda, nor has the name anything to do with Bloemfontein. Instead, it stands for Brandt Radical Vehicles, a family-owned business from our own South African Middle Earth in the Free State Province.

Brandt BRV

Brandt BRV (Ryan Abbott)

Durable, robust

In much the same fashion as the British instigated Grenadier, the latest M-model from Brandt BRV shares the box-like proportions of the old Defender, with straight, unfussy lines, angular doors and window glass, round headlights, and an upright windscreen.

Yet, while the Grenadier, in true Series Land Rover tradition, was conceived as a no-compromise, rugged off-road vehicle, the BRV models were developed due to a need for a durable, robust, no-nonsense bakkie. This tough, honest workhorse can carry a load and take the hard knocks without its owner having to worry about damaging shiny chrome bits or losing pieces of plastic.

Says Gerrit Brandt, the man responsible for marketing and procurement at BRV: "We build vehicles that offers ruggedness, reliability and low-maintenance costs. Our customers either want a workhorse that can withstand all conditions, or they want an exclusive off-road capable toy." 

Brandt BRV

Brandt BRV in the production process (Ryan Abbott)

18-year history

Since the company was established by Antonie Brandt some 18 years ago - initially designing and manufacturing trailers and a small off-road vehicle called the DTV Roadrunner - it has continuously refined its radical, self-designed and self-engineered models. In 2013, Stian Brandt took over the wheel and what would be known today as Brandt BRV, manufacturing South Africa's own bakkie

It recently introduced a facelifted version of its top of the range S89 M3 Sport in Extended Cab 4x4 form.

The latest BRV model now has a revised, somewhat 'friendlier' grille, slightly recessed headlights and new turn indicators, a modified engine hood with small front air intakes, side doors with bigger apertures (for easier ingress and egress), new separate unit taillights, and sports proud Brandt branding on the tailgate.

These changes assure a cleaner, neater visage but still follows the basic angular design of the original M-model, conceived by Brandt. Also, in contrast to the ladder frame-based Grenadier, the macho-looking BRV M-range has a monocoque chassis with integrated roll-cage - adding strength and rigidity and an optional (rubberised) roof-rack.

Bespoke suspension

Its suspension also has a bespoke design with an in-house developed leading arm set-up in front, coil-over shocks (so no torsion bars and stabilisers) and a solid axle with trailing arms at the rear, as well as sealed taper bearings instead of bushes. 

The body is manufactured from 1.2mm to 1.6mm steel panels, and with 35-inch tyres, the M-range has 325mm of ground clearance and a load box (measuring 2 000mm x 1 370mm x 580mm) with a one-tonne carrying capacity. Even with steel panels and a roll cage, the bakkie weighs around 2.2 tonnes - about 200kg less than the Grenadier, 240kg lighter than a Land Cruiser double cab, and 100kg more than Isuzu D-Max, Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger double cabs. 

Under the hood nestles a Cummins 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine delivering 120kW at 3600r/min and 360Nm at 1800r/min - slightly down on the power delivery of comparable double cab bakkies. For now, the engine is an off-the-shelf unit, but BRV is in negotiations with Cummins to develop the engine to its their specifications and application.

Power is transferred to the rear wheels (or all four) via a five-speed ISF gearbox and a Dana differential. Build quality is exemplary and the cabin, while somewhat spartan, is roomy, with good leg- and headroom. Standard equipment includes leather seats, air-con, a heater, power socket and an infotainment system with navigation, rear PDC and a four-speaker sound system, but sorry, no airbags or other active safety systems; that is for Tupperware bakkies only.

Brandt BRV

Brandt BRV (Ryan Abbott)

Smooth ride 

With its bespoke suspension, substantial ground clearance and voluminous tyres the BRV's level of ride refinement on tar is comparable with any of its rivals; road noise from the big tyres being the only real distraction.

However, it excels on dirt roads, with ride comfort superior to any other workhorse, and even better than that of some double cabs. 

According to Gerrit, the company currently builds around five vehicles per month, but they are busy looking at expanding the plant to manufacture up to a hundred units a month, depending on demand. He says: "All the design, engineering, and production work are carried out here, and we view Brandt BRV as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer), not a parts bin assembler."

Applications of the BRVs is almost endless, and there is keen interest from a wide variety of buyers, he says. "We may be a small-volume operation, but the quality of our products and our prices are competitive in the market."

Pricing

In standard trim, the latest M3 single cab 4x2 is available from R430 500, with the 4x4 model R30 000 more expensive.

The extended cab long wheelbase 4x4 M-model now goes for R495 000 - compared to the expected starting price for a Grenadier of around R1.1-million, and R720 000 for a double cab Land Cruiser 79 4.2 diesel. Oh, and the company is working hard to add the finishing touches to a double cab model to join the line-up next year.

This latest incarnation of the BRV M3 is surprisingly good. It has enough power, a slick gearbox, and a good ride. Its Build quality is good, and the cabin offers enough space and refinement. So, if you need a workhorse with brawn and burliness, one that will put the white Japanese single cab littering the parking lot outside the co-op to shame, you need this bakkie; born and bred in Bloemfontein.

The Brandt BRV website is currently getting a makeover, but feel free to check out their Facebook page for photos and videos.

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