Words by Duncan "Curly" Ward | Photography by CJ Levendal
As some of you may know, there exists a small operation of crazy people on the lower East coast of SA, armed with welding machines, angle grinders and set squares known as ES-Tech Custom Air Ride. We recently had the privilege of meeting the man who puts the “ES” in ES-Tech, Elroy Singh.
For quite some time, he has been plagued by a vision of a stanced mini-truck which could also handle itself around a drift track… somewhat inspired by the video of the Toyota drift bakkie bouncing around on the FaceTube and YouBooks.
He found himself unable to shake this yearning, and was also well aware that the biggest local show, ‘LoveMoreStance’ was less than 4 months away and he was still without a chariot to represent the ES-Tech stable. He had a modest pile of money that he had scraped together over some time, but it was not enough to build a full show car. His only immediate asset was a rusty, tired Nissan 1-tonner bakkie gathering dust in his garden.
He assessed the plausibility of this as a build, probably thought it was impossible and therefore decided to give it a go. As it is with many of the builds we feature on SouthernStance, the first step that Elroy took was to gather some like-minded friends who share this strange car addiction we all happily suffer from. He assembled a small but passionate crew, each member possessing a unique skill that would aid in completing the dream build. They are as follows:
Gershwin Hussleman: Fitting and Turning (lathe work, metal fabrication, milling etc.)
Roushay Fritz: Spray painting
In addition to the two guys helping Elroy out with the build, he also had his trusty team of regulars from ES-Tech, namely:
Elroy Singh: Water-boy & team cheerleader
Diego Mitchell: General work & air fitment
Ashwin Samuel: General work & air fitment
Anthony Singh: Welding & fabrication
Kenny Pieters: Welding & fabrication
Jaryd Heslop: General assistant
Jean ‘Jimo’ Adams: Graphic designer & videographer
An informal meeting was held in the holy ground of ES-Tech’s driveway, in which Elroy told the guys his vision and laid out some ideas on how they were going to pull off this immense task. The team was excited, but at the same time wanted to record the build and so they approached ‘Jimo’ from Jelly Jam Studios to do some filming and photography for them, capturing not only the essence of the build but the ethos of the guys in the team, and the passion that went into this mental project.
Acutely aware of their deadline of 4 months, the next day they managed to coerce the trusty L1800 engine to start, reluctantly, and drove it to Roushay’s place and began lovingly stripping it apart. Not only did they strip panels, parts and the usual bits & pieces, they also embarked on the mission of cutting out the inside of the fenders, to allow clearance for the front wheels to go through, body drop style. In a manner quite convincing of someone who is supremely confident in their work, while chatting to us, Elroy nonchalantly added as an afterthought: “Oh yes, we also cut the loadbin out.”
After completely stripping the bakkie, Roushay got to work preparing each panel individually for paint. The final decision was made on the colour, with Elroy opting for the currently very trendy ‘Nardo grey’, hence the build receiving its name, “Nardi”. Elroy had to do some quick thinking when his darling fiancé heard the name and suspected it was a nickname for some woman called Nadia!
The panels received lavish coats of primer, paint and clear from the experienced hands of Roushay, and were re-attached to the chassis once it was rolling and the air suspension had been fitted. With everything in place and all the gaps lined up, the car received one final topcoat of paint before it was meticulously polished.
Elroy then towed the skeleton chassis back to his workshop, where the custom work truly began. He started designing a 7-inch step-notch for the chassis legs and custom-built bag-on-bar triangulated four-link suspension, a feat which he had never attempted before but had always intrigued him. He opted to fit a 20L tank with a 14 bar pressure switch, fed by a Viair 444c compressor. The air is controlled via a 3/8 inch custom built valve manifold, which uses 12mm air lines. The rear uses AirLift double convolute air springs.
He removed the front torsion bar suspension, significantly modified the upper and lower control arms, relocated the shocks and then installed the Airlift 6-inch double convolute air springs. In complete contrast to the usual order in which project cars are completed, the Nissan’s suspension was completed long before Elroy had decided on the wheels he was going to fit to the body-dropped L1800.
He opted for a set of wheels from a BMW X5, and contacted Gershwin to assist with mounting the wheels on to the car, as the PCDs were miles apart. He quickly managed to design new hubs with 5 x 120 PCD instead of the original 6x 139 pattern.
Elroy admits the build took a considerable amount of time to reach this point, but he couldn’t have been happier with the result.
Although the team tried keeping it under wraps, word was getting out about the local body-drop build. They were grateful to enlist the help of Nissan Spares (Miguel and Mitch Pasqualli), who dived in and tackled the wiring and supplied them with any parts missing from the bakkie. They also assisted the ES-Tech team in getting the bakkie to Port Elizabeth for the show.
Throughout the build, they had hiccups, problems and many a sleepless night, but throughout all of this, Elroy relishes the fact that it is a product of him, his friends and his family’s hands. He admits it bring tears to his eyes looking at Nardi, which truly shows what this build means to him. This is the definition of a passion project, which for Elroy makes the car utterly priceless. The build was even wild enough to catch the attention of Zain the Mad Zientist from MZ’s Garage, firm friends of ours who are fond of a body drop themselves. When a build, especially one consisting of custom fabrication work & suspension attracts the attention of people like that, you know it is something special. A bright future awaits the mini-truck scene in SA, and we thank Elroy and his team for laying the foundations for what is set to be a very interesting new era in custom work in our scene.