Andre 4x4
André presents the popular kykNET television series Safari 4x4 Roetes

André presents the popular kykNET

television series Safari 4x4 Roetes

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Andre 4x4 and his ‘hotel’ California

Andre 4x4 and his ‘hotel’ California
09 December 2014

When you think of André de Villiers, the off-road legend, images of a guy who brushes his teeth with Namib sand and diff oil comes to mind. A guy with a beard that cuts diamonds. A guy who is addressed by Chuck Norris as “oom”. Yes, André can easily be used as the Recces’ yardstick for tough. But there is another side to Andre that might surpise you…especially as far as his favourite holiday vehicle is concerned.

Andre de Villiers’ favourite food is not crushed scorpion served raw, but a civilised rump steak – medium-rare. His favourite drink is not napalm with a twist of poison ivy, but a glass of dry red. He lives on a smallholding just outside Pretoria, not a missile testing area. His pet is a docile little Jack Russel, not a megadolon with anger management issues. And what about his holiday vehicle? A Second World War submersible battle tank able to drive upside down, right? Wrong again. It is a…Volkswagen T5 California Beach… Take a moment to fall off your chair and get back on again. Discard images of hyped-up-for-peace hippies, David Kramer driving up or down a mountain pass, or a nursery school bus, ‘cause this aint no ordinary Kombi.

The Volkswagen California Beach is a stylish, yet versatile camper van ready to explore. It boasts permanent four wheel drive, sports a can-do two litre turbo diesel engine – good for 132kw and 400nm, and respectable fuel consumption of 8.4l/100km. It has all the comfort and safety features of modern day cars, but some of the toys that make it really special as a camping kombi, are the foldable awning above the slide door and the aluminium pop up roof tent - both of which can be flipped up and down in a few seconds. Another bonus are the camping chairs hidden in the tailgate.

The Hotel California, as it is known, is the brainchild of Peter Seikel, owner of Auto Seikel, a German company specialising in the design and development of Volkswagen off road suspensions, axle ratios and various chassis protectors. After visiting South Africa, he decided to leave the vehicle here for André to use as marketing for his business, and to enjoy himself on future trips.

The Kombi had a few changes made, including snorkel fitment, suspension lift and protection plates underneath. On the inside numerous cupboards and drawers were fitted, together with a stove, fridge and a portable toilet. But the most significant modification was the portal axles. This is a very clever way of greatly increasing ground clearance by moving the hub and axle connections higher and transferring drive through added gears inside the wheel. This is a feature made popular by the legendary Unimog.

Thanks to these changes, and subsequent agility, versatility and ease of use, the Hotel California has been around. Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and obviously some domestic spots to name but a few. Andre is eager to assure that it can hold it’s own in any terrain. What we have here then is an extremely capable 4x4 with a badge expected in suburbia.

So if you ever see André somewhere, say hi, knowing the key chain in his pocket could be similar to yours.

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