In the seaside town of Hermanus you will find one of the Western Cape’s most passionate Land Rover Defender specialists. We pay Karoo2.25 a visit.
Words and pictures: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
With a name like Karoo2.25, you might think this shop would be based in Laingsburg or Beaufort West. But, that is not the case at all. In the beautiful seaside town of Hermanus you will often see mint Defenders of all ages driving around, many of them evidence of the craftsmanship of Karoo2.25.
Walk into Stiaan Prins and Gert Viljoen's small workshop and you'll notice its buzzing with activity. This includes general maintenance and servicing as well as full restorations. There is even an electric Defender, while a number of Defenders (some very rare) are parked outside awaiting restoration.
I’m shown a room full of parts, and Stiaan admits he will often drive far and wide during weekends to follow up on leads to cars and possible parts that are for sale. “Part of the success of this business is our stock inventory. A large part of my job is sourcing parts.”
How it started
He explains: “My dad always had Land Rovers and in 1998 I built my first one. From then I always played around with cars. I also worked on Jeeps, Toyotas and Nissans. Then in 2015 my interest in Land Rover took off again. I worked in my home garage, and only as a hobby as I’m a submersible engineer by profession.”
It was during the past two years, when Stiaan couldn’t attend to his day job, which includes a lot of travelling, that this hobby changed into a proper business. They moved into their current premises in early 2020 which allowed them to start growing the business even further.
“At Karoo2.25 owners are part of the projects. Our doors are open and they can walk in and see which part of the project we are busy with.
“This, for example, is a 1961 Series II Land Rover. We found it in the Tankwa Karoo and we have restored it from the ground up. Fortunately, it still had its paperwork which helped a lot. Full restorations include sand blasting and for this unit we had to find a firewall and an engine. Apart from the sandblasting which is done by a specialist in Bot River, all the work is done here in Hermanus, whether it is the rebuilding of a differential or the paintwork.”
Stiaan and his team made some small, but important and visually appealing upgrades to their cars. This includes, to name just one example, the addition of strips of leather where hessian have been used on the early Defenders. Where rubbers have previously been used around the doors, they now use leather which is put through a special process. The result is that the doors close much better.
Fittings are also electro-plated and the canvas, for soft tops, is imported from the UK. However, as far as possible, the team tries to rebuilt or restore as much of the original parts of a vehicles as possible. “An early Series II will set you back around R400 000.”
An electric Defender
I stopped at the electric Defender and ask them about this interesting project. “It is equipped with five Tesla batteries with a Hyper 9 electric motor with a direct drive on its transfer case. The result is that is still has its high- and low-range 4x4 settings. The realistic range is around 130 km. A client of ours decided he wanted to build an electric Defender. He put a lot of his time into the research of how and what we are going to build. We needed a strong car with good brakes and strong axles. The last of the Series III was a good platform partly because it has a Salisbury rear axle.”
“We didn’t change anything on the chassis. We built an interface frame that fits on the standard gearbox and engine mounts. Also, all the wiring is neatly hidden away. If you look inside, you also won’t be able to tell that it is an electric Defender, except that there is no gearlever. The team also fitted an upgraded brake system and a Series II firewall.”
Both Stiaan and the owner admits that this 1979 Defender Series III will probably be reunited with its petrol engine one day – which they are keeping safe.
Whether you prefer Defenders, or rather a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Willys Jeep, when you walk out of here you cannot help but feel the need to buy one of these early, restored 4x4s. The rugged looks, the perfectly restored bodies and the few modern touches make them particularly inviting. Load some surfboards and a few friends and head to the beach, that is surely part of the appeal of these 4x4s!