Though the sun’s first rays were only just visible on the peaks of the Langeberg Mountains, my day had already begun. I’d slept the night at the Buffelsjagsrivier farmhouse of my hosts, JW and Pampies. JW Swart is the owner of Infanta 4×4 – and the creator of their Iveco Camper which I was due to test.
On arrival at the workshop, I found ‘my’ Iveco standing with its nose facing the hangar door; but take-off was delayed. I first needed to find out how Infanta 4×4 create their campers. You know that old saw of the three most important rules of buying property being location, location, location? Well, when you meet JW and his sons, you quickly realise that their family motto is ‘quality, quality, quality.’
I realised something else pretty smartly that morning, too. JW Swart employs only the best craftsmen to build his campers and trailers. I met Bill Wansbury and Stiaan Diedericks, who were working on a camper’s interior. Talking to Bill, I discovered that he’d built some 350 campers in his career. When I met him, he was busy finishing off the bathroom on the latest one. Having done some amateur repairs on my ancient old camper, I found Bill’s expertise to be very apparent. Busy on the other side of the camper, working on the wiring, was Stiaan Diedericks. He does all the electrical work on the campers, so his craftsmanship is hidden from view. A pity, as this guy does wiring so neat it looks like it’s been laid out by a laser. When I saw the wiring diagram up on the workshop wall, I thought, ‘Rather you than me’. Bill took me across the workshop to meet Sakkie Ganz, who was busy TIG welding the load bed fittings. Apparently the whole camper frame weighs just 135 kilograms!
Drinking coffee in JW’s office, I asked him about the Iveco Daily 4×4. ‘How did it come about?’ JW’s voice is gruff with a slight roll to the rrs. He explained, ‘We had built up a reputation with our Infanta trailers. People know them as practical, tough machines that won’t let you down. But, when I saw one of the first Iveco 4x4s in SA at the Kirkwood Show in 2013, I knew I’d found the ultimate vehicle for my next project: a camper. It had everything I was looking for. It was practical, comfortable, and the setup gave me a host of options.’
As in everything JW has built up in his lifetime, his philosophy is: ‘No shortcuts; use the best materials available and come up with a practical solution.’ JW explains that he and the family have camped all their lives. ‘There is nothing just for show on any machine I build. Whatever-it-is must do what it’s designed to do – make camping and touring a pleasure.’ I like his philosophy of form following function. It’s a rare attitude today, where the ‘look’ is often seen as more important.
Infanta’s Iveco camper is unique in that the camper body is easily removed from the truck chassis by means of a jack-stand at each corner; the process takes roughly half an hour. This means that you can use the truck as a work vehicle when not in camper mode, as JW uses his in his farming business – so the truck can still pay its way. This makes a lot of sense to me when you consider that such a vehicle will set you back about R650 000.
JW took me on a shakedown cruise. We headed from his home at Buffeljagsrivier, near Swellendam, eastward down to the pont at Malgas. The Iveco was as smooth and as easy a drive as any modern 4×4 bakkie. You sit up high, which gives you a new take on your surroundings. We stopped to watch a farmer herding a large flock of sheep with his three sheepdogs; behind us the tips of the Langeberg were capped with snow, it had rained heavily and the road was wet and slippery in places. But, with its 4WD and 24 gears, the Iveco handled like it was on rails. JW took the camper across on the pont while I took some photos. We then headed down to the sea at Witsand.