Not for nothing has the Nissan 1400 bakkie earned the nickname “die kanniedood kruiwa”, a lovely aphorism innie taal that roughly translates as “the wheelbarrow that will not die”.
For 37 years, from 1971 to 2008, the little half-tonner was sold in South Africa, providing many a driver with an inexpensive load wagon.
Hailing from Bellville, 26-year-old Faizel Acmat is one of those guys, buying one of the end of the run of Nissan Champs in 2007.
He says: “Besides my love for fast cars, my main reason for buying that Champ is that it is light and fuel efficient. But mine is not just any bakkie, it’s customised to my liking.”
Faizel’s bakkie is living proof that a workhorse can also be sexy. And there’s some krag there too. He recalls: “In my first racing experience against a standard Nissan SR 20 STi I rather unexpectedly won, which was a huge surprise for me. My Champ will wheelspin anytime I’m in a hurry.”
The engine is the standard A14 Nissan powerplant that has gone in these vehicles mostly unchanged for years, but Faizel has added a 290 Cam, kept the original pistons, lightened the flywheel and added Weber Carburettors. There is also an electronic distributor, electronic fan, electronic Fuel pump, 50mm exhaust and custom branch.
Interestingly, the Nissan 1400 started life as a 1200cc Datsun in 1971, and was improved to 1400cc in 1980, and by 1989 had recorded 100 000 sales in the country. It was only in 1990 that the current Nissan 1400 standard bakkie came into being, and in 1993 the champ derivative arrived. Other than that, it has remained virtually unchanged since 1990. Must be because it’s a good thing.
Bobby Nitro has heard many stories over the years from drivers of this trusty little vehicle, and it’s one of those cars that people talk about as if it were a friend. So popular was the rear-wheel drive bakkie that when the last one rolled off the production line in 2008, people sent in tributes. It was replaced in late 2008 by the front-wheel drive NP200.
But back to Faizel’s Champ. He has paid good attention to the looks and comfort. An electronic tilt and slide sunroof adds flair to those summer day cruises while dropped suspension keeps him in fashion. Customised bumpers and chin lip, 15-inch Lenso mag wheels and customised front indicators finish off a smart-looking but not overdone exterior job.
The interior has been treated to a custom seat, new roof lining, racing steering and racing check block vinyl interior side panels.
Young Faizel has not ignored the onboard entertainment. Kitted out with a JVC front loader, Targa paremetric, two 6×9 speakers, a pair each of mids and tweeters, two by 12-inch Digital Design subs, a Baby Beast monoblock Amplifier, four-channel Calibra amplifier and customised sub box, the Champ is a veritable mobile disco.
Elliot Swartz of EDI Photography, who shot the kwaai pics, says: “I love old cars, the smell over petrol and the creak of old car doors.”
“Faizel’s extremely clean Nissan Champ has often caught my eye and pleased my ears while driving in around Bellville South. With a mild cam and beautifully set of dual Weber carbs this little champion packs quite a punch for its age. And with the narrow and wide rims and lowered suspension this Champ is definitely a looker.
Faizel is not quite done yet though, and has a respray and new look in mind for his kanniedood.
However, although the Nissan champ is easy to maintain and has a reliable small engine, Faizel says a shortcoming is that the light body is fragile and easily dented, and that one day he would really like to drive the latest Nissan Skyline GTR.
So how about dropping in that two-litre VVL then Faizel? Or does that defeat the purpose.