IT MIGHT be small, but this Suzuki makes a huge visual impact. And it’s not just the wild wrap – the Suzuki Jimny has been lifted, widened and protected, and over the past few months it’s grown on its owner so much that it’s morphed from mere a promotional tool to an almost-daily driver.
The Jimny’s owner is Gavin Duffield, the man behind AFN 4x4 Australia. Chances are you’ve heard of AFN 4x4, despite the fact the accessory manufacturer has only been active in the Aussie market for the past four years or so. That’s because Gavin has thrown plenty of resources and marketing nous behind AFN 4x4 to offer four-wheel drivers an alternative to the traditional manufacturers of bullbars and other vehicle protection equipment.
“It’s been a really tough market for AFN 4x4,” says Gavin. “Trying to grow the brand name and get publicity … we don’t have a budget like the big boys, we’re small fry, but we do believe that our approach and what we’ve been doing is pretty good.” And the Jimny gracing these pages is just a small part of getting the word out on the street.
Gavin picked up the Jimny at the start of 2019, not long after the model had been launched on the Aussie market. Due to strong initial demand for the little Zook, Gavin was unable to source a brand-new vehicle, but he managed to find this second-hand Kinetic Yellow example with just 1000km showing on the odo.
“We bought it as a promotional vehicle, just to promote our business and our product, but now that we’ve had it for a while it’s quite a lot of fun; it’s a great little car to drive around in the city and to take off-road,” says Gavin.
Nevertheless, the Jimny has been built to sell AFN 4x4 gear and that’s why it wears the company’s bullbar up front and side bars beneath the sills, with a lot of thought put into the design and construction of these components.
“The Jimny doesn’t have a lot of (design) lines to follow, and we knew that whoever made a bullbar for it, they would all look pretty much the same,” says Gavin. “So we thought about what we could do differently; like our other bullbars it doesn’t have a perfectly flat top surface, and we’ve included a standard aluminium bash plate on the bottom, which is a replaceable piece, so if you get it smashed up or dinged you can replace the aluminium.”
Other features include integrated driving-light mounts, two antenna mounts (which Gavin says are unique to the AFN bar), retention of the OE fog lights and headlight washers, combination DRL and sequential indicator lights (the latter illuminate in a circular fashion), and sculpted wings that tie in neatly with the Jimny’s inner guards.
Gavin is keen to emphasise all of these features are standard: “We only have one price,” he says. “Say you bought the hoop bar, you don’t have to pay extra for the lights or for the bash plate or the wings or for anything … it’s one price, everything is there.”
On a vehicle such as the Jimny, minimising weight is a priority when developing accessories, and Gavin says the AFN Full bullbar only adds 33kg to net weight once all of the OE Suzuki bits have been removed, while the Jimny Loopless bullbar only adds 29kg.
Eagle-eyed readers will probably notice there’s plenty of space for a full-size winch in the Jimny’s AFN bullbar, but none is fitted at the moment as the company works on finalising an agreement with a supplier for an AFN-branded product, so stay tuned.
Manufactured from 40mm steel tubing and attached to the chassis at three separate points, the Jimny’s side rails are best described as genuine rock sliders.
“They are a proper slider,” says Gavin. “They are mounted in three secure spots: at the front chassis mount, two centre bolts and then a rear mounting bracket. Some people have asked ‘why can’t we make one you can stand on?’, but if you push it further out you can’t protect the sill, and the Jimny is so small you don’t need a step.”
If you check out the AFN 4x4 website you’ll see a great-looking replacement rear bumper with a wheel carrier, which also incorporates a jerry can holder, winch recovery points and Hi-Lift jack points. A prototype has been completed, but Gavin says there’s still a bit of weight-saving work to do before this product is ready for market, as the company is looking to get it down to around 30kg.
“A lot of the weight is in the pins in the sides that the swing-out arms mount to – they have tapered roller bearings in them and a whole lot of metal parts – so we’re looking at that and at different composites and materials and bushings to try to and get the weight down,” he says.
Despite not being AFN 4x4 products, the trick 15 x 8-inch rims are a standout feature of this Jimny; they not only look great in their own right but they also change the stance of the vehicle thanks to their width and -11 offset, which adds about 100mm to the overall track of the vehicle. Unable to find rims locally when the Jimny build commenced, the wheels were sourced from the USA.
“We found an American company that had a 15 x 8 wheel with the right bolt pattern, but the centre bore was incorrect; but we thought we could probably machine that if we just got the rim,” explains Gavin. “The offset is a -11, which is quite a big offset, and we thought this is really going to poke out the side, but we went ahead thinking we’d just have to live with the consequences; they’re actually off a Ford F150!
“We thought the eight-inch width might be too much, but it would suit the LT235/75R15 tyres. I thought they were going to stick out way too far but then we stuck them on the tread pattern was still within the fender – they’re almost a perfect fit,” says Gavin.
The tyres are BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM3s and Gavin reckons they’re extremely effective off-road when fitted to the lightweight Jimny, albeit when pressures are dropped significantly.
“I let the tyre pressures down to about 8-9psi on shaly rocks and it’s just got so much traction,” he says. “I let it down that low because with the strength in the sidewall of the KM3s, you need to let it down to get it to flex. Hopefully I don’t roll it off the rim one day.”
Like the wheels, Gavin says there were no suspension options available for the new Jimny when the build began. However, when he spoke with the lads at EFS 4x4 Accessories, they assured him their suspension to suit the previous model Jimny would work on this one.
The EFS kit is designed to lift the old Jimny by around 50mm, but when Gavin fitted it to the new one the height increase was closer to 70mm, which inadvertently led to the development of a new AFN 4x4 product: a replacement chassis brace.
“When we lifted the suspension up, the front driveshaft started to rub on the original chassis brace,” explains Gavin. “We did some research to see if we could remove the brace but were advised that it’s an additional support that strengthens the chassis around the engine bay, so we proceeded to manufacture our own chassis brace.
“We did an FEA (Finite Element Analysis) to make sure we’d get the right strength out of it, and it ended up being extremely strong.
“It’s basically two 10mm plates of high-tensile aluminium with some spacer bushes … and we’ve been selling quite a few of them.
“Even if you raised the suspension by 40mm, that drive shaft would touch the original chassis brace, but ours increases the clearance by 50mm.”
The suspension lift necessitated some tweaking to the castor angle, and the front diff has been rolled over to improve steering feel and handling, which Gavin says is also aided by the Jimny’s wider track thanks to a noticeable reduction in body roll when cornering compared to standard.
Up top, the Jimny wears a Front Runner roof rack with recovery board, jerry can and shovel holders, and it also serves as the mounting platform for a pair of AFN LED light bars and AFN LED reversing lights. The 230mm 100W driving lights are claimed to project 1.1km at 1 Lux and they incorporate a DRL function. They have a cast aluminium housing, polycarbonate lens, an IP69K rating and are covered by a five-year warranty.
Gavin is rightly proud of the LED light bars. “They are impressive; each is about 380m at 1 Lux but they’re only a 40W light,” he says. “The two little lights at the back, they’re 60° wide angle reversing lights and they’re 15W – we had a special lens designed to give us that spread because a lot of those little lights are a spot, but we wanted a very wide spread.”
What about that striking body wrap?! Well, it wasn’t always planned to look this way.
“Originally that green colour was going to be a bright pink, because I wanted it to appeal to a feminine market,” says Gavin. “But when we got the car, it was that Kinetic Yellow colour, and a lot of that is left showing on the inside of the car, so I said that’s never going to work. So I went to the guy who did the graphics and asked if he could match the ‘green’ colour on the print and he said, ‘I’ll give it a crack’. Well, they did a good job; it’s not perfect but it’s close; they did a fantastic job.”
One of the advantages of using the Jimny as a daily driver is that it’s always out and about and people get to see it.
“Every opportunity we get we try to take it to a beach or expose it around the place,” says Gavin. “We’re fortunate up in Queensland because there are lots of beaches. Whenever I can I’ll just park it at the beach and spend a day with the dogs or something, and that was never the intention, but the more I drive it the more I think this is a great little car.”
What is AFN 4x4?
AFN 4x4 is a Portuguese company that has been manufacturing protection equipment for military applications since 1995, and while AFN consumer products have been available in Australia for a few years, it wasn’t until Gavin Duffield took over distribution just over four years ago that the brand started to gain a foothold locally.
“Originally I was just an investor for the product, but I realised there was a lot more potential,” says Gavin. “I approached AFN (in Portugal) and said if you want somebody to put a lot of investment in this business, to grow this – AFN had outlets in Australia and they were just dabbling in the Australian market – I said we need to do this properly and not mess around … and they said ‘yes, let’s do this’.
“AFN is named after the founder Antonio Hernandez Nogueira, and he basically said we’ve taken him and put him on the world stage, because nobody knew of AFN, but we came up with a design philosophy and we pushed and pushed their envelope so much to change, and they say all the time it’s all been for the better; their business has grown, the company has grown…
“AFN had been making bars for the military for 25 years, and I came along and said, ‘no, all of that is rubbish … I said, ‘If you sell a bullbar to the military, the guy that gets in that car in the morning, he doesn’t own that car, but the guy in Australia who puts it on his car, he owns it, and that’s a huge difference’.
That made them change their way of thinking. We’ve worked hard promoting this, and now when you mention AFN people say, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard of them’.”
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