A Mini Adventure

Originally Published: January 2011 Words: Tim Gibson Pictures: Steve Taylor

Off-roading is all about finding uncharted terrain, pushing the boundaries and experiencing new cultures. That’s what Greg Holloway thinks, at any rate – and he’s got an unusual vehicle in which to explore.

The Suzuki Jimny is an unconventional choice for an expedition vehicle. It’s not renowned for its capacious load area, and nor is it the most sumptuous cabin in which to spend a long period of time.

That hasn’t stopped Greg Holloway from transforming his Jimny into a bona fide overland cruiser, though. And nor has it prevented him from undertaking a journey around Europe behind its Rhino-encrusted wheel.

Greg first got interested in off-roading when he rode shotgun in his brother’s short-wheelbase Vitara. He bought an SJ410 for himself in 2003, and undertook his first trans-European adventure in the vehicle three years later.

The SJ had a few modifications in preparation for its journey: a set of lifted leaf springs, 30-inch Greenway Macho tyres and a rock-crawler transfer case.

These changes were sufficient to give Greg a taste for a more extreme way of life, and it wasn’t long before he purchased a Jimny. It was, he says, a natural step up from the SJ, combining diminutive charm with coil-sprung comfort. It was almost certain to be a more amenable companion on long cruises.

So it turned out, and the Jimny has become one of Greg’s most treasured possessions. He even went on a trip to Croatia in it shortly after we took our pictures. Not bad for a vehicle many people wouldn’t even want to sit in for a couple of junctions round the M25, though after the SJ410 it probably felt like cruising the continent in a Jag.

Back when we met Greg, anyway, the Jimny was enjoying its first trip out after an extensive rebuild. This included a wide selection of off-road trick bits, but in addition to this the Suzuki has an electrical kit list to die for. Greg is a laptop engineer by trade, and the briefest look in the cabin provides evidence of his mastery of all things plug-inabble.

There’s a laptop set into the passenger airbag space, for instance, a PSP hanging down from the roof and a pair of screens behind the driver’s sun visor that display images from front-mounted cameras. When it comes to technology, this little truck is near the very top of the tree.

Of course, the electrical gear comes into its own when Greg is on one of his long jaunts. But it’s also useful in UK conditions: the cameras provide an alternative view of the road ahead, while the overhead PSP provides a real-time view of the route as journey unfolds. It’s a bit like travelling in a small, but perfectly formed, passenger aircraft.

Given that the vehicle was completely standard when Greg bought it, it’s hard to believe how many changes he has made. And when you consider that he’s done all of the spannering himself, the size of his achievement is very much inversely proportional to the dimensions of his truck.

Heading straight for Croatia so soon after finishing such an ambitious build was a shakedown and a half, but the Jimny made it – via quite the tour of Europe – and came home again under its own steam despite having been put through the wringer off-road. There were bound to be the inevitable teething troubles to start off with, but some classic trail repairs and the sort of local rallying-round that’s all part of what makes off-roading so special kept the vehicle going, and after such a rigorous start to life it’s simply continued to go from strength to strength along the way.

Such is the adventurous character of off-road expeditions. It’s what Greg most enjoys about owning a 4x4 – and if that wasn’t enough, the fact that he chose a Suzuki to help him fulfil these dreams proves the old adage about the road less travelled. Owning and building his Jimny has been a journey all of its own, and an adventurous one at that. But you very much feel that it was just the beginning…


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