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Project Mercedes. Chapter 1: Four Amaroks and One X

How an idea and a dream were transformed into action and reality.

My first Volkswagen Amarok. Pretty much standard with the exception of the bullbar with LED, wind needles for the hood and the windows and slightly wider tires. The fender skirts, the roof and the chrome parts were wrapped matte black.

My first Volkswagen Amarok. Pretty much standard with the exception of the bullbar with LED, wind needles for the hood and the windows and slightly wider tires. The fender skirts, the roof and the chrome parts were wrapped matte black.

The ability to work from the bed of the truck is invaluable for me in my profession, like when I did a photoshoot of a very unique Maserati MC12 Corsa at the Nürburgring during Gran Turismo Events. The same car was later for sale at SEK 22.5 million.

The ability to work from the bed of the truck is invaluable for me in my profession, like when I did a photoshoot of a very unique Maserati MC12 Corsa at the Nürburgring during Gran Turismo Events. The same car was later for sale at SEK 22.5 million.

To be perfectly honest and answer why I drive a pickup, it’s not because driving heavy rocks around is part of my job description... However, I do often use the bed of the truck when working as a photographer. The ability to sit on it to take pictures and to quickly access an elevated surface is invaluable for me. But so is the reliability of always knowing that I can get to and from work regardless of weather or road conditions. If you are to combine these requirements in a car, the only option is a pickup.

Hence my choice. Of course, the fact that it counts as a work vehicle, making it easier to manage financially for my business, was also a factor. Rebuilding it simply had to do with the fact that you blend into the crowd if you don’t attract attention. It started with the Volkswagen Amarok, which I have since owned four of. I’d had my eyes on this car for a long time but had not really understood the benefits, other than the rugged exterior.

I was offered a discounted Amarok through Volkswagen Sverige”

It was comfortable and spacious and performed really well even in bad road conditions and terrain. What was missing and later fixed with my other Amarok was to understand how to get to that “beefy” look.

At first I thought I just had to get a bullbar with extra lights and wider tires, but it wasn’t that simple. The bullbar and lights were provided the company Trucker, but to solve the problem of larger tires, some changes had to be made. The car needed to be raised as well as some larger fender skirts so that the tires wouldn’t stick out. Something I did not fully understand initially and also never got on my first Amarok.

It wasn’t until I was first introduced to the Delta 4x4 company and got in touch with OCL Brorssons, the importer of the Delta 4x4 products, that I got invested. That’s when I decided to upgrade to a new Amarok. It still had four cylinders but had been updated in the form of new LED spotlights in the front. OCL came in as a sponsor to help me rebuild the car with the Delta 4x4 products, including a suspension lift kit, fender skirts, rims, side steps and a bullbar. The lights on my second Amarok came from the American company Vision X and was distributed by RindAB, who I got connected to at a car fair. The result was everything I had wished for and had seen other Amaroks have.

To be really visible, I chose to wrap the whole car in a custom design. A theme inspired by the Volkswagen WRC car, but redesigned in order to avoid looking like a replica. For this I got the help of graphic artist and graffiti painter Gorm Boberg from Gothenburg who made the final design from my ideas. The actual wrapping work was done by Andreas at WrapZone. In my opinion, this was the coolest Amarok I had ever owned and I got a lot of attention in so many different places!

“I was among the first Swedish customers to get an Amarok V6”

What was missing and finally updated on the Amarok was a 3-liter V6 engine, along with some other things. In addition, I was the first Swedish customer to pick up my Amarok at the factory in Hannover. From there, I drove straight down to Delta 4x4 outside Munich where they rebuilt it with the previously mentioned kit.

This time I also updated the hatch for the truck bed to a Black Sheep Innovations one, providing smart storage compartments inside the door. Immediately when the modifications were complete, I drove up to the Nürburgring and took a couple of laps with the car on the North Loop. Without exaggerating, I can say that this was the first Amarok V6 Delta 4x4 edition that had ever driven on the Loop.

During my time as an Amarok owner, especially with the second and third one, I had a reoccurring problem. When people contacted me wanting to buy and make similar upgrades to their Amarok, it was hard to tell them where and who they could turn to do this kind of work. OCL Brorsson and RindaAB don’t usually install their products for the end customer; they just made an exception for me. That’s why, when I came in contact with Keltech in Enköping who had the competence for this type of job, it was a huge help for me.

I finally found someone who could rebuild my cars and also take care of the people who contacted me wanting the same thing. I bought a new Amarok V6 and had it rebuilt. For various reasons, this was a disappointment and not what I hoped for. I can’t say exactly why, because I don’t want to call anyone out, but I’ll just say it had to do with the way the wrapping and modifications were handled. Since then, a lot of things have changed and will not have to happen again. A longer article about this Amarok published earlier on Enliven can be found here.

In the wake of the disappointment with my last Amarok V6 I had begun to glance at other brands. Of course it would have been awesome to get a full-size pickup like a Ram or an F-150, but that doesn’t really work in a city like Stockholm. Especially when a guy like Daniel Helldén gets to wreak havoc freely, who in all seriousness thinks that the future of vehicles is the bike... But let’s not get off-topic because of this power-abusing maniac and stick to the subject.

On a trip to Italy, with a mission to gather some more material to the book "Gran Turismo – The Great Book About Italy" which I made together with Peter Ternström, I borrowed Gran Turismo Event’s Mercedes G350. I had not only been in but also driven the G-Class before, but had not realized its value.

“After 12 days on the Italian roads, my heart was sold”​​​​​​​

The comfort and wellbeing you experience in a Mercedes Geländewagen is very extraordinary and beyond the usual. However, it does come with some big problems if you are going to take pictures of it. One of them being the side-hinged hatch, making it more similar to a door, and therefore always in the way in one direction when opened.

I was looking into buying the shorter convertible version, but with a starting price of about 75 000 € for a used one, it wasn’t optimal. A new G500 "Finale Edition" convertible would retail at about 350 000 €. So with those numbers in mind, and knowing that a car like that wouldn’t be as easy to get as a work vehicle, I reluctantly realized that this was not how I would get to drive a car with a star in the front.

Mercedes released the X-Class in 2017, initially equipped with a 2-liter diesel engine. I test drove this car myself but I wasn’t too impressed. It was too similar to the Nissan Navara, which is the model the X-Class was based on. That’s why the X-Class didn’t feel like an interesting model at first. But when the V6 update came in 2018, something happened. Suddenly the X-Class got very interesting. You can read about my review of the X350 published on Enliven here.  

I started a dialogue with Mercedes Sweden, who weren’t super excited since they had to prioritize other things over my idea for a collaboration. But after a long mail where I described my suggestion in-depth, underlining what I had to offer, the door opened a little bit. I was told that it would be a long process and that there wouldn’t be a car available until the middle of the summer at best. That wasn’t a problem for me of course, even though starting the Gran Turismo Events 2019-season in an X-Class would have been a dream come true.

Then something happened at Mercedes, and suddenly everything just came together. I received an email about getting in touch with Sebastian Karlsson at Vehobil in Segeltorp, and two hours later I was standing there with a contract for a new X350 in my hand. The car was delivered three weeks later and was handled excellently by Sebastian!

To be continued...

The other Amarok I had was modified with Delta 4x4 parts as well as lights from Vision X. The decor was inspired by the Volkswagen WRC car and designed by graphic artist and graffiti painter Gorm Boberg from Gothenburg.

The other Amarok I had was modified with Delta 4x4 parts as well as lights from Vision X. The decor was inspired by the Volkswagen WRC car and designed by graphic artist and graffiti painter Gorm Boberg from Gothenburg.

As the first Swedish customer, I picked up my Amarok V6 at the factory in Hannover. In addition, I was among the first Swedish customers to get the Amarok V6 delivered.

As the first Swedish customer, I picked up my Amarok V6 at the factory in Hannover. In addition, I was among the first Swedish customers to get the Amarok V6 delivered.

As soon as I got the car, I drove to Delta 4x4 outside of Munich where the car was modified. Since it was the first V6 to be rebuilt, not everything was a perfect fit. But that was no problem for Hans, a technician at Delta 4x4.

As soon as I got the car, I drove to Delta 4x4 outside of Munich where the car was modified. Since it was the first V6 to be rebuilt, not everything was a perfect fit. But that was no problem for Hans, a technician at Delta 4x4.

While Delta 4x4 were rebuilding the car, Thomas from Black Sheep Innovation modified the hatch, providing storage compartments inside.

While Delta 4x4 were rebuilding the car, Thomas from Black Sheep Innovation modified the hatch, providing storage compartments inside.

The final result of the hatch is incredibly good. Thomas, who founded Black Sheep Innovations, is from Switzerland, and you can tell by the quality of his products.

The final result of the hatch is incredibly good. Thomas, who founded Black Sheep Innovations, is from Switzerland, and you can tell by the quality of his products.

When Delta 4x4 had completed their work, I drove straight to the Nürburgring where I took a couple of laps on the classic North Loop.

When Delta 4x4 had completed their work, I drove straight to the Nürburgring where I took a couple of laps on the classic North Loop.

Despite its size, height and wider tires, the Amarok performs okay on the North Loop.

Despite its size, height and wider tires, the Amarok performs okay on the North Loop.

The third Amarok with the new V6 engine was a success and received a rugged look.

The third Amarok with the new V6 engine was a success and received a rugged look.

Despite some trouble and disappointment during the modification of the fourth and last Amarok, the end result was good. Getting in touch with Keltech and being able to give a recommendation to people who are looking to rebuild their car has meant a lot.

Despite some trouble and disappointment during the modification of the fourth and last Amarok, the end result was good. Getting in touch with Keltech and being able to give a recommendation to people who are looking to rebuild their car has meant a lot.

After almost two weeks together with the Gran Turismo Event’s G-Class, something happened and my heart started beating extra hard for cars with a star in the front. Geländewagen is a car you either hate or love, and I definitely do the latter.

After almost two weeks together with the Gran Turismo Event’s G-Class, something happened and my heart started beating extra hard for cars with a star in the front. Geländewagen is a car you either hate or love, and I definitely do the latter.

It looked like it would be a lengthy process, but suddenly I was standing at Vehobil in Segeltorp with a signed purchase agreement on a new X350.

It looked like it would be a lengthy process, but suddenly I was standing at Vehobil in Segeltorp with a signed purchase agreement on a new X350.

The delivery of my new X-Class was handled excellently by Sebastian Karlsson at Vehobil. That’s when an era with Mercedes started.

The delivery of my new X-Class was handled excellently by Sebastian Karlsson at Vehobil. That’s when an era with Mercedes started.

ARTICLE CREATORS
Photographer, Writer
Automotive
I started my photo career when skateboarding. My friend and I liked to take pictures of each other doing tricks. Before I knew it, I was working with Swedish skateboard magazines. After a couple of years in art and photography schools, I established my company, James Holm Fotograf.
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