Locally-developed and built in Atlantis, Cape Town, the robust 8x8 Gecko is drawing world-wide attention for its suitability to military operations such as the deployment of Special Forces.
By Lance Branquinho
It might look like the cute cousin of a lunar buggy, but Crayford Industries’ Gecko is a deadly serious machine. To date, 106 of these vehicles have been delivered to the South African Defence Force’s Special Forces and Parachute detachments. The 100 per cent South African Gecko is an 8x8 multipurpose vehicle and a lot tougher and more capable than its dinky toy looks suggest.
Powered by a one litre, three-cylinder turbodiesel engine producing 23 kW and 80 N.m of torque, the Gecko is capable of scaling slopes of 57 degrees. It is not the quickest bushwhacker you’ll ever sit in – or on top of in this case (top speed is 45 km/h), but the vehicle can lug a full 880 kg payload. Add the trailer system and you can haul another ton.
The Gecko started life out as a Canadian Centaur MPV, but has been heavily reengineered locally. With six years of research and development it is now a truly South African product, and a unique one as well. Attracting massive international attention at rated shows, the Gecko has no competitor, and airborne divisions of other armies are said to be jealous.
Subsequently, many international armies are in talks with Crayford’s David Butlion. “It is a South African product, we have the best engineers right here, I did not have to look anywhere else.” The first 106 Gecko’s were produced in Atlantis.
But why is the Gecko receiving so much attention? Well, because it is small, portable and very tough, everything Special Forces or Airborne soldiers want in a support vehicle.
Firstly, Geckos can be dropped from 1200 feet by twin parachute and land perfectly, ready to be started and driven away. Secondly, they are very tough; landmines have no effect on the superstructure (fuel tank or drive train). Thirdly, the Gecko is quiet; its exhaust has been redirected under the wheel line, making diesel noise and black smoke nearly undetectable; essential for a fighting vehicle. Best of all, the Gecko can easily be recovered by helicopter; it weighs only 990 kg and can easily be hoisted away by a Puma or similar class air force helicopter.
All in all, the Gecko seems destined for huge success. Already it has impressed very hard taskmasters at 44 Parachute Battalion, Bloemfontein, and 5 Special Forces Phalaborwa. It has also received the Armscor chairman’s award for excellence in a technical project for 2003. International success seems only a matter of time.