There’s no doubt that cargo all-terrain vehicles (CATV) are an essential part of modern day agriculture, horticulture, game keeping and estate management, but they’re not to everyone’s taste.

Many old hands still prefer something familiar utilising known and simple technology, hence the enduring appeal of Land Rover’s Defender. Trouble is, Defenders are harder to come by these days and those who have them want to keep them. The result is that prices are only going one way – up!

Which is where Gibsons Auto Services comes in, the Cumnock-based company has carved a niche for itself converting the diminutive Suzuki Jimny into a CATV-sized machine with all the home comfort and controls of Suzuki’s popular little off-roader.

But, it wasn’t their own idea. A local farmer had purchased a Jimny to use, but after a year decided it was a bit too restrictive in its abilities. He approached Gibsons and asked if they could convert it.

Over the past 22 years the 4x4 specialists have undertaken a huge variety of ‘projects’ so the immediate response was ‘Yes’. The requirement was for a pickup which could carry two dogs or two sheep and go anywhere.

Easier said than done. The ladder frame chassis needed a bit of remedial work before the conversion could commence.

The roof and bodywork behind the two front seats was first cut away, but the rear three quarter ‘C’ pillars were retained to form a new bulkhead to enclose the two seater cab. A flat floor was constructed out of square tubing, and box with tailgate added.

It was all then topped off with a lowered and shortened Defender canopy as the pickup box had been constructed to the same width (deliberately!) as the Defender. Hence an easy fit.

New shock absorbers and springs and aggressive Insa Turbo tyres were fitted to raise the suspension by two inches, to further increase ground clearance.

The result was a go-anywhere compact truck that weighs slightly more than an ATV, but comes with manually operated two or four-wheel-drive. It also provides the driver and passenger with all the comfort of a heated, air-conditioned, weather proof cab with electric windows!

The bonus is that it drives much better on the public road than many other specialised CATVs while offering an off-road ability that is a match for just about anything. There was one other attractive feature, the 84 bhp, 1300cc four-cylinder petrol engine is surprisingly fuel efficient for what the truck has to do.

Gibsons are now working on their fourth order for an estate in Stranraer, while a request has come in from southern Ireland for a diesel offering, and the Gibsons team are looking at using a Renault 1500cc diesel engine which would fit nicely.

After the success of their first two builds, Gibsons were intending to build more Jimnys for stock. That hasn’t happened, as the orders are coming in quicker than they can build them, however, the main problem now is sourcing suitable donor vehicles.

What sets this conversion apart is the quality of the work – you can’t see the join. The finished article looks like a Suzuki factory-built product with the inside of the cab insulated and lined and the seamless panel work at the rear.

Price? Since they are hand built to customer spec’ that varies, but Gibsons reckon they can match the price of a similarly spec’ed CATV.