Show Notes for Podcast #162
Stanley Illman on Exploring the World by Gwagon and Porsche
Scott Brady interviews Stanley Illman, Co-founder of Front Runner, international businessman, and global explorer. Stanley has driven around the world in Land Rover, G-Class, and classic Porsche. Stanley shares important insights on product quality, vehicle preparation, and travel. His trips have crossed Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, and South America.
Founder and Chairman of Front Runner Outfitters, Stanley Illman
Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I’m your host, Scott Brady. And for this week’s discussion, I have Stanley Illman. Now, Stanley is a long time Overland traveler, but he’s also a race driver for off road racing, including winning the roof of Africa. And he’s also traveled around the world in various vintage car rallies. So these are some really fun conversations with Stanley about traveling around the world in both vintage cars and in overland vehicles. Stanley has a love for the Goland of gans, so we talk about that vehicle and we talk about some of the other platforms that he’s built throughout the years, including. The Entdecker G Wagon and his time owning Unicat, too. this is a really great conversation around Overland Vehicles, but it’s a fun conversation around travel in Africa, because Stanley’s been [00:01:00] traveling in Africa for the last 60 plus years, and he has some great stories to tell. It’s a really interesting conversation with Stanley Illman.
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Stanley, thank you so much for spending time with me this morning. You are one of the legends of our industry. You helped to create so many of the unique vehicles and products that we all enjoy today. And it’s going to be fun to hear not only where you’ve traveled around the world, but what led you to a lot of those decisions that resulted in the creation of those products.
But what I’d love to start with… Is the story of, of, of how you somehow survived rolling a Porsche on a rally into a drainage ditch and, and are still with us today. Cause that’s an incredible story.
Stanley Illman: Yeah. Well, that happened on London, Sydney, and we were running through through Malaysia and we were in a banana plantation for a stage and France was driving, not me.
And we’ve lost control and went into a ditch upside down full of water. [00:03:00] Wow. And the car was submerged. We couldn’t get out the back because of the roll cage. The two walls on the side of the, of the vehicle, we couldn’t get out the windows. And the front was buried in the mud. So the best we could do was to grasp for a little bit of air in the top, which you had to take off your helmet.
We struggled around a bit. We got to the top. And from my diving experiences in the early years as a North Sea diver when I was young you blow bubbles to see where up and down is because it’s pitch black. Oh, sure. Okay. And managed to find some air at the top and we sat there for 45, 50 minutes waiting for someone to come and rescue us.
So luckily a Port Falcon crashed behind us and in the same corner. And if it didn’t land on top of us, otherwise we would have been finished. Yeah, sure. But he landed behind us, and they could get out because they weren’t completely flat. They weren’t submerged in anything. They could climb out, and they [00:04:00] saw us there, and they signaled for the next car that came through to report it back to control, and then they came with a crane and hoisted us and the vehicle out.
Scott Brady: And if I remember, you, you, you got the car running again, and you completed the journey. No, no, no, no, we didn’t.
Stanley Illman: That, that, that one was my final. That’s when Frans and I said, I think we’re old enough to get out of this game now. Well, you still can. Well, we still can. Yeah. And that was a big fright for both of us. And it was a close call. And after that, we actually stopped racing. Yeah. As, you know, but we still, we still carry on four by four. Yes, you do. The team carries on forever. Yeah,
Scott Brady: absolutely. As long as we can. Well, let’s go back to the beginning. Where were you born and what kind of started your love for the outdoors?
Stanley Illman: Was born here in Johannesburg, South Africa. And my father was a pharmacist. And my grandparents had a small holding [00:05:00] north of Johannesburg with their little farm. That they had chickens and some cattle. And it was a hobby for my grandfather and I started my life with the outdoor being with them a lot because my parents were always working in a pharmacy. Sure. And I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a youngster. Yeah. And I learned from that, you know, basically.
Scott Brady: And then you spent quite a bit of time riding horses early in life too.
Stanley Illman: I used to horses. I enjoyed that very much. I did a little bit of show jumping. Yeah. That interested me. Then I moved to motorcycles. Yes. I started very early in my life. I was on a small Garelli, that’s what we were allowed to ride then, or an item, those two Italian little mopeds. And we started on those, we used to travel all over the country with them. Amazing. And going long distances like, 300, 400 kilometers on a 50cc and bicycles, of course, when we were younger. Sure. And you know, it was [00:06:00] an open way of life in South Africa and you could travel everywhere and it was very safe.
Scott Brady: Well, and it was, it’s interesting because you’ve covered so many different means of travel throughout, throughout your time and so many different kinds of vehicles. One of the, one of the. The stories that I remember hearing was you buying a, a Unimog, a Unimog and, and talk about what, why did you purchase a Unimog and where did you drive it to?
Stanley Illman: Well, that’s all started as a, as something different. Yeah. We’ve done all the four by four stuff. We traveled through Africa. We’ve had gone all the way up to Ethiopia. Yeah, all the way around. And for many years, I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of kilometers I’ve done off road. But and I decided one day, I think a Unimog is a good idea. It’s a, it’s the ultimate four by four vehicle. So I, I bought a [00:07:00] Unimog in Germany, had it moved to right hand drive, imported into South Africa, put a. A canvas back on the back of it just with a, call it a small load bed and it was a four seater the double four door and front, the two Francis and myself went for a test drive to Ethiopia and with two rooftop tents on the top. And then when it came back, I then shipped it to Germany cause I wanted to build a proper camper van out of it and went to Unicat. And they helped me build that whole vehicle and brought it back here. And then the late Paul Allen bought that Unimog from me.
Yeah, I remember that story. And that that was actually the first Unimog I had ever driven was yours. And this was in 2010 here in South Africa when we went up to your game farm. That was the first time I had ever, I had ever [00:08:00] driven a Unimog and it was incredible. And the camper that you had on there was very unique. In the fact that you had, had, if I recall correctly, the whole back of it dropped down and became like an observation platform. It was a sleeping platform actually. So we could sleep out there and you know, it was a great vehicle. Yeah. It was really great fun. I’ve traveled quite a bit with it. After that, we crossed into, when it was finished in Yurikat, we went and crossed the Sahara. Yeah, I remember that. You went over the Atlas Mountains and everything. I went all the way across and we went to Tunisia and through to Libya and all the way down to Sudan. Yeah.
Scott Brady: What did you enjoy about that trip? What was, what was unique?
Stanley Illman: The desert is magical. I’m still a great lover of deserts. Yeah. I’m not, not great on jungles because I, Don’t think you have the depth of field, there shouldn’t be any trees, it’s very close up. But the desert with those open spaces, for me, I can drive there all day.
Scott Brady: I agree with you. There’s something, I [00:09:00] think peaceful and mystical, yes, all of that about the desert. And it, and it you feel like you’re a part of the place.
Stanley Illman: Correct. Yeah. Whereas, you’re right in the jungle, it’s kind of, you’re surviving the jungle. Well, you’re not only, you don’t have any distance, you know, it’s close up and it’s It’s damp and it’s not quite my style of being, but that’s about it.
Scott Brady: Well, we, we spent quite a bit of time, so we Stanley and I, we did a trip with some friends Brian Bass, who many of you on the podcast have heard. We went to Kenya and we flew into Kenya and we picked up the Galanda wagons. Let’s talk a little bit about those cars because I think it’s interesting as, before we talk about the trip, but you had purchased ten specialty specs.
Stanley Illman: There were nine of them, actually, we managed, we couldn’t get ten. The Swiss Alex, through Alex in Switzerland, we managed to get, to buy what they call the Greenline. Which was a military style [00:10:00] vehicle and used for military purposes and we could actually spec the vehicle the way we wanted it. And we bought nine vehicles.
Of those, seven were converted into Indecas. They were all, we took them down to Unicat again. And they converted seven of them into, into Indecas. And we had a group of guys that everybody wanted one. Yeah. And I kept two. And… The rest was sold off and Alex kept one and a friend of mine, Richard Schilling, he kept another one and we had some great trips in those vehicles all over Africa.
Scott Brady: Incredible vehicles. And if I remember a lot, somewhere along the way you purchased some or all of Unicat to finish the project.
Stanley Illman: Well, Unicat had a little bit of a problem at one stage and we actually bought into it, but then we sold out. There was a great guy there, Vaas, who owns it still today. Yeah.
Okay, he was a big IT guy. He had lots of bucks. I didn’t have that kind of bucks. Yeah. To support [00:11:00] Unicat, but when we finished our stuff, we got out and he stayed in. Yeah. great friends, all of us. Thomas Ritter at Unicat and Vaas and myself and Bernie, all great friends. That was a, a very ambitious project and for, for many of us who’ve been around the overland space for a long time the Entdeckers were kind of this mystical vehicle because they were so rare, and there was, there was so much thought that went into them, like a degree of finish that you’d never see in a typical wagon.
Scott Brady: The way that, cause how many, how many liters of fuel did you have on
Stanley Illman: board, if I remember? Close to 220, 230 liters, somewhere around there. We had 125 liters of water. Everything stored very low down, so we had a good center of gravity. We designed all the inside. All was done here at Frontrunner. Okay, we designed all the vehicles here.
And then we had them built by Unicat in Germany because they were Swiss registered vehicles. We couldn’t bring them into South Africa. Sure. Because left hand drive was not allowed and [00:12:00] we could only buy it in left hand drive. I tried to buy some right hand drive.
Scott Brady: I see. And you even had two fridges, if I remember.
Stanley Illman: Yeah, two National Luna fridges we had at the time. And in each vehicle. Yeah. One deep freeze, one fridge, 40 liters each. And we had a rooftop tent. of Magellina at that stage. And that was the vehicle. Yeah, and they really worked. They really functioned well.
Scott Brady: So when, when we flew into Kenya I remember we went to this remote runway. And this was another hilarious story. It’s amazing, these stories that come up in, in my with you. But we were flying on a Cessna Caravan. And we land in this remote runway in, in Kenya. And it turns out that the plane we were flying on, you used to own.
Stanley Illman: Actually, that what happened was on the way up, I sold the plane.I had a Cessna Caravan for a while. I sold it. I never knew who the owner was. All I knew the money arrived in the bank and it went [00:13:00] up to Kenya. That I didn’t know. But where or how or why for, and I remembered there was some guy up there in Kenya that bought, and we, when we were taking the unimark on its first trip up to Ethiopia at Nuki, we passed this runway, the Nki runway. And I saw my plane because it had a, an elephant called Shamu, one of the big great elephants of the Kruger Park. On the tail, a picture of it, in green and gold, and I said, hey, hang on, let’s go in there, I want to see who, where this plane is, so I walked in and I saw, and I asked the question where’s the owner of the plane, they said, no, he’s in the hangar there fixing some engine on an aircraft, so I went in and I met, and I said, hi, are you the owner? He said, yes. I said, I’m Stanley Hillman from South Africa. Oh, it’s your plane that I bought. And that was Jamie Roberts. What a nice guy. And since then, we’ve been friends for many, [00:14:00] many years going forward. And we left our cars there. He came down here. We see each other often. He runs a thing called Tropic Air.
Scott Brady: And he runs, he runs flights back and forth from Nairobi to get people. He does a lot of helicopter work up north there and he runs a charter business as well. Amazing.
Illman: Scott Brady: At the same time. Yeah, what a nice guy he was and he helped us with some of our route planning.
Stanley Illman: Roberts family is. Great family in northern Kenya.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it was very, it was very fun to meet them and again, just how crazy that story is that that’s where your, your plane was. And then we, we left from there and we, and we drove across Kenya and into Uganda, which was just magic. And was that your first time to Uganda?
Stanley Illman: No, the second time to Uganda, not going as far north as we did to Kipita, okay, and that was the first time I’d been that far north, but I’d been in earlier, I’d been into the bottom end of
Scott Brady: Uganda.
Yeah, and we had this, an amazing [00:15:00] time in Kidepo at the, at the game reserve. Sure. Up in the north where we were, it was so rare to be able to go and do a, a game park and just wild camp, where there was no fences, nothing. I mean, we were just, it was just us out in the bush, you know, and that was so interesting.
We had that really sweet guy with us, the one of the, one of the park rangers, and he had an AK 47. And I remember asking him, I said, when’s the last time you shot that gun? And he says, well, when they, when they gave it to me 10 years ago, you know, so. And he was the one that was going to, that was going to protect us.
Stanley Illman: We were close to the Sudanese border. That’s right.
Scott Brady: In fact, we ended up going into South Sudan.
Stanley Illman: Yeah, the road only led into there for a little while.
Scott Brady: That’s right. That’s right. We got to go into the desert a little bit, which was fun. And we saw those You know, they were clearly you know, bringing things illegally across the border. The border. Yeah, that was really interesting. And I mean, and [00:16:00] given where I’m at with my trip right now, I sure wish I could still get into Sudan. It’s not, not possible at this moment.
Stanley Illman: It looks like real civil war breaking out here at the moment. It’s a great shame. Yeah, it is a shame. It’s also a great country.
Scott Brady: Yeah, a beautiful country. So, when you look back on the vehicles that you’ve built talk about the things around the Entdecker or any of the other vehicles. What are some of the, the core elements that you try to look at when you prepare a vehicle for overland travel?
Stanley Illman: Carry as little as possible, as light as possible you do need the range if you’re going to cross long distances. Because, I mean, I think we had a range of vehicles. Just on 1, 800 kilometers in our vehicle. In the desert, I think, for one trip we did through Algeria, that we crossed, there was a stretch of 1, 200. We didn’t quite make it, we had to take four vehicles, and we had to take we sent one [00:17:00] forward, took the fuel out of the others to send the one to go and fetch fuel to bring back for us to get to the next town.
Scott Brady: So how close did you get? Within 30, 40 kilometers?
Stanley Illman: No, about 150. Oh, oh. The desert is hard going. It is. It’s really hard to judge how much fuel you’re going to use. And those are
Scott Brady: heavy cars. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So you find that keeping the vehicle simple, light you’ve always really liked What about the G Wagon do you find that you like the most?
Stanley Illman: It’s a very robust vehicle. It’s hard to break. The modern ones, like the Indeca, too much electronics, unfortunately. Not much you can do about it. But you had to learn how to reset and what to do. And we had the Mercedes. units to, to actually find the faults and try and fix and do, but you know, they’ve never let us down. We’ve always driven them home. It doesn’t matter what happened. We’ve driven them home. Well, I remember, and I’ve never been stuck. [00:18:00] Actually. I’m very lucky, touch wood, that I’ve never had to tow a vehicle home. I’ve always managed to drive home wherever I’ve been.
Scott Brady: Well, and even when we were on that trip in Kenya and Uganda, We, I think we lost the, what was it? The 12 volt alternator on Alex’s car. Yeah. And then we had to, we had to run cables out through the window and… Yeah,
Stanley Illman: to get 12 volts back into the ECU.
Scott Brady: And the battery, the batteries were boiling. Boiling and
Stanley Illman: everything, but we got it home. You did? Yeah, we made it, got it back.
Scott Brady: Amazing. Yeah, amazing. And one of my favorite stories and I actually love it when your wife Gilly tells the story, but…It was when, I think you were either first married or, or, Just before
Stanley Illman: we were married, actually.
Scott Brady: And you drove to Maun, from Johannesburg, and you, I mean, how many days were you driving in the water?
Stanley Illman: Well, we, we drove from Johannesburg up to Kasani. Okay. And then, in December. And the [00:19:00] Mumbabi Depression was fully underwater. Never been up there before. No GPSs or anything like that in those days? Yeah. No radio communication, nothing. Just the Land Rover one 10. And we drove up there in the, in the late sixties and I got to Sani and I said, well, the compass says there’s the direction to mount. Yeah. And I had an aeronautical map with a whole lot of little numbers on, didn’t quite understand it properly.
And I thought, oh, there must be villages or something, you know. They don’t put the names there, they just put a number. Anyway, we drove and we drove and we drove out of Kasani. And we were in the water for five days, lost, driving around on hunting tracks that you can see in the water. Sure. And eventually found a beacon. Underwater and took a jar so I could see what the number was on the beacon and went under, had a look at the number and then [00:20:00] found it on the map and then took a compass heading, took a sextant reading in the evening and found my way down to Mount.
Scott Brady: I love hearing stories like that and the ones recently that I had with Tom Shepard. out of the UK. Before GPS and before satellite communication and all of that, I mean, it was such another level of adventure.
Stanley Illman: Yeah, I mean, if you missed Mound by two or three kilometers each site, you were back in the, in the pants. Yeah. So that was it. And the only place there was fuel was Mound. Yeah. In those days. And Mound consisted of Riley’s Garage, which was a hotel as well, the Riley Hotel. And there we got fuel, and there must have been, I don’t know, maybe 10 or 20 huts in there in the 60s, late
Scott Brady: 60s. Amazing. And now it’s quite a thriving little…
Stanley Illman: It’s unbelievable what’s happened there. The entire runway is green.Jets come flying in. They do.
Scott Brady: [00:21:00] They do. Well, it’s such an incredible part of the world. I mean, it is, it seems to me a lot like the Garden of Eden.
Stanley Illman: I mean, it’s… To me, it is the Garden of Eden. Yeah. The Okavango Swamps is the Garden of Eden. There’s no question about it.
Scott Brady: There’s some, some photographs I’ve taken in the setting sun when you, I mean, the giraffe were drinking and the hippo were, I mean, it’s just unbelievable.
Stanley Illman: We camped so much there while camping in the early years. We used to just go out and camp and drive around in all the parks there. It was very open in those days. Today they’re closed off a lot. There’s a lot of control and there’s a lot of tourists there and stuff, but in the early years there was no one.
Scott Brady: In all of your travels, if I remember, you’ve done the length of the Americas in rally vehicles. You’ve done, you did a trip from, from all the way up to, to Alaska in a rally vehicle too?
Stanley Illman: Yes, we did London to Mexico was one trip. And then we did[00:22:00] Panama Alaska, from Panama all the way through. On the rally cars. We did London Sydney.
Scott Brady: And London Singapore you did at one point too, didn’t you?
Stanley Illman: No, London Sydney, that was the one. The second one when we crashed, that was the last one. We did one before that before. All in classic cars, the old Porsches. Yeah, sure. France is a genius at the old Porsches and They had a lot of fun.
Scott Brady: Amazing. Well, you and I just went the other day and we got to go to a Porsche club here in South Africa and take a look at those vehicles and I can see that they still bring a sparkle to your eye. Oh yes, the old 911s.
Stanley Illman: So, so fantastic. And the old 356s in the early years. Yeah,
Scott Brady: so fantastic. So, one of the things that’s That I wanted to talk to you about because I think it helps those that are listening is You’ve also designed a lot of products for your own travels you you built them for your own needs That’s how it started. Yeah, and and what were [00:23:00] what were some of the things that you learned through that process talk about some of like the basics of those products that you felt really made a difference.
Stanley Illman: Yeah, well, it started off in the first G Wagon that I had. The Land Rover, we never, it was a 110, there were only two of us traveling.We never had a roof rack or anything. Managed to fit everything inside. There was no rooftop tents either in those days. We’d sleep inside the back of the vehicle. Up in the… the north and or otherwise camp on the ground and but the thing was then the first Geländewagen came out that I bought was a short wheelbase 300D, no power.Yes, you’re a very slow car. Very slow on power. Anyway, that was the vehicle and we had a roof rack. From Germany on it, from the factory, and the first big bump, dip on a, in a, in a river bed, the roof rack landed on the bonnet. And that was my first thoughts to to get it going. To build a proper, proper roof rack. To [00:24:00] build a proper roof rack, and actually that’s where I found Frontrunner, which was a very small company that belonged to Safari Center in South Africa. There was a guy at Ophia that was making roof racks, welded aluminum roof racks. I came to him and I said, well, can you build me a roof rack? I want it like this and like that.And he said, fine. And he built me the roof rack. And then while we were busy, he said, well, the company’s got problems and they need money and blah, blah, blah. So I bought the company. I had just retired out of the public company that I was involved in. And I was 52 at the stage. And I bought Frontrunner in 2000, the actual company itself.
Made a couple of welded together roof racks. So I bought that and took the company over, all the assets. And started, took two of my ex employees from the Voltex group that didn’t want to work there anymore. I wanted to join me and we started Frontrunner and slowly but surely [00:25:00] we built all the product line based around the roof rack to start with.
Pucca seemed to becoming quite popular at the time. Sure. And then we developed the Slimline 2 which was a non welded roof rack. That you could pack smaller for the American market. Yeah. And we had a big learning lesson. How to pack and what to do. Sure. To market in the United States and Yeah. How the online business starts to work.
Sure. With Tina and Dave and Renee. All of us together. Yeah. My two daughters and my son in law. And we managed to get it all going at the day.
Scott Brady: You did. Hmm. And it’s, it’s been a, a, a, product that people now recognize and people go out of their way to purchase because it’s it does a good job.
Stanley Illman: I think it does a good job. It’s a very strong wreck. The members, the slats, as we call them, run from east to west on the vehicle. Most other roof racks run north to south. I see other competitors now making, copying us, okay? Everybody before that said it wouldn’t work, but it does work. And it makes a much stronger [00:26:00] rack than most racks.
Scott Brady: Well, and the one thing that I like about it is that it can be configured. So it’s possible. to like if you have a sunroof you can remove those slats. Correct. Directly over the sunroof so you can stand up inside the vehicle if you’re in a game park or whatever there’s there’s options.
Stanley Illman: It’s very flexible in the way it’s done just front runners just launched a van rack. Now, that’s fully configurable, so you can move the slats independently to have all the hatches and the air conditioning on top of the roof at the same time. Yeah, sure. So we just launched that, so I think that’s going to be a great success.
Scott Brady: Well, yeah, they have been, I mean, you can definitely see how popular. The frontrunner racks are around the world, you know. Absolutely.
Stanley Illman: Well, when travel and you go on a ferry going across to Africa from Europe, just look across the top, you see hundreds of racks of the frontrunner.
Scott Brady: You do. You really, really do. So, you also have a love… for, for motorcycles and you’ve done some, some great [00:27:00] trips on motorcycles too. What’s your, what’s your favorite bike that you like to ride? At the moment?
Stanley Illman: it’s a GS. It’s 1250. I always try and keep up to date with that. But I started on, as I said, the Gorillaz and then moved to the Husqvarnas, the Micos, the Scrambler type. Sure. Enduro bikes, Africa Twins. I had all of them on the way. In the early years I had a Triumph and I had an Autumn.
Scott Brady: I think you even told me that you had a Black Shadow, right?
Stanley Illman:, I had it at one stage. Incredible. I mean, these are, these are motorcycles. If I kept everything I never sold it, I would have a lot of, a lot of value in the product that I had.
Scott Brady: Unbelievable. I mean, just. I mean, that old Norton would have been incredible, but to have a black, to black, have a black shadow on it. It’s another story. That’s just such a rare motorcycle.
Stanley Illman: No, no, no. There was an Xperia. There was an Aerial Square Four. There were all those old bikes.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Incredible.
Stanley Illman: There was a thing called a Munch with an NSU motor.
Yeah. And we went through all those [00:28:00] bikes together. I had some good bike friends in here in South Africa. We used to ride a lot. When we were younger, we used to ride to Durban in the middle of the night. How we did it, I don’t know. But with hardly a headlamp, it was like a candle in front. But there was no traffic and we used to go, you know, five hours to Durban. I mean, flat out, all the way. No, no goggles, no helmet. T shirt, jeans, that was it. Unbelievable. Tried to, trying to be Steve McQueen.
Scott Brady: Yeah, I think a lot of us have wanted to be Steve McQueen, for sure. For sure. Wow. So you, you’ve seen a lot of growth in the overland industry. You’ve seen it explode in the last 20 years since you started your ownership of Frontrunner.
What, what is some advice that you can give to young travelers, new travelers in the overland space that are looking [00:29:00] for advice from someone who’s been around the world like you have? What, what are some pieces of advice that you would give them if you were sitting down with them?
Illman: The most important advice is, go around the mountain, not over the mountain, okay, if you can, look after your vehicle, right, keep it as light as possible, whatever you do, don’t use it on one trip, leave behind, don’t take it on the next trip, and You know, there’s a lot of good vehicles around, you can make some nice bolts, depending where you’re going and what you’re doing, drive carefully, you know, off road is if you have an accident and you’re on your own, you can be in the middle of nowhere, there’s nobody to rescue you or anything, so you have to keep that in mind in a big way. Today a little better, you can have a little spot meter that you can send some signals out, or a Garmin or, you know, or a satellite phone, so it’s not as bad as it used to be.
Scott Brady:. Those are the things we do. That’s what I noticed when I traveled with you guys is you know, you’re, you’re all [00:30:00] really excellent drivers.It doesn’t mean that you drive slow because you don’t drive slow.
Stanley Illman:, I think we drive quite slow. compared to railing. We drive very slow.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Yeah. So, but you, you drive with purpose, but you, there’s also a lot of precision in the driving and I was impressed by that. I’m often, I’m oftentimes surprised how.How often people will be driving internationally distracted. They’ll be on their phone, or they’ll be, you know, not paying attention.
Stanley Illman: That you can’t do in the bush. those kind of roads or those
Scott Brady: surfaces. Yeah, and plus the person that’s in the passenger seat is… relying on you to make good choices.
Stanley Illman: Correct. And he’s got to watch out for you as well. You can’t see everything.
Scott Brady: That’s right. So you have to be working as a team and the driver has to take responsibility that this is my job for the next two hours, three hours, however long until you swap out. And I’m going to pay attention. I’m not going to be on my phone.I’m not gonna be distracted. I’m gonna, I’m not gonna be tired. Sure. You know, and making sure [00:31:00] that but that was, I was really impressed by that with, with Franz. And you and Alex just really experienced drivers.
Stanley Illman: another very big thing from a safety point of view, don’t drive at night.
Scott Brady: Really. There’s so many things that can come up.
Stanley Illman: Animals, there’s so many things, animals, and that. Dusk and dawn are dangerous times as well, because animals are crossing and moving and so those are the times you have to be careful and really go out.
Scott Brady: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Have you had any, any unusual encounters with animals in Africa?
Stanley Illman: Well, I had, the one galleon of Argon, I had a kudu that crossed, jumped in front of us at dusk. We hit that and the horn went… It came, it could have came through the windscreen, but the horn went in the roof above my head through.
Scott Brady: I remember, so that, that same Geländewagen, this was, this was in 2010, you let me borrow that car.
That’s a two, a 230. It was a 230, and [00:32:00] I was going to take it up through Lesotho, and you were, you were walking me around the vehicle. It was a very simple vehicle, and you said, oh, that hole in the roof is from a Kudu horn. Yeah, yeah. And of course the vehicle was… was flawless, even through Lesotho. I mean, it was, it wasn’t a new vehicle at that time.
Stanley Illman: we drove that from, the accident happened just outside Wankee Game Reserve, up in Zimbabwe, and we drove all the way home without a windscreen.
Scott Brady: And now you bring a windscreen with you, I
Stanley Illman: noticed. We normally make a, we, we, we, the beauty of a Geländewagen has a flat windscreen, so we had a piece of polycarbonate cut out exactly the same dimensions.
Scott Brady: And if I remember another story that you’ve told me is something broke out a side window on the vehicle.
Stanley Illman: Oh yeah, that was in Botswana last year. Oh, last year, yeah. And what happened is a truck passed us. And hit the side window and knocked the window completely out. Or we had the windscreen up top so we cut the windscreen out. Yeah, you [00:33:00] made it work. The same size and we made it work.
Scott Brady: That’s one thing that has always been so impressive about South Africans is you make a plan.
Stanley Illman: We make a plan. Get it going.
Scott Brady: And it’s got to be, it just has to be, if you think about hundreds of years ago, when your ancestors first sailed to South Africa, think about how hardy those people would have been. How committed, how durable, I mean, just the fact that they survived means that their offspring is going to be pretty interesting people.
Stanley Illman: Well, I mean, even if you see the The poor refugees that are coming out of Africa, trying to cross into Europe, what they endure, what they do, I mean, it’s terrifying. Those are the most skilled individuals you’ll ever meet. That’s right,
Scott Brady: true survivors. True, true survivors. Yeah, and it was the same with your ancestors too, I mean, to get on a wooden boat. And to sail down the coast of Africa. That’s another story. Unbelievable. Yeah. And so I [00:34:00] find that South Africans are a very, very hardy bunch.
Stanley Illman: What they say is a boor mock a plant. That means a farmer makes a plant. There’s nobody around
Scott Brady:. Yeah, they’ve got to figure it out. And I’ve seen that. And I experienced that in my travels with you in Uganda and Kenya. Anytime we had a problem, you guys just, you took out the, the tools and you started working on the car. That’s right. Put it together again. Yeah, it was an inspiration to me for sure. Yeah, absolutely. And let’s talk a little bit about traveling with your family because I think that that’s something that We’re seeing more and more families traveling together. You and your wife have traveled extensively around the world. What have you found helps the two of you, Gilly and you, travel well together?
Stanley Illman: I think we tolerate each other. We’ve been together for 50 odd years. Yeah, sure. Well, almost 60 years now. Yeah, sure. And I think, you know, we tolerate each other.
We’re a good fit, [00:35:00] okay? And the kids are the same, you know. Yeah. Keep going there. quite a close knit family. Tina is now in the States for many years. Venecia. And I think, you know, between the kids and us, it’s just a way of life and a very enjoyable life. And we’re very blessed.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and what have you found helps when you travel with your kids,
Stanley Illman: when you were…Make them part of it. Yeah. Make them dig the car out, you know, all those kind
Scott Brady: of things. And you taught them all how to drive. I mean, I remember being so impressed by the, the driving skill of… Renee and Tina both when I’ve traveled with them off road. I mean prop, they’re proper
Stanley Illman: drivers. Right. Now they can drive.Yeah. They can drive. Still got a little bit to learn, but we all do. They haven’t got enough mileage. Let’s put it that way.
Scott Brady: Yeah. We all got to get enough mileage under our belt. Yeah. And you, you are able to work. with Rene every day. What are some things that you’ve learned in being able to work with your daughter?[00:36:00]
Stanley Illman: Oh, it’s a close family tie, okay? And now we, you know, we work every day together. And we, we, we, we, we control Frontrunner at this moment in time together with Keith. Yeah, and now with our new shareholders Dometic. We’ll push forward and now in the corporate world. Okay, once again, I’m back with the thousands of people.
Yeah. Okay, as employees. Life comes full circle. Life comes full circle, so we’re back at square one again. And yeah, we’ll see how we handle it. I think it’s fine. I think the medic will be a good fit for Frontrunner. Yeah. Going forward, I think we can build something really great together.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and it must be a blessing. To be able to work with your daughter every
Stanley Illman: day. That’s very nice. No, it’s great stuff. Yeah. We’re very close,
Scott Brady: all of us. No, I’ve, I’ve seen it. It’s always been something that I’m so impressed by is how close you guys are as a family. Yeah. Two. Well, Stanley, it’s been such a joy to have you on the podcast.
Thank you, [00:37:00] Scott. I consider you a great friend. I’m so grateful for the travels we’ve been able to do together. And I look for, we might even be able to do a trip here in the next month or so. Well,
Stanley Illman: hopefully you get your new vehicle. Yeah.
Scott Brady: Okay. The Grenadier is
Stanley Illman: still in the… The Grenadier, we have to see what that thing can do. Yeah, that’s right. Okay, it’ll be interesting and maybe we can meet on the way. We’re going on the… At the beginning of August, we’re going up north, and let’s see, maybe
Scott Brady: we’ll get together. At the rate we’re going, I think it might line up just perfect.
Stanley Illman: We’ll find you. If anything else, we’ll find you. That’s great. Hopefully not part of this. No, no, no, let’s hope not, but
Scott Brady: we’re going to keep that bonnet closed on the Grenadiers. I hope so. All right, very good, Stanley. Thank you again for your time, my friend. Thank you for your time. All right, and we thank you all for listening, and we’ll talk to you next time.
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady