They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Now while the Tuatara UTV won’t ever win a beauty pageant, it certainly looks the part – much like a military vehicle and something driven by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Having come across a vehicle on a trip to China, Geoff Hill and partner Qingnei Pang established Tuatara Machinery Limited in 2017. Their aim was to customise the UTV to specifically suit New Zealand conditions and beyond.
Fast forward, and the Tuatara of today – named after an ancient lizard that can live for up to 100 years— is aimed at farmers, foresters, hunters, contractors and utility workers who need a vehicle that can deal with extreme terrain.
Featuring an all-steel construction, the UTV is often compared with the iconic Willy’s Jeep or Land Rover Defender. Hill admits that the overall design has followed a simplistic approach, meaning that maintenance and repairs are easily accomplished in the field or at a local garage, with parts readily available and competitively priced.
At the heart of the machine is a three-cylinder, water-cooled Chery petrol engine with Bosch EFI. This pushes out 69hp, which then pushes power through a manual 5-speed gearbox, with selectable two or four-wheel drive modes. Additionally, independent front and rear axle diff-locks ensure the vehicle can cope with the toughest conditions.
Offering the ability to travel at speed of 60 or 70km/h, depending on rear differential choice, suspension is taken care of by independent, single-wishbone with McPherson struts up front.
With independent double A-arms and dual coil springs at the rear, these combine to offer ground clearance of 310mm.
Bringing things to a safe stop falls to servo-assisted disc brakes on each corner of the machine.
The vehicle weighs in at around 1000kg – so substantially more than a typical mainstream UTV. It has carrying capacity in its 1.6m by 1.4m, steel rear tray of 500kg, while the tow-bar is rated to 1000kg capacity.
Hill says the development of the Tuatara came in direct response to customers who were finding ATV-derived UTVs just weren’t up to the job in extreme conditions.
“Hopefully, we can deliver toughness with the all-steel construction, with just a small amount of plastic in the cabin interior,” he says. “We also deliver durability with oversized components, an electro-phoresic process primer and the twin-pack exterior paint finish.”
Departing from the more conventional CVT-type transmission usually used in most these types of machines, its five-speed manual transmission is easy to use and offers engine braking via the gears on downhill sections. Meanwhile, a low bottom gear allows livestock to be followed at walking pace at engine tick-over.
In the operator station, a substantial ROPS structure combines with retractable lap belts to keep up to three people safe, while a fold down windscreen helps protect against the elements.
Standard equipment includes LED headlights, fog lights and a roof-mounted lightbar, roof rack and snorkel air intake, Bluetooth radio and a front-mounted 1360kg electric winch. An electric hoist system is used to tip the rear load tray, while a front mounted carrying tray also offers up to 150kg capacity.
Warranty on the Tuatara is 12 months/800 hours/8000 kilometres, or whichever arrives first.