Our Hilux giveaway car was looking pretty daggy – it is an ex-Telstra car, after all. Following its tour-of-duty fixing phone lines in country Victoria, it was due for a new lease of life. While the TJM barwork and flares have helped toughen it up a bit, it was still rolling on the stock steel wheels and wellaged OE suspension.
It was the suspension that caught the keen eye of Phil Cochrane as we rolled the Hilux in to his Ontrack Automotive workshop for an EFS upgrade. “It looks very sagged, so I’m wondering what we have to work with here,” he said as the 2010 vintage Toyota went up on the hoist.
Despite having 161,000km on the clock, the Hilux has a full factory service history and it still drives very well. It was just way too low for our liking. Queensland’s EFS Suspension came to the party with a fix, supplying a kit complete with new front coils, rear leaves, XTR shocks and all the associated hardware.
The suspension is listed as giving a 40mm lift in height, but once installed it showed just how sagged the OE stuff was, as the new suspension propped up the Lux by more than 40mm.
A suspension kit install is run-of-the-mill stuff for Phil and
Chris at Ontrack, after 30 years in the fitting-out and servicing 4x4 vehicles. In fact, it’s just about a daily occurrence there. All that experience has taught them what works and what doesn’t work, so they recommend EFS suspension products whenever possible.
That experience has also taught Phil that time working on a car can be saved with a bit of preassembly. So, with the parts ordered in advance, he was able to have the front struts assembled and ready to bolt in before we arrived. Phil even does this for the DIY customers who may not have proper spring compressors at home, allowing them to buy the complete ready-to-bolt-in struts that have been correctly and safely put together in the workshop.
With this done in advance, fitting the front struts was relatively quick and easy. Phil completed the job as though he could do it with his eyes closed. The rear leaf springs took a bit more heavy lifting and some supporting of the rear axle to get the parts in place.
It’s not rocket science, but the job’s made all that much easier by experience and the right tools.
When we selected the springs for our Hilux, we took into account the steel bar and winch up front, and the fact that the canopy that is on the car now will be coming off. We had also stated our preference for a comfortable ride over load-lugging ability, so the medium-spec rear springs were chosen for the job.
EFS’s XTR shock absorbers are a premium product designed for 4x4s that do a lot of outback travel. They are a twin-tube design with a 64mm diameter; a 2mm wall thickness; and an external tube for increased oil capacity and resistance to stone damage. A 40mm piston rides on a 20mm hardened chrome shaft for the ultimate in control and durability.
With some newfound space to fill inside the flared ’guards, we took the chance to fit the Cooper STT Pro tyres and ATX alloy wheel combo we’ve had waiting for a couple of months. The 265/70-17 Coopers fill the gap sweetly and will give the Hilux some genuine off-road ability to go with its tougher street appearance.
PHIL COCHRANE has been running his specialist 4x4 workshop Ontrack Automotive in Ferntree Gully for near on 30 years. That’s experience you can’t put a price on, and with plenty of outback miles under his belt, Phil knows a thing or two about what’s needed for a capable and reliable vehicle in the bush.
Ontrack is a supplier and fitter of EFS Suspension products, Lightforce lights, GME radios, Exedy clutches, Piranha, IPF, DTS Turbos, Redback Exhausts and Ironman 4x4 products. The workshop can also carry out log-book servicing and pre-trip inspections on your 4x4 to make sure it is in top condition.
You can find Ontrack Automotive at 4 Thomas Street, Ferntree Gully; online at www. ontrack4x4.com.au; or via phone on (03) 9753 5565.
Best of all they look the part without stepping outside the legal boundaries, so there’ll be no heat from The Man on whoever wins this sweet ride.
With the Hilux riding high and rolling tough, it was sent around the corner for a wheel alignment, including castor correction. Then we were on our way. Initial impressions on the short road-drive back to 4X4 HQ were: one, the view over the bonnet now seems much higher with better all-round visibility; two, the mud terrain pattern STT Pros are noisier on road than the stockers, as you would expect, but they are not intrusive at all; and, three, the suspension rides firmer but not overly so as some aftermarket kits do. The EFS guys obviously got the product selection right to match our brief.
It won’t be until we take the Hilux bush that we can gauge its improved performance, but we have to say it will be a whole lot better than it was. Before then we’ve got more gear to fit to it as the build continues and the giveaway promotion kicks off next month. Stay tuned!
THAT’S RIGHT! Once we’re finished kitting up this Hilux with all the best gear from TJM Products, Lightforce, Terrain Tamer, MSA Products, DP Chip, Mean Mother winches, Marks 4WD, EFS Suspension, Cooper Tires, ATX Wheels, Ironman 4x4, and many other top-notch suppliers, we’ll be giving it away to a lucky reader of 4X4 Australia magazine. The promotion officially kicks off in the April 2016 issue of the magazine (on sale March 10), so keep an eye out for that mag and online info at www.4x4australia.com.au Who knows, you could be the one setting off for your big outback adventure in this bushready Toyota – but you’ve got to be in it to win it to get in it!
EFS SUSPENSION Available nationally. Find your nearest stockist at www.efs4wd.com.au ONTRACK AUTOMOTIVE Ferntree Gully, Victoria. www.ontrack4x4.com.au