THE 4X4 ute market has been hotly contested ever since there was a 4x4 ute market to contest.
Every updated model is designed to one-up the competition in towing capacity, handling, fuel economy and style. The Hilux may be the benchmark all the others are compared to but Nissan’s Navara has been going toe to toe with the market leader for three decades and represents serious bang for your buck. When you factor in that it’s often ahead of the curve in terms of design and suspension systems, the Navara starts representing serious value for money.
It was this value that first caught Reece’s eye. When he started the hunt for a 4x4 ute that’d come with modern reliability and refinements, as well as take him to the many sand islands in south-east Queensland, the Navara was head and shoulders above the rest. He’s been able to tweak it into a purpose-built tourer capable of camping trips along the beach, boys’ weekends through the bush and the most difficult challenge of them all, the daily grind.
The D40 might have been a significant leap forward over the previous D22, but it wasn’t quite enough for Reece. The solution was simple and involved enlisting a few of the best custom shops on the east coast.
The first call was to the guys at In-House Fabrication, who are responsible for the trick stainless-steel work running around the Navara’s front end.
The new intake system starts off with the stainless-steel snorkel funnelling fresh
air into the engine bay and through the custom airbox and Forefront Industries intake pipe. From there the stock turbo cranks the ambient air up to an impressive 25psi, requiring an extensive intercooler set-up on the hot side and a grate on the end of the snorkel to ensure no birds or small children are sucked into the engine on full noise.
The intercooler piping is also the handiwork of In-House Fabrication, though the 450x300x76mm intercooler is an off-the-shelf item from Aeroflow Performance. Helping the Navara get on boost earlier is a turbo back three-inch exhaust system with an HPD oil catch can tucked in the already tight engine bay.
With all the go-fast bits fitted and an aggressive tune the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel recently pushed out 190rwhp on the Just Autos dyno, a 55 per cent increase over the first run of 122rwhp. However, with the stock turbo now working at breaking point it’ll soon be replaced with a larger unit with the aim of 230rwhp – a 112 per cent increase.
The naysayers of Navara reliability might be humbled to learn that the standard drivetrain is holding steady, albeit with a heavy-duty clutch slotted in front of the standard five-speed manual cog-swapper.
Along with the significant power upgrades, Reece’s Navara has had more than a few aftermarket components tucked underneath.
The front is sitting five inches closer to the clouds thanks to a mix-and-match of components from around the globe. There’s a five-inch bracket lift from Calmini in the US teamed up with Australian-made King Springs and TJM struts. Heavy-duty Calmini spindles provide a much-needed strength upgrade, while there are adjustable upper control arms from Queensland’s Performance Suspension Racing to help dial in the alignment for optimum handling.
Moving to the rear, the live-axle and leaf-spring
LIFTING a live axle is simple – taller springs, longer shocks and perhaps a few adjustable arms to keep the geometry this side of horrendous. But lifting an independent front end can open up a world of hurt if done incorrectly. The issue comes down to the angle of the driveshafts and CV joints sending power from the chassismounted diff centre to the wheels – the higher the lift, the greater the angle, and the bigger the chance of failure.
To get around this there are three options. The most sensible is keeping lifts moderate – most manufacturers recommend around the 50mm mark. On the more extreme side of things are bracket lifts like Reece is running. In a bracket lift, aftermarket crossmembers, spacers and brackets physically push the front suspension arrangement away from the chassis diff centre, which keeps things reasonably in line with stock geometry. Further to this, some companies offer long travel kits. Longer control arms and driveshafts allow a larger amount of lift for the same CV angle, although often at the expense of illegally increasing the track width.
arrangement has made for a much simpler upgrade path. There’s a set of no-name twoinch- lifted leaf springs locating the rear diff, with Outback Armour shocks keeping them under control. That doesn’t come close to matching the five inches of lift up front, so accompanying them are a set of two-inch lift blocks bolted between the leaf springs and axle. The final extra inch of lift comes from extended Calmini shackles, levelling it out with the front.
To help the Navara float across sand and mud, Reece opted for a set of larger rolling stock in the form of 285/75R16 Mickey Thompson MTZs. To keep under the radar from the long appendage of the law they’ve been wrapped around 16x7in faux-locked Dynamic steel wheels, with a +13 offset keeping them in the arches.
Up front the Navara has had a serious facelift, with a colour-coded ARB deluxe bullbar providing invaluable defence for the radiator and aftermarket ‘angel eyes’ LED headlights. Bolted between the front posts is a pair of Hella HID driving lights, while the aerial feeds into the GME UHF inside.
With the Navara spending most of its life on the sand, Reece has forgone the usual winch to maintain a lighter front end; he keeps a snatch strap and pair of bow shackles at hand instead.
To round out the front protection package there’s a custom bash plate wrapping the front diff, with a second Calmini item tucked underneath. The front bar is only one part of a larger barwork package keeping the Navara in one piece. Down the flanks there’s a set of rock sliders from Phat Bars and a Jack rear bar from MCC 4x4. Reece assures us the rear bar has pulled more than a few Hiluxes out of strife.
Inside the rear tray are two factory sport
racks. While there’s a stock one in its original location – it has been painted black – Reece picked up a second rack and modified it to suit the rear – it’s been flipped and painted to match the front rack.
The rack up top not only doubles the available storage for swags and bulky items but makes for an easy mounting system for the 2.5 x 2.5m awning on the passenger side, something most utes struggle to mount.
Reece has followed the same simple approach in the cab, with a few tasteful mods, including a larger stereo, boost and volt gauges tucked into a VY Commodore gauge pod, and neoprene seat covers. He’s bucked the trend towards big-dollar builds.
Instead, a simple upgrade here, a little clever thinking there, and the result is a 4x4 perfect for getting him out on the tracks with his mates from the Elite Breed 4x4 Club and Nissan Navara Brisbane group.
For around the price of a new hatchback, Reece has built himself a reliable late-model 4x4 more than equipped to get out and explore everything south-east Queensland has to offer. With a heap of power under his right foot, it’s guaranteed to always leave a smile on his face!