DIFFERENT STROKES

When life threw Shane a curveball, he struck back by building the ultimate tourer.

WORDS DANIEL EVERETT PHOTOS PHIL COOPER

CUSTOM TOYOTA LC79

When life threw Shane a curveball, he struck back by building the ultimate tourer.

Shane and Lisa lead a versatile life, and they needed a versatile 4x4 that’d do everything the dynamic duo required of it

IN MANY ways 4x4s are about individuality.

They’re a way for people to forge their own path through life.

To take their own road and do what others don’t, both figuratively and literally. Speak to any off-roader in any part of Australia and you’ll find personalised modifications, plans for adventure, and a back story just that little bit more interesting than your average Joe. Occasionally, though, you’ll come across someone who stands out more than usual. Shane Griffiths from Port Stephens, NSW, is that kind of bloke.

Shane and his wife Lisa have led a life that’s taken them on a roller coaster of highs and lows: through financial hurdles, a nearfatal shark attack, travelling through remote Aboriginal communities you won’t find on any map, and living within a stone’s throw of one of the most popular beaches in Australia. Their story includes singing success on television’s The X Factor, shark conservation, and one of Australia’s first eco water parks. They lead a versatile life, and they needed a versatile 4x4 that’d do everything the dynamic duo required of it.

“I’m away for work a lot,” Shane told us. “I do a lot of work with the railway and it sees me living on the road sometimes. I needed a tough 4x4, and there just weren’t too many options to choose from. I’ve had a 100 Series and a Toyota Surf, and I loved the idea of a 79. After a spate of bad luck things started going our way, so I reckoned

The archaic leaf springs were relegated to the scrap heap; replaced by a full bolt-in coil conversion

‘bugger it’ and got one.”

While Toyota’s Graphite Grey suits the 79, it doesn’t exactly stand out. “I did months of research and knew what I wanted when I went shopping,” Shane said. “It couldn’t be grey, and couldn’t have the same bars as everyone else.”

Shane opted to get his top-ofthe- line double cab draped in Toyota’s Sandy Taupe. The GXL badge on the doors also means Shane’s Cruiser came fitted with front and rear diff locks right from the showroom floor.

One of the biggest benefits of a ute is that you’re basically left with half the vehicle to design how you want.

The custom set-up was a collaboration between Shane’s designs and the fabrication skills of Tod from Tag Fab in Victoria. The alloy arrangement is a two-piece design: the tray stays on the rig full time, with a few clever inclusions like under- tray storage boxes for wet gear and a full-length trundle tray under the rear that pulls the whole way out with a stainless steel water tank in front of the drawer. The tray’s headboard also doubles as an additional fuel tank, feeding into the stock set-up below.

This added significant fuel range and helped keep weight

“I took the plunge, made some financial sacrifices, built the truck of my dreams, and I’ve never been happier”

forward of the rear axle.

Things don’t get any simpler with the lift-off camper set-up, either. “I wanted something that’d be really open,” Shane told us. “I use the ute for work and play, so it needed to carry tools as well as camping gear.

Most of the other set-ups out there all came decked out, so you were stuck with whatever design the builder came up with. I wanted it to be really light weight, quick and easy to set-up, and simple to get on and off the ute. I can have it set up in three minutes.”

Up top there’s an electrically operated pop-top with a full-size custom innerspring mattress, while the rear door folds down giving an enclosed change space and ample standing room.

Inside the tray Shane’s kept the theme running with a few off-the-wall modifications that come together for a versatile pack. Rather than a drop-slide and top-loader fridge, there’s a 57L Engel upright fridge.

“Everyone I spoke to raved about them,” Shane told us.

“It meant I didn’t need a dropdown slide, saving about 60kg.”

Keeping the fridge powered throughout the night is a lithium battery controlled by an Enerdrive DC2DC 30A.

With a small solar set-up the battery system is fully charged by 10.00am.

There’s more to Shane’s 79 than a trick camping set-up, and the fluorescent green paint might just give it away. In the back end of the Cruiser the archaic leaf springs have been relegated to the scrap heap; in their place resides a full bolt-in coil conversion from Jmacx Off Road Solutions. Threeinch- lifted Dobinsons coils reside front and rear, as do a full suite of Superior Engineering eight-stage adjustable external reservoir shocks. The castor up front is kept in check with threeinch Superior Engineering dropped radius arms that are colour-matched to the suspension cradle in the rear. The wheel arches are filled with 285/70R17 BFGoodrich KM2s. They’ve been wrapped around 17x9in KMC alloys with a -12 offset, increasing the Cruiser’s track, giving it its aggressive stance.

The ‘functional but different’ approach has been used throughout the build.

Shane opted for a front bar, slider, and scrub bar set-up from TJMs commercial range. “You don’t see it much unless you ask for it,” he said. “I really like their round tube look; it’s just a bit different to the normal post-style most people run.”

The front bar has been filled with a waterproof 12,000lb Sherpa winch and two spread-beam XRay HID driving lights from TJM.

Shane’s logic is that he’d be hard-pressed spotting a kangaroo 1000m away with or without light, so he’d rather the extra light in the 500m he can see clearly.

After talking everything from environmentalism, building design and colourmatched suspension, Shane had one parting thought to leave us with: “I had a pretty bad injury a while ago that could have killed me. It put a lot of things into perspective. Anything could be around the corner. I took the plunge, made some financial sacrifices, built the truck of my dreams, and I’ve never been happier.”

WIDE LOAD

EAGLE-EYED readers may have spotted the rear wheel’s track aligns perfectly with the front. While that might not normally sound like something worth writing about, it slipped Toyota’s mind when they developed the current 7X platform. Shane’s Jmacx coil conversion didn’t just change out the leaf springs for a set of coils, the upgrade also bumped the rear track width out to meet the front with an upgraded wider axle that avoids complicated spacers or mismatched wheels. The kit also includes stronger rear axle shafts and a heavy duty sway bar. It also added 600kg to the GVM, taking it from 3300kg to 3900kg. The 7X platform is quickly becoming the Swiss Army knife of Australian 4x4s, with upgrades for just about everything you could imagine. However, the Jmacx coil conversion kit takes things to a whole new level!