IT DOESN’T take a rocket scientist to realise there’s been a large paradigm shift in Australian motoring. Where redblooded young men used to strive for a night hooning around the back streets in an A9X Torana or GT Falcon with their Stubbies-wearing mates, they’re now buying up late-model dual-cabs en masse, donning their board shorts and heading to the beach to experience what Australia really has to offer. Of course, with the shift in who’s actually buying and driving these 4x4s, the manufacturers themselves have had to drastically change.
Capable no longer cuts it, they need to be comfortable enough for daily duties (including family use) and exciting enough to catch people’s eye. “I had a 2005 Hilux extra cab before this,” Jay Gill, the owner of this adventure machine, told us. “I had test-driven the new Hilux and the Navara and had all but settled on the Navara when the old man told me to give the Ranger a try. I loved it straight away and had to have one.”
Spending his days between the Gold Coast and Brisbane it’s no surprise Jay has transformed his PXII Ranger into a beacheating adventure machine. It’s now capable of doing everything he could ask of it, and more.
“The main reason I bought it was to tow boats and jet skis,” he said. “I love getting it on the redblooded beach as well and am doing a camping trip over to either Fraser Island or Double Island soon, too.”
To get the Ranger ready for its new adventure duties, one of the first modifications was a comprehensive suspension overhaul from the guys at Performance Suspension Racing (PSR) on the Gold Coast. The team stripped it down to its bare bolts and proceeded to lift it 100mm with a combination of custom-built parts and specially tuned gear. Up front there are PSR-spec Bilstein struts sitting inside King springs; the rear end uses a second set of PSR-spec Bilstein shocks, this time in a remote reservoir flavour for increased performance on corrugations with reduced shock fade. These are teamed up with PSRspec EFS leaf springs.
Lift kits were relatively simple with oldschool vehicles, but with so much geometry to consider they now require a certain finesse.
To account for this, Jay’s Ranger runs a set of PSR adjustable upper control arms in the front. They’re a heavy-duty tube item that prevents fouling on the strut at droop, and with an adjustable ball-joint mount an extended ball joint can accommodate more suspension droop while keeping camber and caster specs in line. Combined with a weld-in diff drop up front it’s a proven formula for
lifting modern IFS 4x4s without introducing problems. To make the most of all the newfound real estate within the standard wheel arches, Jay optioned up for a set of aggressive mudterrains from Kumho. The Road Venture KL71s measure in at 305/70R16 and are wrapped around a set of 16x8in Pro Comp 32 Series flat black alloy wheels.
While the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel in Jay’s Ranger is no featherweight in stock form, a little more mumbo under the right foot is always appreciated. Starting from the throat of the intake system, Jay’s replaced the standard in-guard intake with a satinfinish stainless-steel snorkel from Fabulous Fabrications in Rocklea. From there it feeds down into a PWR stealth black intercooler with the stock rubber intercooler hoses swapped out for Samco silicone units. With additional air available the engine makes the most of it by squeezing in extra fuel with a performance chip from DPChip, before finally expelling the spent gases through a full Fabulous Fabrications stainless-steel exhaust system.
Power is sent to the ground through the stock six-speed manual cog swapper with a factory electronically operated diff lock at the back.
Jay told us the combination has netted him a little more than 200hp at the rear wheels, which is more than enough to make the space cab get up and boogie.
With the driveline taken care of Jay set his sights on making the outside as tough as the inside. Starting from the front he’s ditched the chrome XLT grille and replaced it with the ubiquitous blacked-out Raptor-style grille. The stock headlights have been cracked open and a set of Halo-style coloured daytime LED running lights from Dan’s Custom Car Lights have been installed. Protecting the new gear is a Crawler
WE BRIEFLY touched on the topic of diff drops, and with live-axle 4x4s becoming more and more irrelevant it’s a term you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future.
So what exactly are they? They fundamentally come down to CV (constant velocity) joint angles. When you lift a live-axle 4x4 the vertical distance between the transfer case output and the diff centre increases, as it goes up the driveshafts become angled.
As they’re normally long it’s very rarely an issue, as the angles are more than safe enough.
In an IFS or IRS 4x4 this same situation happens, although as the diff centre is bolted to the chassis the angle change is in the CV joint rather than the driveshaft. As these shafts are significantly shorter than a driveshaft, any change in height is amplified, making the CV operate on angles out of its optimum strength. A diff drop is either a bolt-in or weld-in bracket arrangement that drops the diff centre away from the chassis to correct these angles and return some strength into the CV joints. They’re a simple and low-tech upgrade, but one that’s required if you don’t want to replace CV joints every few thousand kays.
bar from Uneek4x4, with powder-coated matte black wings on either side and a satin-finished stainless steel centre section to tie in with the XLT’s chrome highlights. Those with a keen eye might notice a large cut-out section on the driver’s side, a handy little trick from Uneek4x4 that allows Jay to protect the front of his Ranger with a stout bullbar without compromising the vehicle’s radar-controlled adaptive cruise control system.
Moving down the sides and the aggressive offset Pro Comp rims have been contained with moulded EGR flares. Rather than drilling through the ’guards like many aftermarket items, the EGR offerings bolt underneath into the stock holes then seal to the guards with adhesive. To ensure the sides remain dent-free and to provide a platform for accessing the roof, a set of Buds Customs rock sliders have been installed down the flanks – with 6mm-thick mounts and 50x50 RHS construction they’ll hold up to any abuse Jay can throw their way. Up the back the rear quarters have been protected and the stock ground anchor tow bar replaced with an Ironman 4x4 steel rear bar.
On the roof there’s a Rhino platform rack for storing bulky items and providing mounting options for both a high-lift jack as well as a long-handled shovel, both compulsory items when solo travelling. It also houses a passenger-side roll-out awning and 40-inch LED light bar from Ironman 4x4.
Up the back over the space-cab tub is another PSR item, this time in the form of its low-profile Baja Rack. With a 33-inch spare scraping the ground on every washout in the stock location, the Baja Rack gives Jay a mounting platform for it up top. His recovery boards also reside here, helping keep the tray set-up clean and empty for camping gear.
While hardly one of the most modified vehicles you’ll find on these hallowed pages, Jay’s Ranger represents a new outlook Australians have on 4x4ing – no longer the sole domain of families and grey nomads, 4x4ing is alive and well in the youth of today, and they’re not holding back.