CUSTOM 4x4 OF THE YEAR

CAST YOUR VOTE

WORDS JUSTIN WALKER

CAST your vote for the Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au. By voting, entrants go into the draw to win a set of MaxTrax!

WE’VE COME up with an incredible mix of Aussiebuilt rigs for this year’s Custom 4X4 Of The Year award, with everything from tricked-out tourers and bigtyred rock-crushers to vehicles that are chock-full of amazing engineering – and even some with more than four wheels.

Each of these sweet custom beasts has already gone through the arduous judging process to achieve Top 12 recognition, so now it’s time to vote for the best of this impressive bunch. It’s an eclectic mix of Toyotas, Fords, Jeeps, Nissans, Holdens, a Land Rover – and yep, even a Hummer.

So it’s time to leave brand loyalty at the door as you check out these bruisers, admire the sheer hard work that’s gone into each of them, and then head online to vote for your favourite.

SUPERCHARGED JKU JEEP WRANGLER RUBICON BLUE HEELER

IT TAKES something unique to make someone switch offroad brands, but that’s what happened to Stuart Gruchy, the owner of this sweet Hydro Blue JKU Rubicon. You see, Stuart was formerly a Nissan Patrol man, but when it came time to trade-in his Patrol, he decided to switch and take on the task of modifying one of the world’s most iconic 4x4s.

Stuart has spent wisely and progressively over a couple of years, tweaking things along the way; he originally had 33-inch rubber fitted, before CAST YOUR VOTE moving through 35s to the monstrous 37s (37x12.5-inch Pro Comp Xtreme All Terrains, to be exact) you see wrapped around the 17x8.5-inch alloys.

Far bigger rubber than he thought he wanted.

“I didn’t originally want 37s,” he said. “But after speaking to Henry at JeepKonnection and finding out their GVM upgrade package allowed for 37s, I thought why not.”

The JeepKonnection upgrade lifts GVM from 2500kg to 3250kg. It comprises tweaked heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles, with a nice short 4.56 diff ratio for the bigger rolling stock, combined with ARB Air Lockers front and rear. The American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) 3.5-inch suspension lift is made up of heavy-duty springs, bump-stop spacers, an AEV high-steer kit and ARB’s adjustable external reservoir BP-51 shocks.

Larger tyres add a challenge for gearing and powertrains, but Stuart sorted that with Bluey’s Automotive fitting a Sprintex Supercharger kit to the Rubicon’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6.

Power at the wheels went up from a stock 116kW to 190kW.

’Nuff said...

Other goodies include an ARB bar with Warn CTI-S winch up front, along with three Lightforce LED 215 lights.

An AEV snorkel takes care of deep breathing, and Uneek 4x4 fit rock sliders, A-pillar Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

light mounts, bonnet-light and roof-light mounts (with Rigid Industries LED light bars). A Rhino-Rack Backbone system (with Foxwing awning) carries gear up top, while the rear features a Kaymar twin swingaway wheel carrier and an Affordable 4x4 Drawers cargo drawer setup that includes an Outback Solutions cargo barrier, fridge slide, pull-out table, drop-down table, stove and sink, with all food and drinks kept cool by an Ironman 4x4 fridge/freezer, powered by a Genesis dual-battery system.

A Long Ranger Automotive 60-litre aux fuel tank takes care of the boosted donk’s increased thirst, while navigation is sorted via a Hema HN7, comms is a Uniden UHF radio, and an ARB compressor ensures tyre pressure changes are a doddle.

Yep, it’s a well-sorted Wrangler that is capable of tackling pretty much anything off-road, while still being a decent on-road tourer, and we reckon it is money – and time – very well spent.

POWER AT ALL FOUR WHEELS WENT UP FROM 116KW TO 190KW. ’NUFF SAID REALLY...

DURAMAX V8 NISSAN GU PATROL TORQUE MONSTER

WHEN you’re looking for more grunt from your GU Patrol’s 3.0TD engine, you can only go so far – as Travis Rampling realised soon after he started the search for more oomph for his touring-duty 2002 wagon.

Enter Andrew Cassar from On Track 4x4 and his seemingly crazy (but actually supersmart) suggestion to shove a 6.6-litre Duramax turbo-diesel V8 in the Patrol’s engine bay.

Yeah, it’s really impressive, hey – especially when you consider this engine also punches out 1200Nm (yep, twice that of a 200 Series CAST YOUR VOTE Cruiser) and 380kW at the wheels, courtesy of a customtuned ECU (it contains five separate tunes from outright performance to driveability; 13L/100km is achievable in ‘fuel-saving’ mode when towing a camper trailer).

It was a big job, entailing On Track 4x4 stripping the Patrol down to the chassis and strengthening key areas before installing the big Duramax engine and a matched Allison six-speed auto gearbox. On Track 4x4 also fitted a four-inch stainless steel snorkel which is connected to the turbo and Garrett intercooler, with a fourinch exhaust taking care of spent gases out the back.

The driveline has been beefed-up accordingly; a laminated front axle (with TJM Pro Locker) housing prevents twisting, and the rear diff is now a larger H233 unit with an ARB Air Locker. Interestingly, the larger tyres haven’t adversely affected the transfer of power to the ground. In reality the standard 4.3:1 diff ratio is perfectly matched, thanks to the Duramax’s abundant torque and the sixspeed’s ratios.

Suspension has been appropriately upgraded; custom-valved Performance Series King 2.5-inch dampers combine with the four-inchlift King springs, and the stock rubber bump stops were replaced by King hydraulic jobbies to stop bottoming-out.

The Patrol’s exterior is, in Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

comparison to the extensive work under the skin, subtle, with an ARB Sahara bar custom-fitted with a Red Winch Viper winch. Baja Designs slimline LED light bars (20-inch on the bar; 50-inch fitted to the Rhino Pioneer roof platform) take care of illumination, On Track 4x4 rock sliders protect the high belly, while an ARB rear bar (with spare wheel and jerry can holders) keeps the backside protected.

The cargo area reflects this big bopper’s primary touring duties: there’s a drop-down table on one barn door, LED lighting, a 600-litre ARB fridge (accessed via a MSA 4x4 dropdown fridge slide), and a trick Outback Drawers cargo drawer system that hides a second battery, as well as a twin-piston ARB compressor (a second compressor lives under the front seat to power the diff locks and winch-free spool).

The interior’s Recaro seats and Icom IC440 UHF radio finish off the touring must-haves.

Talk about a new lease on life for a legendary off-road vehicle.

TALK ABOUT A NEW LEASE ON LIFE FOR A LEGENDARY OFF-ROAD VEHICLE

LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90 CULT FOLLOWING

“I WASN’T really a Landy person prior to this, but now I have just become part of the cult.”

Damian Lucev’s simple statement reflects what has become a serious passion for the greenoval brand, reflected in his smartly modified Defender 90 tourer. The Defender was initially just supposed to be Damian’s daily driver, but things soon changed...

“A few years into owning it, my girlfriend and I planned a camping trip up to the High Country,” Damian said. “So I bought a snorkel for that trip, and that was as far as I CAST YOUR VOTE was going to go with it, and I sort of, yeah, ended up doing everything to it!”

First stop was the Puma 2.2TD with its stock 90kW-360Nm output soon lifted thanks to a Bell Auto Services (BAS) ECU kit; the shorty Defender now puts out 130kW/440Nm. The rest of the drivetrain was beefed-up to cope as well: front and rear Ashcroft diff locks (airactuated), Hi-Tough axles (claimed to be 50 per cent stronger than standard) and Ashcroft CVs ensure this tough D90 doesn’t slow down, even with the big BFG Mud Terrain KM2 LT315/75R16 tyres wrapped around 16x8-inch Dynamic steel rims.

The Defender was sporting a two-inch lift, but Damian has upgraded to a Les Richmond Automotive custom Koni kit with matched coils and dampers in the very near future. With those big tyres, that life and a short wheelbase, this D90 has excellent approach/departure angles and is pretty much unstoppable on gnarly terrain. But, just in case the unexpected does happen, Damian has fitted the Rovacraft tubular bar up front with a Runva 11,000lb 11XP winch, operated via an in-cabin controller. The bar also houses a 17-inch Stedi Version 2 80W Cree LED light bar. Proving there’s never enough light, there’s also a Stedi ST3300 48-inch 260W LED light bar on the roof rack – and a pair of Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

Stedi LEDs at the rear of the Defender.

Even with the excellent ground clearance, Damian has still gone the extra step and fitted a Britpart front bash plate, Mulgo side rails and bumperettes, plus an APT Fabrication Fuel Tank Guard. The underbelly is finished off with two recovery points up front and Nugget Stuff rear recovery point that bolts to the Defender’s rear cross member.

Up top there’s a Darche awning attached to the roof rack, plus a Front Runner twin jerry can holder, shovel, MaxTrax and a HiLift jack.

Damian has also opted to fit a Mantec swing-away rear wheel carrier, removing the heavy weight of that chunky spare wheel off the rear door.

Damian has flicked the rear seats to gain maximum storage capacity in the rear and has installed a flat floor so he can access the fridge easily and also store gear under the floor base.

A Uniden UHF and totally revamped stereo finish off the interior. Powering all these goodies is a dualbattery system, with Redarc BCDC charger.

Ultimately, for a two-up tourer, it’s hard to argue with Damian when he reckons the Defender 90 is the perfect vehicle.

HOLDEN LS3 COLORADO V8 MUSCLE

POSSIBLY the ultimate Kick-Starter campaign project, this LS3-powered Holden Colorado is the result of Steve and Tony’s, from Killa Kustom Kables & Conversions, desire to offer something more than the glossy stickered ‘special edition paint’ 4x4 the Aussie market is currently subjected to by all manufacturers.

These guys were keen to modify (then offer as a complete turn-key product) a rig that really did fulfil the ‘special’ in special edition.

After finding a write-off vehicle and pulling it apart CAST YOUR VOTE to see how best to fit the big V8 into the Colorado engine bay, the guys then set to work on a test mule. And when we’re talking about that donk and say ‘big’, we mean it; the 6.2-litre GM LS3 V8 punches out 298-plus-kW of power and a mighty 580Nm of torque. The V8 was mated to a 6L80E six-speed auto that has featured in H2 Hummers in past incarnations. This combo feeds all that grunt through a modified adaptor with custom engine mounts on its way to the stock Colorado transfer case.

As Dan Everett wrote in the original story on the Colorado, “This isn’t exactly a backyard engine conversion”, and it shows throughout not only the engine transplant, but in regards to all the peripherals that ensure the vehicle runs and performs like a factorystandard equivalent would.

After signing off on the engine transplant, the guys then moved on to how to integrate the new drivetrain into the Holden workhorse’s electrical system. The result of the many, many hours of work is a Colorado that retains all the factory stuff – hill-start assist, downhill assist, traction control, etc. – while being transformed performance-wise, both on- and off-road.

In addition to the impressive engine transplant, the guys have also focused on the other important stuff – the suspension – with a full set of Fox 2.0 suspension (including Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

Fox remote reservoir coilovers and extended shackles at the rear) that has resulted in a nice lift overall.

Rolling underneath all this is a set of beefy 305/70R Mickey Thompson ATZ P3 AT tyres on 18-inch Fuel alloys.

Impressively, and allowing for the size of the engine, fuel economy still sits around 14L/100km for what is a pretty big lift in overall performance.

Cosmetically, the burnt orange beast has copped just a few nice tweaks, including a blacked-out two-piece mesh grille, black surrounds on the front lights and the wheel arch flares. With the idea of offering variations on this mod across three option ‘packages’ (each option would have its own engine, trim and suspension mods) the Killa Kustom duo are on a winner.

WHEN WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THAT 6.2-LITRE GM LS3 AND SAY ‘BIG’, WE MEAN IT

LAND CRUISER 76 SERIES PERFECT CRUISER

BRETT ASHLIN and his partner Jodie knew exactly what they wanted when they got hold of a gold 2008 Land Cruiser 76 Series GXL V8: a properly set-up bush tourer. The duo also had the benefit of not having to use the big rig as a daily driver, allowing them to really go to town when building up the vehicle you see here.

When Brett got his hands on the Cruiser, it was already sporting ARB colour-coded barwork and driving lights.

One of the first mods Brett performed was fitment of a set of HID Projector lights to the CAST YOUR VOTE ARB bar, before performing some metal surgery on the bar (which included cutting it down the middle and fitting an 8mm plate with supports) to allow fitment of a Warn high-mount winch. Not content with just a front-mounted recovery aid, Brett fitted a Warn XD9000 winch to the custom XLR8 Fabrications twin-wheel rear winch bar (this also houses a ground anchor).

The Cruiser’s 4.5TDV8 is no slouch, but Brett was still keen to extract more neddies, so he went to Brett O’Keefe at Diesel Torque WA for fitment of a custom-tune DPU performance module, and he’s also added a threeinch exhaust system (although he’s now looking to fit a four-inch version). The focus of this mod was to balance more power and performance without sacrificing reliability for touring; the module has been tuned toward Brett’s preferred touring habits that entail towing a camper trailer, so there’s a tad more low-end grunt just for this purpose.

Keeping all that power harnessed means the manual ’box is fitted with a NPC billet flywheel and Exedy clutch (rated for up to 1300Nm).

The LC76 has also copped an EFS three-inch lift, with extended shackles, triplebellow airbags and Brett’s own custom-made sway bar disconnects ensuring oodles of go-forward traction when needed – assisted by the Allied Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

Savannah 16-inch Beadlocks, shod with Toyo Open Country MTZ 315/75R16 rubber.

The interior also reflects the touring intention, with no space wasted, and includes the removal of the second row of seats, with false flooring fitted.

Custom drawers in the rear contain an ARB air compressor and barbecue. It offers easy fridge access and there’s still room for Brett’s swag down one side. Power is taken care of via a dual-battery setup monitored by a Redarc controller and topped-up by a 200W solar panel on the roof. Quick stops are sorted with the awning and a Front Runner rear door table.

Comms and nav gear (a Hema HX-1 in a custom-built mount) are housed in easy-access areas.

Everything has its place and purpose in this LC7, reflecting Brett’s determination to build a top-notch tourer. He’s done a bloody impressive job.

EVERYTHING HAS ITS PLACE, REFLECTING BRETT’S AIM TO BUILD A TOP-NOTCH TOURER

FORD F250 BLACK OPS OFF-ROAD KING

YEP, IT’S big, but if your plans include extended touring, plus the ability to tow a large caravan comfortably, you want a sizeable, self-contained rig – and this monster limited edition Black Ops F250 (built by US-based Tuscany Motor Co) fits that bill.

When Simon, the owner, took delivery of the Black Ops F250 it was already well kitted-out as ‘standard’. A six-inch lift, twin steering dampers, Road Armor bullbar, 20-inch rims running 37-inch rubber, and an imposing black-on-black colour scheme mean this immense CAST YOUR VOTE rig (it measures more than six metres in length) is fairly noticeable. Simon wanted to tweak a few things for touring, so he approached Luke and Rebecca at Outback Customs.

The duo didn’t hold back – Luke and Rebecca reckon the huge tray setup is the biggest they’ve ever built.

The process included fitment of a heavy-duty steel tray with improved departure angle and oodles of interior storage; the F250’s size allowed fitment of additional storage areas forward of the rear axle and there’s an additional threequarter length trundle tray underneath as well. Simon got clever with the two Jackoff canopies on the rear tray; being independent of each other, he can remove one (or both) when he needs flat cargo space.

The front canopy is split into two sections, with an MSA drop-down fridge slide and 12V power on the passenger side. Also in there are twin lithium batteries and a Redarc management system, plus a 1500W inverter and isolator.

And yes, there’s more – a gas hot-water system (with 12V pump) has been squeezed in, with a hose connecting to the under-tray 60-litre water tank.

The driver’s side canopy is full of drawers and a barbecue.

The rear cargo box is used for two full-size spares or lugging dogs, wet gear, etc. Up top Simon can switch between a boat-loader and a James Baroud roof-top tent.

Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

With a rig of this size and weight, a top-notch suspension system is a given; adjustable Ride-Rite air suspension (courtesy of Outback Customs) combines with King shocks (featuring a reserve reservoir) at the rear, while the front received King coil-overs with a remote reservoir. The 20-inch wheelset originally fitted was ditched in favour of 18-inch wheels and 37-inch rubber for a more compliant ride over rough tracks.

Add in the stealth blackout paint job (the F250 was also wrapped in-house with a vinyl wrap to match the powdercoated rear tray), a Baja Designs slim-line LED light bar and Outback Custom rock-sliders to keep the behemoth’s belly out of harm’s way, and you have a seriously awesome mobile outback home.

IF YOUR PLANS INCLUDE EXTENDED TOURING, THIS F250 FITS THAT BILL

JEEP JK WRANGLER RUBICON ORANGE BRUISER

AS BILL, the owner of this trick, tough bright orange Rubicon will affirm, Jeep Wranglers are popular with off-roaders for one reason: you can pretty much fit anything to these tough pieces of Yank iron – and set them up as anything from a hardcore rock-crawler, to an outback tourer, to an off-road allrounder.

This is, funnily enough, just what Bill has done with his four-door Rubicon.

Even if you’re not a huge Jeep fan, every four-wheel enthusiast knows just how capable off-road a Rubicon is straight out of the box: front/ CAST YOUR VOTE rear lockers, disconnecting front sway bar, super-low gearing, over-built Dana axles... the list goes on. That doesn’t mean you can’t go further, as Bill’s orange bruiser shows.

He did the sensible thing and headed straight to Aussie Jeep gurus Double Black Offroad (DBOR) who are well-versed in modding Wranglers.

The suspension underneath the Wrangler is DBOR’s Wild Kit, offering a mighty 4.5-inch lift. This kit also replaces all the suspension links with beefed-up adjustable parts from Synergy Manufacturing, ensuring that when that big lift asks the question, nothing is going to break. Add in taller coils from Rubicon Express, some awesome Fox remote reservoir 2.0 dampers, and all the additional peripheral mods (lengthened brake lines, extended bump stops and more) and you’ve got a high-riding but still nice-handling off-roader. It also meant Bill could fit in huge 37-inch BFG KM2 tyres, sensibly wrapping them around Walker Evans beadlock wheels, thus allowing Bill to run the tyres at very low pressures if need be.

Up front a DBOR bullbar sports a waterproof Smittybilt X20 12,000lb winch and Lightforce HID/LED combo HTX230 spotties. Bill also fitted a Daystar hood cowl (with bonnet vents) and an American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) snorkel, all pushing air into an AIRAID air box. (Daystar claims this setup can Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

reduce engine-bay temps by up to 12 per cent.) There’s also a Smittybilt mesh roof and cargo net for when the Rubicon’s hard roof comes off. At the rear it’s the same built-tough song: An Atlas rear bar relieves the tailgate of that hefty 37-inch spare, helps protect the rear quarter panels, is fitted with two recovery points, and can carry twin 40-litre jerry cans.

The Wrangler’s interior is pretty much stock Jeep, with Bill adding a few tweaks, such as cloth Rubicon seats, upgraded stereo, wash-off rubber mats, and a GME UHF.

With his raft of sensible, wellthought- out modifications, Bill has finished up with exactly what he was after: the ultimate all-rounder.

IN THE END BILL FINISHED UP WITH EXACTLY WHAT HE WAS AFTER

HSV-POWERED H3 HUMMER UNUSUAL SUSPECT

THE HUMMER H3 isn’t your usual base for a modified off-roader, but owner Dean has proved the smallest Hummer ever made can keep up with the big rigs out in the bush – especially once it has copped some serious mods.

Dean and his wife had owned the H3 for a couple of years before the modification bug bit, mainly as a result of Dean testing the Yank tank off-road and soon realising a few ‘small things’ needed sorting before it could become a legitimate bush tourer. One of those ‘small things’ was a CAST YOUR VOTE radical modification: Removal of the standard independent front suspension and replacement with a live-axle setup. The reason was simple, according to Dean.

“I used to take it 4x4ing all the time when it was IFS, but it kept breaking CV joints and front diffs. Things sort of snowballed from there.”

Dean sought the expertise of Matt Kinsela of Kinselas Kustoms, with Matt installing a live-axle setup comprised of a Dana 44 front axle with a custom set of hubs with tone rings to ensure the ABS, traction control and stability control still worked. The axle was fitted with a set of 80 Series radius arms and a GU Patrol steering box. Then a set of custom 10-inch travel King Shock coilovers (with external reservoir) and hydraulic bump stops were fitted. The ride height jumped three inches as a result and articulation was – as you’d expect – far better than the original IFS front end.

The rear matched this with fitment of 50mm extended shackles and an add-a-leaf system (plus shocks) from The Ultimate Suspension, resulting in three inches at the rear as well. The result was perfect and allowed those big 37-inch Federal Couragia muddies to fit too.

The stock I5 donk was soon flicked for a LS2 V8 – this powerplant pumps out more than 298kW and 550Nm, with the fitment undertaken by Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

Steve Etcell, of Automotive Etcellence. The process involved custom engine mounts, a lot of work to mesh the transmission with the LS2, and a custom loom from Ultimate Conversion Wiring, along with a new exhaust.

Interestingly, the stock ECU was able to communicate with the LS2, with a custom tune added to ensure the engine can cope with on- and off-road duties easily.

Touring mods include an ARB front bar with 10,000lb Warn winch and LED driving lights. Kinsela Kustom scrub bars link the front bar to OEM sliders. A dual-battery setup ensures the Engel fridge/ freezer and ARB compressor are always powered, and there’s a rooftop tent up top for those destinations where the van won’t go.

It’s a hell of a lot of work but we reckon the boffins at Hummer would be left in awe by the bush-tough end result.

WE RECKON THE BOFFINS AT HUMMER WOULD BE LEFT IN AWE BY THE BUSH-TOUGH END RESULT

FORD RANGER COYOTE V8 HEART TRANSPLANT

TIME, patience and exemplary engineering can be a brilliant combo, with this Coyote V8-powered Ford Ranger a perfect example. When you look at this Ranger today you wouldn’t think a couple of years ago it contained a freshly-blown engine, with the owner battling to get any recompense before deciding, instead, to go the full monty and fit a supercharged Ford ‘Coyote’ V8.

“Let’s put a V8 in it” were the words spoken to Gary Coleman of Diesel Leaders when the Ranger first lobbed in the company’s workshop.

CAST YOUR VOTE This was followed by “I want it to look factory-spec too”.

What followed was close to a year – and approximately 300 man-hours of work – before the Ranger’s heart transplant was complete. The actual fitment of the new bent-eight heart was, surprisingly, relatively straightforward, with only a trimmed radiator mount, newly fabricated engine bay mounts and re-using the engine and gearbox mounts required to drop the engine in. The engine is physically big (albeit light), so there was next to no wiggle room left in the engine bay.

“You can’t lift it up, or lower it, or move it forward or move it back,” Gary said. “It has to sit in the exact spot that it’s in.

Move it down, you can’t get the exhaust on, move it up it hits the firewall, move it back the head hits the firewall...” You get the picture.

This juggling act sorted, the next was marrying a Falcon six-speed transmission to the Ranger transfer case – a job few engineering companies were keen to take on, until Rage Engineering came on board. This took a few months and involved digitising the gearbox and then machining a back housing to fit the Ranger’s output shaft into the Falcon gearbox.

A custom exhaust followed – again, a finicky, fine-tolerance job to ensure it ran from the engine to the rear without fouling anything – along with some reshaping of under- Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

THE ENGINE IS PHYSICALLY BIG, SO THERE WAS NEXT TO NO WIGGLE ROOM

bonnet elements (including the air box) and shifting of components. The original Ranger radiator stayed – it is larger than the Falcon equivalent.

This Ranger is a monster by any account (the V8 puts out 344kW on the dyno) but is still able to head out bush. Heavyduty springs matched with Bilstein dampers combine with chunky 35x12.50R20LT Nitro Grappler M/T tyres (fitted to KMC Wheels XD820 satinblack rims) to keep the Ranger high off terra firma. Further underbody mods include a massive Rhino 4x4 aluminium bash plate and rock sliders.

The front bar is a Rhino 4x4 Evolution 3D winch jobbie, which looks factory-fit and is a mix of 3mm and 5mm steel.

Two rated recovery points, wheel arch flares and an F150 Raptor grille finish off an awesome engineering feat.

TOYOTA TRD TUNDRA SUPER CHARGED

NO DREAMS are out of reach – just ask the team at American Vehicle Specialists (AVS) and you can go beyond the norm and end up behind the wheel of something like this uber-tough Toyota TRD Tundra.

Yep, we know – Aussies are unfortunately not given the chance to buy these big rigs through local Toyota dealers, but AVS can sort out a righthand drive version that looks and performs no different from the ones that trundle around US tracks. They can even go one almighty big step further and tweak the standard rig to CAST YOUR VOTE produce something like this.

This Tundra is a one-off project from AVS and sports a raft of mods, not the least being the supercharged 5.7-litre V8 petrol engine.

In stock form the Tundra’s ‘regular’ 284kW-543Nm 5.7- litre V8 is impressive, but AVS thought a bit more stonk was necessary, fitting a Magnuson supercharger (courtesy of VCM Performance), pushing power to 410kW and torque to a heady 745Nm. A TRD twin stainless steel exhaust system lets you know all about it, too.

Not wanting to stop there, AVS set to work on the body itself. This matte black bruiser is 230mm wider than the stock Tundra, courtesy of a set of FiberwerX replacement guards.

AVS then widened the wheel track by 120mm via fitment of a long-travel suspension setup that pretty much ditched all the stock gear. Pro Comp 2.75-inch body internal bypass coilover dampers (which up the ride height by four inches) sport external reservoirs and work with replacement cast alloy upper and lower control arms, with more robust ball joints enabling a huge 350mm of wheel travel up front.

Additional work on the front end includes extended CV shafts and tie-rod extensions.

The rear end copped a similar working over; a Pro Comp kit lifts it by four inches, with additional leaf springs and longer shackles, combining with a 2.5-inch damper, behind the Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

height gain. AVS filled those huge guards with a set of 35-inch Toyo Open Country M/Ts, wrapped around XD Monster 20x9 alloy wheels.

US-based Rock Slide Engineering were the go-to for the Tundra barwork; the heavy-duty plate aluminium front bar houses an Ironman 4x4 12,000lb winch and it has provision for LED lighting in the centre and at either wing. Speaking of lighting up, a replacement Rigid Industries grille sports a 20-inch Rigid Industries E-Series light bar in the centre and D-Series LEDs on each wing. Replacement front headlights and rear tail-lights are courtesy of Spyder Auto.

Oh, and the schmick paint-job? Rob at RK Restorations waved his spray can over the big Toyota and the matte black wrap was applied by Exotic Graphics. It seems we’re back in black, indeed...

AVS THOUGHT A BIT MORE STONK WAS NECESSARY, FITTING A SUPERCHARGER FOR 410KW AND 745NM

PATRIOT CAMPERS’ 6X6 LC79 ATTENTION SEEKER

PATRIOT Campers’ Justin Montesalvo knows how to get your attention. A raft of top-notch camper trailers – and then the Super Tourer 4x4 builds – has seen the hardworking Queenslander and his team garner loads of respect in the four-wheel drive touring world. And, as you can see with this off-road work-of-art, Patriot Campers ain’t slowing down. This 6x6 Land Cruiser 79 stole the recent Melbourne 4X4 Show.

The build is epic and started with the team stripping out the back end of a brand-new CAST YOUR VOTE LC79 ute and then effectively cutting off the back end of it. The reason for this was the fitment of a complete JMACX 6x6 system to replace the standard rear axle/leaf spring setup. The JMACX replacement entailed new rails mounting the coil spring suspension and trailing arms, but with this vehicle actually using height-adjustable (up to 100mm), self-levelling Airbag Man airbags (in lieu of coils) and prototype TJM remote reservoir shocks. Both diffs are also JMACX jobbies; the rear keeps the factory Toyota locker, the front is a Detroit soft-locker.

Justin was keen to go bigger than the 35-inch tyres that the JMACX setup usually features, by fitting 37-inch Mickey Thompson MTZs and +35 offset ROH wheels, and then – just because that wasn’t enough – he worked with Marks 4WD Adaptors to fit a set of its portal hubs to each axle. These hubs give the Super Tourer an additional 150mm under-diff clearance and – due to their gear reduction – help compensate for the larger rolling stock. It’s a lot of weight to carry around, but GSL Fabrications came to the party and Justin gave them free rein to up the grunt from the TDV8.

The result: Fitment of GSL’s 100% kit that, as you may guess, signifies a 100 per cent increase in torque.

This LC79’s tray and canopy setup is a new Super Tourer Cast your vote for Custom 4X4 Of The Year at www.4x4australia.com.au Your vote will decide who takes out this highly regarded award!

design chock-full of storage; flip-up covers on each side allow access to the fridge/ freezer and the canopy also features slide-out drawers, as well as fuel filler covers and space on the tray for two of those oversized 37s.

On top of the canopy you’ll find a solar panel. There are more storage compartments under the rear sills, plus a fullwidth slide-out drawer under UR TE the tray’s rear end.

Barwork is courtesy of TJM, with the front bar including an integrated TJM Torq 12,000lb winch. The interior is full leather, with the essentials (such as Hema HX-1 and UHF radio) and the trim/colour matching perfectly with the exterior and reflecting the quality of this entire build that goes above factory-spec level in terms of fit and finish – and desirability.

TOYOTA N80 HILUX HOWLIN’ HUNTER

MODIFYING a four-wheel drive can be a tricky business. Go too crazy with a big lift, huge tyres and other ‘radical’ mods, and you suddenly have a rig that goes against a 4x4’s DNA and is totally impractical.

That’s one thing Joe Emmerton wanted to avoid when building up his N80 Hilux. For Joe, his modified tourer had to be tough and practical – he’s a mad-keen fisho and hunter, so the Hilux needed to get to some remote places to pursue his hobbies.

After opting for the top-end SR5 and ticking the colour- CAST YOUR VOTE coding and premo interior, Joe set to work on tweaking the Toyota for its future work.

The standard Hilux front struts were tossed in favour of a schmick four-inch lift setup – Bilstein monotube dampers and a set of custom-rate H&R coil springs from Heasman Steering and Suspension – and added more height via a 50mm bodylift from VMN. All this gave the Hilux a ride height 150mm higher than stock.

To rein in binding CV joints due to the big lift, Joe fitted a diff-drop setup from Phat Bars and heavy-duty adjustable arms from CalOffroad that combined with an adjustable OME-style ball joint to bring the front-end geometry back closer to spec. The suspension had re-arched rear springs, Bilstein remote reservoir 5160 dampers, and Snake Racing extended shackles for a fourinch lift at the back.

“On dirt roads and corrugations, having the remote res in the rear keeps it consistent and doesn’t fade,” Joe reckons.

The final touch was a set of 305/65R17 Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ mud terrains with 17-inch Dynamic D-Hole steel wheels in a -30 offset.

Other sensible modifications include a Locker Anytime module, which allows Joe to engage the rear locker in high or low range, as well as rearwheel drive, ideal for slippery boat ramps.

Up front is an AFN4X4

hoopless bullbar fitted with a Runva 11XP 11,000lb winch, underbelly Phat Bars bash plates and a set of angled rock sliders, with the stock rear bumper lifted 100mm via Dowtech lift brackets.

The Hilux tray is fitted with a cool Rhino-Rack low-profile tray-mount rack system, with a Howling Moon rooftop tent.

Momentum is upped thanks to a four-inch Fabulous Fabrications snorkel and threeinch exhaust from Arclite Engineering. Just Autos (QLD) tweaked the donk for 50 per cent more torque, improving fuel consumption as well.

The interior reflects Joe’s practicality, with just a GME UHF and Engel fridge fitted.

Sensible improvements aimed at the owner’s needs make this one of the smartest modified rigs we’ve seen.

THE HILUX IS ONE OF THE SMARTEST MODIFIED RIGS WE’VE SEEN