POINT your steering wheel down any number of off-road tracks scattered around Australia and you’re bound to encounter a 4x4 that makes you look twice, and then a third time for good measure. We spent the year catching up with the owners of such fourbies, who’ve spent their hard-earned to ensure their 4x4s are more than just an A-to-B vehicle. These fourbies have been meticulously pieced together to serve a distinct purpose – remote-area tourers, rock crushers, and escape machines for the whole family – and we’ve assembled what we reckon are the 10 best Custom 4x4s we’ve run the ruler over during the past 12 months. Check it out...
A USSIES love things big: deserts, beaches, bananas and utes, and it’s the reason WA native Ant first got behind the of a first-gen PX1 Ranger. The only problem is, the 3.2 Duratorq isn’t exactly renowned for its reliability. “We started playing with the performance side of things,” Ant said.
“Larger turbos, larger injector nozzles, tuning, etc., but being a PX1 they were quite dulled down on engine safety systems.
I went through three motors, two turbos and a transmission.” Despite Ant currently swinging the tiller on a Ranger, he’s actually built a cult following for his Duramax kits and conversions at Ozmax. Duramax engines are the holy grail of diesel V8s, with 6.6 litres of capacity, iron blocks, alloy heads, four valves a cylinder, and a whopping turbo nestled in the V In their lowest standard tune they push out 250hp/624Nm, right up to 397hp/1037Nm in later years.
Despite all that, Ant reckons it’s almost perfect for converting into the comparatively pintsized Ford. To kick things off, the old 3.2 came out, as did the six-speed and transfer; in their place went a six-speed auto Allison transmission and a New Process NP263 transfer case. Due to the IFS arrangement, Ant was able to use the existing sump to simplify the process.
“The communications system on the PX1 Ranger isn’t that smart,” he told us. “We wired the Duramax ECM in as a stand-alone unit then sent a few signals into the stock setup so the speedo and tacho still work. As far as the stock electronics are concerned, there’s still a 3.2 under the bonnet.”
While the standard diffs are up to the task, Ant had a positive side effect swapping out to the new transfer case and control unit. “It now functions a little like full-time 4WD. If it senses slip between front and rear, it’ll kick itself into 4x4.”
At twice the capacity of the stock 3.2L, Ant was able to run up to 468rwhp and 1320Nm on a recent dyno tune. The big concern of any engine conversion like this, however, is weight distribution. “It actually only dropped 10mm on the standard springs,” Ant said. “The 3.2-litre and six-speed is a heavy combination, and the NP263 transfer case is magnesium which keeps weight down with the conversion.”
With goals of a pre-runnerinspired build, Ant figured the Ranger could do with a tickle underneath. It’s running heavy-duty XGS two-inch-lifted springs up front, wrapped around Ironman Foam Cell Pro shock absorbers. The rear has a matching combination; although there’s a 50mm body lift, bringing the overall ride height up and allowing Ant to slot the big Allison automatic in the transmission tunnel without any body modifications. A set of Total Chaos upper control arms get the alignment back into spec. An Aeroklas canopy covers the rear end, while a brake controller teams up with sat-nav inside.
A four-inch stainless steel snorkel feeds air into the custom airbox and big V8 mill.
Ant ditched the factory air cleaner, opting for a pod-style unit in a custom-made airbox.
Stock front bar is backed by a heavy-duty skid pan that protects the radiator and sump.
Custom side-exit exhaust dumps just before the leaf hanger. Just don’t tell Mr Plod.
Beach-ready 35-inch Nitto Terra Grappler on 16-inch Brutes get the job done.
IF AN LC79 with a fiveposter is a clean-cut country boy, Blake Oldham’s wild incarnation is a gruff outlaw. To kick things Blake went straight to custom guru Steve Etcell of Automotive Etcellence in Sydney’s West. With the LC79 on the hoist, Steve pieced together a custom triangulated four-link arrangement, which uses rebuildable Johnny Joints at the end of each link. From here, CNC-cut brackets were fabricated to the diff and chassis. Heavy-duty coils keep the rear end afloat, while adjustable remote reservoir King 2.0 shocks are fitted to custom mounts. A set of progressive bump stops smooth out landings. Body roll is kept in check by ramping up the bound and rebound rates on the King shocks with the manual clickers.
It copped similar treatment up front; with factory coils right out of the box, the job was considerably easier. The stock cast radius arms have been binned; in their place are a set of super-flexy replacements from the guys at Comp Rods. The heavy-duty offerings not only suit the lift but correct caster, without changing to flex-robbing caster correction bushes. A Tough Dog adjustable Panhard rod keeps the front axle tracking right, while a matching set of King shocks provide the smooth ride.
Cruiser tragics will spot the custom shock mounts, too, and while Steve had the welder out he converted the front shocks to an eye-eye setup to suit the big-dollar shocks. The arrangement lets Thug Truck flex its way through gnarly bush tracks and allows room for the 37-inch Hankook Dynapro MTs wrapped around 17x8.5-inch Method 311 Vex simulated beadlocks. Thug Truck also runs a trick axle-widening kit in the rear from Kinetic Engineering that perfectly matches the front and rear wheel track.
The 4.5L TDV8 breathes easily thanks to a stainless steel snorkel from AAA Exhausts. It then huffs fresh air through the AAA Exhausts airbox. From here the job is handed off to the bent-eight, which Automotive Etcellence dyno-tuned to put out a respectable 204rwhp and 680Nm, with a 3.5-inch turboback exhaust dumping spent gases. Tucked in on either side of the donk is a Diesel Care pre-filter, with a Redarc BCDC charger keeping the Optima batteries at capacity.
The standard bucket seats were replaced by FPV GT deep buckets customised by the guys at InCharge Automotive; a set of Hurricane adaptor plates fix the seats to the stock Cruiser rails. Cruiser Consoles are responsible for almost everything else in the interior, with Blake running its centre console, roof console and gear stick surround, as well as a set of ‘Mack’ door trims.
Above the revamped rear suspension is a stout tray from the guys at Coldy’s, which sports twin dog cages up front. Plus, there’s also a 120-litre water tank hidden underneath the tray.
Up front, a Lightforce double-row LED light bar pounds out plenty of lumens.
GME UHF feeds off twin aerials; a selector switch deciding which will get the better range.
Scrub bars and sliders were added to protect the Land Cruiser 79’s soft bits.
Remote-reservoir King 2.0 shock absorbers keep the front axle under control.
A Runva 12,000lb winch with Dyneema rope resides within an ARB Deluxe bullbar.
YOU WOULD think the guy who invented a recovery device that helps take you anywhere might have an idea when it comes to building a touring rig that promises the same. And, in the case of Brad McCarthy, the brains trust behind MAXTRAX, you’d be absolutely spot-on, as his big six-wheel LC200 proves.
To fit an extra pair of hoops under the Cruiser, Brad enlisted Australian Expedition Vehicles’ (AEV) Mick McMillan. Getting the extra-wheel configuration to work ‘as standard’ at the rear of this stretched Cruiser is the result of AEV fitting what is basically a double JMACX coil setup with a few trick components to ensure it works a treat.
“The system is basically a double JMACX with a drivethrough centre diff,” Brad explained. “So you’ve got good articulation, and the six-wheel drive system just happens automatically. So, normally, if you’ve got it in four-wheel drive, it’s driving just the four wheels. As soon as there’s 20mm of slip in that middle axle it engages that centre diff and locks in the rear axle, and then you’ve got six-wheel drive. You don’t have to press any buttons or engage anything, it just automatically occurs as you need it.” Brad reckons it transforms the Cruiser’s tractive capabilities, making it – nearly – all too easy. “As soon as you lose traction you’ll feel the system kick in, it’s almost like you’ve hit the diff lock button,” he affirmed.
“You get that instant traction at the back and, once you don’t need it, it backs off. It’s such a difference; it’s unstoppable. You point it at anything and it walks over it like the terrain is concrete.”
The Cruiser has been further modified with an AEVsourced GVM upgrade (it is now certified for 4500kg) and had a custom canopy fitted from Outback Customs, a setup which comprises two removable canopies (the front one doubles as Brad’s sleeper cab). There are minimal permanent fixtures in the canopies; only the fridge/ freezer (with MSA drop-down slide) and a few other items are what he considers muststay items. This tray measures three-and-a-bit metres long, which allows Brad to load up any of his toys when the canopies are removed.
The light bar slots in between the Rhino-Rack and the roof, and it’s topped off with a set of MAXTRAX.
The Cruiser uses eight ROH alloy wheels with Goodyear Wrangler MT/R LT285/70R17 tyres.
A double JMACX coil setup with a drivethrough centre diff. It jumps from 4WD to 6WD automatically.
The area in the cab’s rear wheel arches is now devoted to housing lithium-ion batteries each side.
A Superwinch is neatly concealed at the rear of the custom tray, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
As well as the sleeper cab, the canopy is set-up with a Backtrax Ascent Pro rooftop tent atop a Rhino-Rack roof rack. This hard-roofed unit is operated via remote control (once you open a couple of exterior latches).
One thing that’s quite noticeable is that, besides the rooftop tent, there is a distinct lack of additional gear up on the roof of the Cruiser. Another part of Brad’s ethos when creating this mega tourer was to keep it self-contained, self-sufficient and as frugal on fuel as a sevenmetre-long 6WD Land Cruiser can be. This meant fitment of the two spare wheels to the rear of the custom tray, to minimise wind-resistance, as well as a 250-litre Long Ranger fuel tank on top of the stock 138-litre jobbie.
A Redarc solar power setup, with BC/DC and an inverter sit in behind the passenger seats, ensuring there’s plenty of juice flowing to the dualbattery setup – the lithium-ion batteries sit inside custom boxes set into the wheel arches either side of the cab. All of this gear means Brad and his fellow travellers can disappear into the desert for weeks on end.
Finishing off the vehicle is some exemplary ARB barwork, Goodyear Wrangler (with Kevlar) MT/R LT285/70R17 rubber wrapped around ROH alloy wheels, and some comfy Recaro seats in the cabin. These, Brad reckons, top off the Cruiser’s comfort levels.
“It’s a pretty comfortable ride as it is, but the Recaros make it even better. Like I said, we took it to Cape Melville in October and it was only a short, two-week trip, so we did around five- to sixthousand kays and you can sit behind the wheel all day and still be comfortable.”
Getting this Cruiser on the tracks hasn’t been a short journey for Brad. He estimates that, between the AEV work, the custom tray and canopy build, and chopping off the back, it took around five months. Still, that’s not too bad for the end result: a purpose-built, self-sufficient, super tough outback touring vehicle that will definitely get you to places few have been. And then get you back again so you can brag about your adventure with your mates over some cold bevvies. That has to be a good thing, don’t you think?
BY TRANSFORMING the Y62 into a dual-cab, Peter’s aim was to build an ‘all-rounder’ that’d be equally adept at camping adventures, as well as fishing and hunting expeditions – plus, it would see a lot of towing work. Encouragingly, his idea didn’t seem that far-fetched after he proposed it to On Track 4X4’s Andrew Cassar.
“I rang Andrew and said this is what I want to do,” Peter said. “No-one else has done one ... while everyone else has had Land Cruisers cut and other things cut, nobody has cut a Y62. He said, ‘Yep, let’s do it’.”
Peter knew the exact crew of specialists to entrust, firstly checking with the engineer that he uses for his work at On Track 4X4 and then enlisting Les at Tinman Fabrications to do the cutting work.
The Y62 is a high-tech 4x4, and it was here that the team struck a few small problems, most notably with the air-con system and the Patrol’s airbags. The vehicle’s air-con ducts go through to the third-row seating, which meant having to reroute them to ensure they finished at the back of the second row. The next issue was the Patrol’s airbags, which meant designing a bracket that would retain the side-pillar airbag. The rewiring took a bit of time to figure out, again to ensure the vehicle met ADR and safety regulations.
Trying to ‘trick’ the engine management system was a challenge, with the vehicle still ‘looking’ for the tailgate, as one example. Perhaps, surprisingly, the actual cutting of the vehicle was straightforward, with Les removing the back section and welding the ute-back onto the body and finishing all the fabrication work.
Upon the return to On Track 4X4, the chopped Nissan was repainted before Andrew got stuck into the rewiring and refitting of the interior. Peter decided to fully rewire the Patrol so as to accommodate all the power-reliant accessories that were to be fitted. This entailed fitment of a Redarc dual-battery management system and some tricky positioning of two aux batteries in the powder-coated tray – the tray also has a slide-out drawer. An all-aluminium canopy built by WF Fabrications features a separate dog cage, along with another storage box (housing the 60L Engel fridge/freezer on a Clear View Easy Slide) and a dual spare-wheel carrier setup.
Old Man Emu BP-51 high performance, adjustable bypass shocks provide great ride for all conditions.
The Y62 specialists On Track 4X4 played a big part in making this dual-cab dream a reality.
A TJM Airtec snorkel keeps the 5.6-litre bent eight safe and happy when wading through water crossings.
ARB Intensity LED flood lights and bars offer a white light and are perfect for latenight off-road runs.
Pro Comp XTreme MT2 tyres are made with Tri-Ply construction for better puncture resistance.
The front end features ARB bar-work (front winch bar with Warn winch, side-rails and side steps) and an ARB Intensity light setup. A TJM Airtec snorkel keeps the V8 (fitted with a Unichip) breathing freely, while Pro Comp XTreme MT2 315/70R17s roll on Black Rock Crawler 17x8 steel rims. Peter has lifted the Patrol by two inches and fitted ARB’s BP51 remote-reservoir shocks (along with Airbag Man airbags in the rear). A 150L Long Ranger fuel tank ups the Patrol’s total fuel capacity to 290 litres.
“I am absolutely rapt with it,” Peter said. “It is just an amazing vehicle off-road; it has heaps of power. On the dirt, it’s just unbelievable how good it is.”
WHILE the Ram 2500 you’re ogling has an American heart inside, it has been meticulously pieced with Australia in mind. If you haven’t heard the name John Davis before, he’s the brains behind the original Bush Ranger vehicles. In more recent years he has penned the name Trucks N Toys (TNT) with his son Ben, where they piece together American full-size trucks from mild to wild.
To stop suicidal ’roos diving through the radiator, John fitted a Full Guard bullbar from Washington-based TrailReady. The behemoth sports four uprights with headlight and radiator protection, and it’s zapped together with 6mm mildsteel mounts and 5mm mildsteel wings.
TNT equipped the TRX37 package with a Warn 12,000lb Tabor winch wrapped in 25 metres of steel cable. Keeping the winch company are five LED lights pounding out eyewatering amounts of lumens. The wings of the bar sport a pair of six-inch and four-inch round LED lights, while a 30-inch E-Series Pro bar from Rigid Industries carries out the bulk of the work. The aggressive front end is rounded out with a UHF aerial whip which feeds back into the hidden unit inside, while the Ram AmeriHood is a trick fibreglass component.
TNT added five inches of freedom down the flanks, with a set of pocket-style Bushwacker flares bolting to the front and rear guards. The badges, handles, side-steps and mirrors are all colour-coded black, with the latter flipping out into a towposition. A Rhino Pioneer roof rack holds a second LED light bar for good measure.
The ‘cool shit’ box was ticked when ordering from the factory, with the optional ‘Ram boxes’ offering additional storage along both flanks on the tub. But, like most builds, the coolest part is still sourced from the aftermarket: the full-length Pace Edwards roller rack covering the monster-sized tub, which electronically opens and closes with the push of a button.
The massive centre console easily converts to a third seat when you wish to ride threeup in the front row.
Pace Edwards electricopening roller-shutter secures the tub and makes opening and closing a simple affair.
Rhino-Rack Platform provides extra storage and a mounting point for the 52-inch curved LED bar.
Pricey components, like the Rigid LED light bar, finish off the build with maximum longevity in mind.
The TrailReady rear bar not only protects the tub off-road, but makes accessing the tub a snap.
The 5mm-plate steel rear bar ensures anything short of a Mack Truck rear-ending you will barely register a blip, and the quick foldout steps protect the tub off-road and allow for easy access to the tub.
From the factory, Rams come with a super-sized version of the suspension systems found in 105 Series and GQ/GUs: live axles with radius arms up front, and a live axle with coil springs at the back. While the front radius arm system might do a stout job of holding the front axle in place, it starts causing issues when lifted. Rather than opt for offset bushes or replacement arms, TNT went with a full replacement 4-link arrangement from BDS suspension. It picks up the original mounts on the diff end, but replaces the singleradius arm with two separate links going to a new drop-style mount on the chassis. The heavy-duty offering picks up the factory mounts for strength then corrects caster for big lifts and provides less caster change as the suspension cycles on- and off-road. The front end is completed with a set of four-inch lifted coils and six individual Fox shock absorbers; two are mounted to the factory tie rod giving huge steering dampening, while twin shocks on either corner mount to the BDS bracketry and control the weight of the 6.7L diesel-six. The rear is levelled out with a set of 2.5-inch lifted coil springs, with matching 2.0 Fox Shock absorbers on either corner.
TNT tuned the kit for improved performance on- and off-road for Aussie conditions and to pass a swerve and brake test to be fully road legal. That testing also ticked the box for the 18-inch Method Race Wheels and 37-inch muddies, for massive ground clearance.
The Ram is a near-on perfect setup for serious travel and towing. You might not want to punt one down rock steps, but when you’re coasting down the Vic High Country with the exhaust brake keeping your off-road van in check, it’s hard to imagine a better 4x4.
TAKE one 4x4 that is regarded worldwide as one of the true 4x4 icons and update it for off-road touring daily driving. And when we say update, we mean it: shoehorning a 4.5TDV8 from a 79 Series into the engine bay and then building a fully custom suspension system – highlighted by the trick four-link rear with Nolathane bushing – makes this 1979 BJ40 a one-of-a-kind bruiser.
The combined skillsets of owners, Perth-based brothers Harpaal (Harry) and Sarpal Gill, include metal fabrication, metal machinist, draftsman, mechanic and hydraulic fitter. They also own their own automotive repair and tyre outlet, allowing them to keep the build all in-house.
The idea of transplanting a modern 4x4’s gearbox, drivetrain and engine into what is a distinctly shorter and much older rig sounds like a headache, starting with how to make that beefy 4.5TDV8 fit into the BJ’s engine bay without too much cutting of original BJ sheet metal. “We started with the engine first and tried to ensure we didn’t cut anything on the body,” Harry says. “We had to place it in a couple of times in the chassis to get it where we wanted it, then started from there.”
“From there” meant also fabricating all engine mounts, the mounts (and brackets) for the five-speed manual gearbox, as well as modifying the transmission tunnel to fit said gearbox, all while making sure each mod would pass engineering regulations for registration.
The result, after more than a few chassis cuts and mods, is an engine bay that looks very factory in appearance, with only the custom air filter box and piping hinting to the transplant.
“We designed everything on AutoCAD,” Harry says. “So everything was designed on the computer and then we got everything laser-cut and fabricated it in the shop.”
One of the biggest parts of the project was the build and fitment of the trick four-link rear suspension setup, but it didn’t take as long as you’d think, thanks again to the wonders of computer design.
As well as the rear suspension and engine/ gearbox mounts, the brothers also designed, cut and built the front winch bar (the winch is an X-Bull 12,000lb) and rear custom bars, sidesteps and flares, with only the custom-sized driveshaft and tailshaft built by one of their suppliers (the front and rear axles are actually stock LC79 jobbies).
The track width of the BJ isn’t that different to the LC79, and Harry and Sarpal accounted for the difference by fitting Allied Goanna 17x9-inch alloys (with a 38mm spacer in the rear wheel) shod with chunky 35x12.5R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers. This meant the stock 79 axles (and brakes) were a straightforward fit. The Dobinsons dampers and springs give the BJ a 50mm lift and are a direct carry over from the donor vehicle.
The exhaust system is a combo of factory (the headers are stock) and a three-inch custom-made mandrel-bent system, with a five-inch Hot Dog resonator, finished off with a glorioussounding side dump pipe. As you can imagine, space for a big-bore custom exhaust system to do justice to the TDV8 was at a premium with this shorty.
“It’s a V8, so we wanted it to sound like one,” Harry says. “We bought a few different hot dogs, a few different resonators, and a few other bits and pieces to try and see which ones sound better, which was the easy part. Then we had to modify all the bits and pieces to make it fit, but, again, it was good fun.”
Harry and Sarpal have plans to continue driving it for a few months before it is returned to their workshop for a complete disassemble and rebuild, with the currently as-stock interior (bar the custom-made gauge fascia that fits the LC79 instrument cluster) one of the many things on the to-do list, along with new suspension, a paint job and no doubt more tweaks.
The bar with 12,000lb X-Bull winch was designed, cut and built by the Gill brothers.
Dobinsons dampers and springs from the donor LC gave the BJ40 a 50mm lift.
One of few mods to the interior is a custom-made fascia for the instrument cluster.
The build and fitment of the four-link rear suspension is a wonder of AutoCAD design.
Sticking to BJ40 tradition: side mounting the Hi-Lift jack to the front door pillar.
WHILE Jordan’s immaculate Isuzu D-Max might be a one of a kind, its story is one that familiar with. As an apprentice chippy Jordan spent years longing for a 4x4, a key to unlocking the countless adventures to be had far beyond city lights, and one he always felt out of reach of his modest earnings. Fast forward a few years and Jordan finished his trade and shifted his focus to building the 4x4 he’d been lusting for.
It’s fitting then that he chose Isuzu’s D-Max as the foundation, a history of hard work forged directly into an adventure machine, much like Jordan himself. The facelifted D-Max sports Isuzu’s venerable 4JJ1 under the bonnet, a 3.0L turbocharged diesel engine, which Jordan has kept relatively stock; a DPU performance module courtesy of Down Under Diesel Tuning tweaks the engine for more grunt. It howls through a Safari snorkel, while an HPD catch can and Munji solid intercooler pipes add ticks to the reliability column.
The smooth canopy is a trick unit zapped together by the crew at Tough Tinnies. While it looks heavier built than a Russian babushka, the whole unit is easily removed with the unfortunately named Jackoff system. A few clasps popped and a set of legs slid in, and the D-Max is free to roam the tracks while his home on the road is safe and sound back at camp.
Jordan’s been through a few tray setups and canopy fitouts, so he knew exactly what he was after with the Tough Tinnies setup, and he also settled on a Darche Hi-View rooftop tent for a comfy kip. He’s paired it with an Eclipse roll-out awning to give plenty of shelter against inclement weather.
Opening up the canopy doors is like letting a kid loose in a candy store, if the kid is a 4WDer, and the candy store is the best electronics gear on the market. The legs of the setup is a Betta Batteries lead-crystal battery, but the brains is a comprehensive Redarc system headed up with a Manager30. This setup handles anything Jordan can throw its way, coping with a combination of 240V, 12V and solar inputs, then optimally charging whatever batteries Jordan’s running at the time. It feeds a bank of Narva products and power outlets, but the ‘pride of the fleet’ for Jordan is the huge Redarc 1500W Pure Sine Wave invertor.
Lots of switches, though none that say ‘Zombie Lights’.
The Hema HN7 is just like a paper map, without the paper.
Nothing protects soft bits like a slathering plate of steel.
The Darche Hi-View is the solution to a good night’s sleep.
Easy-access canopy ladder is a neat onetwo foldup job.
The rest of the canopy is a perfect mesh of form and function. Three individual drawers inside the main body provide plenty of room, while the passenger’s side houses a hidden prep bench under the drawer and a Dometic fridge on a Clearview drop-slide. There are LEDs throughout, with additional storage along both flanks and a handy trundle drawer in the rear.
While the rear of Jordan’s D-Max is a no-holds-barred kind of affair, up front things are a little more understated. Two huge screens dominate the cockpit. Up-top a Hema HN7 keeps him on the right path, while a Kenwood double DIN unit adds a little Xzibit style pimpin’. On the practical front are twin AutoMeter gauges keeping a watchful eye on boost levels and exhaust gas temperatures, with a plethora of rocker switches to activate everything from the canopy lights to North Korea’s guided missile program.
On the outside Jordan struck gold somewhere between a hardcore weekender and a kilometreproven tourer, never scared to lift a wheel or pull-up to camp. The Xrox bar leads the way, with a Warn winch slotting in behind the Factor 55 fairlead and flat link. Bushskinz bash plates protect the radiator, front diff and engine sump, while South Cross Fabrication rock sliders keep wayward rocks from stoving in both flanks. Up top a Rhino-Rack platform mounts the LED light bar and MaxTrax, as well as providing additional storage.
The suspension is a mix and match of DIY components to get the required clearance for the 285/75R16 Nitto Trail Grapplers, but a set of King 2.5 shocks is going in shortly to make things ride a whole lot smoother.
Drive is put to the ground at both ends through a set of Harrop eLockers, sending drive to every wheel, while the front hubs are a direct bolt-on from a 1992 Jackaroo and help stop the CVs spinning when not in 4x4.
In an age of instant gratification, it’s refreshing to see not only the drive required to build something right, but the finished product itself.
ALLAN and Kathy Huxtable initially built this LC79 for shorter escapes, but circumstances changed Allan accepted a redundancy and the couple sold everything and hit the road on a more permanent basis. The vehicle already had a schmick canopy, rooftop tent, kitchen, fridge and electrics, but a few things needed to be added such as a caravan and a tinny, which, in turn, meant more mods.
The canopy and its internal setup has been tweaked slightly over the years, but the setup (two side doors and one large rear slide-out tray underneath) retains all the essentials, with the kitchen accessed via a large lift-up door. Allan has also utilised one of MSA 4X4’s excellent drop-down fridge slides for the Waeco fridge.
The opposite side of the canopy is where larger gear is stored, as well as a Coleman hot-water camp shower. Also fitted inside the canopy is the power system, comprising two 120amp/h deep-cycle batteries, an ARB air compressor and a Redarc 1000-Watt inverter; while Redarc’s Manager30 battery management system keeps it all running smoothly. Hidden underneath is a 110L stainless steel water tank, accessed via a 12V pump.
The rooftop tent, capable of fitting a double mattress inside it, features a heavy-duty PVC outer with a full-mesh inner. The tent’s solid top incorporates a boat loader for the couple’s Sea Jay 3.9 Nomad tinny, along with a permanently affixed Redarc 200W solar panel. Allan has built a unique boat-loading system that uses the Cruiser’s Runva 11XP winch, which is housed in an ARB bullbar.
The addition of the caravan saw Allan replace the LC79’s standard leaf-sprung rear suspension with a trick JMACX Offroad Solutions rear coilspring conversion, while also upping the GVM to 3900kg. This kit offers a wider rear track to match the 79’s front end, hardened axles, Lovells coil springs, Icon remotereservoir dampers, and airbags (controlled via an in-cabin setup) for towing. The Cruiser sports a four-inch lift as a result and rolls on 16x8-inch Allied Wasp wheels shod with BFGoodrich LT285/75 R16s.
A subtly modified 4.5L TDV8 donk punches out 160kW and 603Nm; the turbo has been tweaked by Munro Turbochargers, a Unichip Q4 has been fitted, and there’s a two-inch crossover pipe, with a three-inch stainless steel straight-through exhaust. Stopping the rig is an upgraded brake booster with braided lines and slotted rotors up front.
The cabin has all the essentials: EGT exhaust gas temp gauge, boost gauge, airbag controls, and gauges. Allan has also added a roof console, centre console and door pods, with the latter housing the Alpine sound system’s speakers. Dynamat sound deadener was added throughout, while new seats will replace what Allan describes as “shit” stock items.
16x8-inch Allied Wasp wheels encased by BFGoodrich LT285/75R16 rubber.
This side is devoted to the kitchen, fridge, cooker, lights, food and smaller utensils.
The canopy also houses the Redarc inverter and battery management system.
Airbags for towing, with the Airbag Man compressor controlled from inside the cabin.
A Safari snorkel has been added to feed clean air to the LC79’s tweaked V8 engine.
TODD Bonnard wanted a 4x4 ute that was “the perfect all-rounder”, so when this half-finished project vehicle, complete transplanted Duramax 6.6-litre V8 turbo-diesel and six-speed auto, came up for sale, Todd jumped on it.
It’s a straightforward answer when Todd is asked about the appeal of the Duramax engine. “Definitely the power,” he says. “And in terms of what you can do with them to extract more power. They’re pushing pretty big power in the US in those big utes and rigs, so you can imagine what it is going to do in a smaller Patrol; the power-toweight ratio is much better.”
Any engine/gearbox transplant requires mods to the engine bay to ensure proper fitment, along with numerous add-ons to make it run smoothly with the rest of the Nissan’s drivetrain. The Allison six-speed auto is mated to the Nissan transfer case via an adaptor, while engine management is through an Edge Insight CTS2 system. There’s a custom-made ARE Cooling radiator and front-mount intercooler, and the transmission cooler has been moved beneath the tray with an additional fan to aid cooling. There’s a Patroldocta four-inch snorkel and airbox, three-inch hot-and-cold side piping, and a four-inch custom-made (from scratch!) titanium exhaust with a 100-cell catalytic converter. The Patrol’s donk punches out 335kW and 1200Nm at the rear wheels, and Todd had a hydro booster fitted to the brakes.
Suspension comprises a three-inch lift and a two-inch body lift, with custom rock sliders installed. Boosting ride and handling is AmadaXtreme remote-reservoir dampers, front and rear. Todd also fitted custom-made Pedders coils, rated to a 500kg constant load, up front. Superior Engineering Superflex sway bars front and rear tie it all down, along with Super Engineering Superflex radius arms, Panhard rods and long arms. It rides on 17-inch Walker Evans Beadlock wheels shod with Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ LT315/70R17 rubber.
An ARB Air Locker diff lock has been fitted to the front axle (with air supplied via an underbonnet compressor). Two 40-litre water tanks are fitted beneath the tray, while a FASS fuel pump ensures quick ignition and a Facet pump ensures the juice from the main and sub tanks keep flowing.
The factory bullbar has been modified with Lightforce HID spotties and a GME aerial.
Custom-fitted pillar gauges keep an eye on boost, EGT and oil pressure.
The neat, roof-mounted Oricom UHF provides comms and is always in reach.
Four-inch titanium exhaust system includes a 100-cell catalytic converter.
The Facet solid state electric fuel pump ensures the tanks keep the engine well fed.
One of the main issues when the Patrol was bought was getting the wiring sorted so the engine/gearbox transplant worked perfectly. It was then onto the fitment of a heavily modified Nissan factory bullbar. Panel work was limited, with the most noticeable mod being the fitment of custom-made Fairline fibreglass front guards and an air intake atop the bonnet. A set of Lightforce HID spotties, a GME radio aerial, and a custom grille complete the front-end.
With thanks to Wild 4x4 & Customs, PJM Auto Electrics, Dave’s Paint & Panel, Precision Paint & Panel and PID Diesel Conversions, the end result is pretty damn close to the perfect all-rounder.
TO GET to the heart of what makes this Hilux special, we’ll need to kick things off up front. That PSICO intercooler is a package that sees the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel pushing 179kW to the rear wheels – a huge jump over the factory 89kW To achieve those results, the PSICO intercooler draws air through a four-inch Phat Bars stainless steel snorkel, before compressing it with an S3 GTurbo. From here the factory ECU teams up with an HKS controller to fine-tune the oil burner’s parameters. Just Autos mapped the stock ECU with an aggressive tune, and then used the HKS controller to fine-tune it. Upgraded injector caps have given the setup an increase in fuel volume without ramping up pressure or duration to dangerous levels, and a threeinch turbo-back exhaust barks spent exhaust gases rearwards.
To get the power to the ground, owner Justin installed a heavy-duty MV Automatics torque convertor and valve body to tighten the standard transmission. Two external oil coolers stop the red rocket from getting too hot, 4.56 gears at either end account for the larger rolling stock (35s), and twin auto lockers (a Detroit in the rear and LOKKA up front) ensure traction is never an issue.
It takes a hell of a lot of work to shoehorn 35s beneath a Hilux, and Justin reached out to the crew at Phat Bars, who replaced the sagged front factory struts with a set of Fox 2.0 units. They’ve been fitted with 700lb Eibach coils on both sides, helping boost ride height 50mm over stock – a further 50mm in body lift helps with the aggressive stance. A diff drop flattened out the CV angle, getting them back inside their safe operating angles. The upper control arms have also been swapped out for adjustable units from CalOffroad, with the adjustable ball-joint offering a strength upgrade from the stock unit and allowing the alignment to be dialled in to free up much needed down travel.
Things are more customised in the rear. Rather than a bolt-in lift kit, Justin opted for a set of stock leaf springs from an RG Colorado, which have been reset to allow for additional lift over stock height; however, their longer length gives the perfect shackle angle for ride and comfort when paired with 200mm extended shackles. The lot is kept under control with another pair of Fox 2.0 shocks.
A stout ‘Muzzbar’ is backed with 5mm of reinforced-steel bash plates from Phat Bars. They’ve up-armoured the driveline from the radiator right back past the sump and transmission, before finishing up just after the transfer case. The flanks have been similarly armoured-up, with highclearance Phat Bars rock sliders.
That form-and-function mentality has been applied all the way to the tail-lights. Justin placed an order with Phat Bars for a one-off tray, which was zapped together with a 4mm-thick box section running along either flank; giving Justin a full-length slider that’ll take the full weight of the Lux.
American Racing rims shod with 35-inch Dick Cepek Extreme Country muddies.
Feeding the PSICO intercooler fresh air is a four-inch Phat Bars stainless steel snorkel.
Pillar-mounted Redarc gauges monitor EGT and boost, and oil and water temps.
Fitted is an E-Drive 4 Advance Throttle Controller for Power, ECO or Normal modes.
Frontal protection is afforded by a slimline Muzzbar from South East Qld Fabrication.