There are few, if any, 110 per cent perfect four-wheel drive utes straight off the showroom floor.
Even today, when vehicles have become more sophisticated, inside and out, there are still things to be added, subtracted or polished for performance, comfort and style. This is the case even when a ute is as good as Volkswagen’s Amarok; an award-winning truck heavily praised for its space, ride comfort and handling.
The German-engineered Amarok might not trouble the scoreboards of the big players in the off-road segment – Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi – but Volkswagen Australia says the ute still hits its sales targets in Australia, one of the Amarok’s biggest markets, with 7716 four-wheel drives and 569 two-wheel drives sold last year.
More telling, however, is that Amarok owners are a loyal and enthusiastic mob, often keen to take extra vehicle needs into their own hands.
One of those owners is Queenslander Peter Bouma, a co-founder of Crimsafe, the renowned security-screen firm.
After four years living in the United States and driving a storming Ford Raptor pick-up, Peter was chasing something smart and comfortable. He didn’t like leaving his Raptor behind, but thought it would be a touch impractical back here in Australia because of its bulk.
“And I think here I’d be bored in it,” Peter says.
“In the States I did a lot of driving – had a radar detector in the middle of my screen and the sweet spot on that thing was 90mph (145km/h) all day.
“It made a nice rumble and you could take it anywhere – an amazing truck and very comfortable.”
Peter says he has been lucky with cars and he is used to having a few comforts in his machines. For driving in Oz, though, it was the Amarok that caught his attention with its creature comforts, ride comfort and cabin space.
“But the look of the standard one didn’t win me over,” he says. “So I had to find out what I could do and that’s where I came across the guys from Wolf who I think have helped me come up with a really nice-looking ute.”
Peter started off with an Amarok Dark Label ute, bought in February this year. The special-edition VW is based on the Highline model and comes with (as factory standard) bi-xenon headlights; LED daytime running lights; matte-black sports bar and side steps; smoked tail-lights; and black paint for the wheels, rear bumper and door handles.
Inside, the Dark Label, with a $56,990 recommended retail price for the six-speed manual, arrived with Alcantara trim, a carbonfibre look to the seat bolster, and heated front seats.
With an all-round comfortable factory rig to build on, Peter tossed the keys to the Wolf 4x4 crew at Deception Bay, just to the north of Brisbane.
The result? A handsome Volkswagen dual cab, set up as a comfortable touring truck for all kinds of roads.
The mods have surely given the white Amarok a tougher presence, on and off the road. Extra ride height, bigger wheels and tyres, and a black-wrapped bonnet come together in a style suggestive of a pre-runner.
The Amarok wasn’t to be Peter’s main get-around machine, but he still wanted something that went and looked a bit more special than standard. Wolf’s Tristan Gibbons was instrumental in the desired customisation.
“Peter’s one of these guys – every car he owns has some sort of modifications and he tries to make them look really nice,” Tristan explains.
“So he came to us, and went ‘what would you recommend to do?’”
“He basically looked at my ute and went, ‘everything you have got on yours, plus more’.
Tristan was handed the keys and an almost-open cheque book to turn the dual cab into a more capable and more stylish machine like some of Tristan’s earlier custom jobs.
The job ended up costing close to $28,000, including an engine remap plus a custom three-inch exhaust from the turbos back.
Up front there’s a Delta 4x4 nudge bar (black, of course) with Peak Explorer LED driving lights.
There’s an AFN hidden mount for the Runva 11 XP winch, plus there’s a little modification to the chromed VW badge on the grille to make sure the business of the winch is hidden and tidy.
“You go to the showroom and sometimes see people trying to do this,” Tristan says as he turns the big badge and twists it free of the grille to expose the winch control box. It’s a neat trick, made possible by modifying the badge’s clips.
Peter’s ute’s bonnet has a black wrap with neat Wolf bonnet protector up front and a Seikel snorkel on the right-hand flank.
The windows have been given an extra tint and there are MSA seat covers for protection – otherwise, the interior is pretty stock.
Up top there’s a BajaRack utility flat rack with a pair of small LED lights for seeing out back when the sun goes down.
The rear tray is covered with a retractable Roll-N-Lock hard tonneau cover with a Raptor Rack to mount a pair of Maxtrax on top of the Roll-N-Lock’s front housing. The back-end has also been fitted with the very clever EZDown system; a strut that gently lowers the tailgate.
For body protection, this VW has MCC sidesteps below the doors and a full AFN underbody kit.
It sits on Delta Classic wheels fitted with 305/60R18 Mickey Thompson ATZ P3s and covered with Bushwhacker guard flares (black, of course).
All this is smoothed out and supported by Bilstein shocks with King springs at the front (Wolf had sold out of some Outback Armour gear prior to doing this ute) with Outback Armour leaf springs at the rear. It’s now due for a 40mm body lift.
To keep all this on the move, Peter also took his VW off for some engine treatment. It’s now running with a Maptech re-tune of the ECU, plus a full three-inch exhaust system, which helps the TD1400 twin-turbo diesel exhale a bit better. This increases the trucks power to about 150kW (a factory model offers about 132kW and 400Nm). The upgrade also sweetens the exhaust note a little.
Peter says the extra grunt from behind the wheel has transformed the ute beyond his expectations.
“When you put the bigger wheels on, it does take a bit more energy.
“I’ve always done performance modifications to my cars – I’m used to high-performance vehicles.
“This one was a bit of a shock for me – it’s made a helluva difference and turned it into something quite decent and useful.”
He had worried that the Bilstein shocks would affect the ute’s ride, but now he thinks, if anything, the aftermarket shocks have improved the vehicle’s overall ride comfort.
“I’m also happy with the Mickey Thompson tyres.”
“They’re big sneakers on that thing and I get no wheel noise – quite amazing.”
Peter is proud of his modded Amarok – how it looks and how it goes.
“It’s not my family car, but it’s one that we’ll certainly be doing some camping holidays in and I’ve got a mate with a farm at Stanthorpe (southwest of Brisbane).
“I grew up on a farm and done a fair bit of four-wheel driving, not for a long time, but it’s something I certainly want to do in the future.
“And so I wanted something that was nice and robust and looked a bit tough.”
This striking VW Amarok certainly fits the bill.
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