IT IS ALL pretty much black and white for AFN’s Gavin Duffield. He believes there’s a ready-made local market for Australian-sorted, Portuguese-made protection gear for 4x4 utes and wagons.
To drive the point home, Gavin has given a new Toyota HiLux the black-and-white treatment as a 24/7 rolling advert. The result is a head-turning, out-of-my-way cruiser, which owes its charms both to cosmetic touches and some AFN gear.
Portuguese-based AFN has supplied gear – from bullbars to turret guns – for the likes of United Nations and NATO vehicles for some time. But there’s also scope for products for civilian machinery, the most notable being bullbars tailored for specific vehicles. AFN concentrates on protective kit, from bars to underbody shields.
Wolf 4x4 in Brisbane became the Australian distributor for AFN back in 2014, when hunting down bars for the Volkswagen Amarok ute. Wolf director Ashley Gibbons has spun the AFN business into AFN 4x4 Australia, with the blessing and backing of the European company.
The new operation sits side-by-side with the Wolf 4x4 outfit in a shiny new 1000m2 premises at North Lakes, just to the north of Brisbane. Gavin Duffield is ready for business, showcasing the AFN wares in this handsome SR5 HiLux.
“AFN needs to get its own brand attention, it’s critical for us to get that brand awareness,” Gavin said. “We understand there’s lots of competition out there. We’re not afraid of the competition, but we’re after recognition that we’re on our own now with our own stock, our own warehouse. We want to be heard and seen.”
Gavin’s proud of this truck’s style and upgraded ability. The Toyota’s driveline – diesel and auto – is factory stock, but it’s now a ute with more protection and more comfort for the rough stuff.
People said Gavin was a bit crazy wanting a black-and-white theme to best co-ordinate with AFN’s logo. He was adamant that he wanted a black-and-white car with no chrome.
“Part of that was getting rid of this ugly grille that was in there… it was very, very ugly,” he said.
So that has been replaced with a plain black, mesh-steel insert, while the chrome SR5 door handles and door mirrors are also wrapped in black, as is the bonnet and rear canopy roof. But it’s the bullbar that magnifies the dramatic style of the ute, with its two-inch lift kit. It’s the prototype bar for the current HiLux, and it was designed by AFN with input from the Australian side of the business.
“We didn’t want bumper cuts, we wanted full recovery points, we wanted lights and jacking points, and we wanted that as all part of our standard product. We didn’t want them [as] add-ons,” Gavin said. “And we didn’t want the old square box look, we wanted something unique.”
The result is an aggressive-looking bar, which sits back on the vehicle as far as possible for style and weight distribution. High, swept-back corners improve approach angles – whether in the scrub or in shopping centre carparks – and show off the HiLux’s meaty BFGoodrich KO2s.
All AFN bullbars are steel and all are vehicle-specific, rather than some rivals who use a singular bar design and different mounting kits to suit different vehicles.
There’s now an AFN bar to suit a range of current four-wheel drives: Prados, Amaroks, D-Maxes, Land Cruisers and Tritons. Bars for the latest Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara are on their way. AFN Australia 4x4 will also be sticking with steel and won’t be looking at bars for older utes and wagons.
Gavin admits prices are toward the premium end, but he suggests the quality of the design and build is worth the extra coin. His HiLux bar is also fitted with AFN side rails (black, of course) and solid AFN sidesteps.
In profile, the ute’s charm is enhanced by a set of forged alloy Delta Klassik 18x9in wheels and BFGoodrich boots. Below, there’s a host of AFN 6mm alloy protection plates for the engine, transmission, differentials and fuel tank. There’s even a neat AFN shield for the Toyota’s load sensor, which adjusts headlights to the weight of the load.
All of this is sitting on Outback Armour suspension – springs and struts – front and rear. This Brisbane-based suspension design outfit, favoured by Amarok owners (among others), is also a supplier to bullet- and bomb-proofed vehicle builders in Europe and the Middle East.
A steel Sammitr canopy and a very tidy AFN rear bar and wheel carrier reside down back. There’s the option of wearing two spare wheels, two jerry cans or, on this HiLux, one of each. The carriers use a cam lock, rather than a conventional latching system, so they can be pushed shut. There’s also a locking device to keep the carriers swung out when needed.
Clever bits here include a three-way combination light – for tail-lights, brake lights and indicators – in the rear bar, because a spare wheel can cover up a little of the Toyota’s regular rear lights. And AFN’s wheel carrier uses a cone arrangement (like on a wheel balancer), rather than using wheel studs, so the holder can accommodate just about any wheel.
Out and about, the AFN Toyota HiLux offers well-balanced ride and handling. Gavin wasn’t that impressed with the original suspension, but understood the HiLux was built as a load-carrier. Now the combination of Outback Armour suspension and a little extra weight down back has settled things and helped make the HiLux a great drive on Queensland beaches.
“I like the height and that it’s very stable,” Gavin said. “There are no bodyroll issues, yet it’s a big vehicle and heavy off the ground. The centre of gravity is up with that raised suspension, plus another 40-odd millimetres with those tyres.”
Gavin’s happy with the rig’s road manners on the bitumen, but an outing in the sand on the re-sorted suspension most impressed. “I just couldn’t believe how well it went on the beach,” Gavin grinned. “It’s got a bit of get up and go.”
And this black-and-white AFN HiLux has plenty of show to mate with that factory get up and go.
EXTRA COSTS – THE AFN HILUX
AFN Bullbar: $2150
AFN Sidesteps: $850
AFN Side Rails: $375
AFN Rear Wheel Carrier:$2995
AFN Underbody Protection: TBA
Outback Armour Suspension: $1790
SMM V2 Canopy: $3395
Delta 4x4 Klassik 18x9in wheels: $500 each
BFG KO2 285/65/18: $495 each
Oricom UHF: $329
Runva 11XP Premium Black winch $975
AFN 4x4 Australia
19B Flinders Parade, North Lakes, 4509, Qld
Phone: 1300 AFN 4X4
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