At 4X4 Australia we love a good custom, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favourites for 2015 – some for their ‘wow’ factor, some for their practicality, some just because…
This Hilux has it all. Even though it was made for touring and camping, it still breaks traction at 80kms/h, with its 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine pumping out 200kW at the wheels. The D4-D’s standard turbocharger was been flicked in favour of a Garrett Stage III GT turbo, and the top-mounted intercooler was replaced by a larger and more efficient front-mounted unit with custom piping.
Since the demise of Nissan’s venerable 4.2-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, GU Patrol buyers have had to opt for four-cylinder power in the form of the ageing ZD30 3.0-litre turbo-diesel. But, weighing more than 2300kg, the GU Patrol is no lightweight and, for most, the ZD30 simply doesn’t cut it. So, other than looking elsewhere, what’s the solution for GU Patrol fans? How about an AM General 6.5-litre Optimizer V8 diesel engine? Yeah, the one that’s used in the US Military’s HMMWVs and Hummer H1s.
The owner of this Amarok Dark Label ute handed the keys and an almost-open cheque book to the Wolf 4x4 crew at Deception Bay, north of Brisbane. The idea was to turn the dual cab into a more capable and more stylish machine – mission accomplished, we reckon. The job ended up costing close to $28,000, including an engine remap plus a custom three-inch exhaust from the turbos back.
On first glance, this Ram Ute appears like any other lifted truck with a cool bumper and big tyres. But closer inspection reveals a stack of stuff that separates it from the Bigfoot crowd. First, though it rides on 41-inch Interco IROK Super Swamper tyres, the Ram actually isn’t very high. In fact, the suspension system raises the vehicle just three inches. It does this with a Ram DualSport system that uses a custom bracket on the axle to raise the panhard rod and maintain its original geometry. The idea is to make the vehicle think it’s not lifted. The benefits of this are obvious to anyone who as ever turned a corner.
When you have a boat and trailer combination that weighs close to 3500kg, you need a vehicle that won’t raise a sweat pulling the skin off a rice pudding. A Land Cruiser double cab is a good place to start, but it ain’t perfect. For starters, it’s only available with a manual gearbox. So, to make towing easier, the owner of this Cruiser swapped the five-speed manual ’box for a GM 6L90 six-speed automatic. The transmission is now suited to the owner’s towing requirements; it’s rated to 1200Nm of torque with a GVM of 6803kg and a GCM of 9525kg, and it also features three selectable shift modes designed to make towing a breeze.
Unlikely as it may seem, this vehicle is a Mazda BT-50 GT dual cab. Thankfully, this BT-50 has had its largely unpopular ‘smile’ wiped off its face thanks to the fitment of a colour-coded ARB Sahara Bar, Intensity LED driving lights and a strategically positioned control box for the Warn Magnum 10,000kg winch. With its potent 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine mated to the six-speed automatic transmission, the BT-50 offers strong performance both on and off the road.
Saving an old 4x4 from the scrapheap and turning it into a champion vehicle is on every man’s bucket list – and if it isn’t, it should be. This 1993 model petrol-powered 80 Series was anything but expensive. In fact, the owner picked it up for just $3500 with a popped petrol engine. A good engine was sourced for just $500 and then the owner sold a few parts to recover some of the cost. It then got a cut ‘n’ shut job that would make a brain surgeon’s work look amateur.
This stretched Hilux is a tribute to the great Aussie tradition of making the best of a bad situation. It began when the original Hilux’s chassis was badly bent out bush. Instead of writing the Lux off, though, the owner decided to repair it – but with a tweak: a chassis extension. By lengthening the chassis, more weight is now carried over the rear axle, rather than behind it, with less stress on the chassis. Of course, a chassis stretch such as this includes modifications to the tail shaft, exhaust, fuel and brake systems, and the wiring harness (including the ABS).
In this cotton-wool world of molly-coddled SUVs and computer-chipped four-wheel drives, it’s refreshing to head scrub in a brutish bush-and-beach buggy built just for fun. The Bush Ranger may not be the most civilised of machines, the quietest, or the most loaded with fripperies, but it is a 4WD of great competence and it’s loaded with go-anywhere character. This particular reborn example sits on a shortened 1995 Land Rover Discovery chassis with the 300TDI 2.5 litre diesel and four-speed automatic transmission.
Forget Hiluxes and Rangers, this custom-built Jeep Wrangler ute would be the duck’s guts – if Jeep had the smarts to build it. Alas, Jeep has no plans (that we know of) to build such a rig, but the Wrangler JK-8 you see here is a kind-of official Jeep product – it comes via a JK-8 pick-up conversion kit from Jeep’s performance and accessories arm Mopar. And although the kit is damn good value – at less than $US6,000 – you’ll also have to stump up for freight, a Wrangler Unlimited and the rather extensive labour and know-how required to fit it. Nevertheless, if you’re a Jeep fan and you want a usable ute, then the JK-8 is certainly a good way to get one.