SCOTT Newbie’s tale of 4x4 passion and the love of the outdoors begins back in New Zealand.
This article was originally published in the November 2011 issue of 4x4 Australia
Imagine an excited young lad heading off with his dad to watch the adrenalin-pumping action of man and machine battling the elements. Picture the boy’s widening eyes as a thundering vehicle approaches, engine screaming, and bursts through the bushes into view. Watch his jaw drop as the 4x4 slews sideways into an impossible turn, tyres spinning frantically for grip in the sodden earth.
His senses are overwhelmed with the sight, sounds and smells of vehicles pushed to their limits in the heat of competition. At day’s end, that clean shirt – the one his mum told him to take extra care of – is forever battle-scarred with honourable splatters of mud. He is completely and utterly hooked. And so it was that Scott and his dad would sneak out every chance they could to enjoy the buzz of NZ forest rallies.
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Having developed, quite literally, a taste for mud, Scott was keen to follow the path of many a good 4x4 enthusiast and share his passion with like-minded individuals by getting involved in the 4x4 industry.
Not shy to roll up his sleeves, Scott’s first job was working for a company based in Christchurch that specialised in the design and fabrication of quality bullbars. It provided a strong grounding in the processes and techniques needed to fabricate durable, robust accessories, and gave Scott an up-close understanding of what constitutes quality and how to spot an inferior product.
Scott made the move to Australia and is now based in Perth with his wife Klaartje. Fortunately they have friends and family back in Melbourne, which gave Scott a perfect excuse to contemplate a big trip east, starting out on the great central road, through Alice Springs and maybe the Simpson Desert, and eventually winding back down to suburbia. Which meant Scott needed a great rig with all the right kit.
Scott explained his choice of a 2009 dual-cab TD 2.5 Triton: “I have fond memories of my good, old trusty and much-beloved mate, the MQ Shorty. With a suspension lift and some chunky Mudzillas all ’round, there wasn’t much we couldn’t get through. Those tyres used to howl so loud they’d drown out the stereo – yep, good days.
“Sadly, the MQ fell victim to the Marysville fires in 2009. Since then I’ve had a couple of Toyota Hiluxes, but so did everyone else. It was time for a change and I wanted to try something a bit different.
“For my needs, the Triton had all the right credentials and offered a cost-effective foundation on which to build a competent tourer. It still had to be a fully functional pick-up. I didn’t want something I couldn’t use for daily delivery duties or for loading up and heading bush for a few nights’ camping.
“I’ve had the Triton for almost two years now, and yes, that 2.5TD is good fun. It still puts a smile on my face when the turbo kicks in and gives me a firm shove in the back – especially since I fitted a Red Back 2.5-inch full-flow performance exhaust system.”
Being a four-wheel driving enthusiast for the best part of nine years can teach you a thing or two. The school of hard knocks is a good teacher of what not to do, and Scott is quick to point out the sense of always using quality equipment. “Get the right advice from people in the know and don’t cut corners when it comes to protecting your vehicle and the safety of your passengers,” he says.
It’s a solid philosophy to live by, and you can see it working in the set-up and customisation of Scott’s truck.
Tough Dog adjustable struts and shocks are used to give the Triton its brutish stance, and they’re coupled with Tough Dog coils and Superior Engineering Extended Shackles. While they give a modest 40mm lift, Scott was firm on the benefits.
“Off-road capabilities have been significantly improved,” he says. “With better ground clearance, enhanced wheel articulation over undulating terrain, and overall improvement in on-road stability and control.”
To make the best of the Triton’s newfound off-road prowess and ensure Scott can get the extra urge firmly down to terra firma, he’s enlisted the help of the impressive Mickey Thompson 265/75-R16 MTZ tyres.
With the ability to travel further off the blacktop, Scott has added a VMS Touring 500 GPS unit to make sure the Triton stays on its plotted course. Should the unthinkable happen, leaving Scott with no alternative but to ask for directions, he can always use the GME TX3100 UHF to check in with the convoy before Klaartje slaps him!
Protecting the Triton’s nether regions on these out-of-the-way excursions are Outback Accessories’ 3mm steel underbody protection plates. These cover both the sump and gearbox, and Outback Accessories’ rock sliders keep the sill straight and true when negotiating the rocky trails or creek crossings. Scott reckons these are essential. “It’s a real confidence thing,” he says. “To know you have solid frontal, underbody and sill protection.”
Up front, the Triton looks a little like a Star Wars stormtrooper, sporting competition smart bar work from the lads at X-Rox Bullbars. And turning total darkness into daylight is no mean feat, but Scott’s got any night-time departures covered with two LightForce Genesis, and three LightForce 140 Lance driving lights.
After driving all day to reach that little-known secluded spot, a comfortable camp is paramount. Being able to carry all the necessary gear for the trip safely and securely is critical to the success and enjoyment of the trip, but being able to access it easily is just as important.
To help here Scott uses a combination of a Rhino Rack Alloy Roof Basket up front – perfect for smaller, lighter items – and a solid WindCheetah alloy roof rack for the rear tray, which also provides the mounting platform for the Eezi-Awn roof tent.
There are even bright 4x4 Equip LED lights to help out when setting up after dusk.
“The Eezi-Awn tent has been a real benefit,” Scott reckons. “It’s finished in quality canvas that is cool in summer but offers good protection and a comfortable night’s sleep even when the weather turns nasty.”
Knowing there’s a comfy bed to fall into makes sitting around the campfire with a cleansing ale that little bit more relaxing.
Unlike a typical tradie’s rack, the WindCheetah sits a little lower, with the load that much closer to the Triton’s centre of gravity. Scott confirmed that it helps lower overall wind noise and reduces any impact on vehicle stability. It looks good, too, highlighting the Triton’s radical rear design, which is a welcome departure from the more typical straight-up, box-shaped ute.
Even with the lower rack, there’s still plenty of headroom in the rear tub to put in the National Luna 40L fridge-freezer, to be stacked, no doubt, with drinks and tasties.
Taking responsibility for his own recovery and retrieval, Scott also keeps a Mean Green Recovery kit on board, along with 4x4 Equip Combo shovels and axes – just in case.
I asked Scott to name the biggest impact he’d noticed after all the changes. “The most important mod I’ve made is the Tough Dog suspension system,” he said without hesitation.
“It completely changes the attitude of the vehicle to one that is more responsive to driver input. It also lasts the distance when it comes to a lot of dune and corrugation work. The shocks never fade, which is pretty important when it comes to control. And coupling the upgraded suspension with the Mickey Thompson tyres has made the Triton a more than capable off-roader.
A word, too, from experience: “I would use adjustable struts and shocks over the non-tunable variety next time, just to avoid doing it twice.”
“The best feature of the vehicle would be the traction control – but only in certain situations,” Scott adds. “The fact that you can turn it off and on is great, because in mud and rough terrain it works well, but not on the beach – as the traction control kicks in, it takes your speed away so you lose momentum.”
Other benefits of the re-fit? “The addition of the roof tent and National Luna Fridge makes camping very comfortable, which is important if you want your wife to come along. The tent also has a clever quick-release system so the whole roof tent can be removed easily to create more storage up top.” Scott’s still working on perfecting the Triton.
“High on the list of to-dos is a long-range fuel tank, dual-battery system and snorkel,” he says.
Scott’s tested out his mods in some fairly trying conditions. “The Triton recently did a trip to Southern Cross and the surrounding goldfields area. It performed really well in the less than favourable conditions. Great trip too – it’s good to get away sometimes and the area we were in felt very isolated from the rest of the world.”
He gets plenty out of closer, long-weekend destinations too, and lists Brunswick, Lancelin and Pemberton as his favourite, easily accessible WA spots. He also reckons Mt Terrible, back in Victoria, is a great destination.
Scott says building up a good tourer is a team effort. “I’d like to thank Chris and his team down at Opposite Lock in Jandakot,” he says.
“They have been really important in getting the Triton sorted and making it as capable as it is. Plus my mate Craig, who’s a great sounding board and, most importantly, my beautiful wife for putting up with me!” Smart thinking, Scott – say nice things about your wife before you ask for the okay to install those extra bits…
Scott’s approach to tweaking his Triton has been spot-on, and he’s had plenty of fun to prove it. “If you get the right information and have your accessories professionally installed, you won’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere when something lets go in the worst way.”
Sounds like good advice.