Spend time with Daniel Hearn and you can’t help but get drawn in by his infectious passion and sense of adventure when it comes to four-wheel driving.
This article was originally published in 4x4 Australia’s September 2012 issue.
Daniel has incredible tenacity and patience. Combining those traits with an in-depth knowledge of his vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses has seen Daniel successfully craft himself a very capable and well set up tourer, perfectly adapted to take on the challenge of difficult terrain. But Daniel has also retained a safe, reliable and comfortable vehicle ideally suited for extended driving holidays to remote bush settings.
Purchased new, the 2007 Patrol GU needed just a little bit of “tweaking”. Daniel’s never been known to do things by half, so the Patrol hasn’t had a moment’s rest; its transition to the ranks of custom tourer was achieved in record time. It was immediately fitted with a four-inch lift and 35-inch rubber ready for its first adventure. Keen to get the right set-up for his needs Daniel then tried a six-inch lift, dropped it to two inches then back to three, which he’s found provides the best compromise between off-road flexibility and on-road comfort and stability.
Daniel explains: “To get to that point I tested various combinations of shocks and springs from Dobinsons and Tough Dog, finally settling on an Old Man Emu (OME) combination of springs and long-travel sports shocks. The on-road handling is very good and I’ve yet to fault them in the bush. When they are ready for replacement I’ll most likely go for remote-canister shocks that offer greater ability to handle high temperatures experienced on lengthy corrugated roads.”
The Patrol’s front shock towers have been extended to accept the longer OME shocks, with dislocation cones allowing the rear springs to drop away for maximum wheel travel and then reseat on the rebound. Daniel also strengthened the rear spring perches for added durability in the rough, a problem area on Patrols when they’re being worked hard off-road. The final additions to the underbody off-road arsenal are adjustable Panard rods, an adjustable front drag link and adjustable Snake Racing lower-rear arms.
Not content with the standard Nissan steel bullbar, Daniel fitted an impressive tube bar, which was subsequently modified to suit his specific needs. The next challenge will be to remove the low-mount Warn winch in favour of a high-mount unit with greater capacity and strength. While retaining the mounting-point brackets from the original sliders, Daniel made new slider rails to better protect the body’s sill panel while minimising potential hang-ups on sharp rampover angles.
Daniel’s mate Ash Belich custom-fabricated two rear bars to suit the GU. Given the solid construction, strength and good looks, it’s easy to see why Daniel wasted no time in laying claim to the second bar. Ash had already designed the bar with dual stub-axle mounts, so Daniel and another mate, Lee Coupe, fabricated a wheel carrier that provides the perfect mounting platform for two rear work lights.
It’s easy to see this is no off-the-shelf Patrol customisation with Daniel’s own designed, fabricated, superbly crafted and serious-looking four-inch stainless-steel snorkel gracing the passenger side of the vehicle. It suggests that there’s something more than a bit special under the bonnet.
I asked Daniel how he’d found the 3.0-litre diesel especially when pulling his camper trailer through the bush. If Daniel was starting over he would have gone looking for a 4.2-litre six and side-stepped the 3.0-litre. Daniel said “I understand the 4.2 had run its course with emission standards, but what about the V6 in the Navara? Reckon the aftermarket boys will have a field day with that donk. Can you imagine how many Patrols would race out of showrooms with a 550Nm V6 up-front – you gotta wonder.”
But with the 3.0-litre four firmly in the engine bay, the smart thing was to make the best of it. “It’s not a bad motor,” Daniel reckons, “but it really benefits considerably from a little bit of expert tuning, and I have to take my hat off to the work done by Matt Craig at United Fuel Injection.
“I now run a custom-made three-inch mandrel-bent exhaust to minimise exhaust restrictions. There’s a Rapid Chip altering the factory fuel mapping, a larger bonnet scoop and airbox with bigger capacity intercooler to reduce air temperatures. Each adds to the overall improvements in throttle response and torque, which makes for crisp acceleration and strong pulling power – a real advantage in soft sand or overtaking with the trailer.”
Daniel confirmed he’d had some typical annoyances from the factory ECU-controlled turbo boost. It can be erratic with high-pressure spikes and fluctuations, depending on driving circumstances.
He told me he’d installed the popular needle-valve solution to control the rate of turbo spool, and a Dawes valve to moderate maximum boost to 20psi at full throttle and 4000rpm. This combination removes the pressure spikes and provides a smoother, more linear boost under high engine loads. Daniel also advised me that once making the changes it’s an absolute must to have a boost and exhaust temperature gauge to keep things in check. There’s also a catch-can to stop the build-up of oil residue on the mass air-flow sensor (MAF). Add in a new module – on order – to remove the drive-by-wire throttle-actuator delay and the problem should be well sorted.
Even with the mods to date, Daniel doesn’t think the potential for the engine has been fully explored. In its current guise it makes a respectable 135kW and a healthy 400Nm. But there is a new turbo on the way with the possibility of adding methanol injection to keep the edge off those higher exhaust temperatures when working it hard.
Understandably, with the extra power and torque, there’s more stress and strain on driveline components. Daniel’s running a heavy-duty clutch to ensure all the additional power gets to the ground. The composition of the friction plates also tolerates greater temperatures if there’s slippage when on hills or rock-climbing.
The Patrol runs the standard Nissan rear limited-slip differential, which Daniel reckons is the best feature of the standard vehicle: “it’s so strong … even the comp guys use them”. Mind you, a little extra traction assistance comes from what Daniel regards as his most practical accessory, a Lock Right unit installed in the front differential. “It’s just that little bit of extra bite to get further before breaking out the winch.”
Daniel has a brand-new set of ARB Air Lockers taking up room under his bed … because he’s just hasn’t yet found any obstacle that the standard limited-slip and Lock Right combo can’t handle. I suspect that this is testament not just to the current set-up, but also his driving skill.
Keeping everything off the ground is a smart-looking set of 16-inch alloys, which Daniel picked up second-hand for only $400.
He also scored a set of brand-new old-style Mickey Thompson Baja Claws, which are perfect for his more adventurous outings. Daniel did mention that running the larger tyres meant the engine was working harder and the speedo was out. However, swapping over the diff from the standard 4.1:1 to the 4.3:1 used with the automatic Patrol gets everything back on track.
For night driving, Daniel’s fitted higher output globes to the Patrol’s standard head lights to complement the three Rallye 4000s driving lights that run 75-watt HID upgrades.
Look inside and Daniel’s been at it again, designing and fabricating most of his own gear. At the rear, there’s a large storage drawer, a fridge compartment complete with aftermarket fridge slide, plus an overhead cage to mount cookers and Daniel’s favourite accessory, the 12-volt oven.
“I pull up and enjoy a hot lunch while my mates are still standing around scratching their heads looking at frozen bread in the fridge or eating a sloppy salad roll they bought several hours earlier from a servo.”
Daniel’s fitted a space-case in place of the passenger’s rear seat to house recovery gear and other essentials such as a tyre-repair kit. The space-case actually serves a dual purpose as he’s made a top cover, which is exactly the same height as the rear door, to provide a level surface for sleeping, if the need arises.
He’s fabricated a table that drops down from the rear doors for food preparation, with holders for soap and dishwashing dispensers. There’s also a 20-litre tank for fresh water, supplied through a caravan pump with a handy outlet on the passenger’s rear door. A Glynd heat exchanger under the bonnet also makes it possible to have a hot shower at day’s end.
And while you’re camping at night, there’s enough stereo power to hold a small music festival. The system uses large Kenwood and Clarion amps driving Clarion speakers and a 13-inch subwoofer, all centrally controlled via a Jenson remote-screen audio deck. Meanwhile, a GME 4400 UHF covers the communication requirements.
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Inside the Patrol, there’s a roll bar for added protection should the unthinkable happen, and Daniel’s custom-designed and built dash pod incorporates winch controls and switches for the lights, the 12-volt oven, the air compressor, and those unused Air-Locker buttons.
Navigation duties are covered by a Magellan GPS and the Street/Off Road Magellan Crossover unit. The Media tech seven-inch touch-screen system provides easy access to OziExplorer and Hema maps.
Up top there’s a Rhino roof-rack and a Foxwing awning that offers a quickly deployed shelter from the elements to help enjoy a spot of lunch or a cold ale at the end of a long day’s driving.
Vehicles like Daniel’s evolve over time, as you learn what does and doesn’t work for your specific needs. Doing so much work yourself saves you money but the real bonus is a vehicle that’s priceless. Daniel can be rightly very proud of his 2007 GU Patrol and the level of capability and functionality it now offers.