Ballsy White-wolf Hilux gets the AFN treat­ment.

4 x 4 Australia - - Front Page - WORDS BY BRUCE MCMA­HON PHO­TOS BY ELLEN DEWAR

It’s a head-turn­ing, out-of-my-way cruiser, thanks to some cos­metic touches and hand­some AFN gear

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 blackand-white treat­ment as a 24/7 rolling ad­vert. The re­sult is a head-turn­ing, out-ofmy-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

Runva 11XP Pre­mium winch with Dyneema rope and that nifty hitch; 6mm al­loy pro­tec­tion plates

shield the Lux’s un­der­side com­po­nents.

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] ad­dons,” 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 ve­hi­cle­spe­cific, 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 load­car­rier. 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.

CON­TACT

AFN 4x4 Aus­tralia 19B Flin­ders Pa­rade, North Lakes, 4509, Qld Email: sales@afn4x4.com.au Phone: 1300 AFN 4X4

Wolf di­rec­tor Ash­ley Gib­bons (left) with AFN’S Gavin Duffield. In­te­rior is vir­tu­ally un­touched; front bar has light and jack­ing points.

Driv­e­train is the stan­dard 2.8litre diesel en­gine mated to a six-speed auto trans­mis­sion.

AFN rear bar in­cludes the tow bar, which wears an Out­back Ar­mour re­cov­ery hitch and shackle. Is that a chrome han­dle we see there, Gavin? beach isn’t the nat­u­ral habi­tat of the white wolf, but it felt right at home.

AFN front bar sits snugly on the ve­hi­cle, for looks and to im­prove the ap­proach an­gle.

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