D40 Navara cus­tom-built on a tight bud­get.

It doesn’t take an open cheque­book to build the per­fect camp­ing rig.


THE 4X4 ute mar­ket has been hotly con­tested ever since there was a 4x4 ute mar­ket to con­test. Ev­ery up­dated model is de­signed to one-up the com­pe­ti­tion in tow­ing ca­pac­ity, han­dling, fuel econ­omy and style. The Hilux may be the bench­mark all the oth­ers are com­pared to but Nis­san’s Navara has been go­ing toe to toe with the mar­ket leader for three decades and rep­re­sents se­ri­ous bang for your buck. When you fac­tor in that it’s often ahead of the curve in terms of de­sign and sus­pen­sion sys­tems, the Navara starts rep­re­sent­ing se­ri­ous value for money.

It was this value that first caught Reece’s eye. When he started the hunt for a 4x4 ute that’d come with mod­ern re­li­a­bil­ity and re­fine­ments, as well as take him to the many sand is­lands in south-east Queens­land, the Navara was head and shoul­ders above the rest. He’s been able to tweak it into a pur­pose-built tourer ca­pa­ble of camp­ing trips along the beach, boys’ week­ends through the bush and the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenge of them all, the daily grind.

The D40 might have been a sig­nif­i­cant leap forward over the pre­vi­ous D22, but it wasn’t quite enough for Reece. The so­lu­tion was sim­ple and in­volved en­list­ing a few of the best cus­tom shops on the east coast.

The first call was to the guys at In-house Fab­ri­ca­tion, who are re­spon­si­ble for the trick stain­less-steel work run­ning around the Navara’s front end.

The new in­take sys­tem starts off with the stain­less-steel snorkel fun­nelling fresh

air into the en­gine bay and through the cus­tom air­box and Fore­front In­dus­tries in­take pipe. From there the stock turbo cranks the am­bi­ent air up to an im­pres­sive 25psi, re­quir­ing an ex­ten­sive in­ter­cooler set-up on the hot side and a grate on the end of the snorkel to en­sure no birds or small chil­dren are sucked into the en­gine on full noise.

The in­ter­cooler pip­ing is also the hand­i­work of In-house Fab­ri­ca­tion, though the 450x300x76mm in­ter­cooler is an off-the-shelf item from Aeroflow Per­for­mance. Help­ing the Navara get on boost ear­lier is a turbo back three-inch ex­haust sys­tem with an HPD oil catch can tucked in the al­ready tight en­gine bay.

With all the go-fast bits fit­ted and an ag­gres­sive tune the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel re­cently pushed out 190rwhp on the Just Au­tos dyno, a 55 per cent in­crease over the first run of 122rwhp. How­ever, with the stock turbo now work­ing at break­ing point it’ll soon be re­placed with a larger unit with the aim of 230rwhp – a 112 per cent in­crease. The naysay­ers of Navara re­li­a­bil­ity might be hum­bled to learn that the stan­dard driv­e­train is hold­ing steady, al­beit with a heavy-duty clutch slot­ted in front of the stan­dard five-speed man­ual cog-swap­per.

Along with the sig­nif­i­cant power up­grades, Reece’s Navara has had more than a few af­ter­mar­ket com­po­nents tucked un­der­neath.

The front is sit­ting five inches closer to the clouds thanks to a mix-and-match of com­po­nents from around the globe. There’s a five-inch bracket lift from Calmini in the US teamed up with Aus­tralian-made King Springs and TJM struts. Heavy-duty Calmini spin­dles pro­vide a much-needed strength up­grade, while there are ad­justable up­per con­trol arms from Queens­land’s Per­for­mance Sus­pen­sion Racing to help dial in the align­ment for op­ti­mum han­dling.

Mov­ing to the rear, the live-axle and leaf-spring

ar­range­ment has made for a much sim­pler up­grade path. There’s a set of no-name twoinch-lifted leaf springs lo­cat­ing the rear diff, with Out­back Ar­mour shocks keep­ing them un­der con­trol. That doesn’t come close to match­ing the five inches of lift up front, so ac­com­pa­ny­ing them are a set of two-inch lift blocks bolted be­tween the leaf springs and axle. The fi­nal ex­tra inch of lift comes from ex­tended Calmini shack­les, lev­el­ling it out with the front.

To help the Navara float across sand and mud, Reece opted for a set of larger rolling stock in the form of 285/75R16 Mickey Thomp­son MTZS. To keep un­der the radar from the long ap­pendage of the law they’ve been wrapped around 16x7in faux-locked Dy­namic steel wheels, with a +13 off­set keep­ing them in the arches.

Up front the Navara has had a se­ri­ous facelift, with a colour-coded ARB deluxe bull­bar pro­vid­ing in­valu­able de­fence for the ra­di­a­tor and af­ter­mar­ket ‘an­gel eyes’ LED head­lights. Bolted be­tween the front posts is a pair of Hella HID driv­ing lights, while the aerial feeds into the GME UHF in­side. With the Navara spend­ing most of its life on the sand, Reece has for­gone the usual winch to main­tain a lighter front end; he keeps a snatch strap and pair of bow shack­les at hand in­stead.

To round out the front pro­tec­tion pack­age there’s a cus­tom bash plate wrap­ping the front diff, with a second Calmini item tucked un­der­neath. The front bar is only one part of a larger bar­work pack­age keep­ing the Navara in one piece. Down the flanks there’s a set of rock slid­ers from Phat Bars and a Jack rear bar from MCC 4x4. Reece as­sures us the rear bar has pulled more than a few Hiluxes out of strife.

In­side the rear tray are two factory sport

racks. While there’s a stock one in its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion – it has been painted black – Reece picked up a second rack and mod­i­fied it to suit the rear – it’s been flipped and painted to match the front rack.

The rack up top not only dou­bles the avail­able stor­age for swags and bulky items but makes for an easy mount­ing sys­tem for the 2.5 x 2.5m awning on the pas­sen­ger side, some­thing most utes strug­gle to mount.

Reece has fol­lowed the same sim­ple ap­proach in the cab, with a few taste­ful mods, in­clud­ing a larger stereo, boost and volt gauges tucked into a VY Com­modore gauge pod, and neo­prene seat cov­ers. He’s bucked the trend to­wards big-dol­lar builds. In­stead, a sim­ple up­grade here, a lit­tle clever think­ing there, and the re­sult is a 4x4 per­fect for get­ting him out on the tracks with his mates from the Elite Breed 4x4 Club and Nis­san Navara Bris­bane group.

For around the price of a new hatch­back, Reece has built him­self a re­li­able late-model 4x4 more than equipped to get out and ex­plore ev­ery­thing south-east Queens­land has to of­fer. With a heap of power un­der his right foot, it’s guar­an­teed to al­ways leave a smile on his face!

Reece has built him­self a re­li­able late-model 4x4 more than equipped to get out and ex­plore ev­ery­thing south-east Queens­land has to of­fer

Reece kept things sim­ple in the cab, with only mi­nor changes.

Ex­tra gauges sit neatly in a dash-pod lifted from a Com­modore.

In-house Fab­ri­ca­tion in­ter­cooler pip­ing.

Tough-as-nails ARB deluxe bull­bar.

Stain­less steel snorkel feeds air into the en­gine through a Fore­front In­dus­tries in­take pipe.

Five-inch bracket lift and stronger spin­dles from Calmini in the US.

Phat Bar rock slid­ers pro­tect the flanks.

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