Nissan GU Pa­trol wagon is now a bad-ass rig.

Trans­formed from a stan­dard GU wagon to a stonk­ing, gi­ant-killing ute.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS DAN EVERETT IM­AGES NATHAN DUFF

AUS­TRALIA is full of ute lovers. It’s a na­tion where cities are few and far be­tween and there’s al­ways work to be done. Utes are in­grained in our cul­ture, so much so that even the lux­ury Euro­pean brands are start­ing to catch on to the dual-cab mar­ket. Nissan never re­ally clicked to the idea that maybe, just maybe, a dual-cab ute with the ride quality and strength of its TD42 Pa­trol might just be the per­fect 4x4 for Aus­tralian con­di­tions. Where Nissan may have stum­bled, Craig Mcgui­ness was happy to pick up that idea and run with it.

When Craig first got his hands on the 2004 GU Pa­trol it was owned by his brother-in-law and still looked very much like a wagon. Even­tu­ally, as they of­ten do, the ZD30 went pop, so the deal was made and the pair traded ve­hi­cles, with Craig of­fer­ing up his XH XR8 ute.

First cab off the rank was re­plac­ing the dead diesel en­gine. While a re­build might have been the easy op­tion, Craig knew it was only a mat­ter of time un­til it grenaded again and he would be back to square one. He bit the bul­let, yanked the mo­tor, and lined up a 5.7-litre LS1 V8 to re­place the ail­ing diesel.

“I would have loved to have done a diesel en­gine,” Craig told us. “But it was an ex­tra $15K. That buys a lot of petrol, and

LS1S are so cheap now that if some­thing goes wrong it’s not ex­pen­sive to fix.”

The en­gine slot­ted in front of the four­speed au­to­matic 4L60E trans­mis­sion, which is mated to the stan­dard Pa­trol trans­fer case. Be­fore it could fire into life Craig had the guys from Scott’s Rods in Ip­swich piece to­gether a cus­tom ex­haust sys­tem, from man­i­folds through to ex­haust tip, be­fore hav­ing the pack­age tuned by Forced Per­for­mance & Tun­ing in Toowoomba.

It wasn’t long after this, when Craig was kick­ing back on More­ton Is­land with some mates, that the idea of a ute chop first crossed his mind. “The wagon just wasn’t good to camp out of,” Craig said. “With the barn doors on the back you can’t ac­cess any­thing if you have a camper trailer con­nected, and there’s very lit­tle room once you put a big fridge in. I was there with a mate who had a half-de­cent twin-cab-ute set-up, and it was great – more stor­age room and so much eas­ier to ac­cess.”

The de­ci­sion was made, but chop­ping a wagon into a ute isn’t ex­actly a DIY kind of job, es­pe­cially if you’re after a fac­tory fin­ish. So Craig went to see Dar­ren Vassie at Cus­tom RV Cre­ations & Re­pairs. The plan was sim­ple: they’d source a back wall from a GU sin­gle-cab ute, and Dar­ren and the team would slice the back off the wagon and graft the new rear wall into place with fac­tory pre­ci­sion.

“I’m not a fan of clos­ing in the back with a flat sheet of steel,” Dar­ren told us. “You end up with a rough, square edge that makes it look like a back­yard job. We went out of our way to make this look how the

fac­tory would have done it, even adding in a few body lines to make it look right with very lit­tle body filler.”

While the tools were out Dar­ren also re-skinned a dam­aged rear door, re­paired all the dents, and grafted in a fi­bre­glass re­verse-cowl bon­net off a Ca­maro to hint at what lurked un­der­neath. Be­fore the body was re-coated in fac­tory sil­ver, a cus­tom four-inch stain­less-steel snorkel was fabbed up to run along the wind­screen pil­lar.

With the cab now look­ing the part, at­ten­tion turned to the wheel­base. Wag­ons gen­er­ally have a shorter wheel­base than their re­spec­tive ute si­b­lings, so when you lop off a few feet of sheet­metal in a wagon you’re left with very lit­tle room to run a tray, es­pe­cially if you want to keep some sem­blance of de­par­ture an­gle. Dar­ren got out the welder again and pro­ceeded to stretch the GU’S wheel­base by a whop­ping 600mm. This meant the rear axle would line up per­fectly in the mid­dle of the large, new tray the pair concocted.

When it came time to build the tray, noth­ing short of a mas­ter­piece was ever go­ing to cut it for Craig or Dar­ren. Wild camp­ing set-ups that can be driven to the end of the earth and back are kind of Dar­ren’s forte.

The tray is con­structed from 3mm al­loy sheet, with 50x100x8mm al­loy chan­nel pro­vid­ing strength through­out. There are gas struts on both side doors, with com­pres­sion T-han­dle locks and deeper back struc­tures on the doors pro­vid­ing bet­ter wa­ter and dust­proof­ing. The in­te­rior is also decked out to a highly pro­fes­sional fin­ish, with ply floor, roof pan­els and ma­rine car­pet­ing through­out.

The tray has been sep­a­rated into two, with a par­ti­tion run­ning down the cen­tre. The pas­sen­ger side houses both fridges on twin Clearview slides, as well as a sep­a­rate drawer for cook­ing sup­plies. The driver’s side has been di­vided into three draw­ers,

A fir­bre­glass re­verse-cowl bon­net off a Ca­maro hints at the mas­sive mus­cle slot­ted in front of the four-speed 4L60E au­to­matic trans­mis­sion

This might sound like one of the most com­pre­hen­sive builds on the tracks right now, but we’ve barely even scratched the sur­face

with a shelf 300mm down from the roof for stor­age of lighter items – although, with a cus­tom al­loy roof rack bolted to the canopy, stor­age space is never go­ing to be an is­sue.

Hid­den through­out the tray is an elec­tri­cal sys­tem pur­pose-built for re­mote-area tour­ing. Up on the roof rack there’s 150A worth of so­lar pan­els that feed through a com­pres­sion gland in the tray and down into the Redarc bat­tery-man­age­ment sys­tem. From here there’s twin 120A AGM bat­ter­ies pow­er­ing not only the fridge and elec­tri­cal out­lets but the heat ex­changer and wa­ter pump for hot show­ers on the go.

There’s no chance of run­ning out of wa­ter, ei­ther, with 140 litres of on-board ca­pac­ity. There’s plenty of dis­tance to use it, too, thanks to the cus­tom alu­minium long-range tank, which dou­bles the stan­dard fuel tank’s ca­pac­ity.

This might sound like one of the most com­pre­hen­sive builds on the tracks right now, but we’ve barely even scratched the sur­face. It’s one of those ve­hi­cles where a de­ter­mined owner with an un­com­pro­mis­ing goal has worked per­fectly with a tal­ented work­shop.

The proof re­ally is in the pud­ding: a six-inch-lifted V8 Pa­trol on 35s that some­how man­ages to be a near-on per­fect tourer.

5.7L LS1 V8 pro­vides plenty more poke than the old hand grenade. Cus­tom bon­net scoop looks the goods while suck­ing hot air from the en­gine bay.

B&M shifter looks out of place in the Pa­trol

...but Craig’s Pa­trol is any­thing but stan­dard. Heavy-duty four-inch coils part­ner with re­mote re­sevoir shocks. Nissan didn’t build the ve­hi­cle he wanted, so Craig Mcgui­ness did it him­self.

The sil­ver mon­ster on its stretched wheel­base.

A fac­tory GU ute rear panel is grafted on the dual-cab.

Shod with 35s and jacked, side steps were a must. Big-footed: Craig’s choice, All-terrain Goodrich 35s.

Mul­ti­ple stor­age so­lu­tions main­tains or­der – to an ex­tent.

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