Nissan GU Patrol wagon is now a bad-ass rig.
Transformed from a standard GU wagon to a stonking, giant-killing ute.
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.