4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - DEAN MEL­LOR

IT WAS a lit­tle over a year ago when I wrote about driv­ing a bog-stan­dard 1991 Nissan GQ Pa­trol. The then-25-year-old wagon proved re­mark­ably ca­pa­ble of­froad and rea­son­ably com­fort­able on it – even by to­day’s stan­dards.

Sure, it proved woe­fully un­der­pow­ered when con­fronted with steep in­clines on the high­way, but the en­gine’s mod­est 85kw and 264Nm were put to good use off the road thanks to the Pa­trol’s de­cent lowrange gear­ing. With plenty of wheel travel, loads of ground clear­ance and a rea­son­ably ef­fec­tive lim­ited-slip rear diff, the stock GQ would’ve put many a mod­ern 4WD to shame on rough off-road terrain.

By the time you read this col­umn I’ll have been reac­quainted with that same Pa­trol, but it’s no longer the stan­dard, tired, old (338,000km) wagon it once was. In fact, it’s been patched up, mod­i­fied and ac­ces­sorised. Now it is ready to take on a two-week trip across the Simp­son Desert, start­ing in Alice Springs and fin­ish­ing up in Bro­ken Hill.

I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to get­ting back into the Pa­trol, but I’ll be damn care­ful to make sure I’m not the first per­son to put a scratch on it; it’s been given a full re-spray and fit­ted with colour­matched front and rear bars, side rails, side steps and roof rack.

Un­der the bon­net the old TD42 4.2-litre diesel en­gine has been given a se­ri­ous boost in power and torque thanks to the fit­ment of a Sa­fari turbo sys­tem con­sist­ing a tur­bocharger, in­ter­cooler and ex­haust. That should amount to 140kw and 430Nm or so – the sort of power and torque out­puts that driv­ers of mod­ern turbo-diesel en­gines are now ac­cus­tomed to.

The in­side of the Pa­trol has also been given a makeover, and a pair of Re­caro seats will en­sure it’s as com­fort­able to drive as any mod­ern 4x4 wagon. Some of the safety and con­ve­nience fea­tures in­clude a cargo bar­rier, drawer sys­tem, fridge slide and roof con­sole, as well as a host of gauges to dis­play boost, EGT and bat­tery sta­tus.

To tackle the red dunes of the Simp­son, the Pa­trol has been given a three-inch ride height in­crease thanks to an OME sus­pen­sion sys­tem and 33x12.5in R15 Cooper STT Pro tyres on Track steel rims. Air lock­ers are fit­ted front and rear, plus there’s a Warn winch up front in case the Pa­trol has to re­cover any ‘mod­ern’ ve­hi­cles it en­coun­ters along the way.

Other ac­ces­sories fit­ted to the GQ in­clude a Sa­fari snorkel; a dual-bat­tery set-up con­sist­ing of an ARB bat­tery tray; Redarc BCDC bat­tery charger and 55Ah Op­tima Yel­low Top bat­tery; In­ten­sity LED driv­ing lights; and a Kay­mar rear bar with twin wheel car­ri­ers.

The Pa­trol won’t be the only old ve­hi­cle on this trip, which has been or­gan­ised by ARB to cel­e­brate its 40-plus years of oper­a­tion. Called the ARB Off Road Icons, the other ve­hi­cles join­ing the GQ Pa­trol will be a Toy­ota FJ40 Landcruiser, a liveaxle (LN106) Toy­ota Hilux, and a Land Rover De­fender 300Tdi. All have been given sim­i­lar makeovers to the Pa­trol. So, de­spite their age, they should have no prob­lems travers­ing the iconic Simp­son Desert’s red dunes.

What will the Off Road Icons trip prove? It will un­doubt­edly show that you don’t need to spend big on a brand new 4x4 to get out there and en­joy Aus­tralia’s most iconic off-road des­ti­na­tions. Just about all of the gear fit­ted to these 20-plus-yearold ve­hi­cles is still avail­able, in­clud­ing bull­bars, rear-step bars, roof racks, dual bat­tery sys­tems, turbo kits and more.

With the right trip prepa­ra­tion and quality equip­ment on your side, you should be able to tackle just about any off-road trip in any old 4x4, which is just as well be­cause one day I want to do the Madi­gan Line in a Se­ries IIA SWB Landy – with the roof down – wear­ing a wide-brimmed hat.

Any Land Rover me­chan­ics keen to come along for the ride?

The GQ Pa­trol will join the De­fender, FJ40 and Hilux on ARB’S Off Road Icons trip!

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