To celebrate a milestone, ARB took four classic 4x4s to the Simpson.
ARB celebrates its 40th birthday by buying, fixing and equipping four iconic 4x4s, and then sending them on the ultimate off-road adventure.
BORN in 1975 in a suburban Melbourne backyard, ARB celebrated its 40th year of operations in 2015. So it was last year that the company started hatching plans for its Off Road Icons project: get a bunch of oldschool four-wheel drives together, fix them up, kit them out and send them across the Simpson Desert.
The idea was a beauty. Not only would it be a great way to mark the company’s four decades in business, but it would also prove you don’t need a shiny new vehicle to tackle such an iconic trip, and that even if you own a vehicle up to 40 years old, ARB can still supply accessories to suit it. In fact, just about all of the gear fitted to these four vehicles is still available through ARB stores around the country.
The four Off Road Icons were sourced from different states. The lads at ARB HQ in Kilsyth, Victoria, were charged with finding a suitable Toyota FJ40 Landcruiser; ARB in Western Australia found a 300Tdi Land Rover Defender; ARB Queensland picked up a Toyota LN106 Hilux (the last of the live-axle models); and ARB NSW headed to Orange where it had located a well-used but very standard Nissan GQ Patrol.
Of course, with some of the Icon’s odos showing well in excess of 300,000km, the vehicles would need some serious mechanical attention if they were to successfully cross the largest sand desert in the world. That is what they got, with one of them receiving a complete engine transplant prior to departure.
Driving the Icons across the Simpson Desert would be a motley crew of 4x4 journos from all corners of the globe. From the US there would be Chris Collard, 4X4 Australia’s US Correspondent and Editor
of US magazine Overland
Journal; Fred Williams from Petersen’s Four Wheeler
Network; and Wes Siler from respected adventure publication Outside. From the UK would be South African Patrick Cruywagen, Deputy Editor of Land
Rover Monthly, also writing for South African magazine
Leisure Wheels. From China would be publisher Wang Qing (pronounced von-ching) from
FB Life. And from Australia would be Sam Purcell from digital publication Unsealed
4X4, and yours truly from 4X4 Australia.
As well as the four Icons, the fleet would consist of several current model vehicles including a new Toyota Hilux driven by ARB Marketing Manager Sam Boden and ARB International Marketing expert Moea Theroux; a Toyota 79 Series Landcruiser ‘back-up truck’ driven by trip organiser Mark Lowry; a Mazda BT-50 ‘tucker truck’ driven by David Cox (previously of Mt Dare Hotel fame) and co-piloted by experienced bush-cook Vicky Lennox; and a Ford Ranger ‘photo car’ jammed full of camera and video gear driven by Offroad Images’ Michael Ellem and Adam Bennett.
Before the start of the trip, the four Off Road Icons were shipped from their respective home states and given a thorough check-over at Outback 4WD in Bayswater, Victoria. Several mechanical issues were detected and rectified prior to departure, including sourcing and installing a new 300Tdi engine in the Defender, which was performed by ARB’S resident Landy expert Stephen Lawn.
Once fully prepped and equipped with gear, the Icons were shipped to ARB Alice Springs, where they were stored until the landing of the trip participants. The ARB crew arrived first, having driven up from Melbourne over a few days, while Michael Ellem had driven across from Sydney with his wife Gabrielle. The journos had all flown in to Alice by Monday afternoon and, after heading into town to get some lastminute supplies and taking a short drive out to the Tropic of Capricorn monument for a happy snap, we all met up for an introductory dinner.
While some of the OS journos had travelled extensively in Australia before, we soon discovered that others had never landed on our shores before. We also found out Wang Qing’s mastery of the English language was, in fact, extremely limited. Nevertheless, after a feed, a few drinks and plenty of laughs, we soon knew we were all going to get along well, and we were all eager to get going.
TOYOTA HILUX LAND ROVER DEFENDER
TOYOTA LANDCRUISER NISSAN PATROL
Preparing for departure on ANZAC Hill in Alice Springs.
A spectacular full moon lit the way... when the sky was clear.
Mud, glorious mud! A very wet desert crossing.
Time out before we tackle the last slippery section in to Mt Dare. Wang Qing’s English wasn’t great, but he knew the word for beer. All of the tracks were open, but conditions were certainly tricky.