To cel­e­brate a mile­stone, ARB took four clas­sic 4x4s to the Simp­son.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

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.



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.

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