CUS­TOM: MAZDA BT-50

Why wait for re­tire­ment to do the big loop?

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

WHEN PEO­PLE think of do­ing the big lap they typ­i­cally think one of two things. The griz­zled grey no­mads, skin beaten by a life­time of ad­ven­tures, re­tire­ment funds cashed in, in­her­i­tance sunk into diesel and a slow am­bling lap around the con­ti­nent stop­ping off at all the places they never got to the first time. The other thing that springs to mind is the young ad­ven­ture fam­ily. Raised on a diet of Steve Ir­win and The Wild Thorn­ber­rys, they’ve packed it in for a life on the road be­fore the kids hit school, the last taste of free­dom be­fore fac­ing a 30-year slog in a mort­gage. They’re both the per­fect way to see Aus­tralia, and some­thing more and more of us are do­ing ev­ery year. But Kane doesn’t think that way, he’s a lit­tle freer spir­ited. De­spite lin­ing his im­mac­u­late BT-50 up for a shoot just north of Sydney, he’s now a fair chunk far­ther north. Some­where be­tween Bundy and Mackay, with a few hun­dred kilo­me­tres be­tween him and the clos­est thing re­sem­bling a city.

De­spite only be­ing 22, Kane fig­ured there’s no time like the present, so he built the right ve­hi­cle, roped in a mate, and started cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing one of the most re­mote con­ti­nents in the world. By the time Kane’s BT am­bles its way through Sydney again it’ll no doubt be sport­ing more than a few new bat­tle scars and end­less red dirt in­side and out, but, for now, the set-up to see Aus­tralia is far sim­pler than you might ex­pect.

The foun­da­tion for every­thing Kane’s done is his 2016 BT-50 dual cab. “I’d been eye­ing off the Rangers,” he tells us with all the ur­gency of a man with no alarm clock. “Af­ter pric­ing them up, I fig­ured I could get the same spec in the BT and put $13,000 into mods for the same price. Now, I’ve spent some time with it I ac­tu­ally pre­fer the look of the BTS as well.”

DE­SPITE BE­ING ONLY 22 KANE FIG­URED THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT, SO HE BUILT THE RIGHT VE­HI­CLE

So what does $13,000 worth of mods look like? While lift and tyres grab at­ten­tion, Kane reck­ons the must-have mod­i­fi­ca­tions so far have been the bar-work. “I don’t want to have to turn around be­cause the track gets too gnarly,” Kane says with a laugh. “I built it to get me where I want to go with­out break­ing shit.”

Kick­ing off the pro­tec­tion pack­age up front is none other than the ven­er­a­ble ARB bull­bar. The colour-coded Sa­hara unit blends in seam­lessly with the BT’S lines, and, with the blacked-out top hoop, pro­vides am­ple pro­tec­tion for the ra­di­a­tor against ru­ral animal strikes. The ARB’S bash plates line up with the fac­tory of­fer­ings un­der­neath to pro­tect the BT’S un­men­tion­ables all the way back to the gear­box. The abil­ity to self-re­cover is a get-out-of-gaol-free card when solo trav­el­ling, so Kane’s stuffed the ARB bar with a 12,000lb winch and syn­thetic rope. Also nes­tled within the top hoop are a pair of Narva Ul­tima 225 HID lights.

Mov­ing down the flanks of the BT and the vul­ner­a­ble sill pan­els have been beefed up, thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of round and box tube from the guys at South­ern Cross Fab­works in the form of their an­gled-up slid­ers. While they dou­ble as a side­step they’re also a handy high­lift jack­ing point and have al­ready glanced off count­less rocks and ruts. Up top the black-on­sil­ver theme con­tin­ues. Kane’s fit­ted up a Rhi­no­rack Tradies rack for ad­di­tional stor­age when the tray and back-seat are burst­ing with tea-

“I BUILT IT TO GET ME WHERE I WANT TO GO WITH­OUT BREAK­ING SHIT”

tow­els from the croc-tent. It’s mounted on their slim-line Back­bone Sys­tem that braces the rack against the full length of the roof and looks horn in the process.

While the tub’s quar­ter pan­els re­main vul­ner­a­ble for now, it’s above where it re­ally shines. With the fac­tory roll bar blacked out, Kane turned his at­ten­tion to a rack for his set-up. The unique ar­range­ment takes ad­van­tage of two stock sports bars mod­i­fied into some­thing fit for the big lap. The set-up clamps on and off with a few over-cen­tre latches, let­ting Kane go from over­land travel mode to dirt bike in the back in just a few min­utes. The rack not only holds the stan­dard fit­ment roll-out awning, but it also sports a roof-top tent. There’s a set of Treds mounted along the driver’s flank, too, if Kane’s am­bi­tions out­weigh his tal­ents.

Of course, stan­dard rolling stock will last about 300 me­tres when the go­ing gets se­ri­ously tough, so Kane’s thrown the sil­ver beauty up on a hoist and gone to town. The most no­tice­able up­grade is the chunky Baja ATZ P3 tyres. Mickey Thomp­son’s rel­a­tively new ag­gres­sive all-ter­rain is the per­fect com­pan­ion for the big lap and, com­ing in a hair un­der 33 inches at 285/75R16, pro­vides Kane with an ex­tra few inches of clear­ance un­der the diffs. He’s wrapped them around a set of 0-off­set 16-inch Dy­namic D-lock steel wheels with a clip-on steel ring pro­tect­ing the tyre’s bead.

Now tyres that size were never fit­ting in­side the wheel arches at stan­dard height, not un­less they were per­suaded with a ball-pein ham­mer. Rather than tak­ing to his new ute like Tony So­prano in a dimly lit laneway, Kane in­stead opted for a 50mm lift all-round. Up front, mono-tube Bil­stein struts swap out the stock of­fer­ings and pro­vide a much im­proved ride over stock, with plenty of grunt to take on end­less cor­ru­ga­tions. They’re shod in heavy-duty coils from Calof­froad, per­fectly matched to the

THE MOST NO­TABLE UP­GRADE IS THE CHUNKY BAJA ATZ P3 TYRES

“IF WE COME OUT WITH­OUT ANY­THING TOO BRO­KEN, WE’LL HEAD ACROSS THE SA­VAN­NAH WAY OVER TO DAR­WIN”

ex­act weight of the BT’S nose. Up the back Kane’s opted for an­other set of Bil­stein’s finest, this time they’re con­trol­ling a set of com­fort-rated EFS leaf springs.

Kane has taken that less-is-more ap­proach to every­thing in 2018: the in­te­rior is stan­dard, shy of a dual-bat­tery set-up and GME UHF; the driv­e­train is stock, with just a Fab­u­lous Fab snorkel; and the cal­en­dar is free. “We’re just head­ing north, all the way to the tip,” Kane tells us. “If we come out with­out any­thing too bro­ken we’ll head across the Sa­van­nah Way over to Dar­win.”

Six months from now Kane could be rolling into Perth or work­ing on a fish­ing boat in the Gulf; he doesn’t know and that’s what’s in­spir­ing. When we’re all con­stantly told you can’t head off for a week­end on the tracks with­out $150,000 worth of 6x6 con­ver­sions, Kane’s turned his phone off and headed off to do it his own way.

Colour-coded ARB bull­bar is a seam­less match with the BT-50’S style lines.

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