4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS DAN EVERETT PHO­TOS ALAS­TAIR BROOK

4WHEEL driv­ing is a game of in­di­vid­u­al­ism. As prag­matic as we like to think of our­selves, the re­al­ity is we’re the black sheep, the ones who rock up to a bar­be­cue with half a pig in­stead of a bot­tle of wine. We’re the ones who dream of spend­ing our hard-earned hol­i­days in the mid­dle of a desert, 1000km from the near­est in­ter­net con­nec­tion with noth­ing but the stars and a camp­fire as com­pany. It’s some­thing that sneaks through with our ve­hi­cles, too.

Even the most prac­ti­cal in our midst still throw a lit­tle flair in: dif­fer­ent tyres than our mates, dif­fer­ent driv­ing lights, trick bar work; all signs that we were never meant to blend in with the crowd. It’s this unique­ness that first drew us to Josh Farmer’s one-of-a-kind Mit­subishi Chal­lenger, a 4WD as un­com­mon as it is prac­ti­cal. Josh first laid eyes on the mid-sized Mitsi a lit­tle over two years ago. With a his­tory in the triple di­a­mond brand and an inkling at the un­tapped po­ten­tial hid­ing un­der­neath, Josh knew he had to have it. Based on the Tri­ton plat­form, the Chal­lenger has a her­itage dat­ing back to the ’70s. They’re adorned with first-place wins from some of the most re­mote coun­tries in the world and, like most ute-based wagons, only make a good thing bet­ter. Of course, all of that is com­pletely point­less if it can’t hold its own on Aussie tracks and, for that, Josh had his work cut out for him.

The first step was pro­vid­ing some se­ri­ous frontal pro­tec­tion. With kan­ga­roos in plague pro­por­tions and droughts driv­ing them closer and closer to main roads, an MCC Fal­con bar seemed like the ob­vi­ous choice; the steel con­struc­tion and in­te­grated up­rights for­tify the Chal­lenger’s fron­tend and vi­tals. Hidden deep within its steel em­brace is a 12,000lb 12V winch for when am­bi­tion out­weighs abil­ity. Josh has specced-up cus­tom-rated re­cov­ery points

straight to the frame when dou­ble line pulls are a must. Mov­ing farther into the bush – and fur­ther down the flanks – Josh’s up-ar­moured the Mitsi’s sills and front guards with a set of in­tri­cately bent tube from Queensland-based Pro Tube­worx.

Giv­ing the Chal­lenger its dis­tinct bushready ap­pear­ance is the one-off rear bar from Jack Diesel Cus­tom & Fab­ri­ca­tions. The staunch, heavy-duty steel of­fer­ing sits high, with a bumper cut pro­tect­ing the rearend sheet­metal while si­mul­ta­ne­ously giv­ing Josh op­tions for mount­ing two full-size spare tyres. Both car­ri­ers swing out with sim­ple over-cen­tre latches, while a Hayman Reese tow­bar keeps Mr Plod happy when the trailer’s hitched.

The ex­ter­nal over­haul is com­pleted with a 120 Se­ries Prado roof rack bolted down to a set of Rhino-rack cross­bars on the stock sports rails run­ning the length of the roof. This plays host to a roll-out awning for quick and easy camp set­ups, while the 42-inch LED light bar and match­ing nineinch LED driv­ing lights up front pro­vide plenty of day­light when the sun dips below the hori­zon.

A se­cret Mit­subishi own­ers don’t want you to know is they’re ac­tu­ally in­cred­i­bly easy to fit su­per-size shoes to; al­most too easy. With mon­ster wheel arches and fac­tory flares, Josh has been able to eas­ily slot in a set of 285/70R17 mud tyres (that’s a hair un­der a 33-inch tyre) front and rear. His tyre of choice is an up­comer in the tyre mar­ket: the Com­forser CF3000. Orig­i­nally wrapped around the stock 17-inch al­loys, Josh has since squeezed them over a set of 17x8-inch Dy­namic D Hole steel wheels; the +10 off­set help­ing to push the Chal­lenger’s stance wider to pro­vide side sta­bil­ity in off-cam­ber sit­u­a­tions. The mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make those fit? A 50mm bodylift. That’s all.

As good as ex­tra clear­ance for tyres is, it doesn’t al­ways equal ex­tra sus­pen­sion travel – wheels on the ground is what keeps 4WDS four-wheel driv­ing. To make the Tri­ton’s strut front end and coil rear end work to

its full po­ten­tial, Josh reached out to the guys from Ul­ti­mate Sus­pen­sion. The bat­tle wagon is run­ning its pro­gres­sive rate heavy-duty springs for an ad­di­tional 50mm lift, giv­ing a ride height in­crease of 100mm over stock. The rear sus­pen­sion has been tweaked to pro­mote more flex when the tracks call for ar­tic­u­la­tion, and the whole lot is kept in line with a full set of nitro-charged twin-tube Ul­ti­mate Sus­pen­sion shocks and struts.

While the mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make the tyres fit may be sim­ple, the mod­i­fi­ca­tions to put a smile on Josh’s face when he hits the loud pedal are any­thing but. Start­ing from the loud end, the 2.5-litre four-cylin­der turbo-diesel huffs clean air through the snorkel run­ning down the A pil­lar. The air is com­pressed through the fac­tory turbo be­fore be­ing squeezed into a full set of stain­less steel in­ter­cooler pipes from Fore­front In­dus­tries, ad­dress­ing one of the only chinks in the Chal­lenger’s ar­mour, split fac­tory in­ter­cooler hoses.

Josh has given the throt­tle re­sponse a hurry-up, too, with a Wind­booster throt­tle con­troller knock­ing out some of the throt­tle

lag, be­fore the spent gases bark their way out the rear through a full 3-inch ex­haust sys­tem cour­tesy of Scott’s Rods. From here, power is sent through the five-speed fac­tory auto tranny, be­fore Mit­subishi’s Su­per Se­lect 4WD sys­tem fires power off to the front open diff and locked rear diff. To en­sure the oily bits stay in­side the en­gine, Josh fit­ted a set of 4mm-thick Bush­skinz bash plates to pro­tect the in­ter­cooler and en­gine sump, with a Boo’s plate pro­tect­ing the auto trans.

Much like the driv­e­line and sus­pen­sion, the Mit­subishi’s in­te­rior is so close to the mark from stock there’s very lit­tle needed in the mod­i­fi­ca­tion front to make it a ca­pa­ble tourer. The first chip off the block was up­graded mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems to en­sure the en­gine stays in one piece. A twin-gauge pil­lar pod has been tweaked for the Chal­lenger’s unique pil­lar pro­file be­fore be­ing filled with SAAS boost and EGT gauges. An En­gine Data Scan sys­tem also got the nod to keep an eye on the diesel’s vi­tals on re­mote trips. A Uniden UHF got op­tioned up for in­ter­con­voy comms, with an ex­ten­sive Sony stereo re­plac­ing the Chal­lenger’s fac­tory of­fer­ing.

Round­ing out the tour­ing setup was pretty ba­sic. A set of re­mov­able tubs store Josh’s camp­ing gear, help­ing keep weight down in the rear; the stock seats have been tweaked to im­prove lum­bar sup­port, and he’s added a few bits of in­te­rior pro­tec­tion here and there to keep it in one piece for years to come. In fact, the only ques­tion re­ally hang­ing over Josh’s head is if he’ll bolt the rooftop tent down for long trips or throw a swag in the back for hard­core week­enders. One thing is for sure, though, Aus­tralian 4WDS are get­ting more unique, and that’s a win in any­one’s book.

Tyres are from Chi­nese brand Com­forser, an up-and-com­ing player.

Pil­lar-mounted twin gauges were among few changes re­quired to the Chal­lenger’s tidy in­te­rior.

Power is from a 2.5L four-cylin­der turbo-diesel, now fit­ted with a set of stain­less steel in­ter­cooler pipes.

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