Facelift for top seller

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By PAUL GOVER

LOOK­ING for a head-turn­ing work and play ma­chine?

This high-rid­ing hulk Brute could be the an­swer.

Cus­tom-made in Aus­tralia from an Amer­i­can kit plus lo­cal com­po­nents, the Brute com­bines off-road sub­stance with unique style, all sitting hand­some on a length­ened TJ Wran­gler chas­sis.

It looks, and drives, like a fac­tory job.

With added attitude. And just the tini­est of vi­bra­tion through the steer­ing wheel from those ex­tra knobby tyres on this first ex­am­ple.

While Chrysler con­tin­ues to toy with the idea of a pickup based on the cur­rent JK Wran­gler (and those ru­mours are gather­ing strength), this Brute was

of

a first a SEMA con­cept truck. Built in 2005 by Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tion Ve­hi­cles on the pre­vi­ous TJ model it was a real pro­duc­tion pos­si­bil­ity, stymied by the TJ be­ing about to be re­placed and early signs of loom­ing global fi­nan­cial dra­mas in the US. So the Brute be­came a low pro­duc­tion kit car and ac­cord­ing to Stu­art Murchi­son there’s only about 100 run­ning around the world for now.

But the Queens­land-based Murchi­son — of­fer­ing bou­tique sus­pen­sion so­lu­tions, snorkels and ECU tunes for Jeeps across Aus­tralia and the US— has built one as his busi­ness truck. And for $30,000-$35,000 on top of a donor ve­hi­cle, plus three months work, Murchi­son will build more. His Brute is worth about $75,000 as it rolls; cus­tomised with leather seats, air lock­ers, re­mote-lock­ing and such. ‘‘As a small busi­ness I don’t want to let av­er­age things out there,’’ Murchi­son says about his Brutes and his sus­pen­sion busi­ness. A long-time Jeep man, one­time sus­pen­sion con­sul­tant and one-time BMW sales­man, Murchi­son found more and more peo­ple chas­ing him for sus­pen­sion ideas for Jeeps.

He dis­cov­ered a void for kits for late-model Jeeps — six out of seven mod­els run in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion and no-one was cater­ing specif­i­cally for these.

Now he does busi­ness here and in the US with coils and shocks kits, plus snorkels, plus ECU diesel tunes.

For the Brute, Murchi­son sug­gests first chas­ing down a good donor ve­hi­cle, low kilo­me­tres and lit­tle off-road use.

The kit only suits

the

TJ Wran­gler, built from 1996 to 2006, the later the ve­hi­cle the bet­ter and it needs the hard doors though soft tops and hard­tops can be sold off.

Mid to late 2003 Jeeps for in­stance have bet­ter front seats; all run the four litre, six­cylin­der en­gine but later mod­els have six-speed man­u­als and four-speed au­to­mat­ics.

The Wran­gler chas­sis is length­ened from 233cm to 297cm; driveline and other lines length­ened to suit and then new body and tub bolted on.

Murchi­son’s Brutes are fully com­pli­anced for reg­is­tra­tion in Queens­land. He’s happy to build for south­ern cus­tomers to those spec­i­fi­ca­tions but in­di­vid­u­als would then need to talk to lo­cal trans­port authorities. The height of body lifts and the size of tyres may be an is­sue. THE car that put Jaguar back in the black is new again, com­plete with a baby diesel en­gine that could mean an $80,000 start­ing price in Aus­tralia.

The up­dated mid-sized XF got si­mul­ta­ne­ous un­veil­ings at the Shang­hai and New York mo­tor shows, with the Amer­i­can event fo­cused on de­sign and the China re­veal con­cen­trat­ing on the lat­est 2.2-litre diesel.

In both cases, Jaguar de­sign boss Ian Cal­lum de­scribes the XF up­date as the best facelift he has done in a 35-year his­tory as a car stylist.

‘‘I’m very happy with it,’’ Cal­lum says, re­fer­ring to pre­dictable but classy changes to the lamps, grille, bumpers and bon­net that give the XF more style to com­pete with the lat­est 5 SeriesBMWand Mercedes E-Class.

The up­date comes four years into the XF’s life as Jaguar’s top seller and money ma­chine, and brings the diesel that could even­tu­ally ac­count for more than half of sales. It’s a 2.2-litre four also used in the Land Rover Free­lander 2 and has 140kW with a rous­ing 450Nm of torque.

More good news is an eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box for the XF diesels, com­plete with a stop-start sys­tem to im­prove econ­omy and cut emis­sions.

The up­dated XF goes into pro­duc­tion in Bri­tain in July and that points to an early 2012 in­tro­duc­tion in Aus­tralia.

The car also comes with slight tweaks to the cabin, in­clud­ing bet­ter-shaped seats and a punchier sound sys­tem.

Not sur­pris­ingly, new-age safety sys­tems are also added to the XF and the car will be avail­able with adap­tive cruise con­trol, au­to­matic high beams, adap­tive light­ing and haz­ard lights that trig­ger au­to­mat­i­cally dur­ing emer­gency brak­ing.

Full de­tails of the XF for Aus­tralia should be pub­lic around the mid­dle of this year.

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