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OUR 3.0-litre Hilux just re­turned from a nine-day jaunt from Mel­bourne to the Simp­son Desert and back again. It com­pleted the trip with­out an is­sue – mind you, we did do a few things to make the job eas­ier for the ve­hi­cle.

We’d pre­vi­ously fit­ted an ARB Sa­hara bar, OME sus­pen­sion sys­tem all ’round, Cooper ST Maxx tyres, a Sa­fari snorkel, Rhino-rack roof bars, an ARB ute liner and a Hay­man Reese tow hitch. We had given them and the ve­hi­cle quite a workout in the Vic­to­rian High Coun­try over the sum­mer months, but now the Hilux was be­ing geared up for its first out­back trip. We took it to Out­back 4WD in Bayswa­ter, Vic­to­ria, for all the planned work (www. out­back­4wd.com.au).

We knew we were go­ing to do a bit of night driv­ing, so we fit­ted a set of Lightforce LED 215 driv­ing lights. These per­formed fault­lessly and made those long stints on out­back roads safer, eas­ier and more en­joy­able. They il­lu­mi­nate the road and the pe­riph­eries well, while the mount­ing sys­tem and the di­rec­tion of the lights didn’t need any ad­just­ment for the en­tire trip.

We also fit­ted an idrive throt­tle tuner and couldn’t be­lieve the dif­fer­ence it made to step-off and over­tak­ing. We gen­er­ally run ours at U4, which is around the mid­point for ‘Ul­ti­mate Per­for­mance’. We could get even snap­pier per­for­mance if we cranked the set­ting up to U8 or U9, but we don’t think we need it.

With two peo­ple and all our gear, along with a mo­tor­bike and sub­se­quent ex­tra fuel, stor­age was go­ing to be an is­sue. To make it possible to carry all the nec­es­sary equip­ment we added a large Rhino-rack Xtray to the set of Rhino-rack bars we’d fit­ted. The Xtray is of black pow­der-coated steel con­struc­tion and weighs just 21kg – its car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity of 75kg was pushed to the limit with a spare tyre and more.

A wind de­flec­tor helped to cut wind noise down, but we had ex­tra gear stick­ing out which didn’t help too much – nor did it help fuel econ­omy. We also fit­ted a small awning to the rack to give it a bit of pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments.

The OME sus­pen­sion we’d fit­ted ear­lier wasn’t suit­able for all of this added weight, so we went and fit­ted an OME ex­tra leaf to the rear spring pack. This stopped the Hilux sag­ging in the bum when fully loaded and gave it a great ride over whoopty-doos and cor­ru­ga­tions. There is a dif­fer­ence in ride qual­ity when the ve­hi­cle is empty, but you can’t have ev­ery­thing.

The Hilux re­turned a thirsty 20.0L/100km for the trip, which is a big and sur­pris­ing jump from its nor­mal range of 11.0-12.0L/100km. Mind you, we weren’t stand­ing still on the high­way or back­roads and we did play on Big Red with a few mates for a few hours. What­ever the cause, we got to Mount Dare run­ning on fumes – high­light­ing the pal­try 76-litre fuel ca­pac­ity of the OE fuel tank.

In all the Hilux has clocked up more than 32,000km since we bought it; 21,000km with the Cooper tyres fit­ted. The tyres are show­ing min­i­mal wear and tear with no ob­vi­ous chip­ping, which is pretty good con­sid­er­ing we’ve ran up and down Billy Goat Bluff and a few other tough tracks in the mountains a few times. Tread depth on the rear tyres is down to 10.5mm (from a max of 12.5mm when new) so at that rate we’ve got an­other 50,00060,000km left before we start look­ing for new rub­ber.

Heav­ier OME leaf springs were fit­ted to cope with all the gear we were lug­ging over the dunes.

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