4 x 4 Australia - - Contest -

MY OLD Holden one-tonner was built in 1977, though it’s had nu­mer­ous changes through its life, with a dif­fer­ent chas­sis, en­gine, gear­box and fresh paint job; the shiny new(ish) Com­modore rolled off the line in 2011; and the rusty, ne­glected, fairly straight and mostly stock GQ Pa­trol first hit the dirt in 1989. The last two ve­hi­cles will be picked apart to turn the Tonner into one wild 4x4.

Ini­tially, I was happy to pur­chase an LS1 or 2 from a wrecker, along with what­ever box came with it, as they re­turn good, cheap and re­li­able power, but an un­ex­pected call from Ja­son at To­tal Care in Syd­ney changed ev­ery­thing.

“Mate, there’s a VE MKII Maloo R8 ute that has been in a rear en­der and stat­u­ary writ­ten off just near our shop… ya want it, ya bet­ter be quick,” he said.

“Shit yeah,” I shouted back. “LS3 and a six-speed auto with tip­tronic-style shift­ing… jump on it, now.”

Wholly cow, my project 4x4 Tonner shot into the fast lane big time when I laid my money down for it. The Maloo only had mi­nor dam­age to the rear end, but it was legally writ­ten off, so it couldn’t be re-reg­is­tered. Other than the stonk­ing en­gine and six-speed auto, there were a stack of rea­sons why I jumped at this ute: hav­ing the com­plete ve­hi­cle gave me ac­cess to the wiring loom and all the smaller parts that make the com­plete con­ver­sion so much eas­ier and cheaper, so I had no need to scour the wreckers or on­line sites, spend­ing time and money on un­seen parts.

Then there were the seats. My eyes lit up the in­stant I pic­tured the Maloo’s con­toured leather sports seats bolted into the floor of the old Tonner. Per­haps the re­tractable seat belts, per­haps the huge HSV disc brakes, hell, I’d even con­sider whack­ing the dash bin­na­cle in if it looked right in the old ’77 Holden.

Back to the en­gine, and I had no idea of the ex­act power out­puts the 6.2 LS3 ini­tially had, as there was word of a fac­tory per­for­mance up­grade from the pre­vi­ous owner. It started, ran per­fectly and sounded shit-hot with every blip of the right foot. As for ex­pected fuel econ­omy of the be­he­moth guz­zler, I didn’t give a stuff, to tell you the truth; all I could be sure of is that it’d re­turn plenty of smiles per gal­lon. Thanks Ja­son, it pays to have ex­tra ears to the ground when search­ing for car parts.

As with the Tonner, once I’d had my way with us­ing all the parts from the Maloo, ev­ery­thing that wasn’t needed – the hard lid, sailplain, brakes (if I didn’t use them), wheels, ex­haust sys­tem, doors, side skirts, dash, in­te­rior com­po­nents, front sub­frame, grill, ra­di­a­tor and front end parts – would be sold off to re­coup some of my up­front costs.

For the chas­sis, sus­pen­sion and 4x4 sys­tem I wanted for my Tonner, I had the op­tion of us­ing Land Cruiser, Land Rover or Pa­trol gear. Un­like how Arthur Hay­wood man­u­fac­tured the real Holden Overlander back in the mid to late 1970s with a man­u­fac­tured front chas­sis grafted onto the Holden unit and cus­tom-fit­ting Dana diffs and as­so­ci­ated gear, I wanted to utilise a com­plete lad­der frame from a later model 4x4, to­gether with coil springs, live axles and trans­fer case.

The GQ was an easy choice for many rea­sons. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily the strong­est chas­sis around, es­pe­cially com­pared to the Land Cruiser’s, but it can eas­ily be strength­ened. It also


won’t re­turn the best on-road driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but it’ll be a huge step-up com­pared to run­ning leaf springs as per the old Over­lan­ders – and there has been a gazil­lion GQS tra­verse every cor­ner of our wide, brown land with­out too many com­plaints. What the GQ pro­vides is an in­cred­i­bly adapt­able base that is eas­ily mod­i­fied from mild to over-the-top wild, not that I wanted that. Mul­ti­ple fac­tory diff ra­tios pro­vide al­ter­nate fi­nal gear­ing ra­tios de­pend­ing on tyre sizes used and, if I wanted, the GQ diffs, CVS and whole axle assem­bly could be swapped out for the slightly wider (over­all) stance, as well as the strong CVS, found in the GU Pa­trol.

Why not grab a GU to start with? The GQ has no airbags, no sta­bil­ity con­trol, no elec­tronic gad­gets to help drive or stop it, and no anti-in­tru­sion bars in the doors. So the fin­ished prod­uct will look like an old Holden one-tonner, but it’ll tech­ni­cally be reg­is­tered as a Nis­san Pa­trol (re-bod­ied). What­ever the base ve­hi­cle is fit­ted with, the GQ Pa­trol must re­main or be im­proved (safety in­clu­sions, en­gine and so on). That means I don’t have to fit airbags or any of the above men­tioned safety parts, as I would have to if util­is­ing a GU Pa­trol. It also means I couldn’t use the old 308 Holden V8 be­cause it’s older than the GQ Pa­trol; not that I cared, with the 6.2 LS3 now avail­able to me.

Find­ing a GQ that was cheap, had a straight, non­rusted chas­sis, hadn’t been as­saulted with rad­i­cal off-road af­ter­mar­ket gear, and hadn’t been thrashed sense­less, was pretty easy – the eas­i­est of the three ve­hi­cles to find, in fact. GQS are a dime-a-dozen, de­pend­ing if you want the much sought-af­ter 4.2L diesel, the smaller 2.8L diesel, or the var­i­ous petrol gas-guz­zling vari­ants.

I picked up a 1989 4.2L petrol carby en­gine with an auto ’box, which was reg­is­tered and run­ning pretty well, and it was cheap as chips. Sure, it had been off-road, but it didn’t seem to have been thrashed, and it had no rock rash on the pan­els or chas­sis. It had a few af­ter­mar­ket items that could be sold off – TJM al­loy bull­bar, 33-inch mud­dies on steel rims, en­gine and gear­box, and most of the pan­els that were rust-free and straight – to help fund the whole project. Plus, the rear top cor­ners of the GQ were badly rusted, so it could even be flogged off to some­one who wanted to twin-cab it.

Maloo rear-ended The trove of trea­sure is a go-fast gear. parts and Pa­trol is The GQ but the enough, straight badly. peel­ing paint is

This’ll be one comfy ol’ Tonner with leather Maloo pews.

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