4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

BE­FORE be­gin­ning any build like this, an en­gi­neer should be con­sulted to en­sure the ve­hi­cle is le­gal and can be reg­is­tered for on-road use. Not do­ing so could rel­e­gate your dream ma­chine to a pri­vate pad­dock. I wanted my Tonner to be to­tally le­gal, in­sur­able, safe (for me and other road users) and ca­pa­ble for use as an ev­ery­day driver, a long-dis­tance tourer, and an off-road mauler.

Af­ter ini­tial con­sul­ta­tion with Ja­son at To­tal Care 4WD he was happy to un­der­take my project, but he dis­cussed my wild ideas with his reg­u­lar en­gi­neer to en­sure it’d have any chance of see­ing the streets. Sur­pris­ingly, most of my ideas were given the green light, but not all, and I was in­structed to “do as I say and I’ll pass it all no prob­lems”. I had no prob­lems with that, even though that ruled out larger than 33-inch rub­ber and higher than a two-inch sus­pen­sion lift. I was given the op­tion of go­ing full-on­nuts with an In­di­vid­u­ally Con­structed Ve­hi­cle (ICV) build, but I quickly ruled that out given the costs and stricter en­gi­neer­ing that was needed.

Even though my Tonner looks like an old Holden Tonner, it’ll be reg­is­tered as a GQ Nis­san Pa­trol (re-bod­ied). That’s the main rea­son why I chose a GQ over a GU, as the older Nis­san doesn’t have a lot of the higher tech safety fea­tures of which I’d have to in­cor­po­rate into the build. While it’s not im­pos­si­ble to do, com­ply­ing with later-model ve­hi­cles makes the job harder and more ex­pen­sive.

I chose to pur­chase three com­plete cars to ac­cess all of the smaller parts I needed, so I didn’t have to waste time and money for­ag­ing for them. Once each ve­hi­cle was stripped, we hoarded a heap of the un­used gear we thought we might need and flogged off the rest to net some huge re­turns on my out­lay.

The Maloo’s re­tractable seat­belts, drive-by-wire ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal, elec­tri­cally op­er­ated bucket seats, 6.2litre LS3 en­gine, 6L80E six-speed auto gear­box, and a pile of parts from the en­gine bay were all kept. We ini­tially kept the HSV brakes, but ended up sell­ing them as the en­gi­neer was happy with me util­is­ing Nis­san Pa­trol brakes – I dished out the HSV stop­pers for new discs and pads from Ter­rain Tamer. While we didn’t think we’d need the ra­di­a­tor and twin-thermo cool­ing fans, we stashed them away just in case. Lucky, too, as we needed them af­ter find­ing there was no way a me­chan­i­cal vis­cous cou­pling fan would fit.

My en­gi­neer in­sisted on util­is­ing the Nis­san steer­ing col­umn to gain a lit­tle ex­tra arm-reach from the driv­ers’ seat, so it was mod­i­fied to fit and grafted through the Holden fire­wall and dash. My want for a pe­riod-cor­rect Holden sports steer­ing wheel was ve­toed, given it didn’t have a padded horn but­ton – an ADR re­quire­ment for my year model Pa­trol – so an Adr-ap­proved Au­totec­nica ver­sion was cho­sen. No­tably here, be­cause my GQ doesn’t have airbags, I didn’t have to abide by the higher ADR re­quire­ments of us­ing an airbag steer­ing wheel that would have been deemed a must if I used a GU chas­sis.

Most peo­ple faint at the sight of

the huge amount of wiring in modern cars. My Maloo was no ex­cep­tion, with miles of the stuff which in­cor­po­rated many un­wanted at­tributes we ef­fec­tively ‘blanked off’. We sent the whole loom to Sideshows Per­for­mance Wiring in Queens­land to delete cruise con­trol, traction con­trol, launch con­trol, mis­sile track­ing (if it had it), plus all the other elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled sys­tems that aren’t 4x4 friendly. The mod­i­fied loom al­lowed for a rel­a­tively sim­ple plug-in sys­tem that let the gear­box, en­gine, ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal and ba­sic con­trols talk with each other.

One small hur­dle that needed at­ten­tion was the speedo. I didn’t want a fang-dan­gled dig­i­tal dis­play in the old dash and wanted to keep a nee­dle if pos­si­ble. To my re­lief, To­tal Care 4WD man­aged to fit a speedo box adap­tor to in­ter­face with the elec­tronic ac­cel­er­a­tor sig­nals from the GQ trans­fer case (yep, the old Pa­trol speedo was elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled) and trans­form them into a me­chan­i­cal out­put that is geared cor­rectly into a cable drive that then turns the stan­dard Holden speedo.

ADR re­stric­tions state you can­not change the wheel track (cen­tre­line of the left-hand wheel to the cen­tre­line of the right-hand wheel) by more than 50mm. Damn, I wanted my Tonner to

achieve as wide a stance as pos­si­ble, but no amount of dis­cus­sion would change my en­gi­neer’s mind on this. Given the stan­dard Pa­trol rim off­set is plus (in­wards) 10mm, I chose a neg­a­tive 13mm (wider) off­set rim, mak­ing 23mm change each side for a to­tal of 46mm (le­gal by 4mm). I could have grafted a set of GU axles into the GQ chas­sis, given they are wider and have stronger CVS, but the coin toss landed on stick­ing with the GQ gear.

My GQ wagon had a petrol 4.2-litre with an LPG con­ver­sion. While I chose it mainly for the model year and diff ra­tios of 4.11, it came with an af­ter­mar­ket 50-litre mid-mount petrol tank, as well as the rear-mounted gas tank. This has proven per­fect with the in­clu­sion of a Long Ranger 145-litre rear tank. Fuel will al­ways be drawn from the new rear tank, and I can choose when to trans­fer from the aux­il­iary mid-mount tank via a cabin-mounted switch. An ex­tra 50 litres of juice will be much needed for some of the out­back trips I have planned.

Many peo­ple have asked me how we mounted the Holden body to the Nis­san chas­sis. Tech­ni­cally, we have used the stan­dard Nis­san body mounts,

but they have been re­moved from the chas­sis, repo­si­tioned front to rear, and reat­tached to the chas­sis. The en­gi­neer was con­sulted and gave the nod.

Once my en­gi­neer ap­proved each mod, that mod had to be car­ried out in a pro­fes­sional man­ner (read: no back­yard weld­ing) then in­spected by said en­gi­neer to en­sure com­pli­ance, work­man­ship and safety. Ev­ery sin­gle mod was then recorded and noted. If I get pulled up for a road­side in­spec­tion, I need to pro­vide the en­gi­neer’s re­port to prove le­gal­i­ties or I could get whacked with a de­fect no­tice. My want for to­tal le­gal­ity has cost me more money in the short term, but know­ing I won’t get de­fected and can fully in­sure the Tonner is peace of mind that far out­weighs the ini­tial dol­lars spent.

Lock­ers are the ul­ti­mate hid­den ac­ces­sory – they’re hid­den away in the diffs and make all the dif­fer­ence of­froad. I wanted my 4x4 Tonner to be a fair dinkum off-road beast; not a com­pe­ti­tion rock-bash ma­chine, just damn ca­pa­ble in all ter­rains over and be­yond the norm. I’ve packed an air-op­er­ated, man­u­ally se­lectable TJM Pro Locker into the rear GQ diff. Flick­ing the in-cab­mounted switch makes it 100 per cent locked, re­gard­less of ter­rain and ve­hi­cle po­si­tion, and it works in both direc­tions un­til you choose to switch it off. I’ve then cho­sen an au­to­matic diff lock in the front by fit­ting a 4WD Sys­tems LOKKA. There is no driver in­put to make it work, it just does it au­to­mat­i­cally and al­lows far greater steer­ing than a man­ual front sys­tem. To­gether, the rear TJM Pro Locker and front LOKKA should drive my Tonner to the end of the earth. I’ve also hid­den a Uniden UHF 9080 ra­dio be­neath the dash, with the full­func­tion hand­piece hooked onto the dash. A 1.2-me­tre long 6.6dbi gain an­ten­nae fits per­fectly into the cus­tom bull­bar tabs.


WITH­OUT fan­fare, fuss, cough­ing or splut­ter­ing, the be­he­moth 6.2-litre LS3 roared into life for the first time in 12 months and, let me tell you, it sounded bloody awe­some. I’ve re­cently had fi­nal en­gi­neer­ing done on the Tonner, too, and it passed with fly­ing colours. We’ll tidy up things in, on and un­der the Tonner prior to pre­sent­ing it for a blue slip, which will con­cen­trate on all the me­chan­i­cals of how the whole ma­chine works, rather than the en­gi­neer­ing that com­prised of safety, de­sign rules and qual­ity of work­man­ship.

Once the blue slip is done and dusted, it’ll be time to whack some rego plates on, bung on the stereo, and punch the go-pedal un­til white line fever catches on. Catch ya next month for the grand fi­nale of my ul­ti­mate 4x4 con­ver­sion.

A GU trans­fer case was swapped for the GQ unit. Sort­ing out the wiring (be­low) is enough to send any­one in­sane.

Lower the cab, lift it, lower it, lift it ... un­til ev­ery­thing fits per­fectly.

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