BUD­GET PRADO BUILD

A de­sire to get back to ba­sics saw re­turn­ing Kiwi Richard Soult bor­row a fam­ily Prado and cost­ef­fec­tively kit it out for overnight 4x4 trips.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Richard Soult

I left New Zealand in 1981 and didn’t return for 33 years. When peo­ple in Europe used to ask me why I hadn’t re­turned, even for a hol­i­day, my an­swer was al­ways the same. “I’m worried I would fall in love with the place and stay.” In fact, in 2014, that’s ex­actly what hap­pened... I came for a hol­i­day and de­cided that I was go­ing to move back. I was liv­ing in France and recovering from the eco­nom­i­cal melt­down of 2008. New Zealand was as beau­ti­ful as I re­mem­bered it, but what sur­prised me was how easy life seemed to be and how friendly and happy ev­ery­one was. In France, I had had a 2005 Range Rover for five years and in which I had tra­versed the Pyre­nees, and the French/ Ital­ian Alps twice. I re­ally wanted another but was told that New Zealand was re­ally Toy­ota coun­try and a Range Rover would just cost too much to main­tain. As it turned out, my fa­ther, who spends sev­eral months a year in New Zealand, had a 1999 Toy­ota Prado with very few kms on the clock and hav­ing just sold his boat, of­fered to sell me it for a “good price”. Whilst it wasn’t the colour I would have cho­sen, he en­sured me that it was a “proper” 4WD and good for what I wanted to use it for.

Ini­tial ideas

Whilst still in France, I started plan­ning routes that I was go­ing to do on my return and how I was go­ing to prep the Prado for these trips. There were many items on the ini­tial list in­clud­ing roof racks, a leisure bat­tery, fridge, on-board wa­ter tank, winch, snorkel, light­ing kit, ro­bust tyres and a de­cent awning.

Re­al­ity sets in

On ar­riv­ing back in New Zealand and ex­plor­ing a bit of the South Is­land, a few things quickly dawned on me... Ev­ery petrol sta­tion here sells ice, so no need for a fridge and leisure bat­tery when a de­cent chilly bin will do fine and at a frac­tion of the cost. There’s also wa­ter ev­ery­where, so no need for a wa­ter tank. Trav­el­ling alone, if a river cross­ing war­ranted a snorkel, I prob­a­bly shouldn’t be do­ing it. The same ap­plied to the winch. Dis­cre­tion is the bet­ter part of val­our and it is easier to turn around than risk­ing get­ting stuck and need­ing a winch. There was also the fact that the Prado was, at the same time as be­ing my ad­ven­ture wagon, my only ve­hi­cle and ev­ery­day car.

Needs must

One thing that was im­por­tant was that I could sleep in the car eas­ily and com­fort­ably. I wanted a full flat double bed and plenty of stor­age for food, cook­ing and re­cov­ery gear. To achieve this, I started by re­mov­ing the two seats in the boot. A trip to The Ware­house to buy four large plas­tic boxes gave me the mea­sure­ments for the ply­wood box that I would cre­ate in the boot to house my gear and pro­vide a pull- out cook­ing space. It was cru­cial that the box was the same height as the back seats folded down and pushed for­ward. An ad­di­tional sheet of ply­wood that

sits on the box in the boot, and can be pulled for­ward once the back seats are down, cre­ates a flat bed space mea­sur­ing 195x140cm. To make this more com­fort­able, I glued foam roll mat ma­te­rial to the sleep­ing plat­form el­e­ments and added a double self-in­flat­ing mat­tress which folds back into the boot when not in use. A happy co­in­ci­dence was that there was enough room above the wheel arches to house two fold­ing chairs. My mother kindly whipped up a set of black hes­sian cur­tains that are run from front to back on a sim­ple bungy. A nor­mal sun­shade on the wind­screen com­pletes the sleep­ing area. All of this can be set up in min­utes af­ter a long day’s drive.

Foxwing awning

To pro­vide shade and cover for the cook­ing area at the rear of the truck, I added a Foxwing awning. This de­ploys quickly and eas­ily and pro­vides shel­ter for the sun and rain. The only draw­backs with this are that it can­not be used if there are kayaks on the roof and in windy con­di­tions. The ad­di­tional light­ing kit that they pro­duce is LED and pro­vides su­perb light­ing whilst us­ing very lit tle charge. Though if you fol­low my lead, make sure that if you’re us­ing it for the evening, you con­nect it di­rectly to the bat­tery with the crocodile clips pro­vided, oth­er­wise you’ll wake up to a flat bat­tery... I added a set of Cooper AT3 tyres which are not a full on/ off road tyre but have now done thou­sands of kms, been up most of the Can­ter­bury high coun­try val­leys and are still like new. They are guar­an­teed for 80,000kms... A good in­vest­ment. As a touch of lux­ury, I bought an elec­tric shower that plugs into the 12V power point. All you need is a source of wa­ter, I use a fold­ing bucket, and you can have a proper shower to wash all the dust off. This was bought for about $ 30 from one of the ma­jor out­door re­tail­ers. Since the ini­tial prep, the only ad­di­tions have been a PLB ( Per­sonal Lo­ca­tor Bea­con), es­sen­tial if you’re head­ing a long way off the beaten track, a GPS mounted to the dash­board and a Blue­tooth speaker for the evenings... I still dream about mak­ing the Prado look more the part and adding all the pieces of kit that so many trucks seem to have, but the re­al­ity is that it does all that I want it to do with just the DIY mods that I have made. It’s as happy up the God­ley Val­ley as it is in Auck­land and apart from the colour, I can’t com­plain.

About the au­thor

Richard Soult grew up in Christchurch be­fore spend­ing 36 years in Europe – in the UK and France. A late­comer to the world of 4WD, he en­joys the free­dom that his truck pro­vides and is hap­pi­est away from it all in the moun­tains. He has crossed the French and Ital­ian Alps, the Pyre­nees and hav­ing re­turned to New Zealand in 2014 is now en­joy­ing ex­plor­ing the coun­try of his child­hood.

Early morn­ing exit from Hop­kins Val­ley.

Por­ta­ble shower and check out black­out cur­tains in­side.

Ba­sic stor­age com­part­ments ex­posed.

With back seats in place.

And with seats down and ready for the night.

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