Thursday, December 24, 2020


When Matt was looking to build his ultimate tough tourer, the last thing he expected to find was his dream car already partially built, providing the perfect base that has become this unstoppable solid-axle-swapped HiLux.

I’ve owned a few 4WDs over the last 20 years but only got serious about building a tough tourer about 5 years ago. I purchased a bog stock 2009 Toyota HiLux Extra Cab and after 3 years, it ended up with twin diff locks, 33-inch tyres, custom bar work and tray, but still IFS. It was very capable… right up until I put it into a tree and wrote it off. At that point, I decided I was going to buy another stocko and solid-axle swap (SAS) it straight up.

After looking for a good second hand one for a month or so without luck, this 2012 HiLux popped up that was already SASed and twin locked but still very much unmolested. Since owning it, I've rebuilt the whole front end, adding chromoly CVs and all new parts to the front axle, new Aisin hubs and an ARB locker. It runs an 80-series LandCruiser custom diff housing and steering box with custom radius arms and rods.

Front suspension is 10-inch remote reservoir Fox coilovers with King springs. It was originally on 33s with 4.1 diff gears but is now on 16x8 -22 Dynamic beadlocks wrapped in 315/75R16 Trail Grappler with shorter 4.56 gears, and these Nittos are the best 4x4 tyres I’ve ever run. The rear end has an inverted shock hoop for better articulation, 10-inch Fox shocks, a GQ Patrol disc brake conversion, a transfer handbrake, TJM Pro Locker, Modified RG Colorado leaf packs with custom 210mm shackles and 80-series bumps.

Up top is a custom Tracklander roof basket with side awning and a custom slide out solar panel. The front bar is a custom job too, built by SEQ Fabrication with an in-built Rigid Industries SR-Series light bar and a Runva 11XP Premium winch. Sliders were built by Phatbars, as is the 4-inch stainless snorkel. Under the bonnet, there's an ARB compressor, dual batteries, a Fuel Manager FM1000 secondary fuel filter, Mann+Hummel catch can and 30% larger injector caps, with exhaust exiting through a 3-inch system from Scott’s Rods. The engine is controlled by an HKS F-CON iD piggyback ECU, custom tuned by Just Autos to 185rwhp/610Nm, and a clutch from Beral Racing helps transmit that to the tyres.

I’ve been running the Trail Grapplers for a while and did a 4,000km trip to Landcruiser Mountain Park, the Glasshouse Mountains and Fraser Island. Terrain varied from rock, shale, mud, clay, gravel and sand, and the tyres didn’t miss a beat. On the soft sand of Fraser Island, I didn’t even use 4WD, just 10psi and the rear locker, no worries! They’re super grippy in the loose stuff and handle really well on sealed roads with significantly less road noise than any other mud tyre I’ve run. All in all, I’m super happy with my Nittos and will be running them again once I’ve worn these ones out, they’re just the best tyres I’ve ever run, I can’t fault them.

Apart from the rebuilding the diff centres and engine tuning, all work has been done by myself. This is my ultimate dream car and about as tough as a tourer gets; I can drive 1,000km fully loaded and hit pretty much any track from mild to wild and the big ‘Luxy eats it all up! I've owned it for just over 3 years and recently fitted a new custom tray while colour matching the front bar, with an airbag 4-link rear end and 80-series diff planned for the future. It’s super capable off-road, not much stops it, and having now owned both IFS and SAS ‘Luxes, there's no comparison; the solid axle takes it to the next level!