TAKE one 4x4 that is regarded worldwide as one of the true 4x4 icons and update it for off-road touring and daily driving. And when we say update, we mean it: shoehorning a 4.5-litre TDV8 from a 79 Series into the engine bay and then building a fully custom suspension system – highlighted by the trick four-link rear with Nolathane bushing – makes this 1979 BJ40 a one-of-a-kind bruiser.
2018 Custom 4x4 of the Year: The finalists
The combined skillsets of owners, Perth-based brothers Harpaal (Harry) and Sarpal Gill, include metal fabrication, metal machinist, draftsman, mechanic and hydraulic fitter. They also own their own automotive repair and tyre outlet, allowing them to keep the build all in-house.
The idea of transplanting a modern 4x4’s gearbox, drivetrain and engine into what is a distinctly shorter and much older rig sounds like a headache, starting with how to make that beefy 4.5TDV8 fit into the BJ’s engine bay without too much cutting of original BJ sheet metal.
“We started with the engine first and tried to ensure we didn’t cut anything on the body,” Harry says. “We had to place it in a couple of times in the chassis to get it where we wanted it, then started from there.”
“From there” meant also fabricating all engine mounts, the mounts (and brackets) for the five-speed manual gearbox, as well as modifying the transmission tunnel to fit said gearbox, all while making sure each mod would pass engineering regulations for registration.
The result, after more than a few chassis cuts and mods, is an engine bay that looks very factory in appearance, with only the custom air filter box and piping hinting to the transplant.
“We designed everything on AutoCAD,” Harry says. “So everything was designed on the computer and then we got everything laser-cut and fabricated it in the shop.”
One of the biggest parts of the project was the build and fitment of the trick four-link rear suspension setup, but it didn’t take as long as you’d think, thanks again to the wonders of computer design.
As well as the rear suspension and engine/gearbox mounts, the brothers also designed, cut and built the front winch bar (the winch is an X-Bull 12,000lb) and rear custom bars, side-steps and flares, with only the custom-sized driveshaft and tailshaft built by one of their suppliers (the front and rear axles are actually stock LC79 jobbies).
The track width of the BJ isn’t that different to the LC79, and Harry and Sarpal accounted for the difference by fitting Allied Goanna 17x9-inch alloys (with a 38mm spacer in the rear wheel) shod with chunky 35x12.5R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers. This meant the stock 79 axles (and brakes) were a straightforward fit. The Dobinsons dampers and springs give the BJ a 50mm lift and are a direct carry over from the donor vehicle.
The exhaust system is a combo of factory (the headers are stock) and a three-inch custom-made mandrel-bent system, with a five-inch Hot Dog resonator, finished off with a glorious-sounding side dump pipe. As you can imagine, space for a big-bore custom exhaust system to do justice to the TDV8 was at a premium with this shorty.
“It’s a V8, so we wanted it to sound like one,” Harry says. “We bought a few different hot dogs, a few different resonators, and a few other bits and pieces to try and see which ones sound better, which was the easy part. Then we had to modify all the bits and pieces to make it fit, but, again, it was good fun.”
Custom 4x4: Read our full feature on The Gill Brothers' BJ40
Harry and Sarpal have plans to continue driving it for a few months before it is returned to their workshop for a complete disassemble and rebuild, with the currently as-stock interior (bar the custom-made gauge fascia that fits the LC79 instrument cluster) one of the many things on the to-do list, along with new suspension, a paint job and no doubt more tweaks.
CAST YOUR VOTE FOR THE GILL BROTHERS' BJ40 HERE
Check out the Top ten finalists of the 2018 Custom 4x4 of the Year, cast your vote and be in the running to win a Maxxis voucher valued at up to $2000!