FOR most of us, our first 4x4 vehicle is a memorable one. Memorable to us for all the adventures and stories it brought, but in the grand scheme of things, usually not memorable to anyone else.
Your first 4x4 or your first car is usually an older, more affordable offering and for those early years of motoring, it was your lifeline to the greater world and all possible exploration. But the reliability of older cars means those memories aren’t always good ones.
For 20-year-old student Nick Mitic, this GQ Patrol wagon is his first 4x4 and it’s a solid base that he has built in to some thing more memorable than most.
“I first noticed the GQs when I was 15 years old,” recalls Nick, “and I knew then that I’d own one, one day. I always liked the look of the older boxier cars.”
Nick found himself a 1996 LWB Patrol with the unloved RD28 diesel engine but yanked that mill for a naturally aspirated ‘silver-top’ TD42 swap which he performed in his shed. While no powerhouse, the TD42 was still a step up from the RD engine and is well-known for its durability and ability to accept an aftermarket turbo and plenty of boost.
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Nick enlisted Perth’s Dynamic Diesel Performance (DDP) to boost up his TD and didn’t spare his pocket money on the build. A G350 ‘red wheel’ GTurbo is mounted atop a Radius Fab high-mount intake manifold and drawing through a 4-inch Patrol Docta stainless steel snorkel.
To keep plenty of clean diesel fuel up to the now boosted engine DDP fitted a JP Performance 12mm pump that is good for around 250-horserpower while the burnt gasses leave through a 3-inch straight-through exhaust system.
Tuned on the dyno at DDP the new combo pushed 219-horsepower and 716Nm through the rear tyres and that’s with the 35-inch Nittos onboard. It’s a huge leap from the naturally aspirated TD42 let alone that of the old 2.8.
“Engine mods are expensive and its easy for the old silver top to let go,” said Nick. “So finding the right level of power versus safety was a challenge.”
Harnessing the new found grunt before it reaches the Nissan 5-speed gearbox is an Exedy Tuff Clutch. The diffs remain unlocked but have been fitted with 4.6:1 gears to compensate for the larger tyres.
“I started out trying to achieve more flex for rocky and muddy terrain but soon realised that the beach is my favourite place to drive,” says Nick. “That’s why I went with the Dobinsons MRR shocks and springs, and the big power package from DDP.”
That Dobinsons suspension package is built around the company’s adjustable Monotube Remote Reservoir (MRR) heavy-duty shock absorbers that allow Nick to best set them up for the sort of driving he likes. With 5-inch coils there’s plenty of clearance for the 35s and the extended bump stops soak up the landings when the tyres leave the sand, blasting over the bumps.
To keep things in line with such a lift and tyre size, 5-inch drop boxes are fitted along with adjustable track rod and panhard rod, all mounted on Nolathane bushes.
When Nick goes beach driving he likes to bring the party with him, the Party Bus Patrol equipped with its own sound and light show. The tunes blast out of a Kenwood head unit pumped up by a pair of Alpine amplifiers, to Kenwood speakers and a Rockford Fosgate sub.
There’s more to the lightshow than just the LED replacement headlights and light bar on the roof rack for lighting the track ahead. At the back of the rack are what Nick says are his favourite mod on the car, four little LED light cubes that punch out a variety of colours and strobing patterns that he can control from an app on his phone.
It’s one thing to appreciate and own older 4x4s but there’s no way around them showing their years and the scars that come from off-road use. Nick’s GQ has scored a tidy up and respray to have it looking as good as ever. There’s a custom made bullbar to protect the front end, while down the back is a bar with swing-out carriers from Melbourne manufacturer Raslarr Engineering.
Inside the back of the bus are a set of drawers for carrying all the camp and recovery essentials. This is topped with a mattress giving Nick a place to crash after those beach parties.
The Party Bus is a great first time effort for young Nick, and this classic old GQ delivers all the fun of four-wheel driving to create great memories. We’re sure the lights and sound show create a few memories at those beach parties too.