THERE COMES a time in a bloke’s life when he can appreciate the finer things in life and nothing is finer than a brand-spankin’-new 4X4.
This article was originally published in the October 2011 issue of 4x4 Australia
West Aussie Brett Rogers has had his fair share of 4X4s over the years, many of them modified with V8 engine transplants, big tyres and locked diffs, but his latest vehicle is a relatively new kid on the block. For a bit of comfort and ease of use he chose a new 150 series Prado GXL for his bush ride.
“I have (Toyota) HiLuxes with the D4D engine, and as work vehicles they hold up really well with all the crap we put them through,” says Brett. “But I didn't want to drive one on the weekend as well as during the week, so thought I’d go with the Prado.”
Like any fella used to tinkering with cars and making them better for specific uses, Brett couldn’t leave the Prado standard for too long, and the result is the toughest-looking Prado 150 we’ve seen.
4x4 accessories store salesmen love it when a guy like Brett walks in their front door, and Brad Scott from Northern 4WD in Perth hit the jackpot with Brett and his Prado.
As the owner of a brand-new vehicle, Brett wasn’t another tyre kicker with nothing to spend, and from his previous experience with four-wheel drives, he knew what he wanted from the Prado and what was required to kit it up to the standard he wanted.
Northern 4WD is an ARB retailer and fitter and ARB has one of the most extensive ranges of gear for the 150 Series Prado, which is still a relatively new model in terms of what is on the road today. They were able to cover the vehicle for all Brett’s protection, suspension and cargo carrying requirements.
Starting from the front, there’s an ARB Deluxe steel winch bar with a Warn XD9000 nestled in the centre. A pair of IPF 800 Extreme spot lights sits upon the bar along with a GME spring-base antenna for the UHF radio.
Get down in the dirt and stick your head under the Prado and you’ll notice that there’s extra space between it and the gravel thanks to an Old Man Emu suspension kit with 50mm taller coil springs and matching Nitrocharger Sport shock absorbers.
While you’re under there you might scope the three-inch, mandrel-bent, straight-through stainless steel exhaust system that frees up some power from the Toyota turbo-diesel engine.
The exhaust was fitted by Chipit that also added one of its tuneable engine control units to make the most of the better-flowing exhaust.
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Toyota’s four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine is a pretty good performer and ideal for touring, but when the Chipit unit was being tuned on the dyno the 3.0L D4D in this Prado was making double the standard torque figure at just 2000rpm.
Brett said that with all that low-down grunt, it spins all four tyres off the lights. Once a hoon always a hoon hey?
Brett’s choice of wheel is a bit different to what you see on most late-model vehicles but the 17 x 8-inch Savannah beadlock alloys from Allied Wheels give the Prado 150 a tough, purposeful look that really works well.
“Most of the Prados you see are soccer mums’ shopping trollies,” says Brett. “I hadn’t seen many modified ones around so I was aiming for a different look.” He’s certainly achieved that without resorting to massive wheels and tyres.
The extra pair of matching wheels hanging on the Kaymar rear bumper adds to the look while give reassurance when Brett’s a long way from the local tyre centre and all six wheels are clad in chunky Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tyres measuring 265/70R17.
Swing out the spare wheels and open the back door and the cargo area is chock-a-block with Black Widow storage drawers and a pair of 40-litre Engels on slides.
When away on trips one fridge operates as just that while the other is set as a freezer. In between the drawers and the rear seat is a 50-litre water tank with a 12-volt pump feeding a tap and shower head. This 4X4 has all the luxuries of home.
Crack a cold one from the Engel and resume the vehicle inspection under the bonnet. The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel remains stock, with the exception of the aforementioned exhaust system and Chipit control unit, and air is sucked in to the engine via a Safari snorkel.
While the tweaked Toyota mill gets along adequately in the Prado, Brett is always hungry for more power and he says there could be a turbocharger upgrade from AXT on the cards for the near future.
Like any Aussie bloke, Brett reckons you can never have enough horsepower and as his previous HiLuxes have had petrol V8s in them the Prado could use a further boost.
A dual battery set-up uses a Varta second battery with a Redarc isolator and ensures there’s always enough cranking power to get the Prado started after a long session in camp with the Engels running. An ARB air compressor is also installed in the engine bay.
The functional modifications continue when you venture inside the cabin. The Prado comes with most of what you need for practical and comfortable touring but, as we’ve come to expect of him, Brett saw the need for a few extras.
Canvas seat covers from Black Duck protect the factory cloth seats, a GME UHF radio is there for communications and a Hema Navigator helps with directions both in and out of town.
A ScanGauge is fitted in the dash and this gives Brett real-time fuel consumption figures so he knows how much touring distance he has from the 150-litre factory fuel tanks.
Working with Toyota vehicles in the mines in remote Western Australia has its advantages when you own a Toyota, too, and should the ScanGauge show any fault codes Brett can identify and rectify them.
Up on top of the Prado is more of ARB’s quality product. A steel Touring rack mounts an ARB awning and a quartet of IPF driving lights. It also provides the platform for the million-star accommodation with a Dingo Doza rooftop canvas tent fitted.
“It’s the best thing I’ve bought for it,” says Brett of the tent. “We used to swag it but got sick of that and the tent only takes a couple of minutes to set up and is real comfortable.”
When he’s not belting around the West Oz outback in a company HiLux, Brett likes to get out four-wheel driving, fishing and camping in his Prado with his missus. They’ve covered most of the west coast in it.
“Pemberton in the south-west is good,” says Brett. “Anywhere on the beach north of Perth, or four-wheel driving in the hills east of Perth where we live. Where we did the photo shoot at Red Hill is a bit of fun too. It spends as much time off the road as it does on it.”
The Prado handles most of the work dished up to it but as you would expect of a bloke used to playing with V8 HiLuxes, Brett has more mods planned for it.
“Diff locks front and rear, a couple of work lights around the rack and some bash plates underneath for starters. Maybe an AXT turbo upgrade and hopefully someone comes up with a taller lift kit so I can get some bigger tyres under it.”
Even though he’s going to fit lockers, Brett says he was impressed by how well the electronic traction control works.
“It surprised me! When it lifts a wheel in the air you drive through it, but you have to wait for the system to work. You need to change your driving style to suit the electronics; it’s different to the older 4X4s with V8s and diff locks.”
The safety and comfort features like electronic traction and stability control are just some of the benefits of owning and driving a new vehicle, and the GXL Prado covers most bases.
It sure beats belting around in old trucks with major mods like engine transplants but Brett has shown there’s always room for improvement.
Brett say that getting the modifications right has been relatively easy compared to some of his older 4X4s and that’s thanks to Brad from Northern 4X4 and Justin from Chipit, while the guys from Black Widow were a big help too.