IT’S funny how life throws things your way, like a two-wheel drive 2007 N70 Hilux for the princely sum of $500.
As an ex-TV commercial hero car, it had starred as a tradie’s ute slamming into a roadside fruit stand, all in the name of safer driving. After a couple of weeks of daily-ing in the N70, the usual Maloo ride with the cam-lope, horrible drinking habit, and leg-day clutch pedal just didn’t seem as appealing. Selling off parts like the tradie rack and rear tub for a collective $500 brought the Hilux ledger back to nil. Hello, NoBuxLux.
Being an entry level WorkMate, standard amenities like power windows weren’t an option, but this is where the journey to the PHATT 4x4 you see before you began. Taking a look at the main loom found, Toyota had seen fit to include all the connections to simply plug in a power window unit. Mint.
The Interweb turned up a young bloke wrecking his crashed 2006 Hilux, but this one was a 4x4. Making a dash out to salvage some parts before the local wreckers got hold of it discovered a pretty decent KUN26 SR Hilux that, in my opinion, was too good to waste and with a bit of work, could be put back on the road with a minimum of fuss.
According to the owner it had sat for about a year, so after making sure it would run the deal was done. Furthermore, it had an encyclopaedia-thick pile of paperwork showing an excellent service history for the life of the car. The idea formed to build a tough 4x4 capable of carrying all my commercial photographic gear to any location, for as cheaply as I could while leaving plenty of budget for some killer mods.
Replacing damaged suspension parts to get it rolling again, the Hilux was chained to a chassis table and checked over for cracks and alignment. Thankfully, all was good, but both Hiluxes had damaged front sheet metal, so some half-price Taiwanese guards and bonnet were bought. It was a perfect time to upgrade to the facelift look (2012-15) which turned out to be a relatively straightforward bolt-on. Some eBay headlights and grille made their way on, along with a new radiator, fan shroud and condenser.
It looked like a Hilux again, but I needed to thicken it up a bit. A set of Dirty Life ‘Scout’ alloys shod with fat 305/65-R17 BFG KO2s kept tyre diameter under 33 inches. The +5mm offset improved the stance outwards, but going any taller would need the differentials regeared. There was the small issue of the tyres redesigning the inner wheel arches and new Utemart flares, but, as it turned out, a pair of Superior Engineering’s billet UCAs found their way under the front end along with some SuperPro offset bush lower arms, allowing the front spindles to be pushed forward for better clearance and far better alignment for the lifted front end.
On Track Fabrication was then tasked to carry out a mod-plated body-mount chop for more clearance, before a Phat Bars diff-drop kit found levelled out the CV shafts nicely.
Improving the approach angle, a Rhino Evolution three-piece winch bar was ordered to suit the facelifted model. Chosen for its integrated design it came with built-in LED indicator/spotlights, stainless-steel bash plate and centre support. Blinding roadside fauna are two spot and one flood, dimmable ARB Intensity Solis lights standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the grille.
The Hilux came fitted with two-inch taller RAW struts with matching-height 300kg constant-load leaf springs in the rear, but the chunky six-leaf spring pack was causing issues with its lack of flex.
Swapping in a pair of Terrain Tamer parabolic springs improved off-road traction immensely, with far better articulation and on-road comfort. A pair of N80 Hilux Tough Dog foam-cell shocks allowed an extra 45mm extension over the N70 option, allowing further articulation again.
HISTORY LESSON: 50 years of Hilux
Combined with the new wheels, this combo gained a clearance increase of four inches over standard, however it wasn’t enough to save the OEM alloy running boards. Phat Bars got the nod again for rock sliders, protecting the sills and giving the Hi-Lift something to jack against. Rounding out the order, a stainless-steel four-inch snorkel kit now feeds dry air into the standard airbox.
With the stance now set, it was time to paint. A combination of backyard, front yard, and driveway locations saw fresh Angora Beige metallic sprayed on various plants and car parts, leaving only the outer skin to complete. After hiring a paint booth I waved the gun over the panels for two base and three clear coats before reassembling.
While still in the painting mood, the full interior was also pulled out, washed thoroughly and painted a dark charcoal to match the leather XR seats I’d scored for a song and bolted in using Huracan Fabrication adapter brackets. Other interior enhancements include the GME XRS-370C4P UHF, a 2017 N80 Hilux twirler, and next-gen Clearview towing mirrors that provide electronic adjustment after adding in a standard Hilux mirror switch to the previously unused plug behind the dash. Thanks Toyota!
While the engine is stock for now, the supporting mods have been put in place to turn the wick up on the 1KD-FTV. A Performance Diesel Intercoolers bar and plate front-mount kit dominates the grille area, with sand-cast end tanks allowing precise fitment around radiator support brackets while maximising the finned cooling area.
A full turbo-to-tip LuxFab three- to four-inch stainless-steel exhaust system complete with cat and four-inch resonator allows for the easy spool-up of the turbo. To say it’s a shame something so well constructed is hidden under the Hilux is an understatement, as row-of-coins TIG welds, perfect mandrel bends and V-band joins are used throughout. There is the nicely muted note to remind you it’s there though, plus a sweet turbo spool-down as a closing credit.
To cope with the intended future super-torques, an NPC 275mm clutch and flywheel now joins motor and ’box. Using a machined LandCruiser 1HZ pressure plate and machined steel flywheel, this setup is rated up to 750Nm at the flywheel and 300hp at the wheels, while remaining easy on the clutch pedal.
Used previously in another streetcar build, a trio of Defi Black Face gauges are mounted to the A pillar, with the main controller now filling the OEM clock location. These monitor engine vitals of boost, oil pressure and EGT, with the ability to record and replay readings too.
Seeing the astronomical prices being paid for service-canopies was enough to want to build my own setup, but I’d been driving past the local MW Toolbox store for months while keeping an eye on an alloy jack-off canopy that never seemed to move. Being narrower than most other canopies, my guess was it wasn’t popular, but the curved sides fitted in with the Hilux’s cab shape and width.
So I called in and made a successful offer. The aluminium tray’s side coaming was then unbolted and the support panels trimmed back matching the canopy width before reassembling. Raptor Liner was laid over the tray and canopy, and to finish off, six whale-tail compression locks were fitted complete with electronic solenoids, making locking a one-button operation.
A Motop 135 V3 rooftop tent was chosen for its low-profile design and attached perfectly to the canopy top rails. The optional Motop racks give a solid mounting point for a 250W solar panel to be mounted, and also allow the panel to be angled towards the sun at camp. With the extra weight of the solar panel plus any additional items loaded topside in the future, the gas struts were recharged from 400 to 500 Newtons, increasing their lifting strength.
LEXUS V8 POWER: 1999 custom Lux
Inside the canopy are two 120amp/h Schneider AGM batteries, topped up via a Victron MPPT Smart Solar 20amp charger. The beauty of the Victron is its smartphone app showing all the real-time charge readings you could want plus a 30-day history of battery state. Further charging from the alternator is through an Intervolt Electronic Battery Isolator under the bonnet, sending current through to the rear once the start battery has reached a user-set voltage. While canopy setup is a work in progress it runs the CFX75 Dometic dual-zone and maintains charge on the photographic gear.
More eBay browsing turned up the perfect-length 900mm tapered undertray toolboxes and matching wheel arches from T.C Boxes, allowing low-slung storage of recovery gear, ratchet straps and an XTM air compressor. Considering the extra weight added by the new canopy/RTT setup, the rear differential housing was also upgraded to a 2012 model for the extra-width axle bearings.
Catering for more storage and doubling as a raised shooting platform a Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform, along with the newly released N70 Backbone mounting system, was riveted to the roofline. Both the 2.1dBi and 6.6dBi Radome GME antennas are mounted as high as possible, with Rhino-Rack swivel mounts laying them flat when not in use. A quartet of black MaxTrax recovery boards are centrally mounted for easy access from both sides, with a Big Red light bar filling the front underside void.
With plenty of seat time the Hilux has excelled as a daily go-anywhere rig, and in its first year of COVID-isolated ownership getting stuck in to it myself was definitely the way to go. The cost? After selling the 2WD and spare parts and counting up the receipts, the total spendings are less than a bog-standard, average kilometre/condition late-model N70 Hilux. A lot less actually.
All this would not have been at all possible without the help and advice from a lot of people, so many thanks go to:
- Maro at Premier Automotive Paints, Malaga, WA
- Shannon at ARB Australia
- Lachlan at LuxFab
- Adam at Auto One, Morley, WA
- James at NPC Performance Clutches
- Vince at Pro Spray Automotive Refinishing, WA
- Omar and Nick at Ulti-Mech, Gosnells, WA
- Matt at T.C Boxes
- Derek and Leon at MW Toolbox
- Ken at Don Kyatt Spare Parts
- Ben at Rhino 4x4
- WA Solar Supplies
- Knox Tyrepower
- Adam at Clearview Accessories
- Perth Hilux Club
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The quintessential magazine for Australia’s four-wheel drive and offroad enthusiasts.
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