WHEN IT comes to building a competent custom 4x4 tourer, an old 2006 Toyota N70 Hilux is a pretty good place to start. There are thousands of them available out there for respectable prices, they offer the option of petrol or diesel engines, and there’s an endless supply of aftermarket equipment available to kit them out to your specifications and requirements.
Melbourne’s Brandon Droessler thought as much when he went looking for the right 4x4 for him. This 2005 dual-cab V6 Hilux was stock as a rock when he found it, and he applied his alchemist skills to transform the rock into a gold nugget.
“A lot of little things changed pretty quickly,” Brandon recalls of his first months with the Hilux. “Lift, tyres, bar work, body lift, winch, basic lighting and a plastic snorkel all went straight on. I installed my own custom-made overhead console with gauges and UHF.”
As is often the case, Brandon’s project snowballed and one mod led to another as the Hilux was totally transformed.
“Then things really changed and I spent some good money on it, redoing all the suspension, from inverted shocks and Colorado leaf springs to whole new front coils and hydro bumps,” he says.
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Turning this Hilux into the mud monster Brandon wanted required some serious suspension updates. Up front it starts with a set of Profender coilovers wearing 16-inch travel Eibach springs. They are fitted using adjustable upper control arms (UCA) from PSA, while a diff-drop kit from Phat Bars keeps the geometry in check with the raised height. Hydraulic bump-stops help with heavy landings when Brandon gets a bit overly keen with the jumps and bumps.
The rear leaf springs have been swapped out for longer units from a Holden Colorado on extended shackles, and they are controlled by remote reservoir shocks from Superior Engineering. They are canted inwards to allow for the longer shock length. The suspension provides around 75mm of lift, while a body lift adds another 50mm of clearance.
Additional height comes courtesy of larger tyres. For off-road use Brandon fits a set of 315/75 16 Mud Hogs on steelies, while 285/75 16 BFG KO2s do the job for daily use. “They have good wear and are a good all-terrain tyre,” Brandon says of the popular BFGs.
The bright blue underbody protection peeking out beneath the front end is also from Phat Bars, as are the rock sliders running down the flanks. The bullbar is an Ironman 4x4 piece that has been modified to give further clearance and includes LED lights. The lower rear section of the tub has been removed to improve the departure angle, and Brandon says future bar work that’s yet to be fabricated will better protect this area.
Lights? Brandon has fitted a few. Some might say he’s afraid of the dark, but, if he is, then a night drive in the gold ’Lux shouldn’t be frightening. Up front is a pair of nine-inch LED spotties on the bar and four flush-mount lights in the bar.
On the roof rack is a 32-inch light bar on top of the platform and a 39-incher beneath it, facing forward with a pair of seven-inch light bars on each side of the rack. If that’s not enough there’s a pair of LED cube lights mounted to the cowl and another 39-inch bar facing rearward under the tub rack. When they are all switched on at once you should be able to spot Brandon’s Hilux from the International Space Station.
Keeping them all powered is an auxiliary AGM battery mounted in a custom enclosure in the tub, which is managed by a full Redarc BCDC 1240 charging system, while a 1000-watt inverter is used for charging other gadgets.
An interesting point of difference between this and most other modified Hiluxes we see is that this one is powered by the 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine and not a diesel.
“The main reason I went petrol over diesel was that I wanted the power as well as knowing the 1GR-FE motor in the Hilux was super reliable and pretty watertight,” Brandon says. “The parts are cheaper, too. I originally planned on supercharging it but I have decided I will LS3-swap it instead.”
As it stands, the V6 breathes easier through a stainless steel snorkel and custom airbox, extractors and a three-inch Hurricane exhaust system, prompted from an ECU flash and dyno tune.
Any tradie status this Hilux once had has been softened with the interior refit, which is now focused more on adventures in comfort. A set of HSV Maloo bucket seats replace the old Toyota ones and provide more comfort and support for Brandon and his passenger. The rear seat has been done away with altogether and in its place a flat floor was fabricated to mount the Engel fridge for easy access to cold drinks.
A touchscreen head unit controls the audio and mapping display and there’s myriad switch gear scattered throughout the dash to control the lights, winch and other accessories. Vital functions are monitored by gauges in both the pillar pods and roof console, as well as an OBD scan gauge on the steering column.
While it might look like Brandon has done just about everything he possibly could to create his ultimate off-road tourer, there’s always more that can go on. For a start there’s a pair of e-lockers sitting on the workshop bench which should be fitted by the time you’re reading this, as well as that V8 engine swap he mentioned earlier.
“Expensive plans would be an LS3 engine, four-link the rear end, and a solid axle swap for the front end,” he admits. It seems an alchemist’s work is never done when it comes to transforming trash to treasure.