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Custom 2013 Toyota Hilux review

By Dan Everett | Photos: Alastair Brook, 22 Oct 2018 Custom 4x4s

Custom 2013 Toyota Hilux review

This mega-tough Hilux proves just how far 'crazy' can take you when you're building a bush rig.

THE TERM snowball is something that gets thrown around a lot when talking cars. Wanted to fit a set of speakers and ended up installing a new head deck as well? That’s snowballing. A cheeky headlight upgrade that ends up with a set of LED lights strapped to the roof? You bet that’s a snowball.

However, while a snowball is relatively small, the implication of the saying is something that builds from nothing and gradually picks up pace, growing larger and larger until it’s out of control. It’s this version of a snowball that best defines Justin Suffolk’s lifelong passion with cars, and, by extension, the mish-mash of high-octane performance car and uber-capable 4x4 laid out before you.

Like most off-roaders, Justin found himself behind the tiller of a dual-cab ute after searching for a suitable tow vehicle.

“I had a VH Commodore,” he said with a laugh. “It was getting too much for street driving and I wanted something that could tow it around. I bought a Hilux, sold the Commodore, and used all the money to buy 4WD parts.”

Like any good snowballed project it didn’t take long for Justin to slice and dice the 2013 Hilux into something barely recognisable to the manufacturer and something vastly different to what his insurance papers say.

To get to the heart of what makes this Hilux special, we’ll need to kick things off up front. That PSICO intercooler is part of a package that sees the 3.0-litre common rail turbo-diesel pushing 179kW to the rear wheels – a huge jump over the factory 89kW – giving Justin a hefty increase in power. To achieve those results, the PSICO intercooler draws fresh air through a four-inch Phat Bars stainless steel snorkel, before compressing it with an S3 GTurbo.

From here the factory ECU teams up with an HKS controller to fine-tune the oil burner’s parameters. Just Autos have mapped the stock ECU with an aggressive tune, and then used the HKS controller to fine-tune it to perfection.

Upgraded injector caps have given the setup an increase in fuel volume without ramping up pressure or duration to dangerous levels, and a three-inch turbo-back exhaust barks spent exhaust gases rearwards.

To get the power to the ground, Justin rolled out the spanners and installed a heavy-duty MV Automatics torque convertor and valve body to tighten up the standard transmission.

Two external oil coolers stop the red rocket from getting too hot under the collar, 4.56 gears at either end account for the larger rolling stock, while twin auto lockers (a Detroit in the rear and LOKKA up front) ensure traction is never an issue… as long as Justin doesn’t mash the loud pedal.

Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and there are no rusty connections from the tip of the snorkel right down to the tread blocks. On each corner is a chunky Dick Cepek Extreme Country, which punch in at a metric 315/75 R16 (that’s a hair under a 35-inch tyre). They’re wrapped around a set of 16x8-inch American Racing ‘Cornice’ wheels.

Huge flares try their hardest to keep the poke under cover, stopping Justin becoming closely acquainted with the local constabulary.

Before you go racing down to your local tyre shop with credit card in hand, it’s important to know it takes a hell of a lot of work to shoehorn 35s beneath a Hilux – even more if you want them to work off-road.

Up front, Justin again reached out to the crew at Phat Bars, who replaced the old, sagged factory struts with a set of oh-so-shiny Fox 2.0 units. They’ve been fitted with 700lb Eibach coils on both sides, helping boost the Lux’s ride height 50mm over stock – a further 50mm in body lift helps give the Lux its aggressive stance.

To stop the CV joints tearing themselves to shreds at the first sign of a wombat hole, a diff drop was fitted to flatten out the CV angle, getting them back inside their safe operating angles. The upper control arms have also been swapped out for adjustable units from CalOffroad. The adjustable ball-joint offers a strength upgrade from the stock unit, allows the alignment to be dialled in, and frees up much needed down travel.

Things are more customised in the rear. Rather than a bolt-in lift kit, Justin opted for a set of stock leaf springs from an RG Colorado, which have been reset to allow for additional lift over stock height; however, their longer length gives the perfect shackle angle for ride and comfort when paired with 200mm extended shackles. The whole lot is kept under control with another pair of Fox 2.0 shocks.

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With the underpinnings of Justin’s Hilux resembling a teeth-gnashing animal, it was only fitting the outside had the attitude to match. A wolf in wolf’s clothing. A stout ‘Muzzbar’ from South East Qld Fabrication is backed up with 5mm of reinforced-steel bash plates from Phat Bars. They’ve up-armoured the driveline from the radiator right back past the sump and transmission, before finishing up just after the transfer case.

The flanks have been similarly armoured-up, with a pair of high-clearance Phat Bars rock sliders deflecting any rocks Justin pushes perilously close to the Lux’s sheetmetal; although, with the LED lights pumping out more lumens than the sun, Justin will have plenty of warning.

That form-and-function mentality has been applied all the way to the tail-lights. Justin placed a special order with Paul Hanlen from Phat Bars for a one-off tray, which has been zapped together with a 4mm-thick box section running along either flank, effectively giving Justin a full-length slider that’ll take the full weight of the Lux.

On hardcore weekenders you’ll find the tray loaded with a swag and fridge, while family adventures call for the camper to be hitched to the tow bar. Who said snowballed projects can’t be fun for the whole family?

Counting Teeth

YOU’VE probably heard the term ‘diff ratios’ and wondered just what the hell those numbers mean. Luckily, it’s incredibly simple, and 30 seconds reading will teach you what you need to know.

4x4 explained: What is a differential?

The higher the number, the lower the gearing. A 4.56 ratio requires 4.56 turns of the driveshaft to turn the axle one rotation. A 3.9 gear, while being numerically lower, only requires the driveshaft to spin 3.9 times for every one axle rotation, making the engine rev higher and work harder.

Going to a lower gear (numerically higher) gives the engine an extra-long lever to account for larger tyres, helping crawl back some much needed torque.