THE owner of this well-kitted-out Mazda BT-50, Jake Lawrence, is a self-confessed poker nut. He loves nothing more than a game of cards with mates, going camping and four-wheel driving. Jake likes doing things a bit differently you see, and he wanted to stand out from the crowd. He’s also never modified a four-wheel drive before now though; told you he was a gambling man.
Jake works in car sales, so is tempted on a daily basis to buy a new vehicle. Once he laid eyes on a BT-50 though, he thought bugger it … let’s buy one and build it up as a unique project.
“It’s something different to most other cars out there,” Jake tells us. “There really aren’t too many like it, or that get driven as much and as hard as mine does.”
“Although it’s set up to do tough tracks, it is also my daily driver and a reliable one at that – it hasn’t let me down. These BT-50s aren’t that common in the highly modified 4x4 scene, so I like that mine is unique and I doubt someone will ever make something the same.”
Talking about unique, Jake's BT-50 is riding high thanks to a 4-inch lift. This is made up of a 2-inch Superior Engineering body lift, and 2-inch Outback Armour struts and coils in the front and Superior Engineering shock absorbers in the rear with Outback Armour leaf springs.
“Originally the modification list for the vehicle was short; pretty much a small suspension lift, 31-inch tyres, tub rack and rooftop tent,” Jake says with a familiar grin. “Once I did all that, I was well-addicted to wheeling and camping, and my car was smaller and not as capable as my mates. It was about April 2020 the modification bug bit and I decided I was going to take it up to the next level, fit a front locker and put a body lift in so I could fit the bigger tyres.”
Speaking of being twin-locked, Jake’s BT-50 came with a factory rear locker, so he had ARB install an air locker in the front taking away any traction limitations in wild terrain. With the 4-inch lift, there is enough space for a set of chunky 305x70r17 Maxxis RAZR mud-terrain tyres, which Jake is wrapped with performance wise. These have been mounted on a set of 17x9 King steel wheels, in a 0 offset.
"When the warranty runs out, Jake would like to swap in a BMW M57 motor"
One area Jake has left stock, bar a K&N air filter and Safari snorkel, is the engine. It seems Jake has played the power-up game with vehicles in the past, and has a history of putting pistons through engine blocks. Once the warranty runs out though, it’s game on.
Inside the BT-50, Jake has kept things practical by installing an Alpine 7-inch head unit, a Uniden UHF radio for communications and an Ultimate 9 throttle controller to help get the Mazda moving off the line quicker. But he rates it for off-road use too, being able to dull down throttle response in technical terrain.
On the exterior of Jake’s ute, things definitely get a bit wilder. Starting at the front, Jake opted for an Xrox bullbar, as it could be made to suit the body lift and is winch compatible. The bar also came with a neat bash plate, which provides protection for vitals such as the radiator. Mounted to the tube front bar, Jake has selected a pair of Stedi Type X Pro spotlights. To get the party started when on the tracks or at camp, he also wired up a suite of Stedi RGB rock lights.
If you look closely at the rear end of Jake’s 4x4, you’ll notice a fair bit of space between the tailgate and the ground. This is because he has done a tub chop, providing a decent increase in departure angle. So much so, that he had to screw the numberplate directly to the tailgate as it wouldn’t fit anywhere else.
I reckon you’ll be seeing more and more dual cabs with this mod in the future. To protect the sills of the vehicle off road, Jake also bolted on a set of rock sliders from JTW. These were fabricated to suit the body lift also, so there’s no awkward gap between the sliders and sills.
Even though this is Jake’s first 4x4 build, it’s clear to see how hard the bug has bitten.
“At first, I just bought a 4x4 to tow my jetski and I simply just needed a new car,” Jake mentions. “It has very quickly turned into a lifestyle for me though, and I have made so many friends through owning a 4WD. It’s incredible. The community is so happy to help each other. The friends I’ve made through meeting people over Instagram, and the trips I’ve planned and done with complete strangers who are just happy to go wheeling and have some fun out on the tracks is why I will always have a 4x4 now.”
Jake estimates the entire build has set him back $55,000, which is a bargain considering what he’s achieved. He does have some regrets, saying he had to do a few things twice, but you have to make mistakes to learn at the end of the day. The build also took roughly eight months to get it to the stage it is today, which is a very reasonable amount of time.
So, while Jake has done an admirable job of building this BT-50, we all know these vehicles are truly never really done. Jake’s future wish list is a long one, with plans to undertake a solid axle swap. He’s eyeing off a set of 35-inch Maxxis Trepadors as well, which would make for a wild combination.
But wait – there’s more, with Jake saying when the warranty runs out, he’d like to swap in a BMW M57 motor. I’ll say it again, Jake’s a gambler. And we like that about him.
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