Four-wheel driving as a whole is a strange place.
For the overwhelming majority of us it’s a passion, a pastime, an escape from the everyday and the everything, where we can find peace or adventure in the mountains and deserts. For others, it’s a career, the very thing that defines them.
There’s a whole industry of people who earn their keep talking 4x4s. The store owners, the accessory fitters, the men and women welding together bullbars and wiring UHFs. Then there’s the blokes like Danny Reber, who took things just that little bit too far, as he’s known to do.
When you’re reading a 4x4 magazine, watching a 4x4 show, or even looking at an ad for an off-road tyre company, there’s normally an entire crew of photographers, writers and videographers just out of frame. This rig? It belongs to one of them, and today we’re taking a closer look.
It’s been purpose-built over the last decade to not only travel to every corner of this country, but drive any track the job needs him to drive, feed a crew of people, and do it all with a new car’s worth of camera gear strapped down in the canopy. Think of it like a mobile job site, if your job needed you to park up in a Cape York creek for three days.
While you might be looking at a white, diesel, manual, single-cab GQ Patrol, it didn’t exactly start out that way. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago it was a maroon, petrol, automatic station wagon.
“The wagon simply didn’t suit my storage needs,” Danny told us. “As my work gear started getting bigger and bigger, I just kept running out of room to stash it all.”
To give the GQ the required room he sent it northwards to Darren at Custom RV Creations to work his magic. From here, both the cab and the chassis itself were sliced and diced before being meticulously pieced back together.
Rather than starting with a ute cab, Danny had the guys graft a ute rear wall into the front half of the station-wagon body, giving him just a few extra inches to suit a 188cm Aussie bloke with comfort. While the welder was out the guys also grafted a VDJ79 bonnet scoop into the all-steel bonnet, and eagle-eyed readers may also notice an extra hump in the front guards pumping them wider than stock; although, we’ll come back to that later.
After the chassis was cut in half, Darren pushed it back 300mm from stock before manufacturing a new length of chassis to fit in the gap. He’s also pieced together a custom-length driveshaft, as well as extended fuel lines, brake lines and wiring. The ultimate goal? It not only made the Patrol far more stable at high speed and in steep terrain, it allowed the half canopy in its entirety to be placed between the front and rear diffs for better weight distribution.
Those diffs Danny went to so much effort to place the weight between? They’re actually out of a later model GU Patrol and stuffed full of Harrop E-Lockers. The diff centres themselves are the same, but they’ve actually got vastly larger and stronger CV joints compared to the earlier GQ offerings. They’re also significantly wider, necessitating the front guards be pumped out to suit.
4x4 gear test: Harrop-Eaton ELocker review
Up front, standard radius arms have been fitted into a set of drop boxes to help with caster, while a full suite of slow- and fast-speed tuneable Fox suspension keeps things in check. Four-inch lifted King coils sit in custom raised PSR towers, while Fox hydro bumpstops smooth out some of the GQ’s bigger hits, and tuned Fox 2.5 shocks on either side keep things floating smoothly. Of course, there’s a plethora of HD and adjustable rods holding the whole affair centre.
In the rear, four-inch Ironman coils serve as the base, with an adjustable helper air spring inside from Polyair allowing Danny to dial the ride in for varying loads. Again, Fox 2.5 shocks provide a plush ride, with Snake Racing adjustable arms keeping things on the path forward. The whole arrangement not only lets the big GQ float effortlessly over undulating terrain, it also makes just enough space for the 35-inch Toyo R/T tyres.
Of course, all that room is useless if you’re not going to put it to work. The huge tray is a massive two metres wide at the hips, with another 1600mm behind the half canopy. It’s a lightweight alloy construction, but packed to the brim with work and play gear.
Behind the captain’s seat, the canopy houses a dog box/camera storage depending on the day, while the passenger side houses a trusty Engel fridge with a Redarc triple battery system and huge 1000W Redarc inverter for keeping Danny’s camera gear charged.
The various trundle trays house everything from recovery gear to tyre puncture-repair kits, as well as freeze-dried meals should he find himself stranded far beyond help. Under the removable canvas cover at the back you’ll find two spare 35s and either Danny’s Yamaha quadbike the tray was designed to carry, or huge space cases full of studio lighting, all coated in bulldust. It also houses the wraparound Rhino-Rack awning.
Weighing in at approximately 4.75 tonnes the anaemic 4.2-litre petrol engine simply wasn’t going to get the Patrol where it needed to be, not on deadline anyway. In its place Danny put a factory turbo-diesel TD42 from the later model GU Patrol, as well as a matching five-speed manual ’box.
It screams for the heavens thanks to a monstrous 18G turbo sucking air through the Radius Fabrications snorkel and box, before pushing them to 26psi through the Plazmaman intercooler and billet intake manifold.
The guys at Automotive Etcellence and JP Performance matched it with a 12mm fuel pump and programmable mechanical diesel tuner for a clean-as-a-whistle 230hp and 780Nm without the plumes of diesel soot TD42s typically run. The combination is backed up with an NPC Viper clutch and a billet flywheel for an incredibly smooth drive.
Moving inside there’s far less billet and far more character. It’s been a constant evolution of a decade of travel, so is adorned head to toe with HF radios, pub stickers from pubs we’ve never heard of, dust from every corner of the country and a big hole where the heater core was supposed to be. Apparently they’re not needed and only add complexity? In fact, the only concessions to technology are the XRS UHF from GME, and the trio of Redarc gauges affixed to the driver’s A-Pillar.
While the purpose and spec sheet of Danny’s Patrol reads like a who’s who of adventure and gear, the real charm in it is the evolution of an idea and a career path. Where $2 tarps once were, there’s now high-end freestanding awnings.
Where the basic tools of Danny’s trade were once thrown on the dash, there’s now an extensive setup only a craftsman could appreciate or even understand. In a way, it’s somewhat similar to everyone’s 4x4: an evolution of who we are on and off the clock, and a goal that we’re all always pushing for.