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Custom Lexus V8-powered 1999 Toyota Hilux review

By Dan Everett | Photos: Brad Miskiewicz, 13 Feb 2019 Custom 4x4s

Custom Lexus V8-powered 1999 Toyota Hilux feature

How do you build a PreRunner 15,000km from its Mecca? However you damn well please!

THE INTERNET has changed the way we build 4x4s. Even 10 years ago your entire outlook on what 4x4ing meant as an activity was defined by your close circle of friends, or the friendly folk behind the counter at your local 4x4 store. These days, it’s a little different.

The internet, and social media, have extended our circle of friends far and wide. It’s nothing to glance briefly at your phone or laptop and get up-to-the-minute updates from friends deep in the frozen tundras of Russia, a roof-top tent setup in the jungles of Guatemala, or a slick desert racer sliding its way through the wide expanses of America’s west.

It’s this uniquely American breed of 10/10ths off-roading that first caught Tyler’s attention. The idea of a 4x4 being something to satiate the need for high-octane shenanigans was so far removed from anything he’d seen on Australian shores he just knew he needed to have it.

From the outset the plan was simple, and would involve a lot of wrenching, and a bog-stock 1999 Hilux.

Kicking the party off in the right way Tyler ripped the independent front suspension down to its bare components, then ripped it down some more. Based off the famous ‘Blazeland’ kit, Tyler’s sliced open the factory lower control arms before adding in more than three inches of new material, drastically pumping out the wheel track.

The upper balljoint is pushed out a matching amount with an off-set balljoint spacer keeping the front end in alignment. From here the stock CVs were binned and replaced with longer offerings from a T100, although more on that later.

The arrangement rides on factory torsion bars and Old Man Emu shocks, with the added leverage from the longer arms providing that oh-so-smooth ride and articulation PreRunners are known for.

Of course, with an off-road ready suspension setup up front a set of janky old leaf springs were never going to cut the mustard. Tyler fired up the MIG welder again and set to work piecing together something far more suitable with a one-off triangulated 4-link.

Eagle-eyed readers may notice a few Patrol parts thrown into the mix. The shocks are off-the-shelf Patrol offerings, while the upper arms are standard Patrol lowers. The coils? Literally found in the backyard with a bang-on ride height and spring rate, while the new lower arms are hand-built by Tyler and rest in brackets he fabricated himself.

Those expecting a mall-crawler will be sorely disappointed on the wheel and tyre front. Tyler’s optioned up a strong-as-guts 15-inch steel wheel combo. The rears punch in at eight inches wide, while the fronts a hair narrower at seven inches. They’re wrapped inside one of the most appropriate tyres on the market, 33-inch Deegan 38s from Mickey Thompson, the only tyres sporting the names of two bona-fide off-road racers.

With the huge track increase the factory guards were never going to keep things under cover. For that he reached out to Queensland-based Prerunner Industries. They’ve decked the ’Lux out front to rear with a full-suite of their 4.5-inch wider fibreglass guards. They’re a near bolt-on replacement up front with just a few holes needing to be drilled, while the rear are free-floating bedsides.

“I’m not actually running a tub” Tyler tells us with a laugh. “I knocked together a steel frame to hold the bed-sides on, then lined the inside with alloy sheets on the floor and walls.” Tyler tells us the fit and finish was so good they’re not painted, they’re still the black gel-coating they came out of the box with.

Completing the styling upgrades for the ’Lux is a bunch more custom fab from Tyler, although you already knew that didn’t you? Up front the slimline tube bar gives maximum approach angle, but also provides a smooth skid plate for if (when) Tyler gets a little too rowdy in those West Aussie sand dunes.

While the rear is a similar tube offering, it’s a little more functional than your typical rear bar. The spare tyre is sent all the way to the rear in an effort to counterweight the typical nose-heavy weight bias. Combined with a rear mounted GQ fuel tank the pair let the ’Lux sail smoothly through the sky with a gentle rear-biased landing.

Racing with a stock engine falls into the same category as watching paint dry and listening to Scott Morrison talk. Hence the engine bay has received a significant overhaul to suit. Where once sat a paltry 2.7L four-cylinder, Tyler’s shoe-horned in a fire-breathing double-overhead-cam 4.0L V8 Lexus motor.

Commonly found in luxo-Japanese sedans, the 250hp V8 provides plenty of free-revving power in a near-on bulletproof design (Toyota even ran them in Le Mans). It’s teamed up with an aftermarket bell-housing mating it to Toyota’s stout R151F five-speed manual before sending final drive through an ARB Air Locker in the rear diff.

Exhaust is sent rearwards through twin 2.5-inch pipes leading into a single three-inch outlet; although, Tyler’s still juggling packaging with aural porn. The whole setup is kept cool with a one-off alloy radiator up front, while the still-working AC needed the heat exchanger mounted underneath with twin thermo fans due to space constraints.

Moving inside and it’s clear this is one purpose-built off-road performer. Strapping both driver and navigator in for the ride is a pair of hip-hugging bucket seats Tyler sourced from a Honda Prelude.

They’ve not only ditched the stock bench seat arrangement, but also freed up space for a home-brew alloy centre console that houses rocker switches for the LED driving lights up front, and secures Tyler’s loose items when he hucks the ’Lux skyward. The rest of the interior is equipped with the ubiquitous UHF radi and a plethora of gauges watching hawk-eyed over the V8 engines vitals.

Sure, a US-based PreRunner might not be the first thing you think of when you imagine an Australian 4x4, but does it really matter? The places we go, the tracks we drive, they’re all for nothing more than the enjoyment of experiencing the outdoors. Some people just like enjoying the outdoors with a foot of air between the ground and their tyres.
And that’s okay by us.

Built not bought on Custom 4x4 reviews

I'll be back

Fret not faithful readers, while Tyler’s sliced and diced a T100 to make his magical off-road mayhem work, it’s not a cobbled together contraption using retired Terminator parts. The T100 is a ute by Toyota, and an odd one at that.

While most American pick-ups fall into the full-size (think F150 etc.) or compact categories (Tacoma, Ranger etc.) the T100 was a bit of a bastard child with a parts bin build list and a future as bright as the DeLorean Motor Company.

It hit the US market in the early ’90s with near full-size dimensions, and hobbled together drivetrain from the smaller “Toyota Pickup Truck”. It died as quickly as it arrived, but the benefit to off-roaders was the super long CV shafts used to make the compact drivetrain pump out to the mid-size body length. It has given home-brew PreRunner guys an off-the-shelf CV option, making long travel IFS affordable to the masses.

While you sure were ugly T100, we appreciate the sacrifice you made in the name of automotive hooliganism.