A GU Nissan Patrol with a custom built camper that’s ready to drive around the world.
The more 4WD trips you go on in a four-wheel drive, the more proficient you will become in planning and packing, allowing you to make the most out of your trip. Experience teaches us what works for individual styles of camping and holiday activities. Eventually we learn to separate the essential from the non-essential, and establish our own ideas on how we can customize our vehicles to suit our travels.
GU Patrol history
Four-wheel driver Justin Lewis has taken DIY fit-outs to a whole new level. How does a rear-tray camping unit complete with central heating, shower, toilet, modern stylish kitchen, large comfy bed, café style seating and ready-to-relax-at-the-flick-of-an-electric-roof-raising switch sound? To make our little to-do list seem inferior, the build quality of this home-garage fit-out is good enough to embarrass a number of after-market companies.
Justin did have a little incentive; he needed to keep his loving wife Jen comfortable on their next excursion. You know those typical trips that start out with you parking your pride and joy in a large shipping container, kissing it goodbye and then praying that it makes it in one piece to Vladivostok, Russia before embarking on an epic world tour.
Being a young Sandgroper and living in the beautiful state of Western Australia, Justin’s earliest memories of four-wheel driving are spending every possible family holiday in an FJ40 and trusty Cargill Camper. It wasn’t long before the family joined a four-wheel drive club for frequent trips away among the safety and camaraderie of a large group.
“Heading to Wedge Island for the weekend was almost an expedition at that time but we also fitted in regular visits to the Yeagerup Dunes and the Warren River further down south,” Justin said.
Travel tales and tips
As soon as Justin could legally hold a set of keys, his first four-wheel drive was parked in the driveway – a Toyota Hilux. Justin was quick to point out that he’s not a brand loyalist, and for that very reason he’s owned a variety of models and makes over 27 years. It’s hard to argue with his firm belief that the best vehicle is the one that will successfully meet the majority of your current needs and be fit for your intended purpose.
Justin’s obviously learned a lot over the years on what defines a reliable setup for him. His expeditions have covered the Canning Stock Route, Gunbarrel and Anne Beadell highways, Simpson Desert, Cape York, Gibb River and the Birdsville Track, plus exploring the Northern Territory, MacDonnell Ranges, Finke River and some cooler climates around spectacular Tasmania.
With an enviable list of must see locations ticked off, Justin has had plenty of opportunity to work out what must-have upgrades are genuinely functional.
“It’s (the central deserts) as remote as you can get – total silence, stars illuminating the sky, unlike suburbia. You need to be self reliant and well prepared, no shops and few people. Isolation! It all helps you wind down from the daily grind.”
“There was this one time a sea eagle flew right alongside the vehicle whilst driving on the beach for 20km on the south coast.”
Enjoying the tranquillity of your destination is one thing, but you have to spend plenty of time and energy to get your vehicle set up for a safe trip. Mother Nature is your most unpredictable challenge – she can bless you with sunshine or suddenly transform the landscape to test all your driving skills and the capability of your vehicle.
Camped in the Victorian Desert on one occasion, Justin explained that they were surrounded by the predictable dry dusty conditions until dark, ominous clouds came rolling towards them, slowly blanketing everything in a cloak of darkness. Flashes of lightning, accompanied by deep rolling thunder, periodically illuminated the night sky. They awoke the next morning to see the landscape flooded and the once dusty tracks waterlogged from the heavy rains.
Just as each trip can provide some unique and often challenging conditions, they can also reward us with life changing experiences. Justin and Jen’s international odyssey will surely be the adventure of a lifetime.
From Vladivostok they’ll be making their way across Russia, Mongolia, the ‘Stans’ and the Pamir Highway, Europe and the east coast of Africa to Cape Town. Hence Justin’s 2006 TD4.2 GU has been officially christened the Globatrol.
Justin purchased the Patrol in 2010. “We chose the Patrol specifically for the trip that we are about to embark on. I’ve been a fan of the TD42 Patrols for a long time – fairly simple vehicles with absolutely bulletproof drivelines, seriously capable and with a fantastic range of accessories to suit my needs.
“I’m not sure of the fuel quality in some of the countries we are intending to explore, but I’m fairly comfortable with the TD42 being mechanical fuel injection and not too fussy on fuel so it’s pretty hard to stop one. Fairly simple to work on and service and a popular vehicle worldwide so parts availability is always there.”
Keeping modifications in check and not stepping too far outside OEM simplicity is a real benefit when it comes to sourcing spares and repairs. Justin’s retained the Patrol’s legendary limited-slip tail end with a manual transmission. He’s warmed the TD4.2 with a mild upgrade on the turbo that gives a little more boost but it’s been specifically setup for low down torque and not chassis twisting acceleration. Cool air is delivered via a Safari Snorkel, keeping the air intake above the dust and high water.
For comfort and to keep everything well clear of the ground, there’s a King coil spring upgrade with a 3-inch lift plus OME shocks and steering damper. Putting the power to the ground is a set of ROH Impact rims, shrouded in some Cooper ST-MAXX tyres.
Comms and navigation are covered by a Uniden UHF and a Codan HF radio. There’s a Samsung laptop with Ozi Explorer program and a Samsung Galaxy tablet running Ozi Explorer and Sygic for street navigation overseas.
Keeping a look out for trouble, there’s a Navman MiVue Crash Cam up front with reversing camera at the back. In addition to a set of daytime running lights to make sure you always see the Patrol coming when things get dark, the Patrol has some Narva HID extreme driving lights and an impressive 40-inch light bar beautifully mounted on the front of the camper unit, which also has LED taillights fitted.
There’s an ARB compressor to keep the tyres in check, whilst a Redarc dual battery system with Redarc DC to DC charger takes care of all electrical demands. Justin also has fitted three 80-watt solar panels to top everything up when not on the move.
Should Jen and Justin get into trouble, there’s a robust 9000lb Warn winch. Plenty of fresh drinking water is housed in two separate tanks – an 80L unit under the tray and a 40L one on the front of the camper.
The custom camper
As for accommodation, there’s the superb, custom-built camper body on the tray. Seriously, this palace has to be seen to be believed.
“The camper shell is manufactured from aluminium with a mixture of composite materials. The camper is bolted directly to the tray support rails and not to the tray of the vehicle so it’s not relying on the tray for support,” Justin said.
The camper roof is raised via four electric actuators; it takes around 15 seconds to fully extend. Internally it’s pretty compact as the body tapers upwards to make the whole unit more user friendly when leaning over on awkward terrain or navigating overgrown tracks.
If the outside looks like full-factory finish, the inside is even better. There’s café style seating for two with a swing out table and 60L Engel fridge to keep food fresh and drinks cold.
Plenty of storage is built in under the large comfortable double bed, with additional storage cubbyholes throughout, and a cross-width storage space accessible from outside the camper.
Next on the features list is central heating, an internal shower when required and a standard height porta loo.
The kitchen not only looks great, it’s very functional – the sink is supplied with unfiltered water and filtered water via a Seagull IV filter cartridge.
A Webasto diesel cooktop (no gas, no vents, less dust), quality Narva lighting and a large Projecta 2000-watt inverter takes care of the electrical needs.
“Upgrades to the turbo and exhaust system would have to be one of the key changes, the before and after is quite dramatic. I’ve gone for low-end torque with the chosen turbo and it’s removed the doughy performance off the line and generally made the whole package more pleasurable to drive, particularly when heavily loaded.
“The suspension upgrade is the most important modification as it transforms the vehicle into a platform for all the accessories,” he said.
“The camper is what converts the vehicle into a comfortable choice for long duration travel; all the other options are aimed at enhancement and increased safety. I’ve pretty much completed all the work myself, but I’m lucky to have mates in the industry for advice and assistance where needed.”
Justin’s camper design was crafted with total functionality in mind. What he’s been able to achieve in such a confined space with the features, fixtures and finish you’d expect of a mass-produced unit of much larger dimensions is nothing short of engineering genius.
If you want to know more about Justin and Jen’s amazing adventures or see the Globatrol in action, then check out their website www.globatrol.com.