Six of the best custom Nissan 4x4s

From mild to wild creations, here are a handful of outrageously epic Nissan Navara and Nissan Patrol custom builds.

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While it mightn’t be the sales giant it once was in the automotive space, Nissan has a successful history of bringing proven and popular 4x4 vehicles to market.

For some owners, though, showroom condition doesn’t quite cut it. These people turn to the aftermarket industry and build a unique vehicle tailored entirely to their needs.

With the impending release of the updated 2021 Nissan Navara, we are taking a stroll down memory lane to bring you six of the best custom Nissan builds we’ve seen over the years.

From earth-shattering V8 transplants to clean chopped conversions, these unique Nissans prove what’s possible with the right idea and the perfect execution.

We hope to see some more tickled Nissans next year when the aftermarket gets to work on the refreshed 2021 model. Until then, here are some of the best Nissan builds gracing outback tracks.

PATROL UTE GETS CUMMINS V8 POWER

Words: Justin Walker 
Photos: Mick Hurren

It’s not too often you see a Patrol with a rear tray, like this big bopper built by Guy and the team at Patrolapart, in Lilydale, Victoria. It was built as a promotional vehicle for the business, and it’s also very comfortable when put to work as a fully-fledged touring rig – a fitting result after 18 months of after-hours work by the team.

Looking at how well that rear tub tray fits in with the Nissan’s silhouette makes you wonder why it wasn’t made available to Oz-based Patrol ute buyers back when it was on sale. Guy and the team saw it on some Japanese-based Patrols (it was factory-fitted over there) and thought it’d make the Patrol stand out visually from the rest of the many thousands of Patrol utes on Australian tracks, and, with a few additions, it was a relatively straightforward fit.

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The Patrolapart team was also keen to up the grunt factor on what was – when they first got hold of it – a stock-standard 3.0-litre turbodiesel Patrol. Not an earth-shaking powerplant by any means, but the guys had the perfect solution: a 242kW/827Nm Cummins 5.9-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder. The engine is the ISB variant – the second generation of the popular American oiler – and it is also one of the physically largest straight-six diesel engines on the market. Even allowing for the Patrol’s voluminous engine bay, it was time-consuming and tricky to ensure the Cummins could be shoe-horned inside, with everything needing to be relocated.

The stock radiator and five-speed manual gearbox stayed, but the Patrolapart team has plans to slot in an Albins five-speed as a replacement. Adding extra air is a custom four-inch stainless-steel snorkel, with gases expelled via a custom steel exhaust. Fuel is pumped through effectively thanks to an AirDog II-4G fuel pump, which is a common fitment to Cummins engines.

The Patrolapart team was determined to make the vehicle seem ‘attainable’ in terms of the mods done, and they focused on ensuring nothing was too extreme in the build. This common sense, subtle approach is evident in the Patrol’s suspension setup. The KONI suspension (coils and dampers) offers a three-inch lift and combines with heavy duty control arms and Patrolapart’s own beefed-up swaybar links. Adding more ground clearance is a set of 17-inch alloys shod with Maxxis RAZR LT315/70 R17 rubber.

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Cummins diesel engines can be pushed to punch out even more serious grunt than stock, but the team just went with a ‘base tune’ and has reaped overall performance benefits as a result. This includes a very impressive 14-15L/100km on Guy’s recent trip to the Finke Desert Race in the NT. With its twin 90L fuel tanks (accessed via the two factory-fit fuel fillers on the driver’s side of the tub), the big rig gets more than decent touring range on top of the extra performance.

One of the most appealing things with this Patrol ute is its purposeful yet understated appearance, with only the rear tub catching the eye of fellow tourers. The low-profile appearance is, again, thanks to the smart and subtle approach, with only a few visible external additions such as the ARB bullbar fitted with ARB Intensity lights that hint at this rig’s capability. There are no front or rear lockers, instead the Patrol does with its rear LSD and all that on-tap articulation.

The interior benefited from Guy’s decision to retro-fit a late-GU Patrol interior. The driver and passenger now enjoy the comforts of powered leather seats and a full leather trim interior. A Polaris head unit has OzExplorer and Hema navigation software fitted, and – for essential bush comms – a new GMA XRS UHF radio has been fitted. Keeping all the electricals humming, the Patrolapart team also managed to fit a dual-battery system in that chock-a-block engine bay.

Since the Patrol has been in public there’s been plenty of interest in the engine transplant, which isn’t surprising – as Guy states, “those Cummins engines are bulletproof”. Add that rugged powerplant to what has always been considered one of the toughest touring vehicles around, and any potential customers would be guaranteed an awesome return on investment.

PATROL Y62 DUAL-CAB SPAWNS FROM WILD IDEA

Words: Justin Walker
Photos: Alastair Brook

Sure, chopping a Y62 Nissan Patrol may seem like a crazy idea, but that view is easily dismissed when you see this bruiser in the metal and listen to its owner, Peter Thorpe, talk about what he rates as the ultimate all-rounder.

Peter’s aim was for the build to be equally adept at transporting him and his family on their regular camping adventures, as well as his own fishing and hunting expeditions. Plus, it would see a lot of towing work. Encouragingly, his idea didn’t seem that far-fetched after he proposed it to On Track 4X4’s Andrew Cassar.

Andrew knew the exact crew of specialists to entrust with the project, firstly checking with the engineer that he uses for his work at On Track 4X4, and then enlisting Les, at Tinman Fabrications, who he rates incredibly highly, to firstly answer the ‘can it be done’ question, and then to do the actual cutting work. Once he received nods of agreement, he got back to Peter and the big build began.

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As the Y62 is a high-tech, modern 4x4, the team struck a few small problems early, most notably with the air conditioning system and the airbags. The vehicle’s air-con ducts go right through the vehicle to the third-row seating at the back, which meant having to re-route them to ensure they finished at the back of the second row – and still worked as designed.

The next issue was the Patrol’s airbags which meant designing a bracket that would retain the side-pillar airbag. On top of these two issues, the re-wiring took a bit of time to figure out, again to ensure the vehicle would meet ADR and safety regulations after having its back half removed. Trying to ‘trick’ the engine management system was a challenge, according to Andrew, with the vehicle still ‘looking’ for the tailgate, as one example.

Perhaps surprisingly, the actual cutting of the vehicle was straightforward, with Les removing the back section, and welding the ute-back on to the body and finishing all the fabrication work – a top-notch job that Peter raves about in terms of the quality of the work.

The Nissan was re-painted back at On Track 4X4, before Andrew got stuck into the rewiring and re-fitting of the interior. Peter decided to also fully rewire the Patrol so as to accommodate all the power-reliant accessories that were to be fitted. This entailed fitment of a Redarc dual battery management system and some tricky positioning of two auxiliary batteries in the powder-coated tray. The tray also includes a slide-out drawer at the rear for storage.

“I had the tray designed with a false floor in the bottom that went underneath the tray to hold two extra batteries and a dual air compressor,” Peter says. “I also had a [80L] water tank built in to the head board.”

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It is this use of all available space that adheres to Peter’s idea of creating a vehicle that could do double- or triple-duty, with the canopy a key component in making that work. The canopy was built by Will from WF Fabrications in Bendigo. It features a separate dog cage, along with another storage box (housing the ever-present 60L Engel fridge/freezer and Clear View Easy Slide, as well as offering additional storage space), and a dual spare-wheel carrier setup. The canopy is all-aluminium in construction, so doesn’t add excessive weight to the tray – and it’s easy to remove.

The front end of the Patrol features ARB bar-work, (front winch bar with Warn winch, side-rails and side steps), as well as an ARB Intensity light set-up (spotties and light bar). A TJM Airtec snorkel keeps that big V8 (fitted with a Unichip) breathing freely, while beefy Pro Comp XTreme MT2 315/70R17 rubber roll on Black Rock Crawler 17x8 steel rims. Peter has also lifted the Patrol by two inches and fitted ARB’s BP51 remote-reservoir shocks (along with Airbag Man airbags in the rear).

Underneath the tray, Peter has fitted a 150L Long Ranger fuel tank to up the Patrol’s total fuel capacity to a lofty 290 litres.

The build for this unique bush tourer took around six months with an additional bit of time taken up with some final tweaking to the tray and canopy setup. Since then, the dual-cab Y62 has seen plenty of use, with Peter stoked with its overall performance.

MONSTER 2000Nm PATROL

Words: Dan Everett
Photos: Nathan Jacobs

Whatstarted out as a mild-mannered farm truck is now packing a 450 per cent torque increase, sports-car trumping speeds and off-road ability that’d rival anything this side of a mountain goat. Ant’s ’01 GU coil-cab pounds out a mind-melting 2000Nm and 836rwhp thanks to a 6.6L V8 Duramax swap. In stock form the bent-eight will put to shame anything offered within the Australian market. However, what does it take to make it punch out more than double the power and torque?

First things first, you rip it down to a bare block. The stock pistons and con-rods were binned. In their place are forged rods from Carillo, they’re-topped off with ceramic-coated pistons from Mahle Motorsports designed to handle 1000hp. From here an ATI balancer was fitted at one end with a Wagler billet flexplate at the other. An aggressive camshaft was slotted between the two banks of pistons; although, with an altered firing order it’s designed to improve longevity, not just punch out more power.

The stock heads were also shelved, atop the Duramax are a set of CNC ported offerings from Socal Diesel stuffed full of oversized valves. Finally, a 12mm injection pump was strapped to the oiler, with 150 per cent oversized injectors satisfying the powerhouse’s insatiable thirst for diesel. 

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The turbo has been upgraded to a billet 72mm VGT offering which breathes deep through the five-inch snorkel and airbox fabbed-up in-house at Ozmax conversions, with an Ozmax front-mount intercooler sneaking in between the turbo and intake. The whole affair is reigned in with a DSP5 tuner.

Backing up the Duramax is a tickled six-speed Allison transmission. In fact, it’s a fully built item from Limitless Diesel. It’s sporting everything from billet shafts to a race-ready shift kit, clutch packs and billet baskets. From here power feeds through to an Ozmax Conversions transfer case adaptor into the stock Patrol transfer case. With the transfer case sitting 50mm rearwards to suit the engine, both front and rear driveshafts needed to be custom-built from heavy-wall chromoly to suit the new lengths.

Up front the factory diff runs an Eaton E-locker wrapped around 4.11 cryogenically treated diff gears. Longfield 300m chromoly axles and CV joints have been slotted inside to send power to the front wheels. In the rear, a locker simply wasn’t an option. Instead, Ant installed the stronger H260 rear diff and then yanked it apart and shimmed the LSD. He’s also cryo-treated the axles and gears.

To make the goliath engine fit in the comparatively small Patrol, Ant knocked together custom mounts from front to back, then extensively massaged the firewall to clear the dump pipe without running a body lift. “Getting the engine in is the easy part,” he said. “The wiring, intercooler piping, coolers and airbox all took far more work.”

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With most of the Patrols weight over the front axle, Ant’s gone for an unusual, albeit successful, approach to his suspension. Up front he’s running Fox 2.5 body remote res DSC shocks, with the rear copping a smaller diameter 2.0 remote res Fox, all from Down South Motorsports. Of course, it’s not all about shocks. Up front the diff is now kept in place by a set of Ozmax long arms, at 350mm longer and with a Cruiser bush end they’re able to take full advantage of the big shocks and 3.5-inch-taller coils.

The rear is running 300mm longer lowers from Down South Motorsport, with heavy-duty adjustable uppers helping correct pinion angle after the two-inch King flexxy coils went in. PSR adjustable Panhard rods front and rear keep it all centred, with a matching tie rod and drag link up front.

Ant’s swapped out the stock front guards for a set of Kevlar replacements that sit two inches wider with an opening that’s also two inches wider. It provides ample room for the 37 x 12.5-inch Goodyear Wrangler MTRs at full articulation. They’re able to run at insanely low pressures, too, thanks to genuine 17 x 9-inch -30 Allied Rattler beadlocks.

Ant opted for the base model DX for its rugged vinyl flooring and manual wind-up windows. The pews have been replaced with a set of leather-clad reclining Recaro bucket seats, with an Intervolt dual-battery system tucked behind. Storage is taken care of by a Department of the Interior roof console with a Bluetooth-enabled XRS UHF from GME sorting out comms. Ant also swapped the steering wheel out for one from an imported WC34 Nissan Stagea.

The GU is an incredibly capable workhorse, reliable enough to head off into the scrub for remote camping trips that’ll then run with a Lamborghini Aventador? This might be the ultimate 4x4. Just don’t ask how much it cost.

THE ULTIMATE TOY HAULER

Words: Dan Everett
Photos: Ellen Dewar

If you haven’t heard the name Mitch Thorpe, then you’ve never heard of Ultra4. For those who have heard the name, you’d know he’s spent the best part of the last few years soaring through the air, bouncing off the rev-limiter in his 6.0-litre V8-powered rocket-ship he tries to pass off as an off-road race car. Like most off-road racers, Mitch doesn’t just turn up to a race meet, get dirty and then head home to take his Prius down to the local organic markets.

We had the opportunity to not only chew his ear over all the things we could never afford to do to our rigs, but point the shiny end of a camera at his trick NP300 Nissan. While the coil-sprung NP300 mightn’t be everyone’s first pick as a tow tug, Mitch told us he’s given it no quarter but it keeps on ticking.

Mitch works for the blokes at Ozzy Tyres in their ‘flying through the air’ division, so he gets his choice of shoes as new models become available. Filling out the NP300s huge guards are a set of custom 0 offset Hussla Stealth wheels. The matte bronze units punch in at 17x9-inch, giving the Nissan its aggressive stance. Of course, wheels alone aren’t enough to get drive to the ground, so Mitch opted for a set of the new Terrain Gripper from booming Aussie-based Monsta Tyres.

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While the rest of the build is reserved, the suspension is where Mitch really cut loose. Most of the magic has been cast by SWAT Suspension Wheel and Tyre. The WA-based company has gone to town on the NP300, giving it a 3.5in lift in the front and a 1.5in lift in the rear, with King spring progressive rate coils front and back. To keep things working as they should, PSR upper control arms in the front have been fitted to correct geometry and PSR heavy duty lower control arms went in the rear after Mitch bent the factory offerings. The rear also copped extended swaybar links to cope with the new flex, though that’s not Mitch’s key to success.

“It’s running West Coast Suspension remote res 2.0 shocks all ’round,” he told us. “They’re eight-stage adjustable, with a clicker on the reservoir controlling oil flow.”

One of the big issues with lifting any IFS 4x4 is running out of down travel the higher you lift. The result is poor ride and handling and lifted wheels on even basic tracks. Despite the front sitting 3.5in higher than stock, Mitch reckons the NP300 still keeps a reasonable CV angle with a few inches of down travel left in reserve, helping the Nav stay planted in the rough stuff.

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With Mitch earning a ‘never-lift’ reputation on and off the track, it’s no surprise he’s gone to town on bar work for the NP300. Keeping the big Nissan’s nose in line despite Mitch’s best efforts is a comp-style tube bar from the guys at Xrox. The hoopless unit keeps weight off the front suspension, which is perfect if you’re not playing whack-a-mole with kangaroos every night. Plus, it improves the approach angle in the process. Down the flanks, the NP300’s vulnerable sill panels have been up-armoured thanks to a set of sliders from Southern Cross Fabworks; while the rear bar is a towbar/quarter protection arrangement from Ironman 4x4.

If you’re eyeing off the rear cargo rack with credit card in hand, you’ll be disappointed to hear it’s a custom-built unit by Mitch. Depending on where he’s pointing the spotlights, the rack can either hold an Adventure Kings roof-top tent or a space case and spare tyre. The arrangement keeps the centre of gravity nice and low with the tent on top, while also keeping the tray free for spares for the race car.

On the electrical front, Mitch kept things relatively simple, throwing all in with the buggy rather than decking out the tow tug with trinkets; although, it has still copped a couple of essentials for those late night runs out to the track. A set of Adventure Kings 9in LED driving lights help light the way, while a Redarc Tow-Pro Elite trailer brake controller stops the trailer pushing the NP300 around when Mitch jumps on the anchors.

While Mitch’s NP300 takes him wherever he wants to go, it’s doing it with relatively few modifications. The right gear here and there turns an already capable platform into something that’d leave some wildly modified rigs for dead.

ONE-OF-A-KIND Y62

Words: Dan Everett

What has the ability to travel to any corner of Australia, take on tracks that’d leave twin-locked GU Patrols scratching their heads, a refined interior and more power than a Ferrari 488 GTB? If you answered anything but Andrew Cassar’s insane supercharged 5.6L Y62 Patrol you’d be sadly mistaken.

The owner of On Track 4x4 Repairs in Kealba, Victoria, Andrew is no stranger to modified 4x4s and could see the potential lurking underneath the Patrol.

“It was between this and the 200 Series,” Andrew told us. “The creature comforts were better in the Y62 and it just represented better value for money. It’s a huge step up from the GU Patrol in every way.”

If it sounds like Andrew might be a little smitten with his Patrol it’s because he has reason to. Lurking under the bonnet in stock form is Nissan’s VK56 5.6L V8 engine pushing out 300kW.

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“When we first got it we threw it on the dyno and it pushed out 160kW at all four wheels after drivetrain loss,” Andrew said. “We then fitted it with a Harrop 2.3L supercharged kit and had the stock ECU retuned by Harrop; it’s now putting out 350kW at the wheels.”

That’s a huge 118 percent increase in power and still comes in cheaper than a comparable 200 Series. You might be forgiven for thinking power like that must take a balance of modifications, but the Patrol driveline is basically stock other than the Harrop supercharger and tune, and HM exhaust system. The engine, as well as the transmission and transfer case, all remain unopened.

Despite this the Patrol still has a range of well over 1000km between drinks, with a 150L LRA auxiliary fuel tank taking the total capacity up to 290 litres.

While independent suspension and a host of electronic aids make the Y62 perform better on- and off-road than the older models could only dream of, the 35-inch tyres are a nod to out-and-out off-road performance.

“We actually run two sets of tyres depending on use,” Andrew told us. “If we’re heading to the snow or mud I’ve got a set of 35/12.5R18 BFGoodrich mud terrains on the stock rims. I’ve also got a second set of rims with 305/70R18 Mickey Thompson ATZ P3s we’ll use for running around town or beach work.”

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Between both sets of 35-inch tyres, the factory rear diff lock and the Harrop ELocker up front, the Patrol is a sight to behold off-road. Asking the huge Y62 wheel arches to take a 35in tyre at full stuff was a little more than they could handle, so Andrew raised the Patrol by a full 50mm on each end.

It’s riding on Old Man Emu springs with matching Nitrocharger Sport shocks on each corner. Like most modern independent suspension set-ups, 50mm is the max the Y62 can be lifted before running into issues with alignment and angles. However, Andrew tells us it’s currently on the hoist again, swapping out the Nitrochargers for a full set of remote reservoir fully adjustable BP-51s.

While the bar work may look neat and orderly it’s actually a compilation of off-the-shelf and custom, something that seems to be a running theme with Andrew. Up front there’s a colour-coded ARB Deluxe bullbar that plays host to a Magnum 10,000lb winch. Andrew ditched the stock Magnum motor and swapped it out for a 6hp unit from a Warn 9.5XP for a little more power. Protecting the Patrol’s flanks are matching scrub bars and sliders. With no off-the-shelf solution for these the team from On Track 4x4 custom-made them to suit. The rear end now looks the part, with a full rear bar from Kaymar guarding the rear quarters and carrying the spare tyre.

Getting the spare out of the recess in the rear floor wasn’t just for looks, either. In its place now resides five Fullriver 20Ah batteries for a total of 100Ah in reserve. The set-up is controlled by a Redarc BCDC 1225 charger with provisions for solar and smart start, so at the flick of a button the big Patrol can jumpstart itself. The battery system packs more than enough power for the Lightforce 240s up front and Icom IC440 UHF inside.

If the future of 4x4s in Australia is fully independent grocery getters with ungodly amounts of power and ability, then the future is looking bright.

GIANT-KILLING BEHEMOTH

Words: Dan Everett
Images: Nathan Duff

When Craig McGuiness first got his hands on the 2004 GU Patrol it was owned by his brother-in-law and still looked very much like a wagon. Eventually, as they often do, the ZD30 went pop, so the deal was made and the pair traded vehicles, with Craig offering up his XH XR8 ute.

First cab off the rank was replacing the dead diesel engine. While a rebuild might have been the easy option, Craig knew it was only a matter of time until it grenaded again and he was back to square one. He bit the bullet, yanked the motor, and lined up a 5.7L LS1 V8 to replace the ailing diesel.

The engine slotted in front of the four-speed automatic 4L60E transmission, which is mated to the standard Patrol transfer case. Before it could fire into life Craig had the guys from Scott’s Rods in Ipswich piece together a custom exhaust system, from manifolds through to exhaust tip, before having the package tuned by Forced Performance & Tuning in Toowoomba.

It wasn’t long after this that Craig was kicking back on Moreton Island with some mates when the idea of a ute chop first crossed his mind. “The wagon just wasn’t good to camp out of,” Craig said. “With the barn doors on the back you can’t access anything if you have a camper trailer connected, and there’s very little room once you put a big fridge in.”

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The decision was made. But chopping a wagon into a ute isn’t exactly a DIY kind of job, especially if you’re after a factory finish. So Craig went in to see Darren Vassie at Custom RV Creations & Repairs. The plan was simple, they’d source a back wall from a GU single-cab ute, and Darren and the team would slice the back off the wagon and graft the new rear wall into place with factory precision.

While the tools were out Darren also re-skinned a damaged rear door, repaired all the dents, and grafted in a fibreglass reverse cowl bonnet off a Camaro to hint towards what lurked underneath. Before the body was re-coated in factory silver, a custom four-inch stainless-steel snorkel was fabbed up to run along the passenger-side windscreen pillar.

With the cab now looking the part, attention was turned to the wheelbase. Wagons often run a shorter wheelbase than their respective ute siblings, so when you lop off a few feet of sheet metal in a wagon you’re left with very little room to run a tray, especially if you want to keep some semblance of departure angle. To get around this Darren got out the welder again and proceeded to stretch the GUs wheelbase by a whopping 600mm. This meant the rear axle would line up perfectly in the middle of the large, new tray the pair concocted together.

The tray itself is constructed from 3mm-thick alloy sheet with 50x100x8mm alloy channel providing the strength throughout. There are gas struts on both passenger and driver doors, with compression T handle locks and deeper back structures on the doors providing better water and dustproofing. The interior is also decked out to a highly professional finish, with ply floor, roof panels and marine carpeting throughout.

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The tray’s been separated into two, with a partition running down the centre. The passenger side houses both fridges on twin Clearview slides, as well as a separate drawer for cooking supplies. The driver’s side has been divided into three drawers, with a shelf 300mm down from the roof for storage of lighter items – although with a custom alloy roof rack bolted to the canopy, storage space is never going to be an issue.

Hidden throughout the tray is an electrical system purpose-built for remote-area touring. Up on the roof rack there’s 150A worth of solar panels that feed through a compression gland in the tray and down into the RedArc battery management system. From here there’s twin 120A AGM batteries powering not only the fridge and electrical outlets but the heat exchanger and water pump for hot showers on the go. There’s no chance of running out of water, either, with 140 litres of on-board capacity. There’s plenty of distance to use it, too, thanks to the custom aluminium long-range tank doubling the standard fuel tanks capacity.

This might sound like one of the most comprehensive builds on the tracks right now, but we’ve barely even scratched the surface. It’s one of those vehicles where a determined owner with an uncompromising goal has worked perfectly with a talented workshop.

 

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