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4WD: The Journey Continues

In my previous article here, I shared how I learned about 4WD in a Suzuki Grand Vitara. My second and current 4WD is a 1996 Toyota Hilux.

IN OCTOBER OF 2009, I had just landed what I thought was my dream job as a Journalist for a popular 4WD magazine, and decided it was time to upgrade to a more capable 4WD. I soon became the proud owner of an LN106 Toyota HiLux fitted with a naturally aspirated 2.8L diesel engine.

The vehicle came with a heavy tradesman’s box on the back, which was quickly changed for a factory styleside tub. I cut out the lower section of the rear quarter panels to improve the departure angle, and purchased a second hand bullbar to better protect the front end.

Things didn’t quite work out as planned however, the job at the magazine wasn’t to be, as I was let go during the probation period. At this point I still had the Grand Vitara, and was using both it and the HiLux for off road trips. Before long, I had put a solid dent in the sump of the GV (amongst other battle scars), and blown the rear diff in the HiLux. As I was in between jobs at the time, there was no money to fix it, and I didn’t feel either vehicle was in a condition to sell. I removed the rear driveshaft from the HiLux, put it in 4WD, and discovered that when there was no load from the engine on the diff, it didn’t make any horrid noises, nor affect the way the vehicle drove. Not really having any other choice, I drove it around like that for a couple of months while I scraped together the money to start fixing at least one of my vehicles.

I got the Grand Vitara repaired sufficiently to pass its next pink slip, though had to let the registration lapse on the HiLux. It was off the road for about three years before I was able to repair it. I twice found myself the owner of a small FWD sedan in that time, and eventually got myself back to only having one vehicle, the mighty HiLux.

The process of repairing it was a long and frustrating one. I had started a number of the repairs, but had not had time to finish them. This included rebuilding the front swivel hub assembly and replacing the rear diff and springs. I managed to save up enough money to have a mechanic pick up the vehicle for me, and do all the work, including the fitment of a 4WD Systems LOKKA in the rear diff. As my model HiLux has leaf springs and solid axles all around, the front and rear differentials are interchangeable, so I also purchased a second rear diff with the factory LSD to put in the front.

I purchased a new set of front springs to match the rears, but found they gave me too much lift to pass a blue slip, and the 31in tyres I had fitted at the time were considered too big, as they are 2in bigger in diameter than the standard tyres. This created a minor problem as I had already chosen slightly shorter diff ratios to match the taller tyres. I had the old springs refitted to the front, knowing they would make the ride height acceptable, and purchased a set of standard diameter tyres. With the blue slip passed, the vehicle was finally registered, and has been relatively trouble free for the four years now I have had it back on the road.

I have recently fitted a towbar to it, and have been surprised at its towing performance. It would seem that all of the 90 horses under the bonnet are more like Clydesdales than anything, as it handles an extra tonne or so on behind it far better than the modest outputs suggest it should.

While I have no doubt learnt more about offroad driving in the time I’ve had the HiLux, the biggest lessons I have learnt have been about the costs involved in owning, using and at times abusing a 4WD. The journey of rebuilding my ute means I appreciate it far more now than I did when I first bought it.

Being a little bit older and wiser now, I’d rather just get out there and enjoy the parts of Australia that are only accessible via 4WD than thrash my vehicle in the bush every other weekend. I have recently discovered that the best vehicles for thrashing are really cheap ones, though that’s another story for another day.

  • Tony Gersbach

    Yeah, and really cheap ones are prone to breaking down, leaving you and your loved ones stranded, especially in the most remote of areas. It seems that people think its cool, hip and fashionable to drive these old vehicles, the smart people dont do this…there is a good reason for that!
    You’ll learn, eventually….

Andrew Riles

Andrew Riles

My parents knew I was a car enthusiast when I was about 15months old, as I could already tell the difference between our Subaru and other similar vehicles. I have since had an almost insatiable appetite for almost anything car related. My main interest now is 4WDing, though one day I'd like to take part in 24hrs of LeMons, and maybe one of the rallies that raises money for charity.