WHERE CAN WE TAKE YOU?
December 09, 2016

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New Display Centre and Showroom

Okay, we admit it. Our previous showroom was a little like a morgue waiting room. While you knew what was behind the doors, it was still a little depressing and smelled strangely like formaldehyde.
We've spent the last month up to our knees in building materials (and complaining neighbors) to pull off pre-Christmas transformation on the Mitchell Bros showroom. We really put our backs into (and put our backs out doing) a renovation that'd make sweet Scotty Cam hold up the '10' card. 
Using 90% reclaimed and recycled materials, we don't just pretend to have an environmentally conscious attitude to impress the slightly bearded, hipster girl at the local cafe, we actually give a damn about making a change. 
Come on past and check out the new-look showroom, stacks of new stock and grab yourself a Christmas bargain while you're here!

(Mention this post and we'll even let you drive our 600hp Duramax-powered GU Patrol... not really but we'll rev it for you... maybe.)


 

December 07, 2016

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STOP BUYING THE BULL


4WD travel is not as scary and perilous as you think.

 

It’s easy to view mainstream 4WD media as a bit of a 4WDing, doomsday prophecy. All the bullsh*t articles getting around about ‘Bullet-proofing’ your ‘Budget’ 4WD, rebuilding a CV trackside with a little more than a beer can ring pull, and cable-tying your $80,000 vehicle together while grinning like a proverbial idiot, would lead anyone to think that Aussie adventures go hand in hand with trashed 4WDs and an inexplicable, mid-strength beer drinking problem. Maybe for some, not for us.

For the majority of post-pubescent, responsible, non-redneck 4WDers, there’s a lot more riding on a trip away than just the mechanical repair bill. There’s your three young kids lining the backseat. The pensive Mrs that you’ve finally convinced to ride shotgun to the Cape. And let’s not forget the transit accommodation, the thousands spend in food, fuel and new camping gear and of course the year of excitement leading up to the trip. There simply isn’t the room for a lack of vehicle maintenance to blow all that out the tailpipe. Remember, your 4WD is just a tool, albeit an important one in the scheme of things, but a tool none the less. Treat it well and it’ll do the job.

So, what can you do to ensure you never have to read another ‘Bush-proof your 4WD on a beer-budget’ article? Simple. Keep reading, and save that $9.95 for a pine tree air freshener - you’ll get more out of it.

 

NEVER RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK

 

One thing we see way too often are 4WDs rolling in our door for a pre-trip inspection, a week before they embark on an 8,000km journey. You’re kidding right? Sure, if everything checks out perfectly and not a single nut needs tightening, then you’re bloody lucky. But for the vast majority of vehicles, there is work to be done and simply not enough time to do it.

Depending on your budget and ability to conduct repairs immediately, give yourself a minimum of two months before a big trip to have repairs carried out and be realistic about where you’re going to spend your coin. Replacing suspect wheel bearings, or nice new seat covers – if you had to think about that, stop reading now.

 

DEALER SCHEDULED SERVICING IS THE WORST MISTAKE YOU CAN MAKE   

 

I don’t believe in dealer scheduled servicing. Why? Because it implies you can do whatever you like with your vehicle, as long as once every 10,000km the pimple-covered, teenage service advisor at the dealership takes your keys and stamps your logbook. It breeds a level of complacency within you about your 4WD and also gives way too much responsibility to mechanics that wouldn’t know where, or what, the Hay River Track is, let alone what it’s going to subject your vehicle to.

You tend to get one of two things with dealer services. 

a) You’re told to replace expensive components based on time, rather than their actual condition. An honest 4WD specialist will only replace things that need to be replaced. If your 6000km old air filter is immaculate and cleanable, keep it! They aren’t eggs, they don’t ‘go bad’.

b) Dealer mechanics generally have zero understanding of what your 4WD gets used for, and therefore assume everything is good to go, simply because the ECU didn’t show any codes on their scanner and chassis isn’t snapped in half. What about those suspect cracks in your Patrol’s rear coil towers, or the known chassis weak spot behind an 80 Series’ steering box? Or how about the fatigue points in a Prado under the second battery? You know, the one that makes the whole radiator support panel fall off?

 

See? Take it to a specialist. Please.

 

LEARN, LEARN, LEARN

 

With proper maintenance and care, you’re constantly minimizing the chance of things going arse-up in the bush. But, as Donald Trump has taught us, no great failure is impossible and you need to know what to do when it happens. Anyone capable of learning to use a spoon can learn to use a spanner, and just because you’re not confident right now, doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the basics to carry out simple repairs in the scrub.

Talk to your mechanic; Any 4WD mechanic with an ounce of moral fibre will share their knowledge with you to help you have a safe trip. If you ask your mechanic how to complete a simple trackside repair and they flat out won’t tell you, give them the middle finger salute and find a new workshop. If, however, time doesn’t permit you to pick your mechanic’s brain, then look to resources like You-Tube. While you need to take these things with a grain of salt, it’s a great way to gain an understanding of a specific job.

 

BE PREPARED, BUT DON’T BE A PREPPER

 

If you’ve ever contemplated a GVM upgrade, simply to carry your spare parts and tools, you either drive an old Series Land Rover, or you’re over thinking things. We’re going to cover specific spares and tools next month, but for now we’ll touch on the basics.

First and foremost; Only carry parts that you actually have the ability and the knowledge to replace trackside. There is precious little point carrying a spare CV or uni joint, if no one in your party can change it. If you’re in that situation, be prepared with a sat-phone, local service numbers and make the call for help – there’s no shame in admitting you need it.

 

Spare tyres, belts, hoses and an assortment of nuts, bolts and hose clamps will get the majority of 4WDers out of strife. Add to this, oil and coolant, fuses and relays, a spare fuel, air and oil filter and some gasket goo and you’re pretty much set. If you know how to change them, then chuck a set of greased wheel bearings in a glad bag and throw them in too.

 

LEARN TO DRIVE

 

Sounds stupid right? Of course you can drive, but can you push your 4WD into rugged terrain while maintaining a high level of mechanical sympathy? If I told you that an experienced and mechanically sympathetic driver could peddle an X-Trail across the Simpson Desert without a breakage, would you believe it? If you said ‘Bullsh*t mate’ and spat a XXXX Gold across the screen, then odds are you need some driver training. It’s not just about tackling the deepest ruts, or wildest hill-climbs, it’s about getting you, your family and your vehicle home without damage. Look into it, we can help.

 

 

 

COMING UP!

 

Next month we’re going to go right into the nitty-gritty about all the tools, spares and parts you’re going to need for your next great adventure, but most importantly, the tools and crap that can stay at home in the shed.  

 

________________

 

From the whole team here at Mitchell Brothers 4x4 please accept, (with no obligation, implied or implicit) our best wishes for a politically correct, non-offensive, gender-equal, environmentally conscious holiday period, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of your religious persuasions or secular choices. We look forward to seeing you in the new year, which is generally regarded as calendar year ‘2017’ (But not without regard for the calendar choices of other cultures, both current and extinct)!

 

(There, that should avoid us getting sued!)

 

Have a bloody top Chrissy guys!

 

  • Mitchell Bros 4x4 Team.

 

February 04, 2016

2 comments


An industry, inferno. By Danny Reber

 

Wake up and smell the Cape York mud. January is already over and here we are, charging head down, full steam into another sensational year– crikey how time flies. Yep, it’s 2016 and the industry is awake and cranking while the 4WD lifestyle itself is bulging in the waistband like Big Kev on a excitement fuelled kebab bender. Sure as sheets, life’s good on the 4WD front. 

Except for one, niggling thing.

In the same way that 2016 is bringing around some amazing changes in the industry, it’s also boiling my blood – what the heck am I on about right? Well, let me put it another way; why the heck are the good, honest 4WDing public charging forward at a magnificent rate of knots, yet some of the 4WD industry’s biggest players running backwards into the dark ages – ‘Hey Doc, is it 1785 yet?’

As 4WDers, we tend to have the odds stacked against us when it comes to making our hobby into a lifestyle. We’ve got track closures rising faster than the price of diesel. We’re fighting ridiculous and draconian vehicle modification laws, constructed by Prius driving, latte sipping, suits in their ivory towers. Not to mention a general public that thinks we’re monster truck driving, soot puffing hooligans. Yep, there’s a real risk on out future if we don’t band together as a whole. That means the industry too.

Here’s where the blood boiling starts. While we have such a small industry, compared to say, women’s fashion or the billion-dollar juggernaut of the sports industry, we have a level of passion that is seldom seen in any other industry. Why? Because 4WDers like you and I ARE the industry as much as we’re the lifestyle. The problems come when you put green-eyed businessmen into roles that should be reserved for passionate individuals and where you have those green-eyed monsters, you tend to have blokes putting dollars before the consumer. This is becoming ever more evident in areas like 4WDing publications, and the big businesses that have jumped on board with those same conglomerates purely to shove more dollars into their already fattened wallets.

Regular 4WD enthusiasts like you and me are taking a backseat to political, industry warfare – and it’s a bloody joke.

There’s only one thing that’s going to ensure the survival of the 4WD industry and lifestyle alike, and it comes down to a very simple concept. Working together for the greater good. Like the first monkeys that punched each other senseless over a scrap of food, we evolved to work together to ensure our survival, and now live in excess rather than in need. Until the role models of the industry come together to ensure its survival, it’s going to be a long night with a bleak dawn.

“What the heck can I do? I’m not the industry,” you might be thinking. Well, tell ‘em you’ve had enough. Don’t fuel fires by jumping on bandwagons. Push the point. The big players are so scared of losing your business that if we push ‘em hard enough, we’ll start to see change.

Competition is no longer about producing a better product for you and me, it’s simply about bagging out the other bloke, just a little louder than he bagged you. C’mon guys, we see through the smoke and we want change. We, the 4WDer, demand it!

 

December 08, 2015

2 comments


Worlds Worst Customer Service Experience

 

WARNING RANT (with a sensible conclusion).

So, we’ve recently been on the receiving end of some absolutely terrible customer service by a 4wd store in Geelong Victoria, let’s call them “the shop” and the person we dealt with “DH”.

We ordered some parts from the shop and DH said the parts were in stock, turns out they weren’t and won’t be for some time and as I’m writing this there’s still no sign of the parts being delivered any time soon. DH created expectations that the parts would be delivered within a few days. The order was paid (in full in good faith).

Expectations 101 in business, create realistic expectations the you can deliver on (or exceed).

10 days went by and nothing arrived so we called the shop and spoke to a nice lady who said she’d chase it up, never had a reply. We tried numerous different methods to contact the company to find out what’s going on and never had a reply more than a couple of words long, not even a complete sentence, very frustrating. We did however get an email that said that the parts were on the way, yeh right…….

Not only was the shop very difficult to contact, we never received a call back from DH so getting anything done was an absolute nightmare.

Given that we had no substantial communication in this whole debacle, not enough that we would feel confident to make decision on, we rescinded our purchase order (via telephone, email and instant messenger) after finding out that parts hadn’t left the supplier in the USA.

This is the response we got.

“No problem, will get Xxxxx to do that and work out a fair restocking fee”

Now my question was, “re-stocking fee, for what? Don’t you have to have the parts in your store and take them out of stock to be able to charge a re-stocking fee?” We’re not paying any re-stocking fee!”

That’s when all hell broke loose, the world stopped rotating and apparently we’re the worst business owners on the planet.

DH started his tirade of abuse, threats and downright unprofessional behaviour. Not only did DH call us a liars and questioned our integrity but he also threatened to go to social media to recruit a gang of feedback thugs to publicly defame us by leaving negative feedback on our various review pages. We’re all for constructive feedback because it helps us know where we’ve gone wrong but falsifying reviews, there’s gotta be something illegal about that.

We requested a refund and under consumer law we’re absolutely entitled to one, not only was DH an arse about the whole thing, he blatantly broke the law and refused to refund our monies.

We’re not perfect and we do make mistakes and we’re aware of our short comings and weakness in business, the difference is we’re working on these things and the feedback questionnaire we send to our clients helps us immensely.

See feedback here http://www.mitchellbros4x4.com.au/pages/testimonials

Why is it so hard to get good service from some Australian business? Why do Australian businesses treat their clients this way?

Blog post 001 suggested that we should support local business and we firmly stand behind these sentiments but how can we, as consumers, be expected to put up with this type of poor business practice, rude behaviour and generally poor form when there’s thousands of businesses off shore that will gladly do business with the end user.

Is it because there’s no real competition in Australia? Markets are so small and small business so stretched with everyday operational issues that business owners feel like they can do whatever they like? Maybe they don’t know their customer service sucks, maybe they don’t care!

We use situations like this as a reflection of the way we conduct ourselves in business and how not to conduct ourselves. If we’ve ever do not exceeded expectations with you, please let us know because we’ll take ownership and fix the problem.

 

Aaron Mitchell

November 26, 2015

3 comments


What's the best 4wd of all time?

Is this the last of the true 4wd publications going to print these days? Not owned by Express Media Group!
10 greatest 4x4's of all time

Ask two four-wheel drive enthusiasts what the greatest 4x4 ever made is and you’ll probably get differences of opinion.

Ask half a dozen blokes who eat, sleep and breathe 4x4s which is the best 4x4 ever made and you might just start an argument!

To settle the score we got the blokes here at 4x4 Australia to vote for the 10 most significant 4x4s, ranked in order. We then allocated points with 10 for first place down to one for 10th place, before doing the maths to establish the definitive top 10.

The Toyota Land Cruiser was categorised by Series, Land Rover was categorised by leaf springs (Series I to III) and the later coil-sprung models (90, 110, Defender etc), Land Rover Discovery was categorised by live axles (first and second-gen Discovery) or fully independent (Discovery 3 and 4) and Range Rovers were categorised by one of their four generations. Most of the others fell naturally into their own model designation.

Our six judges – Matt Raudonikis, Ron Moon, Dean Mellor, Ian Glover, John Rooth and Fraser Stronach – have some 255 years of 4x4 experience between them. This is their verdict...

1. WWII US Army Jeep The godfather

The US Army's WWII Jeep was developed for a specific military role, but it changed the world in times of peace, too.

Ww 2-us -army -jeep -1The US Army’s WWII Jeep is most commonly known as the Willys-Overland MB or the Ford GP, after the two companies that produced the majority of the Jeeps during the war, though its design owes far more to the army than any single car company. And of the several car companies involved in its design, the Bantam company deserves most credit.

In the early days of its design and development it wasn’t even called a Jeep, that name came about later. Even to this day, arguments continue as to where the name originated. The Jeep name wasn’t officially registered until 1950 when Willys-Overland claimed it on the grounds it had produced more Jeeps during the war than anyone else.

The Jeep story starts in 1938 when the US was looking to modernise its military. It put out hundreds of tenders covering a diverse range of military vehicles and equipment, one of them being for a Command Reconnaissance Vehicle. The Army set down very strict guidelines on weight, size, engine power and performance. It also had to have 4WD.

So tough were the Army’s demands that the original prototypes put up by Bantam and Willys-Overland, and later by Ford, were rejected. More prototypes came and went with complaints that the Army secretly shared blueprints between bidders and, after a string of redesigns, what was roughly the final iteration was settled on by mid 1941. At the core of the design was a separate chassis and live axles at both ends carried on leaf springs. This became the blueprint for 4x4 design for many years to come.

Ww 2-us -army -jeep -2During the war, Jeeps served as much more than reconnaissance vehicles and did everything the US and Allied militaries asked of it, and then some. They were used as supply vehicles, machine gun mounts, troop carriers, and for towing everything from guns to planes. Hitched together and fitted with steel wheels, they hauled railroad rolling stock when there wasn’t a locomotive to do the job. But more than anything else, the Jeep, as Roothy so succinctly puts it, “was absolutely incredible off-road”.

The Jeep’s wartime versatility ensured its civilian success in post-war USA with returning US soldiers singing its praises. In the words of Ron Moon: “The Jeep began the world’s love affair with lightweight 4x4 vehicles.”

2. Toyota Land Cruiser 40 Series The rising son

The 40 Series land cruiser laid a solid foundation for toyota’s – and japan’s – international success. 

Toyota -land -cruiser -40-series -1Interestingly there’s a fair bit of Jeep, and even US military in the birth of the Land Cruiser. Not that the 40 was the first Land Cruiser.

Time travel back to 1950, just five years after the war’s end, and you’ll find Japan was effectively under US military occupation as the Americans tried to reshape Japan’s commercial and social fabric and disband its military. What new military equipment Japan was allowed to procure for its self-defence force was of American origins.

All that changed when war in nearby Korea flared in 1950 and US military production was put under new pressure. As a result the Americans asked the Japanese car companies to design light 4x4s (as well as other vehicles) that could be produced at short notice and in significant numbers.

To cut a long story short, Toyota’s first effort looked very much like a US military Jeep. Like the Jeep it had live axles and leaf springs at both ends. It was designated the BJ, where the B referred to the six-cylinder engine and the J referred to Jeep. The new vehicle was initially called a Toyota Jeep until Willys-Overland successfully claimed trademark violation.

In 1955 the BJ became the 20 Series when it was revamped for export although sales were limited due in part to patchy reliability.

But Toyota quickly learnt from its first-effort mistakes and launched the 40 Series in 1960. In one form or another the 40 would remain in production until 1984. It introduced the qualities that would make Land Cruiser the dominant force it is today. “This is the vehicle that stole market dominance from the Brits (Land Rover),” Ian Glover says.

Toyota -land -cruiser -40-series -2As well as the big jump in build quality, the 40 Series introduced comfort and convenience features rarely seen in 4x4s of the day, while changes in production processes meant a better quality vehicle could be produced more quickly and at lower cost.

The 40 Series was produced in a range of models in short-, mid- and long-wheelbase; as a two-door hard-top, a soft-top, a Troop Carrier and a cab-chassis; and with petrol or diesel engines.

The success of the 40 Series worldwide was mirrored here in Australia and you still see plenty on and off the road in both work and leisure roles.

Ron’s advice: “If you’ve got one, hang on to it!”

3. Land Rover Earth roamer

The Land Rover was created as a stopgap model, but its role in expeditions helped open up the planet like no other vehicle.

Land -rover -1The Land Rover reinforces the significance of the Army Jeep, because just like the 40 Series Toyota it has Jeep in its history.

In fact, a WWII Jeep, owned and used by Rover’s technical chief Maurice Wilks on his rural property in Wales, UK, was the 1947 inspiration behind the original Land Rover.

At the time, Rover badly needed a new model to stimulate sales given the limited demand for its up-market saloons in a depressed post-war market. Wilks’s war-surplus Jeep was proving just the thing on his farm and had him wondering if such a versatile, simple and robust vehicle, aimed at farmers rather than the military, could be the thing to help the ailing Rover on the path to recovery?

Within months, even before the first prototype was built (on a Jeep chassis, no less), the idea got the go-ahead from Rover management.

Given it was seen as a stopgap model, the priority was to produce the Land Rover as quickly and as cheaply as possible. That meant the use of flat body panels made from war-surplus aluminium alloy, as steel was in short supply. It also meant an absolute minimum of tooling.

Working at an incredible pace, Wilks’s team had the Land Rover ready for its public debut at the Amsterdam Motor Show in April 1948.

Land -rover -2As Glover says: “Wilks kept it simple and useful with uncomplicated engineering and barebones comfort levels. It worked, and popularised the idea that having four-wheel drive made sense.”

But the Land Rover’s success was not just due to the vehicle’s attributes. Britain’s extensive influence through its Commonwealth and former empire meant ready access to export markets in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australia; all regions where a simple and robust 4x4 was more than useful.

While the Land Rover was initially aimed at rural buyers, as Dean Mellor explains: “It soon found favour with a new breed of intrepid off-road adventurers who used the vehicle to explore the world and, in the process, open up vast areas to civilisation.”

Over the years the Series I evolved into the Series II, Series IIA and Series III that lasted until 1985, but all the while retaining the key attributes of the 1948 original, including leaf-sprung live axles, just like the WWII Jeep.

4. Range Rover (1970) Master class 

With all-coil suspension and full-time 4WD, the first Range Rover brought comfort and technology to the 4x4 world.

Range -rover -1970-1Ron Moon is right when he says: “Surprisingly as it may seem today, [the Range Rover] was never designed as a luxury vehicle.”

The original 1970 Range Rover was the brainchild of Charles Spencer King, Rover’s chief of new vehicle projects at the time, and was simply conceived as a passenger 4x4 rather than a work 4x4 like the Land Rover.

Despite its eventual success, not everyone at Rover was convinced that Spen King (as he was known) was on the right track at the time. As Glover points out: “Spen King came at 4x4 design from a totally different [design] direction, namely all-coil suspension, after he drove a Rover sedan over a freshly ploughed field”.

Even Land Rover’s chief engineer of the time, Tom Barton, wasn’t convinced of the concept, especially the radical change from leaf to coil springs for the Range Rover’s live axles. Rover’s sales department also thought the whole Range Rover idea was stupid. “What! A Land Rover costing 2000 pounds – you must be mad!” was its reaction.

At the launch of the second-generation Range Rover in 1994, Spen King recalled of the original: “We did it off our own bat. It wasn’t management saying ‘do this’; we did it ourselves because we thought it was a worthwhile thing to do.”

Range -rover -1970-2The Range Rover introduced full-time four-wheel drive. “You have the rotating machinery at both ends so you may as well use it,” King said. “It saves on tyre wear and fuel and it confers better grip, a prime safety factor. The security on slippery, nasty roads is just wonderful.”

The Range Rover was an instant success worldwide and remained in production virtually unchanged for more than 10 years until the four-door model was introduced in 1981. With various updates it continued until 1996, two years after the launch of the second-gen Range Rover.

According to Glover: “The Range Rover was simply a masterpiece and it remains a delight to drive today.”

5. Toyota Hilux Workers' choice

from humble beginnings, the Toyota Hilux has become a 4x4 with universal appeal – From tradies to taliban.

Toyota -hilux -2According to Mellor: “There was really nothing remarkable about the HiLux – it was a pretty basic vehicle – but as the years went by it became available in a variety of body styles including single, extra and double cab, with pick-up or tray, and that made it appealing to a wide audience.”

The first HiLux appeared in 1968 as a 4x2 only. It was slightly smaller than the Toyota Stout light truck of the day and in some markets it replaced the Stout while in others it sold alongside it.

The second-generation HiLux arrived in 1972, but was again 4x2 only. Buyers would have to wait until a year after the third-generation arrived in 1978 for the first HiLux 4x4. Unlike the 4x2 models, it featured live axles and leaf springs at both ends. At the time it was only available as a single cab, with dual-cab models not appearing until 1982.

The HiLux wasn’t the first dual-cab ute, as Toyota had a dual-cab version of its Stout as early as 1960 and there were others before that. However, there’s no doubt that the HiLux 4x4 double-cab of 1982 was the vehicle that began the world’s love affair with dual-cab 4x4 utes.

Toyota -hilux -1Today the modern dual-cab, with its sophisticated powertrains and equipment, is very much a match for most 4x4 wagons in terms of performance and safety. It also beats a wagon hands down for versatility.

The dual-cab ute is the default 4x4 to transport a family and for recreation in Australia. Various Toyota HiLux models seem to populate the roads of every country in the world, too.

According to Moon: “The HiLux just delivers on good levels of features, ride and performance; all backed up by Toyota’s reliability and wide-ranging service network. There might be a lot of players in this ever-crowded field but the HiLux has been, and still is, the king!”

Toyota is about to launch its eighth generation HiLux and it’s simply impossible to think of a world without Toyota’s HiLux.

6. Nissan Patrol GQ Coils for the spoil

After playing second fiddle to Toyota, Nissan surged ahead of its long-time rival with its coil-sprung GQ Patrol.

Nissan -patrol -GQ-1Not only was the GQ Patrol more comfortable on the road than the leaf-sprung Land Cruiser 60 Series of the day, it also offered better off-road performance thanks to its long-travel coils,” Mellor says glowingly of this breakthrough vehicle from Nissan, launched in 1987.

However, the GQ wasn’t Nissan’s first recreational or family 4x4. That honour goes to its predecessor, the MQ, which marked the first significant change of direction for the Patrol.

Nissan actually produced its first Patrol around the same time as Toyota made its first Land Cruiser, and for the same reason as Toyota: Answering a call from the US military for a light 4x4 that could be quickly and easily produced after war broke out in nearby Korea in 1950. Like the original Land Cruiser, the first Patrol also looked very much like a WWII Jeep.

Fast forward to 1979 and the far more sophisticated MQ was, according to Glover, “extremely capable off-road and also boasted the best on-road dynamics of any Japanese 4x4”. It proved a great basis for the even better GQ.

Nissan -patrol -GQ-2The GQ with its coil-sprung live axles may have arrived 17 years after the Range Rover was launched with coils, but it was the GQ rather than the Range Rover that really consigned leaf-sprung recreational 4x4s to history once and for all.

The GQ was a huge coup for Nissan in a market dominated by Toyota. In fact, the GQ hurt Toyota so much that the 80 Series was rushed into production in 1990 ahead of the original schedule. As a result, it was somewhat compromised.

The GQ remains a pinnacle for Nissan 4x4s, as its subsequent 1997 GU (and later variants) have failed to keep pace with Toyota’s later models.

As Roothy puts it: “Wherever people are playing off-road you’ll find plenty of jacked-up, big-wheeled Nissan GQs. It’s still the best starting point for anyone hanging out to build their own super capable off-road weapon.”

7. Toyota Land Cruiser 60 Series Broadening the family tree

The 60 Series Land Cruiser added family-friendly comfort to Toyota's Industrial-grade toughness.

Toyota -landcruiser -60-series -2Toyota started planning for the 60 Series in 1976. The idea was for a bigger, family-style 4x4 that could hopefully gain a foothold in the growing US market sector led by the Jeep Wagoneer.

Like the Wagoneer, the 60 Series needed to have more of the feel of a passenger station wagon, with a comfortable ride and a more luxurious, better-equipped interior.

Consideration was given to independent front suspension for the 60, just like the Wagoneer, but this was rejected in favour of a modified version of the live-axle leaf-spring set-up of the earlier FJ55. Apparently there was no consideration of coil-sprung live axles, as per the Range Rover, something that would come with the 80 Series a further decade down the track.

The 60 wasn’t Toyota’s first station wagon. Before the 60 there were long-wheelbase wagon versions of the 40 (45 Series) and, more significantly, the FJ55. However neither the 45 nor the 55 were designed specifically for the recreational market, as was the 60.

Toyota -landcruiser -60-series -1In 1982, the popular HJ60, with its bigger six-cylinder 4.0-litre 2H diesel engine, was introduced. In many ways the HJ60 was the defining vehicle of the 60 Series range. As well as its bigger engine, the HJ60 also featured a five-speed transmission, an optional sunroof, power mirrors and other luxury features.

As editor Raudonikis says: “The 60 might have used leaf springs, but it’s a purposeful, functional off-road wagon that was the right size, the right shape and has stood the test of time.”

For Toyota, the 60 Series brought a split in the Land Cruiser family between commercial and recreational 4x4s. Where the 40 gave birth to the 50 Series and was eventually replaced by the enduring 70 Series, the 60 started the line that progressed to the 80, then the 100 and now the 200.

8. Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series (tied for eighth) Keep it simple, son

The Land Cruiser 70 Series is living proof that good design will always stand the test of time.

Toyota -landrcuiser -70-series -2Editor Raudonikis owns a 1985 70 Series and is a big fan of this basic, but brick-dunny-tough, no-nonsense 4x4. He calls it, “an enduring workhorse that has been with us longer than 30 years now and it’s still the toughest 4x4 workhorse available today”. He’s unlikely to find anyone who will argue that point!

The 70 Series arrived in 1984 as a replacement for the hugely successful 40 Series. So it had very big shoes to fill.

Overall it’s bigger than the 40, though the 70 retained some of the 40s styling cues and, of course, a ladder-frame chassis with front and rear leaf-sprung live axles.

At launch it came in a mind-boggling array of models with different bodies (wagon, ute, cab-chassis and Troop Carrier) on three different wheelbases (short, mid and long) and with a number of different engines. There was also a largely unloved coil-sprung version on a short wheelbase called the Bundera.

Right from the start the cab-chassis and Troop Carrier variants, both built on the long wheelbase, proved the most popular. In the early ’90s the model range was slimmed down and by 1993 the short- and mid-wheelbase models had disappeared.

Toyota -landrcuiser -70-series -1The first major upgrade of the 70 occurred in 1999 when coil springs replaced the leaf springs at the front, and the rear leaf springs were lengthened to improve the unladen ride quality. The ute’s cab also gained some much-needed length behind the seats.

What some people consider to be the best engine ever to grace a 70 Series arrived – the 1HD-FTE 4.2-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel (from the 100 Series, but non-intercooled) – in 2001.

The 70 Series range we know today arrived in 2007 with the then-new 4.5-litre turbodiesel V8, now the only engine available across the range. The 76 four-door wagon – new to Australian buyers, but previously available overseas – joined the 78 Troop Carrier and the 79 Cab Chassis at that time.

Since then, driver and passenger airbags and ABS have helped ramp up the 70’s safety credentials. And in 2012, the 79 Series Double Cab joined the line-up.

Of the 70 Series range, Ron says: “At a time when real tough and relatively basic 4x4s are becoming ever harder to find in the new-vehicle marketplace, the 70 remains a beacon of light ... and hope!”

Amen to that!

8. Land Rover Discovery 3 (tied for eighth) Best practice

Land Rover's Third-Generation Discovery was a game-changer for hard-core 4x4 Technology.

Land -rover -discovery -3-2Despite a name that suggests evolution, rather than revolution, the Discovery 3 owed nothing to 1990’s original Discovery or the updated (1999) Discovery II. Both of those vehicles had live axles front and rear and were based heavily – chassis and body – on the first-gen Range Rover.

The Discovery 3 story starts with Ford’s purchase of the Land Rover brand in 2000. Ford was keen to address Land Rover’s sales decline given the second-gen Discovery – then Land Rover’s best-selling model – was getting very long in the tooth.

What Ford did was throw bucket-loads of money (reportedly A$600million at the time) at Land Rover to produce a completely new clean-sheet design. Nothing was to be carried over from the previous Discovery.

Aside from a brilliantly clever, spacious and versatile cabin, Discovery 3 introduced many significant new technical features led by fully independent suspension with height-adjustable air springs on up-spec models. This was an elegant solution to the age-old on- and off-road ride-height compromise that has plagued 4x4s for decades.

Land -rover -discovery -3-1The Discovery 3 also introduced what was the first of the new-generation high-output turbodiesel engines to appear in a serious family 4x4; a superb 2.7-litre V6 with no less than 140kW and 440Nm. It was backed by the option of a super-slick six-speed ZF automatic. This powertrain combination – modern V6 turbodiesel and ZF auto – was, at the time, a huge leap forward for family 4x4s. And if diesel wasn’t your go, you could always have the very sweet 4.4-litre petrol V8 or the budget-priced Ford-sourced 4.0-litre V6.

The Discovery 3 also introduced Land Rover’s brilliant – and now much copied, Terrain Response system. Terrain Response linked the control of the engine, gearbox, height-adjustable suspension, the electronic differentials, and all the electronic chassis systems, like traction and stability control, into a number of driver-selectable modes to improve performance on different terrain.

The Discovery 3 was so far ahead of its time that the Discovery 4, which arrived in 2009, was essentially a makeover as it retained all of the Discovery 3’s essential design elements, from seating to suspension.

10. Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series Complete package

With Strength, Durability and all-coil suspension, the 80 Series is considered by many to be the best-ever Land Cruiser.

Toyota -land -cruiser -80-series --1Roothy reckons, “all Land Cruisers are good but the 80 Series is the best of the lot”. And he won’t find any argument with Ron who says the 80 Series, “was the best Land Cruiser wagon ever built – they’ve gone downhill from that pinnacle! The latest might be smoother, faster and more refined, but they are far less a real 4x4”.

The 80 Series arrived in Australia in early 1990 with considerable fanfare. Seemingly caught ill-prepared by the 1987 release of Nissan’s GQ Patrol, Toyota was keen to replace its veteran 60 Series due to poor sales against the more sophisticated all-coil GQ. Some say the 80 was rushed onto the market, such was the concern over Nissan’s success.

At launch in Australia the 80 came in a 10-model range, two of which retained part-time 4x4, courtesy of the 70 Series. The rest, significantly, came with full-time 4x4. The part-time 4x4 base models also came with vertically split (barn) rear doors rather than the horizontally split tailgate used in the rest of the range. And of course, all 80s rode on coil springs.

Two entirely new engines, the 1HZ diesel and 1HD-T turbodiesel debuted with the 80, while the old 3F petrol six from the 60 and a fuel-injected version of the same (3F-E; auto only) made up the range. Just two years later, the 3F and 3F-E were replaced by the new 1FZ-FE; a thoroughly modern (at the time) 4.5-litre alloy-head twin-cam four-valve in-line six. In 1995, the somewhat troublesome 1HD-T engine was replaced by the multi-valve 1HD-FT turbodiesel.

Toyota -land -cruiser -80-series --2In terms of sophistication, the 80 Series represented a giant leap forward from the 60 Series thanks to the introduction of the coil-sprung suspension and availability of a full-time 4WD system.

With the benefit of hindsight it’s fair to say the transition from 60 to 80 was far more significant than the transition from the 80 to the 100 Series. While the 80 was a far more comfortable and sophisticated 4x4 than any Land Cruiser before, it retained the legendary toughness and go-anywhere ability of its predecessors.

As Roothy says: “Get a good one and play in the dirt forever!”

Credit to the author of this article and 4x4 Australia.

July 11, 2015

3 comments


Cheap Imported Chinese Products

This is my first ever blog so I'm nervous about it.

We're seeing an huge increase of cheaper Chinese 4wd accessories and products flooding the market and we're concerned about it, for the your sake and the industry as a whole.

Whilst there are importers who are dedicated to delivering a quality products and who are happy to spend time, effort and money perfecting their products we are seeing the majority of these importers simply buying from third party manufacturers or wholesalers based on price or quick delivery times then offering them to the market. There are numerous mass trade type websites that anyone can buy from with little or no experience.

Take the recent case of the recall of vehicle recovery straps or "snatch straps" by the company Tigerz11, Express Publications, 4wd Supacentre (that can be found here http://www.recalls.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1072257) as a good example.

This company has a history of supplying suspect equipment, more evidence on this particular company can be found here ---> http://www.recalls.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1055866...... or here http://www.recalls.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/968056

DON'T YOU THINK A MASSIVE COMPANY LIKE 4WD SUPACENTRE WOULD CHANGE THEIR PRACTICE AFTER SUCH A STRING OF PRODUCT FAILURES AND PROBLEMS?

It's not just related to this company, I was astounded to find other companies are having the same trouble with the humble and unassuming (but terribly dangerous if not used properly) hi-lift jack, a basic tool of most 4wd enthusiasts.

Just in case you've never seen one ---> 

Check out the list below of retailers/resellers/importers of hi-lift jacks who have products affected by current recalls.

(THESE ARE ALL SINCE 26TH MAY 2015)

Some of these seller appear to have removed the products from sale but you make up your mind, recalled on the 15th of May 2015, not even 2 months ago, I just found the product still for sale on their ebay page......

I want to stop short of this sounding like a rant so I'll finish up with this thought,

Buy from your local 4wd store, someone who you can build a relationship with based on trust and transparency and steer clear of shonky sellers who sell their kit for cheap prices, do your research and seek out reviews and feedback from other user and you're less likely to get burnt by dodgy operators.

Aaron Mitchell

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