Ken O’Keefe loves all four-wheel drives. But has a special place for the MK Patrol. The often-forgotten Nissan Patrol. So does Unsealed staffer Adam, who picked up this beauty recently. It’s a 3.3L diesel SD33 powered SWB MK, that needs a little bit of love (like they all do) but has really good bones.
What’s the story?
Ken, being the Founder and Managing Director of The Ultimate Suspension, heard Adam was doing up his MK and suggested he bring it down for an upgrade.
You see, Ken has a history surrounding product development, racing and cross-country rallying in four-wheel drives from all eras. But has especially fond memories of developing products and racing the MK Patrol with off-road racing legend Les Siviour.
From this off-road racing experience, Ken developed a suspension kit specifically for the MK Patrol (and most other 4x4s on the market – he’s a busy man). After spending a day with Ken and the team, when I say he developed this kit, I mean it.
He knew every nut and bolt by name. He knew exactly to the millimetre what the new ride height would be (and nailed it). As well as how to get the right shackle angle from the correct leaf spring length for a great ride. Not to mention better articulation off-road.
Ultimate Suspension History
Experience breeds confidence, and you can tell that the Ultimate Suspension team knows what they are doing. Ultimate Suspension was founded in 1975 by Ken, who is nothing short of being a suspension guru.
The Ultimate Suspension is actually used and trusted by NATO, World Food Program Providers and Major Armouring Companies Worldwide. This level of professionalism made Ken and The Ultimate Suspension a household name in the Australian 4WD scene, and in this case, the Nissan MK Patrol community, as the go-to suspension upgrade provider to this day.
What services do The Ultimate Suspension offer?
Take a look around the carpark at The Ultimate Suspension, and you’ll notice one thing. 79 Series LandCruisers, and lots of them. The team told me that 79 Series Cruisers is the most popular four-wheel drive they work on currently. So were excited to sink their teeth into something different, working on Adam’s MK. That’s until they realised how much more fun it is working on brand-new vehicles that aren’t covered in 30 years of road grime and mud… All part of the service.
With the 79 Series being such a practical vehicle, it isn’t just suspension lift kits Ultimate Suspension are offering LandCruiser owners. Ultimate Suspension also deals with custom suspension including coil spring conversions, GVM upgrades, vehicle engineering and suspension fabrication.
Two other major players for the business, are fleet and defence vehicles. If it’s good enough for defence, I’m confident Ultimate Suspension is going to be up to the task for Adam and his MK Patrol.
What I’m trying to say, is Ultimate Suspension doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all sort of approach. They specialise in and are happy to develop custom components. Things like springs and shock absorbers, to suit bespoke fitments. Want more down travel? Tell Ken. Want a softer ride? Ask Ken how he can achieve it. It’s an utterly refreshing approach to aftermarket suspension.
I’ve never been to a suspension specialist that was so thorough. The Ultimate Suspension team weighed the vehicle, did a brake test, took all sorts of measurements – and that was before it was even put on the hoist.
A proper vehicle assessment followed by a series of measurements on the MK was carried out before the correct parts were gathered to be assembled. All of which were in stock and on the shelf, I might add. That’s impressive.
Fitting the suspension
The main issue with the suspension fitted to Adam’s MK, was that it was the wrong gear for the vehicle. It was decent aftermarket equipment (well, when it was new), but the leaf springs fitted were designed for the much heavier Long Wheel Base MK Patrol. And, well… it was super worn out.
Ken told us he had just the right kit to fix the issue. But wanted to see the vehicle first for a full assessment. Like I said, thorough. Once all the new components had been selected, the team wasted no time fitting it to the MK Patrol.
Party at the front
Starting with the front end, the old leaf springs were unbolted, which also required the factory bash plate and shock absorbers to be removed. This was a blessing in disguise, as the factory bash plate was full of mud and in need of a good clean.
With swaybar links dropped, and with the old shock absorbers now sitting in the scrap pile, the front leaf springs could be unbolted and also put in the bin where they belong.
The new Ultimate Suspension leaf springs had a full catalogue of Superpro bushes greased up and installed, then the leaf springs were ready to be installed. With new shackles and U-bolts naturally; this is a complete package after all.
With the front leaf springs bolted in place and everything torqued-to-spec, the lower U-bolt thread was trimmed off to maximise off-road clearance.
The front swaybar was then reinstalled, after brand new shock absorbers, which were the correct length to match the range of travel from these new leaf springs, were bolted in top and bottom. Now the front is out of the way, it was time to move to the back of Adam’s Patrol – and we were a little shocked at what we found…
The rear suspension
Well, we were really shocked at what we didn’t find, to be honest. And that was any bushes in the old shock absorbers. They weren’t worn out, they didn’t exist anymore! This would have contributed massively to the previous poor ride, and clunking coming from the rear end. Now we know.
With that out of the way, the rear end actually seemed to be easier than the front to swap out. The old shocks basically fell out of the MK, the old way too-thick leaf springs were chucked onto the scrap pile and we were ready to fit the new and improved Ultimate Suspension leaf springs and French-manufactured De Carbon branded shock absorbers. These shocks are pretty trick too, as they could be adjusted with a special tool Ken has hidden away.
Take a close look at the shackle angle of the new Ultimate Suspension leaf springs. You can see they are sitting on the ideal angle for both ride quality and off-road articulation. This is how you know you’re on a good thing.
And the result?
As expected, the suspension came up exactly 50mm over stock. We knew this, because Ken has a record of trim heights of all four-wheel drives. So we could actually measure the new ride height against the factory trim height specs. A wheel alignment was done, and the vehicle test driven to check for any issues or things that needed adjusting. And it’s job done. But how does The Ultimate Suspension work in the real world?
In the words of Adam the owner of this MK Patrol, “It’s a different car – the suspension has transformed how it rides.” So good in fact, he tells us his wife will now cruise in the vehicle, where it rode too harshly before. That’s a huge transformation. Stay tuned as we head for the tracks, and see how the mighty MK Patrol handles the rough stuff, now it has quality The Ultimate Suspension underneath it.
A huge thanks to Ken and the whole team from Ultimate Suspension. Not only did they let us take over their workshop and hold them up taking pictures and asking questions, but they were kind enough to share their knowledge and expertise on all things 4×4 suspension. I’m yet to visit a more thorough workshop, and I’ve worked in a few.
If you are in need of a suspension package that is tailored to suit your needs, do yourself a favour and pop in for a chat or give Ken and the team a call.
Phone: (02) 9618 7674