What motivates someone to buy what is arguably Australia’s most expensive 4WD and chop the back off it? As you’ll see, Pete’s needs are a world apart from the average 4WDer
Words and Images by Harry Temple
See that phone tower perched up on top of that rocky outcrop? When you’re required to rock–hop your way up there with a four-tonne trailer in tow, no off-the-shelf, tried-and-tested vehicle could haul everything Pete needs to complete his contract work with the telecommunication giants. Often working remotely and travelling thousands of kays to the middle of nowhere, electrical design and construction is a passion he has pursued for as long as he can remember. Consequently, his love of the outdoors has only expanded with age.
After acquiring his licence, he cut his teeth in a janky old HiLux around the High Country. He soon progressed to a 47 Troopy, and then onto the infamous 80 Series, which took him and his new family on several touring trips to Cape York. After squeezing five bodies into the 80 for 15 years, it was time to upgrade once again, this time to a comparably luxurious 200 Series. When that one had a disagreement with a bog hole, he stayed true to his Toyota tradition and picked up the current ‘Cruiser in late 2017.
When you are lucky enough to be able to claim the build as a legitimate business expense, why not go above and beyond? After touring several vehicle outfitters in Queensland, Pete ended up choosing one a mere 20 minutes down the road from his house in Melbourne, and it’s easy to see why. Boss Aluminium are fast becoming the benchmark for insane custom canopies and customising high-end 4WDs to meet the often outlandish needs of their clients. Pete approached the owner Dave with a plan to chop, extend and add an extra axle under the 200, and he handled everything else.
Once the chop was locked in, Pete jumped at the chance to drive his new rig all the way to Townsville and drop it to Australian Expedition Vehicles for its date with a grinder. He flew back to pick it up and drove the 6X6 cab chassis back to Boss and left it there for a few months while Dave carried out every other modification on the vehicle in preparation for its maiden voyage out to the 2018 Big Red Bash.
I asked Pete why he didn’t simply go for one of the massive yank tanks, and he put it bluntly: “I had a mate who was stuck in Broome for nine (yes, nine) days after a fitting snapped off the bottom of his F-Truck radiator. Until they have been around for a few more years and prove themselves in our conditions … I want to stick with a common vehicle like the 200 for ease of repair”. When your business is time-sensitive, you can’t put a price on reliability.
So the term ‘truck’ has been thrown around a fair bit of late, but this 4X4 is quite literally a truck. With a GVM of six-tonne and a GCM of 9.5-tonne, you are required to have a light truck licence to steer this rig on any road. With the tow capacity raised to a hefty 4.5-tonne thanks to the extra drive axle and dual JMAX coil conversion kit, it’s no wonder Pete went ahead and installed the TowPro to manage those long haul trips up the centre.
To keep things reliable, there is only one modification in the engine bay (aside from the Safari Snorkel). Pete rates the Unichip as a must-have for the weight he is pulling around. Easing the strain on the 4.5-litre donk, the ‘Cruiser breathes a bit easier thanks to the four-inch exhaust. If something is going to be the weak link, he told me his money is on the auto packing it in before anything else.
Up the front, the Tuff Bar is paired with some dual sliders. While it definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it sure is functional, absorbing four ‘roo impacts so far with no damage. Those kamikaze kangas were illuminated right up until they disappeared under the front, courtesy of the HTXs and slimline LED bars from Lightforce. Another Lightforce LED bar adorns the custom-made alloy roof rack that Boss made to carry the long lengths of electrical supplies.
Slotted in underneath the rack, 180W of fixed solar panel goodness keeps the 200Ah of lithium topped up while stationary on site. The ability to sit at camp and monitor the status of the 12V system from the palm of his hand seemed a bit unnecessary to Pete when he first heard of the Redarc Redvision system, but fast-forward six months and he wouldn’t be without it. Now he can check on the Waeco, monitor the 108 litres of onboard water and toggle any of the canopy lights from the palm of his hand. Talk about convenience!
The heart of this build is undoubtedly the canopy. Over 2.5 metres long, the entire tray is alloy and is finished to a phenomenal standard. It consists of three main sections, each with a specific purpose. The main canopy section houses all Pete’s tools in adjustable shelving and drawers, along with the kitchen, slide-out table, travel buddy oven and all the Redarc gear, from one huge inverter all the way to the Total Vehicle Management System. The dog box (which is also central-locked) doubles as extra work storage when not carrying his four-legged companions.
On the back, high tray sides surround both spares and allow for plenty of firewood to be stacked. Avoiding excessive sun exposure is an investment in your future health, so on went the Darche 270 awning as it can provide wrap-around cover for two out of the three sides. The longer you look at the canopy, the more you notice. The stainless fittings complement the combination of the intricate sheet metal work accented by the hammertone metallic finishes on the canopy.
Undertray toolboxes store the compressors and act as overflow storage in the event that Pete actually manages to fill every other nook on the big rig. Underneath the front end, an Old Man Emu two-inch lift has corrected some of the forward rake, but the best way to sort it out is to load up the back with the full allotment of fuel (270 litres) and adjust the two sets of airbags resting on top of each coiled diff.
Keeping all four rear wheels on the ground is very important (as Pete decided against lockers) and crucial to maintaining traction. Pete is currently testing a set of Boss Aluminium shocks suited to the 200 and his requirements. So far, they have kept the rear wheels firmly planted on terra firma and allow the 275/70 R18 Mickey Thompson ATZ P3s to exercise their excellent grip.
When the 200 is eventually retired from work duties, it will take Pete and his wife around Australia on a lap or three. He’s already hooked up the camper trailer a couple of times for the odd weekend escape, and after seeing the photos from the Big Red Bash 2018, I’m officially jealous. Be sure to stop in and say g’day if you spot him there again this year. Great build mate, we couldn’t think of a better suited touring vehicle for solo adventures.