WWhat can be more rewarding than taking the 4×4 you built with your own skills and blowing it up all over the outback? In the case of Joel Fowler and this Hilux SR 2014, this blasting is done at high speed and regularly above the ground.
Joel started his 4×4 life with a single cab Hilux N70, which he duly modified and enjoyed for over six years before putting it back in stock and trading it in for a rally-inspired 2014 WRX. The combination of the ability to drive fiercely and all-wheel drive proved the small hatchback to be a winner in Joel’s eyes: “It was probably the best car I’ve ever had, but you couldn’t do it all. just don’t do much in it.
After missing the beach and bush driving, Joel scoured the classifieds just six months later for another Hilux. “It had to be exactly what I was looking for, but this time it had to be a car, and maybe a TRD if I could find one,” he explained.
The goal being to build a pre-racer-style all-terrain platform capable of maintaining high speeds on the rutted and often washed out dirt roads of Kalgoorlie that Joel calls his home. Soon after, Joel spotted this untouched example of the 2014 Tidal Blue SR sitting in a car yard. So the Rex was traded and Joel was back in a Hilux.
Joel being the talented metal maker (Fowler Fabrication) that he is, you could borrow money to bet his new whip wouldn’t stay standard for long. “It was bone stock, so I went to the shop on my way home from the dealership and cut the exhaust. Just to make it sound a little better. This exhaust now comes out racer-style just below the right rear door, now upgraded to a three-inch diameter with a J-pipe / resonator and a hot dog.
It took care of the auditions, but the appearance of the 4×4 matters and a more aggressive stance was needed for the high-flying antics Joel reserved for the Hilux. A set of D-Hole steel rims chosen for their strength, before being wrapped in Sailun Terramax AT 285 / 70R17. The -22mm offset pushes the set 52mm more on each side than standard and, according to Joel, results in a much more stable ride at high speeds. Keeping those tires out of the guards and the bodywork was paramount, with Joel lifting the body and tub two inches before starting to build the suspension to suit.
Just bolting down a set of steels and tires won’t have you riding endemic ripples, instead, Joel has built something with longer-than-standard suspension travel and much greater damping control. Starting from the front, a pair of Dobinson MRA remote tank spacers with 2 inch taller coils were installed. These allow the adjustment of the compression control at low and high speed, which makes tuning the suspension much easier.
When it came to rear suspension, Joel took it to the next level after experiencing some setbacks with his first Hilux. “I went with a kit that was a simple off-the-shelf bolt,” he tells us, because “it was probably too hard because the shock absorber eyes were breaking and the gaskets were blowing. The overall ride was just too hard.
To address those failures with this release, Joel switched to a 10-inch Profender triple-bypass shock setup in a custom shock cage that also houses the remote tanks. The length of these shocks required drilling holes in the bottom of the tub and mounting the cage inside the tub itself. This does nothing for the sealing of the tub inside the canopy, but the advantage being that it allows a much greater range of motion compared to currently standard sheet packs.
Keeping in mind that Joel’s intention was to be able to jump his’ Lux on a regular basis, a pair of four-inch hydraulic bumps were installed along the outer rails of the chassis, providing a much better bump stop shape when jumping. almost maximum compression stroke slowing. coming back to earth.
While the majority of owners would go for the maximum horsepower they can afford, Joel made some engine modifications more in line with his own philosophy. “Your car is useless if you can’t put the power to the ground,” he says. “If you’re out of the bush and want to go fast, having all the power in the world doesn’t mean anything. I tell everyone, adjust the suspension well and you will go faster.
With those wise words in mind, the engine mods remained modest, delivering a high and safe level of boost via a ProCharge GTX Stage 2 turbo. A generic front-mounted intercooler found its way behind the Bmesh grille, with the piping taken care of by Joel himself.
Connected to its own four-inch snorkel, a custom airbox was next, complete with a conical filter element complete with a clear Perspex cover and lobster-backed fittings on the curved four-inch turbo intake pipe. Combined with an ECU remapping, the turbo now channels 23 psi into the stock engine. While Kalgoorlie is currently without a dyno, Joel estimates the horsepower to be between 190hp and 550Nm.
Once the suspension and power worked together, Joel focused on the interior layout. Anyone who’s taken a standard Hilux on a long trip will agree that standard benches tend to turn into cement slabs after a short period of time. To remedy this, a pair of Toyota 86 GTS buckets covered in leather and suede was chosen, with the standard seat rails modified to fit.
To entertain its passenger, a Kenwood 919 head unit pumps vibrations to six-inch Kenwood Stage Sound speakers and an eight-inch sub / amp combo. A GME TX3100 radio and a truncated antenna let his friends know where he has gone after leaving them behind.
Making room for a refrigerator and salvage gear, the rear seat was removed and a raised floor was installed, hiding an ARB compressor complete with external power switch and hose connection. As a lucky charm, a Chuck Norris DVD and a holed Hilux piston from a companion are still kept in the rear firewall storage bag.
Hopefully, with the invincible power of the Big Chuck, these pistons currently in stock will withstand whatever blows the turbo and trails give them. To complete the rear end, an ARB fiberglass canopy houses three sets of bolted XTM drawers alongside a pair of MaxTrax salvage boards.
If the position and color weren’t enough to get it noticed, Joel took the hood and installed an FG Falcon bulge. Complementing the new look is a pair of 60mm Utemart flares, as well as an aggressive cut to the standard front bar. The absence of a steel bull bar keeps the frontal light out, increasing the ability to leave land. Rounding out the front were a pair of halo headlights, a 22-inch light bar and a 50-inch tall Stedi curved light bar.
Keeping in mind that his rig is taken anywhere and everywhere, Joel would like to thank Regan Carter for keeping it top notch, and James Hitchcock of Hitchcock Engineering and Powder Coating (Broadwood, WA) for his help. Seeing how Joel has tailored his Hilux using his own crafting skills to make it do exactly what he set out to do, only bodes well for what he has planned for the future. We can’t wait to see where it takes him.
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