The finishing touches can make all the difference to the comfort and effectiveness of a touring vehicle. After doing the 79 Series dual cab build off an idea, I’ve now tested it on a 4,000-kilometre (roughly) trip through the Gulf of Carpentaria and Western Northern Territory. I can confidently say that I am happy with the decision to buy it. Is it the perfect vehicle with all of these expensive modifications? No, but for what I do, it’s not too far off and I’m particularly happy with the canopy and electrics.
After using the vehicle for several months, I decided the audio system simply had to go. I know the truck is an agricultural tin can on wheels, but I like my music, still use CDs (they are better than MP3 for sound quality) and I had a pretty decent system in the previous Patrol, so an upgrade had to be done. Before I go into the changes, I’ll just quickly diverge slightly to discuss the UHF. You’ll see why shortly.
I’m a long-term iCom UHF user and rate their gear very highly for professional build quality and features. This time I settled on the IC-450 (you know, the one where you mount it away under the dash or seat and all the controls are in the handpiece.).
Thinking about how I was going to mount it led me to think about an external speaker and where I would put it, as I wasn’t convinced that the tiny speaker in the handpiece would be good enough. I ended up deciding to use the Toyota factory speakers for the UHF and installing new speakers all around for the audio system, which resulted in pretty good sound from the UHF and stereo.
In the end, the UHF was installed by Cobavie’s with simple velcro beneath the driver’s seat up beside the centre console. The benefit of velcro is that I can move it around if I ever want to stick something else under there.
Now back to the audio system.
In the Patrol, I had fitted up a set of split six-inch speakers with the tweeters up on the doors in the corners of the A-frame, which worked very well. Ever since using dedicated tweeters, I have been convinced of the sound benefits and so I wanted to do this again. Before I did this though, I pulled out almost the entire interior of the vehicle, including the ceiling, and went to work with the Dynamat and Car Builders foam to dampen the road noise and hopefully enhance the speaker sound.
Once that was done, in installed new six-inch splits in the front doors and normal six-inch speakers with built-in tweeters in the back doors. I won’t bother going into models as everyone has their own preference, but I used Alpine gear. For the front doors, I used the speaker pods from Air, Sound & Vision in Cairns and relocated the door pockets onto the new frame. It worked well. The rear speakers don’t need the addition of door cards, just wiring and screws. They show how to install them here.
The fitting of the tweeters, however, came with a couple of challenges to get them in roughly the right place. Yet another compromise with the 79 Series dual cab build. After lengthy discussions with the Air, Sound & Vision techs, they mounted the passenger’s side tweeter on a small steel plate that attached to the front edge of the dash right in the front corner, but underneath the dash mat so it can’t be seen.
For the time being, the driver’s side tweeter has been fitted neatly into the lower hole on a twin pillar pod, just beneath my EGT/BOOST gauge. If, as planned, I later fit an Oil Pressure/Temp gauge in that hole, I think I would simply mirror the passenger’s side tweeter mounting point. Alternatively, I could fit a triple pillar pod and continue using the bottom hole for the tweeter. I could not find any aftermarket passengers side pillar pod or decent tweeter mount at the time of fitting.
I used the new speakers with the standard Toyota stereo head unit for about a month before I caved and decided to sort it out properly. The Toyota unit sounded dull, even with new speakers, and I kept having issues with the Bluetooth hands-free kit for the phone.
The week before the planned first major test run through the Gulf into the Northern Territory out went the Toyota unit and in went an upgraded head unit, amp and slim sub. It now rocks like it should, although it will never be clean, clear sound, as the truck is too bloody noisy! Still, I knew that before I bought it, so I’m not complaining.
Somewhere in there about this time, TJM had a big sale and I grabbed a bullbar and sidesteps, colour-coded them to the guards and fitted them up. Is TJM gear better than ARB gear or vice versa? I doubt it, but the sale price was too good and I like the look of the 63-millimetre bar work so I’m happy. I painted the footplates on the sidesteps satin black to match the wheels, instead of the usual galvanized colour they come in, and I think it looks quite good. A little different to the usual stuff getting around anyway.
When fitting the bulbar, I also fitted up my winch, after first giving it a strip and re-grease. The winch is a Warn XPS9.5 that was only a couple of years old and I had retained it from the Patrol. Fitting the bar with winch inside it, by myself, and not getting a hernia was the miracle of the day, but I got it on and bolted up, and it changed the whole look of the vehicle. Much better! The sidesteps I managed with assistance from a trolley jack and it all came together nicely.
For driving lights, I ordered a set of the Britax X-ray Vision round LEDs in “spot” pattern with the idea of also fitting up a light bar to nicely round out the gaps. In hindsight, after the Gulf test run and night driving out west, I think I should have stuck with HIDs for spots and the light bar for spread.
The retailers were all telling me that HID was old technology now and that LED was the way to go. Well, for general use they are probably correct, but for those long open Western roads, I’d take HID any day of the week. I’ll either get around to fitting up a light bar at some stage or alternatively something like those Lightforce HID/LED combos might also be a good option.
I don’t suppose it’s an urgent upgrade as I don’t do a hell of a lot of night driving, but on this occasion, we were trying to make up some time. I’ll have to have a good think about my intended purpose and needs and then make a decision. The reality is that it might just be a ‘nice to have’ and not really a necessity, not that that has held me back before.
I have also fitted an UltraGauge to my steering column to assist in engine and fuel usage monitoring. So far it seems like a pretty decent gauge with so many options it’s confusing. I still have to get my fuel calibrations right, but it is great to monitor engine temperatures so accurately and any number of other things too.
Of interest, I did notice a 4psi difference between Boost readings on the conventional REDARC pillar gauge versus the UltraGauge and sooner or later I’ll take the time to work out which one is more accurate. No doubt the electronic Ultragauge would have an inbuilt reading for outside air pressure that could differ from actual air pressure and may cause a difference. Not sure yet.
One tip though: If you are going to fit the UltraGauge, buy the stick-on mounting bracket and before you peel the backing off the double-sided tape, stick it in place and turn the steering wheel right around to make sure it doesn’t rub on the face of the gauge. If, like me, you make the mistake of having it a fraction too far forward so it rubs, use a hairdryer to warm the base up. It should peel off easily for relocation.
So, that’s nearly it with the finishing touches, I guess. I’ll fit a roof rack and probably the AutoStrada cruise control unit before we head off to Western Australia next May. And I can’t wait to rip out this useless excuse for a centre console and replace it with something decent. I haven’t really mentioned any of the tweaks with the engine as yet – maybe another story – but I had the ECU reflashed as a starting point. I’m happy with the approximate 150kW at the wheels that it’s currently getting as it transforms the driveability. I’ve got a new clutch going in shortly though and will likely get it properly tuned at the same time.
I’ll follow up this series with a couple of writeups from our trip through the Gulf and some of the other short runs out of Cairns that we have planned in the coming months. I’ll add another update or two on how it’s all going down the track as well. So far I’m pretty happy with how it is coming together. The real fun now comes in getting this beauty out on the open road. Exactly what it was built for.
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