By Justin Walker | Photos: MIck Hurren, 17 Sep 2019 Custom 4x4s
The unique tub tray and clean lines of this sweet Patrol ute hide a very big secret: a Cummins diesel shoehorned into its engine bay. Go-anywhere rig? Yep, we reckon so.
IT WAS a very sad day in the 4×4 world when, in 2016, the uber-popular Nissan GU Patrol was discontinued. The venerable off-road workhorse – in both wagon and tray-cab ute form – had been a firm favourite of experienced Aussie tourers for many years.
For the real hardcore Patrol fanatics, it was even harder to let go, and that’s why you still see plenty of these tough trucks kicking around in the most remote parts of Australia. Not so common, though, are Patrol utes with a ‘ute-style’ rear tray and a beefy six-cylinder Cummins diesel, like this big bopper built by Guy and the team at Patrolapart, in Lilydale, Victoria.
As the name suggests, Patrolapart is a one-stop Nissan Patrol specialist shop and the ute was built as a promotional vehicle for the business. It’s also very comfortable when put to work as a fully-fledged touring rig – a fitting result after 18 months of work during down-time by the team.
A difference that counts
LOOKING at how well that rear tub tray fits in with the big Nissan’s silhouette makes you wonder why it wasn’t made available to Aus-based Patrol ute buyers back when it was on sale. Guy and the team saw it on some Japanese-based Patrols (it was factory-fitted over there) and thought it’d make the Patrol stand out visually from the rest of the many thousands of Patrol utes on Australian tracks, and, with a few additions, it was a relatively straightforward fit.
“They come as just a bare tub when you import it,” Guy says. “So we imported the flares and the other bits and pieces, to make it fit and finish it off.
“We weren’t expecting it to look quite as good as it does. We thought it would be a little bit of an eyesore, but it came out really good. We’re really happy with it.”
Custom 4×4: Duramax-powered GU Patrol ute
The tub, as it turned out, was the easy part of this build. The Patrolapart team was keen to up the grunt factor on what was – when they first got hold of it – a stock-standard 3.0TD Patrol. Not an earth-shaking powerplant by any means, but the guys had the perfect solution: a 325-horsepower (242kW) 827Nm Cummins 5.9-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder engine, the powerplant they knew would resolve any power and performance issues for the Nissan workhorse.
The engine is the ISB variant – the second generation of the popular American diesel – and it is also one of the physically largest straight-six diesel engines on the market. Even allowing for the Patrol’s voluminous engine bay, it was a time-consuming and tricky path to ensure the Cummins could be shoehorned inside – it really is a monster – with a lot of component shuffling.
“Everything needed relocating,” Guy laughs. “All sorts of different bracketry had to be shifted around and we had to play with everything under there. It was a pretty massive job and a really tight squeeze in there.”
The stock Patrol radiator stayed, and backing the big mill at the moment is a stock GU Patrol five-speed manual gearbox; but the Patrolapart team has plans to slot in an Albins five-speed as a replacement.
Adding extra air to the big Cummins is a custom Fusion Fabrications four-inch stainless steel snorkel, with gases expelled via a custom exhaust. Fuel is pumped through effectively thanks to an AirDog II-4G fuel pump, which is a common fitment to Cummins engines. This pump is claimed to improve the fuel burn as it enters an engine’s cylinder courtesy of its patented air-separation system, which helps eliminate fuel spray pattern disruption that can be caused by air entering the system.
Sensible decision pay off
WHEN the Patrolapart team first decided to do this build, an after-hours project was in mind. Not only did that extend the time taken, but it also allowed for some parts that weren’t initially available for the
engine conversion to become so. It also allowed them to focus on ensuring the vehicle fulfilled its role as a great promotional vehicle for the business.
To this end, they were determined to make the vehicle seem ‘attainable’ in terms of the mods done, and they focused on ensuring nothing was too extreme in the build. After all, it not only had to look good at the business premises, it also needed to be seen out and about doing the job.
This common sense, subtle approach is evident in the Patrol’s suspension setup. It’s nothing fancy or over the top, it’s just designed to get the job done and with consistent reliability. The KONI dampers and Ridepro springs offer a three-inch lift and combine with heavy duty control arms and Patrolapart’s own beefed-up swaybar links. Adding more ground clearance is a set of 17-inch alloys shod with Maxxis RAZR LT315/70 R17 rubber.
Cummins diesel engines can be pushed to punch out even more serious grunt than stock, but the team just went with a ‘base tune’ and has reaped the overall performance benefits as a result. This includes a very impressive 14 to 15L/100km on Guy’s recent trip to the Finke Desert Race in the NT. With its twin 90L fuel tanks (accessed via the two factory-fit fuel fillers on the driver’s side of the tub), those figures mean the big rig gets more than decent touring range on top of the extra performance.
4×4 gear buyers’ guide: Aftermarket 4×4 fuel tanks
Centre of attention
ONE OF the most appealing things with this Patrol ute is its purposeful yet understated appearance, with only the rear tub catching the eye of fellow tourers – something Guy experienced plenty of when he took the Patrol to Finke. “It got a lot of attention,” he laughs. “We’d pull up somewhere and everyone wanted photos of it.”
The low-profile appearance is, again, thanks to the smart and subtle approach, with only a few visible external additions such as the ARB bullbar fitted with ARB Intensity lights that hint at this rig’s capability. There are no front or rear lockers, instead the Patrol does with its rear LSD and all that on-tap articulation.
The interior, on the other hand, has benefitted from Guy’s decision to retrofit a late-GU Patrol interior, to replace the drab grey plastic of the original. The driver and passenger now enjoy the comforts of full powered leather seats and a full leather trim interior.
Also added inside is a Polaris head unit that has OzExplorer and Hema navigation software fitted and – for essential bush comms – a new GME XRS UHF radio. Keeping all the electricals humming along – and allowing for those longer trips away when a fridge/freezer and plenty of gear is onboard – the Patrolapart team fitted a dual-battery system in that spacious rear tub tray.
Since the Patrol has been out and about in public – and perhaps, not surprisingly – the rear tub has caused a small commotion, with a number of Patrol ute owners asking how and where they can get it from, as well as asking about the trim upgrade.
Built not bought on custom 4×4 reviews
Of course, there’s also plenty of interest in the engine transplant, which isn’t surprising. As Guy states, “those Cummins engines are bulletproof” – and he’s spot-on. Add that rugged powerplant to what has always been considered one of the toughest touring vehicles around, in the form of the Patrol, and any potential customers would be guaranteed an awesome return on investment. The end result after throwing down some dosh is a super-reliable, tough and powerful tourer that is be more than capable of taking you to the ends of the earth and back again.