Building a vehicle is a funny thing. The research, the agonising over specs between competitive products and eventually the decision on what part to choose. Then, the arrival or pickup of the new part, the thick brown cardboard you rip open, the crumbled polystyrene you’ll be cleaning for what seems like forever – then the moment you get it mounted, attached, installed and see it in it’s true glory.
I don’t know about any of you, but the above process followed by the obligatory 3 steps back with a cold beverage in hand admiring the new addition to the pride and joy can be just as much fun as getting out there and using it. well, maybe not so much.
So Club 4X4 turned two a few weeks ago and we finally have our MobileHQGU JUST the way we want it. The final steps being a rear fitout, mostly because I got sick of it coming back from a trip in Jackson’s hands with the fridge sideways and recovery gear strewn across the cargo area! Just kidding – he does OK.
So when we were starting up Club 4X4, we wanted to have a promotional vehicle that we could use not only for mobile advertising, but one that reflected a typical setup with the modifications and accessories that one would find on tracks right around the country, on the type of rigs that we were targeting to insure. Our thinking did go as far as a Unimog, but the logistics of driving such a vehicle everyday ruled that one out (much to my disappointment). Eventually we noticed a very lonely 2013 GU Patrol in Pat Callinan’s parking lot. Your typical “low kays only been to the shops, one lady owner – Ha!” jobby, but it had a fair few goodies on it, so we decided that might be the way to go!
After a good tub, a new set of tyres and a few days over at our mates at DIJTAL FX – it was adorned with our bespoke “mud wrap” and ready to be displayed for the first time ever at the 2015 Sydney 4WD & Adventure show.
That wrap – So the intent was to make the GU look like it had seen a healthy amount of outback red dust. Some people love it, some people hate it, but take it from us – she does get muddy and when she does, the wrap is a great reason not to have to wash her straight away! It’s still amusing watching people reach out with a pointed finger, as if going in for the ET touch and then slowly running said finger over the surface. Then they go in for the finger inspection – the response can be of bemusement, amazement and laughs of confusion. If I had a buck for every time I watched that happen!
Barwork – So we all know that protection of the more fragile parts of our fourby is critical – and in this case we already had ARB’s Deluxe colour coded bulbar with the brush bars and sliders in place. Aside from a few nicks and scratches the setup was in great condition, so other than a quick detail and replacement of bulbs we left it as is. Over the years we’ve had a couple of our bouncing friends come out at us but luckily not had to use our frontal protection in anger as yet. Of note, the front bar also houses a 9000lb Warn winch and our AR32 Intensity Driving Lights. These aren’t the first set we’ve had in the GU, the first set got stolen!!! YES, believe it or not. Lucky we had the right coverage on our policy to replace them!
Suspension – Another part that was already on the GU when we got it – although we have done some running repairs and adjustments over the last couple of years. At the core of it is an Old Man Emu 2 inch lift pack which included the steering damper. We do have a feeling that the rear springs have been upped in their rate for towing, she can be a bit jittery over bumped when unladen – but with a couple of bodies in the back or some gear it makes for a more controlled and level ride. We’d love the new BP-51’s with the remote reservoirs, but our older styled units have not skipped a beat in any of the conditions we’ve put them through, so a swap would be a want, definitely not a need
Electrics – This was where we actually started doing some work to the GU. Whilst it did have a dual battery system and Redarc BCDC controller as well as a voltage gauge in the cabin, we needed more. First things first, we found that current was being leached constantly, resulting in a dead cranking battery once a week. Much troubleshooting, but ultimately we found an alternator that was copping a LOT of soot from a (standard for a ZD) leaking exhaust manifold at cylinder 1 – joy. Tightening of the manifold and a new alternator later – the battery held charge! – or rather it was actually getting charged!!! So now we wanted to add different options for powering devices out of the GU, so we installed a 1000w Inverter on a custom bracket down the back, with some extra 12 volt outlets for good measure. This required some serious gauge wiring and fusework to ensure it was safe, but it has really meant that our MobileHQGU can actually be a mobile headquarters. We could charge multiple laptops and devices and work off them at shows, events or even when on the go. We did however find out how hungry for battery power the inverter itself can be! So now we always setup the 72w Amorphous Solar Blanket before we start running or charging anything. Given that the GU is a daily driver, but also needs to be able to cart a lot of gear around, the flexibility and packed-down-size (once you work out the best way to do so) of a blanket was hard to go past – and it certainly delivers. Finally, knowing the old grena… ahem… ZD30 can be slightly problematic, we decided to install a boost and pyrometer from Redarc – but more about this later. What we can say is that we should all be proud to have companies like Redarc still manufacturing in this country – their products are second to none from a quality perspective and their post sales support was fantastic!
For comms, we stuck with the Uniden 9080 UHF and a complimentary Uniden Fibreglass Raydome Antenna that came with the GU – the wireless secondary microphone has been great when doing recoveries, eliminating the need for a portable two way and a very worthwhile addition! Finally, we recently took the chance to update our headlight bulbs to some very nifty Narva units – the best value for money modification possible on a car like this!
Tyres – Arguably the most important modification you can do to your rig to improve fit for purpose, confidence and responsive to your inputs as a driver. Tyre choice can be a mistake you might have to live with for tens of thousands of kilometres – so it pays to do your research and make the right choice. We recently switched over to a Toyo Open Country All Terrain II tyres in the factory size at each corner and what an amazing difference. Yes the tyres that we were running in the past were slightly more aggressive, but they were still an all terrain! The Toyo’s are quiet and comfortable on road where the majority of our work unfortunately happens, but so far have been very handy in steep rocky and muddy terrain. Our decision to go standard size was a conscious one – while everyone loves the look of 35’s, we didn’t want the burden of engineering and for the type of travel the GU will do, it wasn’t necessary. If the track has been chopped up by “mister right foot” with the 35’s, we opt to go around rather than make things worse. We look forward to testing them in more diverse conditions in the near future
Performance – Well, the ZD isn’t a powerhouse from the factory is it? And look, the reality is in low-range it doesn’t matter – there’s plenty on tap to do what you need too. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case on the tarmac, when towing or when loaded up for a trip. We always wanted to make some changes to improve the performance of the old girl, sometimes being able to make a fast getaway or perform an overtaking manoeuvre can actually be a safety issue! So we were beaten to it in the last couple of hundred kays when returning from the Big Red Bash in 2016. At the time we had no boost or EGT gauge (well it was there but not connected!) but what we did have was very poor performance and acrid black smoke billowing out of the tailpipe. After more than enough roadside stops to check intercooler hoses for cracks, cleaning filters, replacing fuel filters – we did limp her home. Very slowly and gingerly. The diagnosis was varied; we had a crushed oil feed line to the turbo which we thought may have caused overheating, but we also had issues with the exhaust manifold having developed a significant leak at cylinder one (and killing our alternator), but finally, a cactus turbocharger with too much play in the shaft to generate positive boost put the nail in the coffin. This was our chance, so in replacing the various defective parts, we also went for a Cross Country 4X4 Intercooler to improve intake temps and performance. This was then combined with Redback 3inch turbo-back exhaust to help remove the increased incoming gasses. We were super-impressed with the Cross Country Kit – apart from looking fantastic, they use PWR cores rated to 800hp (ha! Wouldn’t that be nice) and hand manufactured and welded in house right here in Adelaide. The scoop was a little fiddly but it did get put on eventually and the entire kit has a real great balance between form and function. Next up was our Redback exhaust, another great Australian product, in opening the box the quality was evident. We opted for a model with a resonator rather than a muffler and have to say NO DRONE, but a great throaty note when required. Given their kits come with an O2 sensor and secondary bung, we were able to plumb up our EGT gauge. Whilst we didn’t have a baseline, based on research we saw a good 100-150 degree reduction in readings when travelling at highway speed, which we’re quite happy with. Finally, we did some fiddling with our Steinbaueur Module until we found a happy medium. She does need a dyno tune to ensure all the parts are working in concert.
Camping – Whilst MobileHQGU was to be a show vehicle for the brand, it also needed to be able to be self-sufficient enough to get out and amongst the wilderness as a fully functioning touring vehicle. It’s been used by myself and Jackson to camp out of for various work trips and myself to get out with the family. We’re happy to use Darche gear based on the quality, value for money and innovative nature of the team over there. With a Hi-View 2 tent on the roof when going solo, or with the extendable room underneath when the remaining troops are tagging along there’s always ample options for extra space. Recently we installed their new 270 Eclipse awning, which worked flawlessly at the Sydney show to allow more undercover space for punters to come through and have a chat. We even use our selection of Darche Camp chairs and Tracka 1800 table when MobileHQGU is use at events. All of the gear we’ve been lucky enough to use from the team at Darche has always performed well when put to task. For fridge duties, we chose to go with the Waeco CFX 65 litre fridge/freezer. We are a bit of a multi-generational team here so some of us were really interested to check out the App that you get access too for free, which allows you to monitor and also control the temperature in your fridge. Once we got it setup, even the naysayers thought it was a nifty function!
Storage – This was an area that we really deliberated on for quite some time. The GU is a multi-purpose vehicle, at times with baby seats in the back and at other times full of gear across the back two seating rows for certain events or trips. We just weren’t sure what affect a permanent storage option like a drawer system would have on the functionality. Until we found out about the guys up at Ashwood Timber. Nic and his team specialise in custom modular fitouts they call AT Combo units. These units allowing for individual pieces to be removed or reconfigured as the user may see fit. So we opted for a fridge box on one side, with the 2 modular draws, one which houses a large pull-out table on the right hand side. Although we haven’t yet removed the pieces, it’s great to know the option is there. In the meantime transporting brochures, PDS’s stickers and all the gear for our shows is much easier in the huge drawer setup and the top has tie down points for larger items. Not sure why we agonised over that decision for so long!
Not sure really – she’s now setup to be exactly what we need. A self-sufficient mobile HQ that can remain connected without being reliant on the grid. A setup that can tour remote with confidence and safety as well as be reliable and comfortable on long transport legs. Really the only things i can think of are that the seats are getting a little loose and worn out. Some replacements for these would make a significant difference to comfort and safety long range. Other than that anything we do will be cosmetic, perhaps some new wheels to give her a lift. Most importantly, we want to get out and use it!