Joel Oswald has always owned four-wheel drives, having had a string of Suzukis, and most recently a late-model Ford Ranger, there has always been a four-by-four of sorts in the driveway. Recently he again felt that strong urge for another full-on project, and started scouring the depths of the internet in the hope something would arise. After searching for a while, he came upon one of the best project finds we’ve seen.
“While searching online, I stumbled across the Hilux. It was listed as a project car, but the previous work had been completed to a show-quality standard. I was the first to view it, and I knew straight away I had to have this truck. Although I still owned my Ford Ranger, I was confident I could sell it promptly, and made an offer on the Hilux that day.”
The Hilux was in great shape considering it had been sitting for a couple of years. There was a turbocharged VVT-i 1UZ-FE already mounted up, the chassis had been modified with a late-model rear end, and the ’84 Hilux body had been repainted. It’s safe to say it was meant to be — the Ford Ranger sold in just two hours after listing it that evening, and Joel purchased the Hilux the following weekend.
After getting the truck home, he began researching who originally started the build, and when he found out Jono Climo was the man behind the hundreds of hours’ worth of fabrication, he knew he had purchased a gem. Jono is widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s most talented fabricators, and started on the truck project years before, only to sell it to another lad who also on-sold it. “As soon as I found out Jono was behind the original build, I jumped straight on the phone to quiz him about a few things. He was happy someone had purchased it who would see it through to the end, and wanted to come and see what state it was in,” Joel told us. After Jono had viewed it, Joel had a much clearer idea what direction the project should go — it was time to get into it.
An incredible hand-built front-mounted intercooler made by Jono meant there was no room for a radiator up front, and Joel was stuck for ideas as to where one could be mounted. After throwing out the concept of tucking the radiator in behind the cabin, which is commonly done with off-roaders, Joel and Jono came up with the idea of mounting it underneath the tray, but the only problem was the radiator piping, though that was soon solved, as Joel explained. “I dropped the Hilux off at Jono’s workshop for him to figure out the radiator piping. A day later, I received a phone call from him stating the work was complete, and the truck was ready to pick up. I couldn’t believe it — what he achieved in a day and a half blew my mind.” During that short time, Jono fabricated stainless radiator piping from the engine, all the way through to the custom radiator shroud — which he also fabricated. All filled up, the system with expansion tank holds 30 litres of coolant.
When Jono originally turbocharged the Hilux, he did so using a Steve Murch hybrid KKK K26 turbo mounted up high on top of a custom turbo manifold, and right next to the equally shiny GReddy blow-off valve — both with matching filters. “The VVT-i versions of these 1UZs received narrower rods than the older versions, so I couldn’t go throwing lots of boost in it until it’s forged later on down the track. Glenn Suckling, my tuner, decided it would be a good idea to modify the wastegate spring for this reason,” Joel explained. A four-inch exhaust comes straight off the back of the turbo, tucks up behind the guard, enters into a single Vortex muffler, and then exits on the passenger side of the truck, producing one of the nicest V8 soundtracks we’ve heard.
Jono’s first tasks when building the Hilux was the chassis. He cut the rear half off and replaced it with a four-link rear from a 1998 Toyota Surf, to deliver much better suspension movement in the rear compared to the old leaf-sprung design. Combine this extra travel with a set of King Springs and Rancho RS9000X shocks, and you have something capable of climbing boulders. Late-model four-pot Toyota Hilux calipers were bolted up the front and Nissan Patrol items installed down the back, which came at a cost, as Joel told NZ Performance Car.
“When we installed the Patrol brakes and hubs on the rear, all was well until we went to put the wheels on. The centre bore on the wheels was now way too small, and we had to machine the rear wheels to suit. So unfortunately the front wheels won’t bolt up down the back.”
Originally Joel had 37-inch muds on the 16- by eight-inch Mickey Thompson Classics, but he couldn’t turn around on his street, they were swapped to the smaller 33-inch Mickey Thompson Bajas. Power is sent to the massive tyres via the Toyota R151F gearbox, which seems to faultlessly handle the extra torque the V8 produces.
If we told you nothing on this truck was second hand (running gear aside), would you believe us? Joel had a vision with his Hilux, and didn’t want to skimp on quality, so most things had to be sourced new from overseas. A late ’90s Surf dash was installed in the cabin, along with brand-new carpet and Recaro Fishnet seats for comfort. The gauge cluster now reads 8000km, which is what the Hilux has travelled since the build — a nice touch.
So what has Joel got planned for the ute now? Unfortunately for all you mud-thirsty hooligans, he won’t be taking this Hilux out in the dirt any time soon.
“The truck’s too mint to take out in the mud at present. I will just take it out on the weekends and enjoy it for now. It will be getting forged some time in the near future, so you can expect to see power near 559kW (750hp), which is what the engine is set up for.”
1984 Toyota Hilux single cab
- Model: Toyota 1UZ-FE VVT-i, 4000cc V8
- Block: Factory
- Head: Factory
- Intake: Modified intake manifold, handmade plenum, custom filter for intake
- Turbo: Custom-built KKK K26
- Wastegate: Turbosmart 48mm
- BOV: GReddy Type R
- Fuel: 100-litre custom aluminium fuel tank, stainless-steel fuel lines, Bosch 044 fuel pump, aftermarket fuel-pressure regulator
- Ignition: Factory 1UZ-FE
- Exhaust: Four-inch stainless-steel system, Vortex muffler
- Cooling: Custom rear-mounted double-pass alloy radiator with custom alloy shroud, two 406mm (16-inch) fans, stainless-steel radiator piping, custom expansion tank
- ECU: Link G4 Xtreme
- Gearbox: Toyota R151F five-speed
- Clutch: Heavy duty Xtreme
- Flywheel: Factory
- Diff: (F) Toyota 65 series, (R) GQ Patrol air locker
- Other: Hardy Spicer driveshafts
- Struts: Rancho RS9000X adjustables
- Springs: (F) Factory leaf (R) King Springs
- Brakes: (F) Factory (R) Nissan Patrol, tail-shaft disc handbrake
- Other: 1998 Toyota Surf rear clip, extended shackles, adjustable panhard rod
- Wheels: 16x8-inch Mickey Thompson Classic III
- Tyres: 33-inch Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ
- Paint: Stripped back to bare metal then resprayed gloss black
- Enhancements: Brand-new trim, mirrors and lights
- Seats: Recaro fishnets
- Steering wheel: Momo Quark
- Other: Toyota Surf/Hilux LN130 dash and gauge cluster, brand-new winders, handles, and carpet, Dynamat
- Power: Estimated 260kW (350hp) at the wheels on low boost
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