It’s not often here at NZV8 that we feature a car that is dirty. Then again, its not too often that we feature a four wheel drive vehicle, either. Jono Climo’s Hilux Surf/Nissan Patrol hybrid isn’t just any 4wd, however.
He’s No Ordinary Boy
After building himself a Lexus V8-powered daily driven Hilux, Jono got the urge to go play in the mud. Since the Hilux was all prettied up, it wasn’t long before he got sick of pussyfooting around and wanted to play with the big boys. Luckily for him, another Surf was sitting at home awaiting modification. The plans for it were about as far removed as possible from the final outcome, however.
Originally the second Surf (the one you see here) was destined to have its body used on a tube framed drag car, and was to be powered by a supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder motor. Thankfully, as the plan changed, so did the engine the vehicle would run. Due to the bang for buck, and torque needed for off-road duty, another Lexus quad cam V8 was installed. Being the proprietor of renowned automotive fabrication workshop Performance Metalworks meant that Jono could personally do all the work, and tackle tasks you and I (or maybe just I) would not think of, let alone be able to complete.
Jono Creates ‘FrankenSurf’
As the vehicle would have far greater than standard ground clearance, Jono decided to widen the track to increase stability. The simple way for Jono to do this was to drop the body onto a Nissan Patrol chassis. From the factory, these are 360mm wider than Surfs, so the move made sense. The next problem was getting the length of the chassis right. This became a more involved task than expected, as Jono decided to shorten the Surf body at the same time. Once the desired length was achieved, the chassis was stitched back together and reinforced to ensure no strength was lost in the process. With the chassis complete, mounts were fabricated to fit the body. These were constructed from scratch, so the body was placed a few inches higher than original to allow for serious rubber to be fitted. Simon from Exclusive Panel and Paint was responsible for sorting out the panelwork side of the equation, and if you didn’t know any better, you would be hard pressed to tell the body has been shortened.
A Balancing Act
As the V8 is what started the construction in the first place, it was soon installed, nice and low in the engine bay. Jono also decided to try and create a good centre of balance by knocking the firewall back and mounting the engine further south than you would expect. Not only did this keep the centre of gravity low and weight distribution even, it also allowed for fitment of a supercharger below the bonnet. As the aim was torque rather than outright power, a small Eaton M90 supercharger was fitted to a custom intake manifold. The charger is fed dry, clean air from a 3-inch alloy snorkel that sits high above the cab.
Fuelling is taken care of with a 60L Jaz fuel cell and MSD 500hp fuel pump. This feeds the standard injectors under the instructions of a Link V4 ECU. Venting the by-products of the combustion cycle is some of Jono’s handiwork: 4-2-1 headers that feed into twin 3-inch exhausts fitted with RPS mufflers. Running the supercharger well within its efficiency range at just 5psi of boost, the vehicle has produced a healthy 300hp at the wheels on C&M Performance’s Dynojet dyno. As we found out during our photoshoot, the vehicle is often found with a front end covered in mud or sand, which is why the radiator can now be located in the rear of the tray, out of harm’s way.
One Tough Package
The joy of an off-roader is that you can do as many skids in the sand or mud as you like, and by the looks of it, Jono loves it. This meant that the vehicle needed to have a stout driveline, especially when you consider how much grip the 15-inch wide, 35-inch tall Super Swamper tyres give. The gearbox Jono chose to run is a Toyota R151 fitted with a LUK 2100lb pressure plate and clutch. As the box is the strongest 4wd Toyota item available, Jono has no concerns about dealing to it, even when 50kms up the beach from civilisation. The box feeds power through a matching transfer case and custom sleeved drive shafts. Because of how much suspension travel the truck has, each shaft has around 4-inches it can grow or shrink without fear of breaking. With the Patrol chassis came the Patrol diffs, LSD up front and a vacuum diff lock in the rear. Despite the vehicle often being airborne and pulling wheel stands under power, these diffs have so far proved more than adequate, unlike their Toyota counterparts. The suspension on something like this takes a pounding, especially when the vehicle is capable of hitting bumps and jumps at speeds that can only be described as crazy.
As such, both front and rear shock mounts have been reinforced and the shocks replaced with EFS heavy-duty items. Unlike many off-roaders that run modified leaf spring arrangements, DSTRBD runs custom EFS coils all round and a custom fabricated 3-link in the rear. The downside of such large wheels and tyres is the rotational weight associated with them. As the Surf weighs in at around 1000kg, it is a lot lighter than the Patrol brakes were designed for, so upgrading the brakes isn’t on the agenda. Jono has, however, changed the handbrake to a hydraulic setup, resulting in fewer parts for mud to get caught in.
The interior is a relatively simple affair, consisting of Toyota Celica leather seats (chosen for their ability to repel water) and a sports steering wheel. In the not-so-unlikely case that the vehicle finds itself rubber side up, four point harnesses have been installed, as has the mother of all roll cages. Although the dash pad has been removed, a heater unit has been installed, as has a custom gauge cluster. If Jono should ever get bored of the supercharger whining away, a CD player has been mounted just behind the top of the windscreen âˆ’ the only area where it has any chance of surviving. As the roof was removed during the body shortening process, London Auto Upholsterers stitched up a custom soft top to cover the rear.
Look before you leap
During our shoot, which took place around 50km north of Muriwai on Auckland’s West coast, I can see how Four Wheel driving can be so addictive. Being able to slide around the sand dunes, splash through mud and, in Jono’s case, get airborne, is like being a kid with a new bike, albeit a big, powerful bike. It does have its downsides however, as NZV8′s Photoman found out. It seems Photoman was a tad overconfident with a mud hole, which resulted in two broken tow ropes and three vehicles being required to un-stick him. If you ever get a chance to go on a trip such as this, I thoroughly recommend it. It’s even more appealing if you get to listen to the whine of a supercharged eight while doing it.
SPECS 1987 Toyota Hilux Surf
Engine: Toyota 1UZFE 4.0L quad cam V8, Eaton M90 supercharger, 4-inch alloy intake, Pipercross sealed air filter, MSD fuel pump, Jaz 60L fuel cell, 4-2-1 headers, twin 3-inch exhausts, RPS mufflers, rear-mounted Nissan Patrol radiator, 16-inch fan, Link V4 ECU
Driveline: Toyota R151 5-speed gearbox, chromoly flywheel, LUK 2100lb pressure plate and clutch, Nissan Patrol front diff, Nissan Patrol rear diff
Suspension: EFS shocks, King springs
Brakes: Nissan Patrol discs all round, hydraulic handbrake
Wheels/Tyres: 15×10-inch rims, 35x15x15-inch Super Swamper tyres
Chassis: Shortened Nissan Patrol, 2-inch body lift
Exterior: Shortened body, custom soft top, Ameron satin black paint, custom front bumper
Interior: Toyota Celica seats, sports steering wheel, Autogauge tacho, Sony CD player, Sony 6×9-inch speakers
Performance: 300hp at the wheels, 5psi boost
Driver: Jono Climo
Previously owned cars: Supercharged and turbocharged GT Corolla, V6 Capri, Lotus 7 replica, AE86, Suzuki CXG sports coupe
Why the Surf? For the money spent, the enjoyment is hard to beat
Length of ownership: 3 years
Build time: 4 months (this build)
Jono thanks: Performance Metalworks 09 4260003, Warren @ 4wdbits.co.nz 09 9632923, Cookie and the boys at NZ Car Parts 09 2725564, Simon @ Exclusive Panel and Paint, The boys at Orewa Panel and Paint, Brett @ Innovative Coating Supplies, Mark & Ben (aka Lurch and Meatloaf) for wiring, Bob @ London Upholstery, Valvoline Oils, SIS 09 4265267, Jeff @ Precision Engineering 09 4133264, Alert engineering 09 5731008, Scott @ ABC 09 4481974, North Shore Laser Cutting, North Shore Plate Cutting & Water Cutting Services, Andre @ Speedtech Motorsport, Carl @ C&M Performance, Greg, Mark, Kerry, Scott and especially Dave Madjar for many, many hours spent on the truck to aid its completion. Many special thanks to my wife Danny — a very understanding woman and a great off-road driver