Building a 4WD is a deeply personal affair. Like a dog-eared journal with pen ink sketches, paragraphs crossed out and notes scribbled in the margins, it’s a free and open expression of self.

Ideas bloom, expand, sometimes contradict and occasionally wither and die. As with all media, the artist, the owner, should hold a true vision, but listen to the whisper of inspiration.

Someone with a unique eye for expression once said that while good artists borrow ideas and concepts, the truly great steal them in order to forge their own.

The metaphor surely rings true when building a mechanical vehicle to ultimately express one’s freedom. Surely your own build becomes an amalgamation of the various interpretations of freedom that have transfixed you.

And that’s what it all comes down to. At their heart, all great 4WD builds are freedom machines.



I’ve always loved the simplicity of the surf van. Buy an old Troopy, Hiace or VW bus, throw a mattress in the back, some boards on top and the world is your oyster.

It’s little wonder the #vanlife ethos has become so pervasive in the Instagram age. It’s a quick and easy route to freedom that anyone can get behind.

For years, I ran an old 90 Series Prado with the back and middle seats ripped out, false floor and mattress in the back. Simple. Did the job.

My needs have evolved a little in recent years and I needed a new rig that was up to cross-country road trips, some heavier offroading and with the bones to be built up into a proper tourer.

I wanted to stick with Toyota reliability, but didn’t want to be confined to the space limits of a standard wagon. I needed something inherently reliable, capable of getting a long way offroad, yet with a heap of space in the back to build a false floor, throw down a mattress and chuck surfboards and fishing rods on top.

I’ve always loved the toughness of the Toyota HiLux and they certainly deserve their bulletproof rep. After poring over hundreds of listings on Gumtree and CarSales, I figured a single cab diesel ‘Lux with a full length canopy on the back was what I needed.

Anyone who’s bought a 4WD in post-COVID times would be familiar with the struggle. Waiting lists for new rigs are months long. Used vehicle prices through the roof.

It took a while, but eventually I found the one. It’s a 2014 single cab HiLux SR with a massive 2.4m long canopy on the back. It’d served a few years as a fleet vehicle and came with full Toyota dealership service history and logbooks.

It might look like a work truck for now, but not for long. The plan is to lift it up, get some proper rubber underneath, deck it out for long range touring and make maximum use of all the space in the back.

Lots more coming soon! Stay tuned.

Comments are closed.