A Cold but nice night at Harvey Dam.
A Cold but nice night at Harvey Dam.
It’s late 2017 and I’ve decided to bite the bullet and by a Y62. I haven’t test driven one, I’ve just researched it up the waazoo. It seems like a good idea. But for those that read the previous tome, it’s these ideas that can sometimes come back and haunt you. But I am known as one who’s not worried about diving in and seeing what the fickle fingers of fate can throw at me. After all, what could go wrong?
I’ve placed my order for the Y62 through my trusty broker and he informs me it’s going to take a few months to get here from Japan. No problem, this gives me time to sell the Sahara and to plan what I want up front on the Y62.
I’m at a nice downtown coffee shop with a colleague (who bought his Sahara with me) discussing what juicy bits I am going to tack on to the Y62 when he says “What about getting it registered? Will there be an issue? Surely they might have something to say”. Well I discussed this, and I resolved to see what I could do to minimise the impact of any licencing dramas that might ensue. Oh, how right he was!!
Let’s start with understanding something that I now, as “Captain Hindsight” know about modifying a 4WD. If you lift it over 2”, put larger wheels on it, put extractors, a supercharger or a host of other things, it’s almost 100% going to be illegal. Now this article is going to relay my Western Australian experience, but I am sure that it would ring true in other jurisdictions also. The people manufacturing and fitting these items are putting you at risk by a. not recommending that you get these things certified by your local government agency (despite the hassle this entails) and b. not being compliant anyway. (We could start a whole thread on the state of the 4wd accessory market) I’ll get into the nuances of some of the issues later. I can say, with authority, that when I am driving around any 4wd destination in WA I am seeing a sea of vehicles that the police could have a field day with. I’m glad they are clueless in a way J
Now the guaranteed way to avoid everything I have started to discuss is to register your new vehicle before you modify it. It is, by federal law, illegal to modify a car before it is registered for the first time. Now this was an interesting discussion I had at the licencing bureau. The horrid feeling you get in your gut when you’ve found out something horrible ripples through your being. Sheeeee-itttt!!! Have I just burned a fortune on modifications I have to back out? Fortunately, there is precedent in that a disabled persons vehicle can be modified before registration and this is overlooked. The licencing folks (that story later) showed great flexibility and restraint and the end result is a credit to them.
Note of course that although you can just bolt this shit on willy-nilly to a registered car, that doesn’t make it legal. At the pits I was regaled with stories of old GU’s and 80’s with 5” lifts and major mods that had been yellow carded for something minor and when they were inspected they had to either go through the approval process or reverse the changes out. In some cases, these changes would cost more than the car was worth. Food for thought eh? There are also issues potentially with insurance should something go wrong. I seriously gave taking off the new stuff and making it legal and then putting it back on. Common sense and the fiscal issues made me see sense.
That’s when it got gnarly!
My first attempt at the pits (after driving across from Victoria with no plates, on permits) was obviously a failure. They bounced me for the 35” tires, bounced the extractors and also, after a double take, bounced the supercharger. I was told to go back to the website and follow the instructions and come back with what they needed. They were not concerned with the lift or the bull bar or lights. Now folks, I recommend that, when you get your report back from the pits dude, you read it properly. I could have saved myself a little angst for sure!!
Now I chastise myself for my reading and comprehension, but I challenge anyone to go to the WA Department of Transport (DoT) without a PhD in Obfuscation, Fantasy and Gordian Knots to figure out exactly what is needed. The Vehicle Inspection capabilities in WA have been fully outsourced but for a small crew kept for the more interesting inspections over at the Canning Vale Inspection centre (more on that later) and these guys are sticklers for the process that’s for sure, but they are as lost as me when it comes to figuring out what is required. So back to the website I went.
I was clear that I was going to need an Engineer to give me a report on the car. Just where these mythical beings reside I have no clue. I called Ontrack 4×4 in Victoria and asked them for some guidance as I was now in possession of a big black illegal brick (albeit quite a quick one) and I had no idea where to go next. They, as they do, knew exactly what direction to nudge the ship in and put me in touch with an Engineer. I called Vlad (the Engineer, keep up folks!!) and he gave me a time to pop around.
In the meantime, I had gone to the Y62 owners group on Facebook and asked if anyone had some spare tires / rims I could buy, borrow or steal to use over the pits on my next go. I was amazed by the outpouring of support and offers. It was quite humbling, and I still smile to myself now and then at that episode and its outcomes. I was pointed to some tires that Paul Hurley was going to buy for $500 and he was happy for me to get them first for this exercise. I didn’t know how long this would take (I was the harbinger of doom in this case, as it took months) so I indicated I’d buy them and then sell them to him at a reduced rate (i.e. I’d rent them for a few months…lol) and we took a virtual handshake on it. I took the car down to Bob Janes in Vic Park and swapped them over. I’ll reverse it in a few days” I gushed…. What an idiot…lol
So, Vlad turns up and has a look at the modification. He’s impressed. His thick accented “I see no problems” assured me and I was going to be over the pits tomorrow and free as a bird. So we take the requisite quarter photos, he does a noise test (he has some sort of device) and I’m thinking “this is too easy” ….. And then he drops it…. “Rob, you have to do an emissions test”!!. Whaaat?? OK, don’t panic, how hard could it be? The exhaust passed the noise test by 1dB so I am sure they wouldn’t manufacture an exhaust that is illegal (remember what I said previously?? Lol). I get from Vlad a recommendation for the emissions test and he instructed me to email him when I have it “and it must pass Rob OK?”.
I get the car booked in, drooling over the fact that tomorrow I get my emissions test, Vlad sends me the report and I zoom over to the pits dudes place and I’m on the road. At work I am the subject of cynical derision over my clearly optimistic view of what’s going to happen. Now, as we all know, this process had only just begun.. and I am running out of drool.
I front up to the emissions bloke the next day over in Osborne Park. It’s a workshop full of boy racer cars, Honda 2000’s, Nissan Skyline look alike cars, etc. These guys do a lot of performance upgrades to these things and obviously they had experience with this whole modification thing. I was feeling on good hands. They jumped in, hooked me up and ran the test. (Yes, I decided to hand around). He looks at me with a furrowed brow and says “take it round the block and warm it right up”. This I do with gusto, arcing it up around that suburb. I get back with a nicely warmed up Patrol. He does the test two more times.
“Well Rob, it looks like those Cats (catalytic converters) are as useful as a Eunuch in an IVF clinic. You can probably see straight through them. Aghast I looked at more delays (oh how little I knew) and I asked “How do I fix it?”. With a practiced air of a professional that talks often to absolute mechanical luddites with grand desires he offered: “well you need to replace the cats, and you’ll need good ones. Or it might not work”, he then opined “On these patrols the cats are high up near the exhaust and they work on the heat generated. These cats are further down and will take longer to heat up (you’ll remember my race around the block a few times) and if they’re not hot, they won’t work. Well I stared blankly at him like he was explaining quantum entanglement and I said “when can you do it and how much?” “Somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000, I can do it in two days”. I drove back to work with the knowledge that my permit was going to run out and I’d need to get a new one.
I’m back at the exhaust place and they’ve done the needful. They’ve passed it and it’s now officially official. The emissions are within tolerance. The bill is ~$1,850. Dammit!
I call Vlad and email him copies of the emissions tests. He says “I’ll finish it up tonight”
I get the Engineers report and although there was one typo (quickly remedied), I called the pits blokes and they told me to come on over.
I’m hesitatingly confident at this point and I am armed with a modification permit fee receipt, an engineer’s report, emissions tests, noise tests et al. The pits blokes are confident all is well, and they start the process again. Note that the outsourcing of this is only the physical stuff. Each inspection report has to go back to the DoT for review and acceptance. They tell me it’s a busy day so I sit doing work emails and stuff for about two hours when he pipes up “You need an approval for the Supercharger and Extractors, did you get the letter?”. Now, as you know, this is the first I’ve heard of this.
Now there’s a lot of banter between us at this point and they call the DoT to get clarity on what’s not clear. This takes more time.
The upshot of this now is that the modifications have to be approved and there’s a spot on the website that tells you what to do and how to apply online. I argue that the mods are not listed as needing this on the website, but I am shooting the messenger and all we resolve is “it is what it is” and I have to go back to the web site and figure it out.
It’s early March…….. I fill in the form, attach every document and think to myself “this was easy, should get an answer tomorrow or the next day”.
It’s two weeks later and the crickets are chirping. The Patrol is nesting in my garage but failing to make eggs. A chicken would be more useful! Frustrated I call the DoT and after an hour of waiting I get through. Now they are confused at what I want, but they duck off to see a supervisor. The dude comes back and tells me “We they put these things in a queue and the current application date being processed is 3 January”. If I had teeth they would have been embedded in the wall across from me. Calmly (ha ha) I asked if there was anyone I could talk to about this. “No sir, you can just get a queue date update”. I hung up and avoided the gaze of those to whom I had been gloating that this would be all over read rover soon, to.
Now I get into a cadence, I call every Friday and get a date update. The days that pass seem quicker than the days they are wading through with the queue. I lose my rag on a few occasions and it feels better. The DoT process is a shocker.
It’s early May and I’m looking at buying another car. This borrowing someone’s shitbox is not conducive to an easy time. I am feeling trapped. I have appointments at a few dealers on the Saturday and I’m thinking this will never be resolved. The last queue date was still in February. Then a sort of miracle happens. It’s Saturday and the phones goes. It’s the DoT and they inform me that the letter is on its way!!! Hoorah! Hoorah!
It arrives on the Tuesday……..
I still have all the docco and I call the pits guys who call me over. It must be OK now. They fire up their process (not even looking at the beast now) and await the verdict. I’ve now paid for three inspections and two modification permits (I know now I only needed one of them, I just needed the receipt for it each time… shit!)
It’s in the queue for checking by DoT now and we’re on tender-hooks. A person comes in selling oil products. A Customer picks up his VW Golf. Another bloke comes in about his Nissan that’s playing up. Life’s going on and I’m in another queue.
Ding Ding, we have a result……
“That’s the wrong letter”
We all re-read it. It turns out it’s just a letter approving the changes to be started. Of course mine are already done.
“You need to wait for the actual approval letter”
I walk out, dejected, resurrecting the idea of buying myself a runabout. I drive to work using the permit up. I do the same the next day. I am waiting again,
I get home and wander over to the letterbox. It’s late May. I have no expectation that it’ll be there, as someone else is checking the mail before I get home. I look in the box and there’s a DoT letter. WTF? No way, it cannot be.
I nonchalantly go inside and offload all my work stuff…. no, I lie, I leave that crap in the car and bolt inside to open the letter. I open it up and know now to read it carefully like a Harvard Law professor so that I am not interpreting it incorrectly.
“Come to Canning Vale Inspection Centre”
“Get a Weigh Bridge certificate”
APPROVED!!!! Subject to a final squiz by the chaps at Canning Vale.
I get to work in the morning, chomping at the bit so I can get on the phone to call up and get an appointment. It’s probably going to be a week or so away, so I am not overly expectant, given the experiences to date. The phone answers. I tell them my reference number and they propose a date in the following week. “That’d be fine, but I was just wondering, given this cars been off the road since January, could someone see me sooner?”, “One minute, I’ll check with the Supervisor”. The seconds tick away. “Can you come over now?”.
I almost forget to hang up the phone. I leave my work stuff behind in a whirlwind of “I don’t care” and head out the door. I know where a weigh bridge is and I have the permit (I cheekily bought a permit thinking this might happen.. haha) so I head over to the weigh bridge and pay the fee, get a certificate showing 2.97 tonnes. Not sure that means anything to me, but now I know.
I head over to the inspection centre and the lady on the phone remembers the call (she had just hung up from it) and asks me to wait while the supervisor completes some task or another. I have all the papers and my iPad so I read a book while I wait. “Mr Martin?”. I jump up and head over to the counter. “Nissan Patrol, Supercharged?”, “Yes, that’s me”.
“Ok, I cannot see any issues with this, but I like the sound of a Supercharger and I am an ex Nissan mechanic, I want to take it around the block”
He points out his Patrol Parked there like a spectator at David Cassidy’s last concert (see if anyone gets that reference) and we chat about the Y62 and the shit I’ve done to it. We get in and he drives it around the block. I had warned him that this is not a car to drive if you’re thinking of a Y62. It will ruin you, any other vehicle will feel like a sluggish beast after driving this. He felt confident that he was immune to its charms.
We get back after an nice race ridden blat around the block.
“You were right, I am ruined…… I’ll do the final paperwork and close off your last go at the pits”
I didn’t have to pay anything and I got my certificate about 30 minutes later.
You’d think that was the end of it right??????
I took off to the licensing centre in the city and took a ticket and waited in line.
They had issue with my invoice and made me go to work, get a zeroed one and then come back to finally get the plates……
And that’s the sage……..
It’s 2009. The full effects of global warming have not fully manifested themselves and the concept of a clown US President is just a fit of fantasy. I’m driving around in a new Toyota Prado GXL 3.0 Turbo. I tried this out because I had had, in a previous life in Thailand, a good run from a Toyota Fortuner 3.0 Turbo. This beastie performed flawlessly over a four year period.
But this is Australia, Western Australia, the land of endless beaches, glorious outback sojourns, bugger all water (unless you’re in a lucky place, somewhere….. or it’s been raining.) and lots of places to actually go off road. The Prado is excellent, but really cannot pull a hot sausage of a greasy plate. This was splashed in my face no more than at Warren Beach trying to get up a large dune and struggling without letting down my tries to about 10psi. I witnessed a Toyota Prado 4.0 petrol blasting up past me and disappearing. I was not happy!
So I started the process of selection.
I was a fully licensed, indoctrinated, evangelistic member of the “We Drive Diesel in the Outback” cult of stupid. Fortunately in this club, it’s well stocked with confirmation bias in terms of anecdotal experiences and in the multitudinous off road marketing mediums. There’s never any lack of people to give you advice and vehicles to buy. In 2017 the market is much more mature with even more options. I often wonder what I’d do now if I was starting afresh. (Actually, we now know..lol)
So where did one go?
Toyota offered up the Hilux, Prado, Troopy and the relatively new 200 series. Nissan had the god awful 3.0 litre and “ok” 4.2 optioned Patrols (I was Toyota-fied at this juncture to a certain degree. I had driven a Nissan Pathfinder around for a while, it was OK), and there was a Pajero from Mitsubishi and the many utes (of which I was not a contender for). I wanted big for all my gear and my (then) roof top tent. I’ve always had a fridge and lots of different gear I like to drag around with me. In the early days I kept it to the “absolute necessary”, but failed later with the bloat of “glamping” often weighing us all down.
My initial view was that I was to go with a Toyota Troop Carrier, with modifications to allow me to make it “Trakka” like (when they used to do 4wd modified vehicles). I went down this path to be stopped at the “let’s do it” phase by the Mrs who said “I cannot and will not drive a manual”. Well this then set the cat amongst the pigeons. No manual…… damn…… So I again went to the space I knew, Toyota. I had owned Landcruisers in the past from my 1972 SWB 5.0L V8 (err, slightly modified J ) to the 80 Series GXL I bought new in 1999. I looked at the latest 200 series that was then a couple of years in to its current reign. It was a no brainer really. Next step the purchase. I could write a lot about this process, but I can say, based on the recommendation of my Finance Man I went for a broker (who is now my broker friend after 6 cars for me and others) and he saved me at least $10K on the retail.
Sahara #1 was a pretty standard beast. Just a bar, winch and spotties. Certainly, driving in Outback anywhere you need your lights. That’s my view, anyways. This one just went and went. No issues. She was a little easy to get stuck for some reason, but we never wanted for grunt or ability. Just get the tire pressures low low low in the sand I found. The rake meant that it was a little front heavy under brakes, but I hardly ever pushed them in anger. But the lessons from this car were put into the next one, with interest. We travelled all over WA in this beauty. It’s first trip was from the dealer in NSW to WA. 4,000kms as a warm up trip. Wonderful!! (This is a consistent theme in this story).
By 2012 I was changing things up in my life and I went through the process of thing about whether I upgrade this one or I go for a new one and makes the changes to that. This caused lots of hand wringing but in the end I went for Sahara #2
Sahara #2 was known as the 200 that fell in an ARB Parts bin. It had ARB suspension, ARB Bar, A Rear Bar with a Wheel on it. I went for Walker Evans Rims (Faux bead lockers), Aggressive ProComp wheels (noisy AF!!), A full chip and exhaust upgrade (the details fail me, but I’ll update if necessary), a Radio (of course) and some other stuff that I cannot remember. It was the ducks nuts!! It really went hard also. This one made Sahara #1 seem a little agricultural. Now this Sahara had a back story from day 1. On the way over from Sydney (Yes, I got this from the same broker. The Savings went into the parts bin… haha) we had a few issues with it starting. Just once or twice. Never really gave it much thought at 5am when it happened. I was back in Perth for a month or so and decided to head out to Wilbinga (a spot that will not exist for long as the inevitable urban sprawl heads for it) for a bit of dune bashing. We were on our way out when it goes into safe mode and the dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree. Thank god we’d past any tricky stuff and the track was relatively easy to extract ourselves from. We turned it off and, on a few times, and then waited with it off. It fired up and we were on our way again. It happened again around town once or twice and we were not close to understanding the issue. I have a real problem with an unreliable vehicle, so I was getting a tad pissed off at this stage. Then it failed completely one day when I was picking it up after putting some cool security tint on it. I called Toyota and they sent a rescue truck for it. I get a call the next day and they inform me it’s got blown injectors and the look for the chip had shorted out due to a bad install and it was going to cost 000’s to fix it. They were pro-active and had called the supplier in NSW who had acknowledged that this was their issue and they authorised Toyota to fix it on their tab. Toyota ripped out the chip and its loom etc, replaced all the injectors and got it up and pumping again. The Vendor then got me an appointment at United Fuel injection who replaced the chip and installed it properly, again on the vendors dime. It was alive again. Around about this time I had the epiphany that I’d buy a super duper inter-cooler and put a big scoop on the bonnet. This was going to give me cooler air in volume for the extra grunt the chip was giving me. Now from the outside it looked amazing (later the installed told me that my car had prompted many more of these to be done once it had been spotted on the roads and tracks around Perth) but the install was sloppy, the piping and tubes would often come off (safe mode again) and the hole they made in the bonnet was brutal (from the inside view) at best. I took it to two custom car modifiers to try and fix it but it always looked like someone had used a tin opener to make the hole. Caveat emptor – don’t be the first one in WA to try something on your 4wd (which is a lesson I took on board later with the Y62)
Now for the real problems I had……
Those in WA will know the beach from Tim’s Thicket down to the Bunbury gap. It’s many miles of wonderful beach, no people (relatively) and there are pockets of great dunes to fang up and down on. I was down there one summers day and was experimenting with the various options the Sahara has for crawling along and getting out of the rough stuff. One of these modes you set it and it has a dial where you dial in the speed and the computer deals with the wheels, slippage and that kind of malarkey. We were getting ourselves stuck on purpose and then using the crawl mode to get ourselves out. Pretty standard stuff. Unknown to me, I was overheating the transmission and I ended up cooking the fluid somehow. The beast went into safe mode and wouldn’t go again until it had cooled down. Now we know (we thought) what to look for and checked out the loom, the chip and the electrical connections. All good….. damn! Well, we limped out along the beach (we were only about 5kms down from the Leschenault Peninsula entrance to the beach). As soon as we were on tarmac, the temperatures did not rise, no stress on the transmission, so it was all good. This happened one more time and I took it to Toyota for a check-up and they diagnosed the transmission fluid. We got the fluid transfusion and it seemed OK after this but I never felt 100% that it was trustworthy after that. It always went fine, but in the back of my mind, this should have been a gem, but it never was, not after the issues that it had given me. Now they might have been self-inflicted by all the mods, but I’m not convinced…
It’s 2012 and a friend wants to buy a new Sahara. It seemed like a good time for a change and I could take the lessons from Sahara #2 into Sahara #3
This purchase was a little different from the other two. We were buying two cars and the broker was able to do the same deal in WA. So we didn’t have to fly to Sydney and bring them back. I then proceeded to start modifying this one but without a chip or intercooler. I added a scan gauge to monitor the transmission closely and found that this one two could get hot really easily in the sand and that you had to exclusively use low range to make sure it stayed at a reasonable level. This one had an extra fuel filter to stop the pesky “change your fuel filter” message every 10,000kms or when an outback fuel station gave you dodgy fuel (happens often here), diff and transmission breather kits (billet), BP52 suspension, super duper air filter, a full replacement loom for all the wiring and shit in the back, replaced batteries, my old walker evans rims now with 295 nittos, a radio (haha) and led spotties. I bought billet UCA’s, dropped the diffs, changed the exhaust and generally thrashed it around the place.
This was a gooooooood wagon.
It’s now 2015 and I am feeling the need for change
Now the debate around the Nissan Patrol, the Y62 had been raging around our fireplaces, cigar nights and get togethers for an age. I had a friend who was saying “you know this fuel thing is a pile of shit given the $30K discount you get over a Sahara” and he was pooh-poohed all the way to “sod off-ville” on many occasions. But he was insistent and consistent (and also a Sahara owner) so the conversations were always lively.
The swinging factor was the article that came up showing a supercharger option. If you’ve read the rest of this, you will know how I roll in this space. It tipped the argument over on its face. There’s no way you could get a Sahara to this level of performance, even if you tipped it out of a transport plane.
Now the next saga began…. The story of the Supercharger and how I made it legal on a Y62…….
Our day out at York