A pair of epic custom GU Patrols

How one Queensland couple turned two junkyard specials into wild 4x4s

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There’s no two ways about it: life is about compromises.

The rolling countryside of an outback station might be the perfect slice of paradise for some, but it’s a world away from beach-front barbecues with your mates.

A big-shot career in the hustle and bustle of the city might fill out a fat wallet, but if you’re dreaming of your own business spinning spanners it might as well be a dead-end job.

So what do you do if you’re daydreaming of a hi-po V8 wagon singing to the heavens with supercharged wine and beadlocked 35s scrabbling for traction, but you really need the practicality of an all-out touring ute for that big lap of a lifetime? Well, if you’re Queensland couple Michael and Taylah, you throw caution to the wind and build both. Simple, eh?

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We’ve got not one, but two built-to-the-nines Patrols, both rolling out of the same shed, with two very different purposes. An epic electric blue ’02 GU space-cab Patrol with a touring setup that’d rival any killer camp on the sandy shores of Cape York. And a totally insane ’98 GU wagon with a powertrain sure to put a horn on a jellyfish.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right from the get-go. While both Patrols rolled off the production line as wagons, the two have followed very different paths to get where they are today.

The ’98 had been sitting in a paddock for 10 years untouched when Michael and Taylah took ownership, worth every dollar of the 1000 bucks they paid. The ute on the other hand came to the couple as a rolling shell riding on an earlier GQ chassis. The space cab chop already done and in primer by the previous owner, the rest, a blank canvas ripe for their touring plans and a strict six-month deadline to get it done.


While the bodies and paint schemes may be the biggest giveaway that this pair aren’t identical, under the bonnet is where the differences really kick off.

Hiding beneath the LandCruiser grey bonnet of the war-wagon is six-litres and eight-cylinders of GM fury in the form of an LS2. Not known to take the easy path, Michael and Taylah stripped it to its bones and rebuilt it better than GM could have ever dreamed. Every bolt replaced with heavy duty ARP studs, an upgraded oil pump, and dual-row timing chain ensure it’ll last the distance, but the rest of the modifications are decidedly louder.

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Upgraded rods, rings and pistons swing off the standard crank, while LS7 lifters and a spicy cam help the ported heads flow. Of course, with a Harrop FDFI 2300 blower up top big power was inevitable, but 765hp should scare off any thong-slappin’ 79 that lines up next to them. Donnelly’s Engineering is responsible for the shake, rattle, and roll, but Marks 4WD provided the necessary hardware to get the bent-eight between the rails and mated up to the stock Patrol five-speed.

Popping the bright blue bonnet on the space cab reveals a similarly impressive, but vastly different setup. If you’re a Toyota fan, now is the time to sit down. In place of the factory Nissan inline-six turbo-diesel TD42, Michael and Taylah have optioned-up a Toyota inline-six turbo-diesel.

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This time, it’s the venerable 1HD-FTE, just with a whole lot more anger. Chosen for its rugged reliability, a whole assortment of go-fast bits have been fitted up by the wizards at Donnelly’s Engineering again to get the most from the oil-burner.

On the inside, every nut and bolt have been replaced with a full OEM spec rebuild. From here, Spool rods have been slung under factory pistons, while ARP studs keep the head sitting tightly in place. A GTurbo does its best to separate the two. In the process, it pushes out 370 rear-wheel horsepower and 920Nm of torque. A Dellow’s bellhousing kit mates the ’Yota motor to the factory TD42 five-speed manual ’box.


Poke your head underneath and that shared DNA really starts shining through. Up front the wagon sports a full complement of Superior Engineering steering rods. They’re backed up with a four-inch coil lift and Superior Engineering 2.0 remote reservoir shocks reining in any undulating terrain you can point 765hp at. Stock radius arms have been kept in place, although a Harrop eLocker is wrapped inside 4.6:1 diff ratios up front.

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In the back, an LSD does the trick, with helper airbags inside three-inch lifted coils. Matching 2.0 Superior Engineering shocks smooth out the ride and a coil tower brace ensures the whole affair lasts the distance.

Over on the ute, things get a little more serious. Sure, there’s still an eLocker and LSD combo, a swathe of Superior Engineering steering arms, and some more coil tower bracing thrown in too. But this time, every other possible option box has been ticked too. That means top-tier fully adjustable external bypass Superior Engineering 2.5-inch body shocks, Superior Engineering radius arms, and a full assortment of adjustable control arms in the rear.

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Both the wagon and the ute make the most of the increase in altitude by stuffing the wheel arches with 315/70R17 Maxtrek Mud Tracs. The ute scored 17x9 bronze Fuel Covert alloys, while the wagon picks up a trick looking set of beadlock alloys.


Kicking it up a gear to the exterior and things start looking drastically different. That thousand-buck body on the wagon was never going to keep Michael and Taylah happy for long.

A full respray in ’Cruiser grey got the nod, but not before a set of custom LED Series 3 headlights were slotted into place with Series 4 flares modernising the looks. An Xrox bar sits proudly up-front sporting a pair of custom headlight hoops and Lightfox nine-inch driving lights. Moving along the flanks and Archer Metalworks scrub bars and side steps armour up the sills, with an MCC rear bar ensuring all corners are covered.

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The ute has copped a little more… while the Patrol landed in Michael and Taylah’s garage in primer, it’s now sporting a flash blue paint job over a full Series 4 sheet metal swap. Up front a Jimmy Built bar looks a million bucks and protects a pair of flash looking Tech4tourers headlights.

Down the back, where the wagon sports a simple drawer setup, the ute gets out of control. Up top the custom lift-off canopy plays host to an Outback Tourer hardshell rooftop tent and full 270-degree wraparound awning.

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Along the offside, bulk storage is the name of the game with ample free space and a storage drawer setup, a Brass Monkey fridge drawer also sneaks in, as well as a sneak peek at the Enerdrive electrical setup. On the nearside, a Bushman’s upright fridge is the centrepiece of the camp kitchen, while an MW pull-out pantry, Kicker stereo, and bulk storage drawers fill out the rest of the roster. A 240Ah Hardkorr lithium battery hides out of sight.


On the inside the different goals in both builds become glaringly obvious. Slot yourself in behind the tiller on both ’Trolls and you’ll find your backside in XR6 Falcon seats.

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That’s about where the niceties end in the wagon. A budget stereo and comms take second place to the monster Powertune Digital dash letting the pilot know exactly what every one of those horsepowers is currently doing. This rig is built for hardcore weekends.

Over in the ute things are built with a little more comfort in mind. Full sound deadening on all corners, a trick GME UHF, Series 4 dash swap, and a trio of neat, simple gauges bundled in next to colour-coded paracord grab handles make it a nice place to be.

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In a sea of cheque-book builds both of these Patrols are worthy of our praise, but having both come from the same couple, and with a combined 1100+ horsepower, they just make us all the more keen to see what epic rigs you lot have got tucked away in your back sheds, waiting to roar into life.

External bypass explained

When it comes to 4x4 suspension, the sky’s the limit. While manufacturers used to bend over backwards to build the biggest lift possible, these days they’re all hell bent on building the smoothest ride imaginable.

It’s given rise to plenty of oddball terms that quite frankly sound like they’re made up. We mentioned before the ute’s shocks are external bypass, but what does that actually mean?

Picture a shock absorber body as a 4x4 track, and the piston inside as your 4x4. Each part of the shock body represents a different obstacle. If you’re right up near bottoming out chances are you’ve had a big landing, or lifted a wheel and come down hard.

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If you’re driving right at the start of travel it’s probably minor jitters like corrugations. External bypasses allow each section of the shock to behave differently to the others in anticipation of the type of terrain that’ll see that part of the shock come into play.

They essentially add or remove resistance in the travel of the piston. It means you can dial in each and every bypass to suit your exact needs. Want your shock to float like a feather initially, then get stiffer and stiffer to stop you bottoming out? Bypasses are what you need.

Matt Williams


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