HARD YAKKA

WHEN JORDAN SET OUT TO BUILD THE PERFECT D-MAX, HE WASN’T TAKING NO FOR AN ANSWER.

WORDS AND PHOTOS DAN EVERETT

IT’S IRONIC. While we all look at a 4x4 as a tool to take us on literal journeys, they often take us on metaphorical ones. The trials and tribulations of building the 4x4 of our dreams are often enough to rival any journey you’d take locked in low-range with the tyres aired down. While Jordan’s immaculate Isuzu D-Max might be a one of a kind, its story is one that we are all familiar with.

As an apprentice chippy (a family tradition) Jordan spent years longing for a 4x4 – a key to unlocking the countless adventures to be had far beyond city lights, and one he always felt out of reach of his modest earnings. Fast forward a few years and Jordan finished his trade and shifted his focus to building the 4x4 he’d been lusting for.

It’s fitting then that he chose Isuzu’s D-Max as the foundation, a history of hard work forged directly into an adventure machine, much like Jordan himself. The facelifted D-Max sports Isuzu’s venerable 4JJ1 under the bonnet, a 3.0L turbo-charged diesel engine capable of pounding out 8-second ¼-mile passes with just the right amount of crazy. Jordan’s kept his relatively stock, however, with a DPU performance module courtesy of Down Under Diesel Tuning tweaking the engine for more grunt. It howls through the dependable Safari snorkel, while an HPD catch can and Munji solid intercooler pipes add ticks to the reliability column.

But we digress; you’re here for the canopy, aren’t you? That oh-so-smooth operator is a trick unit zapped together by the guys at Tough Tinnies on the south coast of Queensland. While it looks heavier built than a Russian babushka, the whole unit is easily removed with the unfortunately named Jackoff system. A few clasps popped and a set of legs slid in, and the D-Max is free to roam the tracks while his home on the road is safe and sound back at camp.

Jordan’s been through a few tray setups and canopy fitouts, so he knew exactly what he was after with the Tough Tinnies setup. Think Goldilocks and three different bed setups and you’re on the right path. Jordan’s finally settled on a Darche Hi-View roof-top tent for a comfy night’s sleep. “I had a hard-shell rooftop tent before,” he told us while setting up the Darche. “You couldn’t beat the setup time, but it felt claustrophobic inside. I shipped it off to Tasmania and ended up going back to the Darche setup.” He’s paired it with an Eclipse roll-out awning to give plenty of shelter against inclement weather.

Opening up the canopy doors is like letting a kid loose in a candy store, if the kid is a 4WDer, and the candy store is the best electronics gear on the market. The legs of the setup is a Betta Batteries lead-crystal battery (more on that later) but the brains is a comprehensive Redarc system headed up with a Manager30. While battery management used to require a precise flicking of toggle switches, the Manager30 setup handles anything Jordan can throw its way, coping with a combination of 240V, 12V and solar inputs then optimally charging whatever batteries Jordan’s running at the time.

It feeds a bank of Narva products and power outlets, but the ‘pride of the fleet’ for Jordan is the huge Redarc 1500W Pure Sine Wave invertor, perfect for the morning coffee.

The rest of the canopy is a perfect mesh of form and function. Three individual drawers inside the main body provide plenty of room for nicknacks and gear for the long haul, while the passenger’s side not only houses a hidden prep bench under the drawer but also a Dometic fridge on a Clearview drop slide. There’s LED lighting throughout, with additional storage along both flanks and a handy trundle drawer in the rear.

While the rear end of Jordan’s D-Max is a no-holds-barred kind of affair, up front things are a little more understated. Two huge screens dominate the cockpit. Up top a Hema HN7 keeps him on the right path no matter where he strays, while a Kenwood double DIN unit adds a little Xzibit style pimpin’. On the practical front are twin AutoMeter gauges keeping a watchful eye on boost levels and exhaust gas temperatures, with a plethora of rocker switches to activate everything from the canopy lights to North Korea’s guided missile program.

DRIVE IS PUT TO THE GROUND AT BOTH ENDS THROUGH A SET OF HARROP E-LOCKERS

A CLOSER LOOK

01 LIGHT ON

Lots of switches, though none that say ‘Zombie Lights’.

02 NAVIGATION

The Hema HN7 is just like a paper map, without the paper.

03 BASH PROOF

Nothing protects soft bits like a slathering plate of steel.

04 ROOF TENT

The Darche Hi-View is the solution to a good night’s sleep.

05 JORDAN’S LADDER

Easy-access canopy ladder is a neat onetwo fold-up job.

On the outside Jordan struck gold somewhere between a hardcore weekender and a kilometre-proven tourer, never scared to lift a wheel or pull up to camp. The Xrox bar leads the way, with a Warn winch slotting in behind the Factor 55 fairlead and flat link. Bushskinz bash plates protect the radiator, front diff and engine sump, while South Cross Fabrication rock sliders keep wayward rocks from stoving in both flanks. Up top a Rhino-Rack platform mounts the LED light bar and MaxTrax, as well as provides additional storage should Jordan fill the shippingcontainer-sized canopy below it.

The suspension is a mix and match of DIY components to get the required clearance for the 285/75R16 Nitto Trail Grapplers, but there’s a set of King’s 2.5 shocks going in shortly to make things ride a whole lot smoother. Drive is put to the ground at both ends through a set of Harrop eLockers, sending drive to every wheel, while eagle-eyed readers may notice something a little unusual with the front hubs. “They’re some of the strongest hubs on the market,” Jordan tells us. “They’re a direct bolt-on from a 1992 Jackaroo and help stop the CVs spinning when I’m not in 4x4.” While they may save a modicum of fuel, they also mean a snapped CV on the tracks won’t spin itself to pieces back on the blacktop.

In an age of instant gratification and she’ll-be-right-mate, it’s refreshing to see not only the drive required to build something right, but the finished product itself. Keep an eye out for Jordan on the tracks and give him a wave for us. If you don’t see him, chances are he’s in the shed building it just that little bit better again.

CRYSTAL-WHAT?

ABSORBED Glass Mat, Lead Acid, Lead Crystal, Lithium. While it might seem like the Tuesday night menu at your local methadone clinic, they’re just some of the terminologies you’ll have to play with in the auxiliary battery game.

Absorbed Glass Mat (or AGM for short) is your runof-the-mill heavy-duty battery; they’re cheap, sensitive to discharge levels, and great for the slow draw of components like fridges and lighting.

Lead Acid is your standard main battery; they pack a punch in an affordable package but work best for fast, big hits of draw (like starting an engine).

Lithium has been touted as the next big thing; they’re incredibly light weight and the ability to be drawn far lower than an AGM battery makes them a hell of an option, but they’re more expensive than a sherbet habit in the ’80s, and they don’t cope with heat.

Lead-Crystal seeks to fill the void: a cross between an AGM and a Lead Acid, Lead-Crystal batteries are significantly cheaper than Lithium options but offer far more usable power and a sturdier construction than their AGM counterparts.