It’s said that you should never pass on the faults of your parents to your own children yet, on the other side of the coin, there is no reason not to pass on the best parts of your childhood.
Queenslander, Alicia Randall, subscribed to the latter way of thinking with fond memories of camping and four-wheel driving when she was growing up and wanting to give her own child the same great experiences.
“I purchased the Hilux brand-new when I was a single mum,” recalls Alicia. “The day I picked it up from the showroom, I went home and packed it up with our camping gear and headed off to Bribie Island on our own for a few nights.”
Living on South-East Queensland’s coast means Alicia and her family are spoiled for choices when it comes to beach camping and 4WD adventures, and that trip was the first of many exploring Bribie, Fraser, Stradbroke and Moreton Islands in the Hilux.
The 2017 SR5 Hilux was kept relatively stock for the first few years of ownership, as it served double-duty for family and business usage. It was loaded up with work gear during the week and was more than up to the task of exploring the beaches on weekends.
“The Hilux had everything that I wanted in a modern car at that time,” says Alicia, “plus the capability to get me everywhere I wanted to go and also serve as a work ute.”
Inevitably, Alicia saw ways she could improve the way the Hilux serves her purposes and the modifications began in earnest.
“After a few years of packing and unpacking the car nearly every weekend, I decided I needed a more elaborate setup, something that I could leave in the car all the time and make life easier.”
Alicia and partner Brett started researching canopies and came across the team at AMVE 4×4 who appeared to have just what they were after. Jamie and the crew at AMVE talked to Alicia and Brett and figured out their needs for the Hilux and keeping it as a dual-purpose vehicle. Alicia wanted to maximise the space in a canopy and be able to leave their gear stored in there, plus be able to accommodate a large upright fridge and kitchen.
AMVE convinced Alicia of the benefits of a chassis mounted canopy over a tray mounted one and the deal was done for a custom designed unit.
The powder-coated aluminium canopy is basically split down the middle in to two separate sections. The driver’s side of the canopy has been left relatively empty as a place to carry bigger bits of kit like a swag, storage boxes and Alicia’s work stuff, plus it’s on this side that you get access to the 12-volt set-up.
On the passenger’s side you’ll find that 130-litre Bushman upright fridge and a stainless-steel slide-out kitchen that includes a work table, microwave oven, storage drawers and shelves. It’s a complete set-up to enable easy camping and quick access when on the road.
The passenger-side and kitchen are covered by a 23Zero 270° awning to keep the Queensland sun and any inclement weather off the workspace, while the shower tent on the driver’s side and the rooftop tent are also from 23Zero.
Other features of the AMVE canopy include tapered tool boxes at the rear corners, a trundle drawer at the back and a 60-litre water tank with electric pump.
The comprehensive 12-volt set-up employs an Enerdrive 40amp DC Charger, 40amp AC Charger, 50 and 500amp shunts and 50, 80, 200amp circuit breakers, all keeping a 200-amp lithium battery and a host of accessories happy. There’s also a 200-watt inverter for powering the 240-volt appliances like the microwave and charging things up. A Redarc solar panel fitted atop the tent helps keep things charged when parked up in camp.
Of course, it’s no use having this awesome camping set-up without the car to get you to the best places and, as good as the Hilux is standard, Alicia has fitted a swag of good gear to improve its capabilities.
Starting at terra firma where the 285 Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ P3s fitted to Method Race Wheels alloys handle the terrain. Their action is managed by Outback Armour front coils and adjustable shocks, while the rear leaf packs were modified by Bayside Springs to suit the load on board.
Protection-wise there’s a loopless front bar from AFN with Custom Offroad underbody plates to look after the undercarriage, while rock-sliders from Legendex protect the sills.
Inside that AFN bar is a Carbon Winch and the front recovery points are from AMVE, while a full recovery kit is carried to help out when needed.
Lighting the track ahead are a 24.5-inch Stedi LED bar atop the bumper, while the 41-inch bar mounted on the front of the roof rack also comes from Stedi. There are also rear-facing LED work/reversing lamps and the AMVE canopy comes with LED strip lighting to keep everything in clear sight.
The Hilux’s 2.8-litre diesel engine breathes in via a Legendex 4-inch snorkel and In House Fabrications airbox, and exhales via a 3-inch ceramic coated exhaust system also from the crew at Legendex. Legendex dyno-tuned the combo to maximise the airflow benefits and it now puts out a healthy 504Nm and 182hp at the treads.
A beefed-up Exedy Hi-Torque clutch was employed to handle the extra grunt ahead of the standard Toyota gearbox. For now, Alicia makes do with the Hilux’s standard rear differential lock and ETC, but says she wouldn’t mind fitting a locker in the front diff in the future.
To the Cape
All this extra kit on the Hilux was done in preparation for a trip to the Cape and after a few delays, that trip should be happening around the time you’re reading this yarn. To help cover the long-distance touring, Alicia has added a 135-litre fuel tank from Ironman 4×4, a UHF radio, and a Hema navigator sat-nav unit.
“The build started at the beginning of 2021 and we had the majority of everything on the car by mid year,” says Alicia. There’s been a tonne of little bits and pieces added since then, but it’s Cape ready now and set to head north.
“This build has made packing up for camp and hitting the tracks nice and easy, and we can roll in to camp and set up within 5 minutes which has been life changing.”
Keyword: Cape Crusader: Toyota N80 Hilux