My daily drive is an old GQ Patrol with a TB42 under the lid. I love the old girl, but man it hurts at the fuel bowser or when the registration bill arrives. Compared to some of my friends that have more modern dual cab style trucks, which have become so popular in recent times, I have drained my 147L long range tank before they have drained the factory tank! This has definitely limited me with how far afield I am prepared to travel and explore.
So why not just jump on the modern dual cab bandwagon and enjoy a modern vehicle’s fuel economy and refinement? Well let's break it down and compare the point by point as I have been trying to do in my head the previous few months.
One of the key aspects of 4WDing I enjoy is challenging my driving skills. Tackling rough terrain like steep rock climbs, mud holes, off camber sections etc that you will find as common place on some of the more challenging tracks around Australia. The old solid axle and coil spring setup found on a lot of the older vehicles like the Patrols and 80 Series cruisers make them very capable off road and it is very easy to improve this further with simple suspension and tyres upgrades. Most of the modern dual cabs run a I.F.S style setup up front and a solid axle with leaf springs at the rear. The Independent setup on the front can really limit down travel, especially once you add lift, and this can often see a wheel lifted off the ground resulting in a loss of drive. This is combated partially with the programming of modern ABS systems. When the vehicle lifts a wheel in the air the ABS system will detect the difference in wheel speed between left and right (the wheel in the air can spin freely) and clamp the brake on that wheel to force the drive through the diff to the wheel on the ground. I am still not sure if this is enough to replace the ability of the older vehicle to articulate with the terrain and maintain traction.
I think this is where the simple old school diesel or petrol engine wins out. The modern common rail engines are extremely sensitive to poor fuel. One of the most highly recommended upgrades after purchasing a modern common rail vehicle is a secondary fuel filter to help ensure nothing nasty makes it into engine. This includes water - so even fuel tank condensation can damage a common rail engine if precautions are not taken to filter this off before reaching the engine. There is also the possibility of picking up poor fuel from that remote service station whilst exploring the vast expanses that we have in this country- the whole reason why we own 4WD’s right? There is also generally a lot more sensors, wires and plumbing associated with modern engines that makes them quite complex and difficult to fix in remote areas without specialist equipment and training. On top of that we have the emission control items such as EGR and DPF. Whilst these are great for the environment they can often really hurt the engine over time. A quick search on google will show you hundreds of images of intake manifolds caked solid with soot build-up due to exhaust gas being re-circulated through the intake of your engine. It is generally illegal to remove or bypass these, so unless you are willing to run the risk of a fine, you are stuck with these issues. The older, simple diesels and carb petrol engines are often able to be fixed with a few basic spares and simple hand tools. As they are only in older vehicles though, these are often well on the way to the end of their lifetime and engine rebuilds are not cheap. Take this into account when weighing up the the engine side of things.
Hands down the modern common rail turbo diesels are leaps and bounds ahead in efficiency over the old less technical counterparts. It doesn’t stop at economy with the modern common rail engines, they generally offer great improvements in power and torque compared to their older counterparts as well.
This always going to be a win in the modern vehicle category with better seats, climate control, better sound deadening… the list goes on. For me, as long as the aircon is ice cold anx the stereo is louder than the tyres, I’m happy.
ON ROAD PERFORMANCE
Let's face it - a lot of the time we have to do long stints on the black top to reach our desired tracks so it’s an important factor. The old solid axle setup does not do so well in this area. Cruising at 100 km/h with a cross wind can often feel like you are at the helm of the titanic in the southern ocean. The modern dual cabs with their IFS front ends & lower unsprung weights are far more stable on road and track nicely at high speeds comparatively.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of months before I put any more money into the old girl and I am still undecided. The improvement in fuel economy and rego fees etc may well outweigh the extra off road capability and general solidness of the GQ for the handful of times I get away each year. A modern dual cab would be a lot cheaper and more comfortable around town as well. Has anyone out there been in the same boat? Which way did you go and were you happy with the decision? I’d love to hear some feedback on this!