The Enduroco HIACE 4X4 Conversion
From day one of deciding on utilising a Toyota HiAce as the “donor” vehicle for our ultimate 4WD offroad touring machine, there was no doubt it would be converted to a 4WD – no doubts at all.
I’ve been involved in converting other 4WD vehicles over to the “other side”, and while it’s a daunting task, nothing is impossible. I’ve successfully had my creations fully engineered, registered and insured. But, with this project, I’ve left the complete job to the experts as a drive-in, drive-out job.
Given EnduroCo 4×4, based in Melbourne, has been dealing with this exact type of conversion for years, it was a no-brainer to hand the keys over to them. Could I have done it myself – most likely. But, would it be as good, as quickly done, as neat and tidy to look “factory”? Hell no!
I chose to purchase a brand new HiAce and have it trucked to Enduroco pre-registration for them to cast their 4×4 spell, along with a GVM upgrade, to make the most of Federal compliance rules. While that’s a whole article on its own, let’s just say that any significant modification done before rego aids in the use of said vehicle Australia-wide and ensures legal technicalities are maximised. So, for this article, let us focus on what they’ve done before trucking the Aussie HiLander back to my local Toyota dealer for registration.
FREINKINSTEIN OR ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT
Some folk think that non-standard vehicles are hard to fix or source parts for. Yes, partially true, sometimes. If you know what parts need replacing and what vehicle they come from, then it’s as easy as any standard vehicle. If that part is a custom part, you either have to find the right person to fix it, do it yourself, or (hopefully) order a replacement from the person/company that built it. I had no hesitation in dealing with EnduroCo 4×4, with what might need replacing in the future on our Aussie HiLander.
Where possible, they utilise Toyota equipment, well-known, top-quality brand aftermarket gear, and their very own manufactured parts.
The OE Toyota parts consist of a brand new 200 Series LandCruiser transfer case and complete front independent suspension. For the mechanically minded, that returns a constant 4WD system akin to most other “claimed” 4WD vans, AKA the Mercedes Sprinter and Volkswagen Transporter. This provides the good ol’ Toyota equal road holding as the Euro twins for slippery on and offroad conditions. Great, but the Enduroco system takes a far superior approach once “true“ 4WDing is needed. The electronic, push-button, centre diff lock transforms the HiAce into a proper 4WD, just like the 200 Series LandCruiser, my Troopy, a Nissan Patrol and most other modern 4WD dual cabs. There is no comparison to the electronically aided, traction control-inspired pseudo-4WDs.
Added to that, I’ve opted for a rear E-Locker differential lock. Again, for the non-mechanical readers, first, we have the centre diff lock, which locks the two rear wheels in unison to the two front wheels, then the rear diff lock locks the rear left and right-hand side wheels together to return the ultimate in true offroad ability. The only step up from that is to include a front differential lock… that’ll happen when funds permit!
Of course, no one can unbolt a HiAce steering system and simply replace it with a 200 Series unit, complete with front diff, without major surgery. Neither can you slot a 200 Series transfer case in behind the HiAce six-speed auto gearbox without some form of an adaptor. This is the secret to how EnduroCo 4×4 completes the transformation via their engineered system incorporating a front cradle to house the steering and diff, along with a custom cast adaptor to mate the gearbox to the transfer case.
For those not knowing what a standard HiAce should look like underneath, I’ll wager you’d gawk in awe at the whole show presuming it was all standard factory Toyota design and equipment – it’s that good! Yes, there are tell tales in manufacturing processes that a trained eye would pick to be different from the Toyota way, but wow, this is next-level craftsmanship.
We’ve opted to tick a few options boxes; a long-range fuel tank is an absolute must while travelling remote tracks. Sure, you can cart an extra couple of 20-litre jerry cans, but the EnduroCo 4×4 175-litre tank will afford huge outback runs without fear of running empty.
A snorkel – you can’t beat cool, clean air being forced into the air intake, plus the raised height allows for safer water crossings.
Suspension; EnduroCo 4×4 offers components from Pedders, purpose designed for the EnduroCo 4×4 HiAce conversions. Replacement shocks, front coils and rear leaf springs return a more compliant ride and form an essential part of the 4200kg GVM upgrade. They also supply a Pedders upgraded brake package comprising larger diameter discs and replacement rotors. Extended brake lines also get added to the mix for superior braking performance.
Bull bar – can you see it… look harder. Hey, just kidding; we don’t currently have a bullbar, but not because we don’t want one. In my opinion, the frontal protection bar is a must for travelling the outback. Not just for animal strike protection, but a good bar will house an electric winch, include rated recovery points, house lights and antennae, and improve offroad approach angles.
So, where is it? It’s currently in development with further testing approvals to be finalised. Yes, you can buy simple bolt-on bars that fit over the existing plastic bumper bar, but that, to me, is a half-arsed job. As soon as it’s fitted, watch this space as it’s something remarkable.
Rock sliders; we’ve opted for sill protection over protruding side steps, plus they provide more points to jack the vehicle up from if needed.
Rims and tyres; no, I don’t believe steel rims over alloys are a must out bush – there are pros and cons both ways. We’ve settled with 17-inch black steel rims wrapped in Yokohama AT Geolanders in a 265/75R17… but watch this space for some upgrades.
There are plenty of other options to tick on the EnduroCo 4×4 list, depending on if you’re kitting out a mine spec or a recreational vehicle.
I’ve got to give EnduroCo 4×4 a 10 out of 10 for correspondence and updates on our build – simply superb! Given I paid the standard fare, as a typical customer, the excellent information I was afforded on the whole process, plus my never-ending questions, I wouldn’t hesitate to replicate the entire process again if I wanted another such vehicle, or maybe I’ll have them cast a spell on the larger Toyota Coaster bus one day – they convert those to 4×4 too!
If you’d like a quote, best to contact them via www.Enduroco.com
RedArc has seen and appreciated the project early in the build and has helped with a complete electrical system, including a newly released Rogue battery management system, dual 200-amp/hour lithium batteries, a 2000-watt pure sine wave inverter and a 240-watt solar blanket. More on this kit in a later issue.
Eberspacher; yeah, I know it’s a hard one to wrap your tongue around, but as hard as it may be to pronounce, I assure you the Eberspacher is the Rolls Royce of diesel air and water heating. The one unit provides instant hot water for showering and washing up, plus the hot air system keeps the Aussie HiLander toasty warm inside.
Off Road Systems are no strangers to fitting out touring 4WDs. Given we didn’t want a traditional luxury motorhome or campervan fit-out, it only seemed logical that we employ them to wave their magic over the HiAce. While I gave them some initial 3D diagrams and ideas, I relied on them to advise what could and couldn’t work. We’ll show the custom ORS system in a later magazine.
Not wanting to wander aimlessly (read “get lost”), we are pleased to have VMS come on board as our navigation partner with their top-class VMS 3DX unit.
Finally we are very pleased to announce that Telstra has teamed up with Project HiLander with their TGO Repeater unit, a mobile phone signal repeater, to give us a better chance of keeping in touch with friends, family, and work colleagues. For more information on this exciting new product from Telstra, check out our first review in this issue. So welcome aboard Telstra; we look forward to speaking loud and clear.
Project Aussie HiLander; the next level of ultimate outback touring.