Real 4WD vehicle fitout series
Journal 1: Defender - Norris
We live and breathe 4WD fitouts at our Sydney based 4WD mechanical workshop. In which case we’ve decided to dedicate blogs to tell the tales of the vehicles we work on. We hope this series inspires your 4WD fitout and helps you to plan out the little details that’ll work for your adventure style.
In our first journal we’re covering a full 4WD fitout on a Defender known as ‘Norris’ which has been built to suit a family of five, with three children ranging from 9-14 years. Below is a breakdown of how they like to travel covering their sleeping requirements, water needs, storage setup and power and mechanical upgrades.
The owners adventure style snapshot
This family does a mix of trips each year - from weekends away, to a coupe of weeks towing their caravan. They also have at least one proper off-road adventure each year where they require a certain level of self sufficiency.
When not towing the caravan the family sleeps in an OZ Tent for the mum and kids and a swag for the dad. These are both carried on the full length Front Runner rack along with their sleeping shelter. The family carry these shelters on the roof to allow more room to store gear, clothing and food inside the vehicle.
Although the family only requested a minimum of 40 litres to carry on hand, once their draw systems and other storage was sorted, we actually had the space for a 53 litres custom made stainless steel tank that we commissioned from one of our top suppliers; this tank was designed to fill a void space created by the draw system and the wheel arch. And we’re pretty sure those extra 13 litres will come in handy when they least expect it.
With a family of five, travelling with less is difficult, especially with pre-teens and teens who are customised to having personal items. For this Defender fitout, its storage setup had to suit all family members. Every items needs to have it’s own home, as this will dramatically reduce trip chaos that can quickly surround you with an untidy mess.
We designed a system that utilised almost every available centimetre of space - every single item we could think of had to have a place to live - and it was agreed that you wouldn’t have to move one item to access anything else.
A short breakdown of storage requirements needed is as follows:
- One draw dedicated to kids clothes
- One draw for adults clothes
- An area divided off from the fridge accessed through the side window with shelves for food
- An area for sleeping bags and pillows
- An area for tools, recovery gear and critical spares
- An area for chairs
- A 50L fridge
- Water and air with dedicated and unimpeded access points in the rear of the vehicle
To achieve all the above we started the fitout with an entire custom system made out of aluminium. Although custom does mean more expensive it leads to the perfect tourer for the customer. The fitout included:
Rough Parts gulwing windows imported from Switzerland to turn each window into its own storage locker. One side was used for storing tools, recovery gear and critical spares - the other side was access to the 50L fridge and food storage shelves.
Side note: If you haven’t heard of Rough Parts before, they are a Swiss brand and if you own a Defender, then you are going to want to check them out. The quality of their parts for Defender models are second to none - other brands out there have tried to copy what Rough Parts do, but none come close. Rough Parts are the best, and that’s why we recommend them in our Defender fitouts.
Two deep drawers measuring 950x550x200 which created a whopping 209 litre storage capacity. These draws are in addition to the storage areas for each window.
A flat open area that was created above the drawers and on top of the window lockers which is perfect for storing their pillows and sleeping bags.
A separate kids only storage area behind seats, this is the space for the kids to house their jumpers and iPads, along with a few other personal items for easy access during diving times.
- A storage locker to house drinking water; in addition to their 53L tank they like to travel with a separate course of drinking water. As they carry a number of bottles in the fridge this locker only needs to be accessed every couple of days to replenish the fridge - this locker was accessed by folding down the rear seats in a space that would other wise not have been used.
On top of the interior custom storage areas, we also installed a full length Front Runner Slimline II roof rack with under rack storage for a stainless steel prep table (*freeing up much needed interior space); as well as adding solar input for a folding panel to supplement the 12v lithium battery set up.
Mechanical and power upgrades
This Defender was after some serious mechanically upgrades to create a really robust machine. The customer originally had a 2.4L Puma Defender but opted to sell that and go for the earlier Td5 model with a more reliable engine for outback touring. The upgrades on this car, were a little more than some customers may opt for but these guys wanted a good level of power to suit towing their caravan as well as some serious strength in the drive line to handle the heavy off-road tracks.
As part of the build requirements we:
- Upgraded the whole drive line which included:
- Maxidrive shafts
- Ashcroft diffs and CV joints
- Heavy duty flanges
- Straight through exhaust
- Negative offset rims and 35in tyres
- Enhanced suspension and towing requirements for when the family are towing the caravan - as well as adding in a dual rear vision camera mounted to the swing away spare wheel carrier; with one camera positioned over the tow bar and the other to show vehicles coming up behind you.
- Swing away spare wheel carrier to receive weight on the rear door (a common failing point with the Defenders which leads to a lot more dust being able to enter the rear storage area).
- 137L long range fuel tank to replace the original tank as well as a 55L passenger side sill tank with transfer pump to the main tank. These style of tanks are also available for the drivers side and hold an extra 10L (the passenger side has the battery box) - however we opted against using the drivers side as we wanted to counter balance some of the weight of the fridge and water tank positioned on the right hand side.
- An ARB dual air compressor with 5L chassis mounted tank; the dual compressor on its own would be capable for just the 4WD; but again we wanted to up the efficiency for the caravan tyres.
- New laser headlights with a beam range of over a kilometre as well as upgrading the original tail lights with clear LED replacements.
Electrical (Battery, lights, switching)
Even when towing the caravan this family wanted to be able to stay off the grid and stay in one place for multiple days at a time without the need of mains power. They also love winter getaways so require limited reliance on solar. With space at a premium we had to fit a majority of the power system under the passenger seat.
Like most of our builds the base of the system is the Enerdrive 40amp DC to DC charger with built in solar regulator and E-pro battery monitor; charging up a B-tech 125ah lithium battery. The customer opted to spend the extra money on the lithium to have the rough equivalent of 200ah in AGM, but taking up half the size and weight.
In the original scope of the build the customer was just planning on using head torches whilst camping; however once we talked through some of our LED options so they could see the added benefit of having some fixed lighting in place for not a huge additional expense. We ended up adding:
- Two twin 4w flood beams on each rear corner of the roof rack creating a rear arc of light around the back of the vehicle, perfect for reversing into camp and setting up when arriving late at night - These could be operated from a button on the dash for use when reversing and also from the rear light master panel for use when in camp
- 270mm dual colour LED lights in each storage compartments and gulwing windows.
Additional electrical upgrades and modifications
- Charge points in the centre consul, fridge compartment and kids locker so everyone has access to charge the everyday items such as phones, cameras and head torches
- Additional speakers and subwoofer installed behind second row seating
- Central light control panel and battery monitor in fridge compartment making it much easier when arriving at camp
- Centralised house fuses and circuit breakers for easy access
- Leisure battery master switch to isolate the loads when not in use
- Dash isolator switch for the winch making it much simpler to isolate when not in use (as opposed to a manual engine bay mounted isolator)
We hope you enjoyed reading this 4WD fit out journal as part of our real life vehicle series. If you have any questions or would like to know more information about customising your 4WD fit out with Adventure Merchants and Outfitters please call us on 02 7955 9005 or fill out the contact form. We can’t wait to chat about your specific 4WD requirements.