Are you throwing good money after bad on an old 4WD? It might make sense to upgrade.
There’s a certain old school cool about classic 4WDs. The steel dash, round headlights, simple interiors and classic styling is like nothing else money can buy, especially when you’re miles from anywhere trundling down an isolated track listening to the roar of a naturally aspirated six cylinder or turbo-diesel donk. They’re the kind of vehicle where nothing even comes close to the feeling of enjoyment you get out of them and you enjoy them because of their simplicity, not in spite of it.
Then there’s the middle ground.
The 4WDs that are starting to reach their expiry date and will never be held in high esteem like an old steel dashed 40 or Land Rover. The mid 90s to early 2000s rigs that fall somewhere between the nostalgic older vehicles and comfortable and reliable new rigs. I’m talking about early model Mitsubishi Challengers, Nissan Pathfinders, even 90 Series Prados, and just about every dual cab ute made before coil springs came into play. While they were great steads in their time they’re all getting a little long in the tooth now and are starting to go past their used by date, but is it time to upgrade?
We’re in the game of making 4WDs more reliable and powerful so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s one of the first things we look for in any 4WD. While older donks are incredibly simple to work on they’re also incredibly limited in terms of what they can do, and what you can do to them. Let’s take a look at Toyota’s 1KZ-TE engine, one of the best engines available on the market when it came out that literally powered just about every mid-size 4WD they could shoe-horn it into. In stock form it’d make about 85KW and 315NM, put a tune or chip into it and you’d be looking at around 100KW and 360NM, it’d average about 12L/100km depending on what setup you had it running in too. Its replacement, the 1GD-FTV in the new HiLux and Prado punches out 125KW and 343NM stock, put a chip or re-map into it and those numbers jump to around 140KW and nearly 400NM of torque all while returning under 10L/100KM. Even after doing serious power upgrades on an older 4WD in many cases the best you could hope for would be similar power to a stock late model unit and worse fuel consumption. Starting to see why we like new 4WDs and their high-tech power plants?
Unless you’re trundling around the back streets of Cairns in a soft top 40 I think it’s safe to say most people would be at least half tempted at the thought of a new 4WD. In fact the biggest thing turning people away from them is often the cost, and sure, brand new top-of-the-line 4WDs are pretty damn expensive no matter which way you look at it. But even a mid-tier 4WD will have a whole lot more to offer than most 15-20yo 4WDs, especially if you start looking at some of the more budget friendly brands out there. In fact, unless you’re chasing a top tier variant you can normally get behind the tiller of a new or late model dual cab ute for around the $45k mark.
If your old 4WD isn’t completely shagged it’d be reasonable to expect it’s worth around $10k still. That’s a changeover price of about $150 a week if you hunt around for a good rate. Sounds like a lot of coin but when you factor in the maintenance you no doubt spend and the fuel difference it starts getting damn close to breaking even. A new radiator will easily cost a month of car repayments, probably two if you pay a shop to do it. A couple of tired old bearings due for replacement would easily be a fortnight or more, and if something serious goes wrong like a turbo or injection issue you could easily be looking at six months’ worth of repayments. The harsh reality is as vehicles get older the cost to keep them on the road also rises. Have a good look at your financial situation and decide when you should double down, or when you should cut your losses.
COMFORT vs CAPABILITY
Look if you have a twin locked, 35in tyre’d 80 Series LandCruiser with a heap of boost pushing through an FT motor you’re going to be hard pressed to find a suitable new replacement, at least this side of $100k anyway. Try as they might new vehicles just don’t have the bare bones capability that older rigs have. What they do have (keep your sniggering down) is comfort. If your idea of a fun weekend 4WDing is hitting the local tough tracks with some mates you might find a 150 Series Prado isn’t up to scratch. But if you’re hitching on a camper or caravan and heading a few hours down the road to a secluded beach camp site ditching the old MK Triton for am MN or even ML Triton might mean you’re turning up to camp feeling refreshed and ready for the weekend rather than trying to shake the drone of road noise out of your ears while performing a spine correction on yourself. At the end of the day it comes down to your unique situation, for some people a modern 4WD just might not be financially viable, for others they just might not be the best option, but for those who fall somewhere in the middle you might be surprised just how much more you enjoy getting out there when you’re doing it comfortably and with plenty of power under your right foot.