Monday, July 16, 2012

Simons FJ Build and 30k road test

Drifta Drawers with water tank.

The build so far- to make a great vehicle even better I took the FJ to Ultimate Suspension and had the suspension height increased by 50mm, fitted a bull bar, side rails, driving lights, air compressor, tow bar and UHF radio and all terrain tyres.

Last week I took delivery of a set of Drifta draws. Storage in the FJ is a real problem and I wanted a set of draws to suit. What a great product. Luke from Drifta did everything he said he would, built and deliver a quality product. It took 10 minutes to fit and a couple more to fit the water tank. The draws come with a pull out picnic table, and a nicknack storage unit.

Whilst being made of timber and not as robust as the steel draws I had in the troop carrier, I rationalised the purchase on price, weight and the fact I would not be placing as much in the draws. They fit like a glove, the draws glide smoothly and are lockable. Even the water tank fitted well and I can still get a huge esky or fridge inside.

So how is the car and build so far after 30,000km? About half has been on rough outback old/NSW roads getting to cattle stations.

The Draws even come with a pull out picnic table.

Likes- I loved the way the car felt in stock form. Very comfortable and a great tourer. Brilliant, also, off road.

Dislikes- the standard front bar is awful and dangerous, made from soft plastic and is totally unsuitable for driving on the stations or the roads leading to them.

Likes the look of the bull bar I had fitted.

Dislikes- The adverse way the ARB bull bar affected the front suspension and damaged the vehicle. This is a problem that ARB acknowledge and are designing a replacement bar to fit. 7 months and still waiting....

Note;-If you are going to add weight over the front you simply must have the suspension modified.

Likes-the balance of the vehicle now I have the draws in and the suspension has been designed to take the extra weight. It rides as it did when stock.

Dislikes- the lack of storage. Having been spoilt with troop carriers and tray backs I must purchase a roof rack.

Likes- the BF Goodrich All terrains do an adequate job everywhere.

Dislikes- They chip way too easy on the rough rocky roads, and are ordinary in mud. I will replace these with a more suitable open lug design.

Likes- The doors. They make the car easy to use when camping.

Dislikes- the doors- Awful in an underground carpark when you have limited space and passengers.

Likes- They way the fj can sit on the speed limit and then have ample power for overtaking.

Dislikes- the tiny tiny fuel tank.

Likes- they way it sits on the dirt tracks at speed without being twitchy.

Dislikes- The traction control coming on when I don't need the car to drive me..when I am driving it.

Likes- its "off road ability".. It really is very very good. One of the best I have driven ( I have had about 20 4x4s)

Likes- the 21st century feel and design, without all the bling that modern cars seem to have.

Dislikes- The mud flaps are not long enough and the plastic flairs tend to stone chip way too easily.

Likes- the easy wash out interior.

Dislikes- the plastic is really too soft and is not durable. If you brush up against Mulga it marks.

Some of the items the drawers carry.

Problems- I need a new windscreen. It chips more than any other 4x4 I have owned. Now I have done 30,000km, 10,000 of which are on really rough outback roads I notice the doors are starting to squeak a little. The rear door is "styled" and when you open it red dust drops into the cabin. The squeaks could be dust in the hinges. The bull bar is a soft mount.. that means it moves about. I am reluctant to put a winch on it for this reason. If the bar stops a roo strike damaging the radiator I would be happy, but don't expect it to be like your 70 series bar. An alloy one would be better suited in retrospect.

Also the air filter is not an "industrial type" like what you get in the commercial range of Toyota. Servicing is every 10,000km.. Ok if you drive around the city... but the 70 series had a 'heavy duty" air filter and snorkel and you can have a heavy duty service which does not seem available on the FJ. I have already replaced the air filter and fuel filter. The air filter was like a dust bag in a vacuum cleaner..!

Fuel consumption- Loaded up I am averaging 12.5 litres per hundred. I took a risk moving away from the factory turbo diesel and into a petrol 4 litre, but the fuel consumption is about the same. The car is very very comfortable, and I am delighted when I drive it. It tools around town, with enough power to over take and is like driving a ford falcon or commodore. Yet throw a tent in and you can be on the Dowling track heading to Birdsville, or in low range crossing a dry creek bed.. Only Range Rover used to be able to claim it could do that.

I read that other owners drown their FJs in mud and twist them on trails. Each to their own.. I really see it as a robust Prado and not an "industrial" vehicle. As such, mine will not be used to strain fence posts, or pull water pumps out of 300ft bores. The 76 series wagon is perhaps the real great grandson of the FJ/BJ 40s and is much more suited to an industrial usage.

Conclusion- its a great product in every sense. I bought it as a tourer I could sweep out when dirty and it fits that role. I have a friend who has both an FJ and a V8 Cruiser 76 wagon. For outback travel he prefers the V8. I understand why. Its solid "non plastic build", live front axle and lack of electronic gadgets are a proven combination. Its horses for courses. I am far more relaxed over a 12 hour journey than in any of the Patrols, 60 series, 80 series or 100 series I have driven. My 1986 Range Rover was just as comfortable but I was never relaxed as I was always waiting for something stupid to break.

See, the Fj can do it all. Some of the issues can be overcome e.g. long range fuel tank.. wider flairs and longer mud flaps. As my son said.. " Its so good, its almost boring"..

1 comment: