Simply put – Australian trucks (or utes) and SUVs rock! And so do people who drive them. On the flip side, these awesome trucks are forbidden fruit for us in the United States.
I recently visited beautiful Queensland, Australia (near the Sunshine Coast), and I was shocked to see the sheer number of modified off-road pickup trucks and SUVs. They were on every corner and every road. Did I arrive in off-road truck heaven? Actually, this may be hell for me because basically all the trucks I am about to show you are forbidden fruit – they are not available for sale in the United States.
I had less than one day to find out what’s what, and here goes…
I asked a simple question – what is the most popular vehicle and/or brand in Australia? I got one clear answer from everybody I spoke to. It’s Toyota and the Toyota Hilux (or HiLux).
The Toyota Hilux is loosely related to the Toyota Tacoma midsize truck we get in the United States, but there are many differences that have to do with suspension, body, and other components.
The modern HiLux is just as nice and well-appointed as any Tacoma you will find in the U.S., but it’s difficult or impossible to find a stock and unmodified HiLux (at least where I was). Most of the trucks I saw were powered by a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel I4 (176 hp & 310 – 332 lb-ft of torque).
Perhaps the toughest pill to swallow and a very cool truck that we don’t get in the U.S is the Land Cruiser Series 70. This is an older design very tough truck with many modern updates. You can still contact a dealership around Australia and purchase one new today. It’s powered by a 4.5-liter turbo-diesel V8 with a 5-speed manual transmission behind it. You can get it as a two-door or a four door pickup truck chassis, or with an SUV body in a Workmate trim.
What Are All the Mods About?
I quickly noticed a pattern in how each truck and SUV was modified or customized.
Most vehicles I saw had all or most of these elements:
- large steel bumpers
- a small suspension lift
- slightly larger than stock off-road tires
- additional off-road lights
- large roof rack
- (trucks) a utility bed (aka. tray bed) or truck camper
I did not see any trucks with super high suspension lifts, insanely large tires, or large roll-cages. Naturally, these vehicles are not for show. They are built for daily driving in tough environments.
A 2011 report says that Australia highway and road network had a total length of approximately 630,000 miles in 2011, but 392,000 miles are unpaved/dirt roads. That means over 62% of the country’s roads are unpaved.
The steel bumpers or bull bars (or kangaroo catchers?) are there to protect the truck from animal strikes. Naturally, these bumpers are also great for mounting extra lights or accessories. They also help in tight off-road situation by protecting the body of the truck.
Mild suspension lift and tires just add a fair bit of off-road capability, without taking away too much efficiency or safety.
A snorkel is there not really to ford water (although it can help there), but it’s to get cleaner air while traveling on very dusty back roads.
Extra off-road lights are always good for traveling deserted rural roads.
A large roof rack or a truck tray bed adds storage and cargo carrying capability.
Nissan Patrol & Toyota Land Cruiser
It is great to see so many older Nissan Patrols and Toyota Land Cruisers driving around. These older SUVs are using either straight-six gas or diesel engines. They are known for their reliability, and being able to many hundreds of thousands of miles over their lifetimes.
Naturally, the Ford Ranger is another very popular vehicle in these parts. Most of the trucks I saw were diesel-powered. It’s cool to see modified new Rangers, but it’s even cooler to see an older Ranger crew cab that was never sold in the United States.
I saw many other trucks we do not get in the United States: Mazda BT-50, Mitsubishi Triton, VW Amarok, and others.
The Mazda pickup truck is also very popular. The truck you see here is a BT-50 Boss with a few accessories from Mazda.
Here is my vlog.