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To travel to the most remote areas of our vast land you need a proven four-wheel drive like a LandCruiser or a Patrol, right? Maybe if you don’t want to go full-size wagon even a Prado or one of the dozen or so dual-cab ute options would be the best bet, right? After all, out there it’s Toyota Country. At least that’s what the marketing execs will tell you. I’m here to tell a story of how it was done differently in a vehicle a lot of people wouldn’t even consider for the job.

I bought my Mitsubishi PB Challenger in near-stock condition, except for a bull bar, a little over five years ago with only 43,000km on it. It had been used as a caravan tug and had good service records. The price of $30,000 was right and so the adventure began.

Since that day I’ve spent a lot of money modifying the vehicle to my needs including the obvious external rear bar, suspension etc., and the less obvious long-range fuel tank. The only four-wheel-drive capability mods have been a suspension lift, longer-travel rear shocks and extended brake lines. Every other mod has been with touring in mind to make the vehicle more capable for long distances and long periods out the back of nowhere. This story isn’t about modifications. It’s about stepping away from the convention and showing what an often-forgotten four-wheel drive can do.

In the last five years this vehicle has taken me on dozens of sneaky weekend trips from my home base in NSW, but much more than that, this vehicle has shown me Australia. I’ve done over 200,000km in those five years and a huge chunk of that has been exploring off-road. You may have read about some of my previous adventures right here in Unsealed 4X4.

The Adventures of a Mitsubishi Challenger – over 200,000km in the making

WORDS AND IMAGES BY TODD HORE

GUIDE

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THE ADVENTURE MODS
I know I said this wasn’t about modifications but I figured a brief run-down of the touring mods designed to turn this vehicle into a long-distance, remote-touring machine. The bull bar and rear bar are the most significant. The rear bar in particular has allowed two things. Firstly it allowed 20 litres of water to be carried externally and secondly it allowed the spare wheel to be moved from beneath the vehicle. This in turn allowed a 135-litre auxiliary fuel tank to be fitted in place of the spare wheel, bringing the total fuel capacity to 205 litres. That’s a lot of fuel on something that gets 11L/100km regularly.

Externally there’s the obvious roof rack, driving lights, awning, bash plates underneath and bigger tyres. Internally there’s a dual battery system that powers a 60-litre fridge mounted on a home-built slide and home-built drawers. There’s a slide-out table built into the drawers.

This section was meant to be short and sweet so in summary, I’ve spent five years building this thing and most of the effort has gone into mods designed to make touring easier.

ABOVE Nothing like swagging it in the snow… // BELOW The rear bar has been one of my favourite touring modifications

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THE REPAIRS
Over the last 5.5 years and 200,000km the Challenger has proven itself to be pretty reliable. It’s now sitting at about 245,000km and really it’s given me very little trouble. That’s not to say I haven’t had to replace things. Here’s the list of the repairs.

Gearbox – After almost sinking the vehicle in the Victorian High Country I ended up with water in the cab and was a bit slack checking the gearbox oil after. I have extended diff breathers but the gearbox breathes into the transfer and a secondary breather is right up under the shifter so I never bothered extending it. Turns out that was a mistake. Several months later I changed the gearbox oil and found it very milky. There was a fair amount of metal on the drain plug too. Nothing huge but much more than usual. Everything seemed okay after the oil change … at least for a year or so. Then 5th gear started whining. Then it would pop out of 1st at very low speed. Time for a rebuild. Rather than rebuild and have a gearbox with new gears that had still sucked in a load of water, I managed to track down a low kilometre replacement. The gearbox was replaced and the clutch while it was out.

Suction Control Valve – The SCV is a fairly common issue with these and other common-rail diesels. They clog up and as a result the vehicle can surge or even lose power. I’ve seen quotes to get these replaced for well in excess of $500. The good news is that the part can be purchased for under $200 and can be done in around 20 minutes by even beginner home mechanics.

Rear wheel bearings – Now these are a wear and tear item that you could reasonably expect to replace on any vehicle that does a lot of kilometres, in particular on dirt. The reason I mention them is that replacing these is not a home mechanic job. The bearings need to be either cut off the axle or pressed off with a fairly significant press. When you’re home this isn’t really an issue but out the back of nowhere it’s a huge issue. Luckily for me a few hundred kilometres out of Broome was the most remote place I’ve had this issue creep up.

Turbo – Only recently the turbo started making a light squeal. It was pretty clear the bearings were on the way out. Rather than muck about I just replaced it. It’s a moderate home mechanic job and cracking the exhaust bolts is probably the most difficult part. $800 for an aftermarket hi-flow turbo is not huge money and the performance improvement was awesome. The turbo lag was reduced and the power was better.

“Over the last 5.5 years and 200,000km the Challenger has proven itself to be pretty reliable. It’s now sitting at about 245,000km and really it’s given me very little trouble.”

WARTS AND ALL
The 2.5-litre four-pot diesel in these machines is known as a pretty reliable unit. I’ve certainly had a good run. It’s not without its issues though. The turbo lag is pretty awful from factory and is made worse when you upsize the tyres. I’m not sure what went wrong with my turbo in the end but failure is fairly rare.

The fuel consumption is excellent at times. I’ve had sub 10L/100km on long trips but I’ve also seen that figure jump to 17L/100km on sand and 15L/100km with gear on the roof into a headwind. Overall it’s pretty good but load it up and the figure does jump, which makes it difficult to judge at times.

A STORY YOU WOULDN’T HAVE READ IN UNSEALED 4X4
Towing a trailer around the Top End I had not long left Lorella Springs. I felt a wobble in the rear then a bang and the left side of the trailer dropped. The wheel went flying past the passenger door into the scrub. Long story short, the axle had snapped. I looked through the scrub for the wheel and hub for about an hour with no joy. I was approximately 900km from Darwin, 900km from Alice Springs and 1100km from Mount Isa, with no phone service. A couple of weeks earlier I had been in the trailer shop in Darwin and had seen the wall of axles so was confident they would be able to help me. It meant leaving the trailer on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. So I threw the swag in the car and headed for Darwin. I drove overnight and arrived at about 5am, rolled the swag out in the carpark and waited for the shop to open. Once they opened I had the parts within about 10 minutes and was off again. About halfway some massive Top End storms rolled in so I was driving outback dirt roads in pouring rain with lightning all around. HA, just perfect. I was starting to get a little delirious over the whole experience. Arriving back to the trailer late that night I set about replacing the axle on the side of the track in the dark. It was all back together by about midnight and I was on my way again.

ABOVE From salt pans to the High Country, the Challenger has done it all

Half an hour down the road BANG! Then bang bang bang bang. Holy sh!t, what was that? I pulled over and discovered that the driver’s side leaf spring had snapped right near the eye. Far out this was a bad day. I used a ratchet strap to pull the axle forward and strapped it in place as best as I could. I knew there was a camp 40km down the road. Not far, hey? Except the trailer was so broken it took me four hours to get there. 5am I rolled into camp for one of the most well-deserved sleeps I’ve ever had.

Waking up a few hours later I thought maybe I could make Borroloola, where there is a small service centre. Six hours later I made it and wouldn’t you know it, they had one leaf spring that would fit. Half an hour later and I was properly mobile again and on my way to Adels Grove.

The Challenger had been on the road getting my delirious self where I needed to be through storms and towing busted trailers like a champ. Never in my life have I been more grateful to that machine.

GUIDE

To travel to the most remote areas of our vast land you need a proven four-wheel drive like a LandCruiser or a Patrol, right? Maybe if you don’t want to go full-size wagon even a Prado or one of the dozen or so dual-cab ute options would be the best bet, right? After all, out there it’s Toyota Country. At least that’s what the marketing execs will tell you. I’m here to tell a story of how it was done differently in a vehicle a lot of people wouldn’t even consider for the job.

I bought my Mitsubishi PB Challenger in near-stock condition, except for a bull bar, a little over five years ago with only 43,000km on it. It had been used as a caravan tug and had good service records. The price of $30,000 was right and so the adventure began.

Since that day I’ve spent a lot of money modifying the vehicle to my needs including the obvious external rear bar, suspension etc., and the less obvious long-range fuel tank. The only four-wheel-drive capability mods have been a suspension lift, longer-travel rear shocks and extended brake lines. Every other mod has been with touring in mind to make the vehicle more capable for long distances and long periods out the back of nowhere. This story isn’t about modifications. It’s about stepping away from the convention and showing what an often-forgotten four-wheel drive can do.

In the last five years this vehicle has taken me on dozens of sneaky weekend trips from my home base in NSW, but much more than that, this vehicle has shown me Australia. I’ve done over 200,000km in those five years and a huge chunk of that has been exploring off-road. You may have read about some of my previous adventures right here in Unsealed 4X4.

The Adventures of a Mitsubishi Challenger – over 200,000km in the making

WORDS AND IMAGES BY TODD HORE

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ABOVE Nothing like swagging it in the snow… // BELOW The rear bar has been one of my favourite touring modifications

THE ADVENTURE MODS
I know I said this wasn’t about modifications but I figured a brief run-down of the touring mods designed to turn this vehicle into a long-distance, remote-touring machine. The bull bar and rear bar are the most significant. The rear bar in particular has allowed two things. Firstly it allowed 20 litres of water to be carried externally and secondly it allowed the spare wheel to be moved from beneath the vehicle. This in turn allowed a 135-litre auxiliary fuel tank to be fitted in place of the spare wheel, bringing the total fuel capacity to 205 litres. That’s a lot of fuel on something that gets 11L/100km regularly.

Externally there’s the obvious roof rack, driving lights, awning, bash plates underneath and bigger tyres. Internally there’s a dual battery system that powers a 60-litre fridge mounted on a home-built slide and home-built drawers. There’s a slide-out table built into the drawers.

This section was meant to be short and sweet so in summary, I’ve spent five years building this thing and most of the effort has gone into mods designed to make touring easier.

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

THE REPAIRS
Over the last 5.5 years and 200,000km the Challenger has proven itself to be pretty reliable. It’s now sitting at about 245,000km and really it’s given me very little trouble. That’s not to say I haven’t had to replace things. Here’s the list of the repairs.

Gearbox – After almost sinking the vehicle in the Victorian High Country I ended up with water in the cab and was a bit slack checking the gearbox oil after. I have extended diff breathers but the gearbox breathes into the transfer and a secondary breather is right up under the shifter so I never bothered extending it. Turns out that was a mistake. Several months later I changed the gearbox oil and found it very milky. There was a fair amount of metal on the drain plug too. Nothing huge but much more than usual. Everything seemed okay after the oil change … at least for a year or so. Then 5th gear started whining. Then it would pop out of 1st at very low speed. Time for a rebuild. Rather than rebuild and have a gearbox with new gears that had still sucked in a load of water, I managed to track down a low kilometre replacement. The gearbox was replaced and the clutch while it was out.

Suction Control Valve – The SCV is a fairly common issue with these and other common-rail diesels. They clog up and as a result the vehicle can surge or even lose power. I’ve seen quotes to get these replaced for well in excess of $500. The good news is that the part can be purchased for under $200 and can be done in around 20 minutes by even beginner home mechanics.

Rear wheel bearings – Now these are a wear and tear item that you could reasonably expect to replace on any vehicle that does a lot of kilometres, in particular on dirt. The reason I mention them is that replacing these is not a home mechanic job. The bearings need to be either cut off the axle or pressed off with a fairly significant press. When you’re home this isn’t really an issue but out the back of nowhere it’s a huge issue. Luckily for me a few hundred kilometres out of Broome was the most remote place I’ve had this issue creep up.

Turbo – Only recently the turbo started making a light squeal. It was pretty clear the bearings were on the way out. Rather than muck about I just replaced it. It’s a moderate home mechanic job and cracking the exhaust bolts is probably the most difficult part. $800 for an aftermarket hi-flow turbo is not huge money and the performance improvement was awesome. The turbo lag was reduced and the power was better.

“Over the last 5.5 years and 200,000km the Challenger has proven itself to be pretty reliable. It’s now sitting at about 245,000km and really it’s given me very little trouble.”

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

WARTS AND ALL
The 2.5-litre four-pot diesel in these machines is known as a pretty reliable unit. I’ve certainly had a good run. It’s not without its issues though. The turbo lag is pretty awful from factory and is made worse when you upsize the tyres. I’m not sure what went wrong with my turbo in the end but failure is fairly rare.

The fuel consumption is excellent at times. I’ve had sub 10L/100km on long trips but I’ve also seen that figure jump to 17L/100km on sand and 15L/100km with gear on the roof into a headwind. Overall it’s pretty good but load it up and the figure does jump, which makes it difficult to judge at times.

A STORY YOU WOULDN’T HAVE READ IN UNSEALED 4X4
Towing a trailer around the Top End I had not long left Lorella Springs. I felt a wobble in the rear then a bang and the left side of the trailer dropped. The wheel went flying past the passenger door into the scrub. Long story short, the axle had snapped. I looked through the scrub for the wheel and hub for about an hour with no joy. I was approximately 900km from Darwin, 900km from Alice Springs and 1100km from Mount Isa, with no phone service. A couple of weeks earlier I had been in the trailer shop in Darwin and had seen the wall of axles so was confident they would be able to help me. It meant leaving the trailer on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. So I threw the swag in the car and headed for Darwin. I drove overnight and arrived at about 5am, rolled the swag out in the carpark and waited for the shop to open. Once they opened I had the parts within about 10 minutes and was off again. About halfway some massive Top End storms rolled in so I was driving outback dirt roads in pouring rain with lightning all around. HA, just perfect. I was starting to get a little delirious over the whole experience. Arriving back to the trailer late that night I set about replacing the axle on the side of the track in the dark. It was all back together by about midnight and I was on my way again.

ABOVE From salt pans to the High Country, the Challenger has done it all

Half an hour down the road BANG! Then bang bang bang bang. Holy sh!t, what was that? I pulled over and discovered that the driver’s side leaf spring had snapped right near the eye. Far out this was a bad day. I used a ratchet strap to pull the axle forward and strapped it in place as best as I could. I knew there was a camp 40km down the road. Not far, hey? Except the trailer was so broken it took me four hours to get there. 5am I rolled into camp for one of the most well-deserved sleeps I’ve ever had.

Waking up a few hours later I thought maybe I could make Borroloola, where there is a small service centre. Six hours later I made it and wouldn’t you know it, they had one leaf spring that would fit. Half an hour later and I was properly mobile again and on my way to Adels Grove.

The Challenger had been on the road getting my delirious self where I needed to be through storms and towing busted trailers like a champ. Never in my life have I been more grateful to that machine.