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When four wheels are not enough

WORDS AND IMAGES BY WES WHITWORTH

Whether your escape vehicle has four, six, or eight wheels, drive to all the wheels on the ground is a requirement, right? If you’re anything like me, that’s as simple as it is. Surely having wheels on the ground without drive will only serve to reduce downward force, which translates to reduced traction, or give your vehicle something to make you pop a wheel up, right? It turns out I was wrong.

The only real six-wheeled vehicle I’ve ever spent any time around was a mate’s old 2x6 Kingswood ute that he used as a work rig many, many moons ago, and it was rather amusing watching it lift wheels over driveways and rock back and forth before it could get any drive. So I was a little apprehensive at being told that a 6X4 is actually a rather capable bit of kit; so long as it’s done right.

Interestingly enough, I couldn’t just be told that… I had to go and watch a 6X4 vehicle drive some ruts and wombat holes to actually believe it, and this was with the folks behind Six Wheeler Conversions up in Toowoomba. Read on, and I’ll try to explain what changed my mind, but only after seeing it with my own two eyes.

Only driven wheels work off-road, right? Wrong. We go for a spin in the Six Wheeler Conversions 6X4 Amarok and try and get it stuck. Hint: We couldn’t.

VEHICLES 6X4 Amarok

Interestingly enough, drive is kept to the front of the two rear axles, with the rearmost staying as a lazy-axle only (fully braked, though). Something that blew me away that you’ll see in the images below was the amount of flex (up to 300mm of articulation between the rear axles) they were able to garner out of the conversion, keeping in mind that both the Ranger and the Amarok are empty; there’s no load on them to make the springs work.

A GVM AND GCM upgrade is part of the conversion thanks to the extra axle, increasing the carrying capacity to more than 1.5-2-tonnes of payload capacity, and a towing capacity of up to 4.5-tonnes, depending on the make and model being converted. The load sharing setup on these 6X4s is to locate 60% of the load over the driven axle and leave 40% over the lazy axle, this is done to ensure maximum pressure on the driven axle.

The thing that blew me away was watching the team work on the Amarok they had in the shop the day I turned up. Everything from go to woah is done in house and by some rather skilled tradies. My inner-fabricator that does bird-sh*t welds and can’t cut pipe straight was honestly dumbfounded at the work they were doing.

But enough gushing about the specs, you really want to know how badly they got hung up, and lifted wheels, and had to winch themselves out, right? I’m sorry to say, but you’re going to be disappointed.

How a six-wheel conversion works
This whole saga started off when I was in Queensland for a work trip, with an offer from Mike and Julian at Six Wheeler Conversions in Toowoomba to swing by on my way through and have a bit of a look at what they get up to. I’d seen the brochures and a few videos here and there, but never really understood everything that went into it.

Six Wheeler Conversions will do a conversion on just about anything you’d like from 4X4 to 6X4. Think 79 Series ‘Cruisers, Amaroks, D-MAXs, and Rangers to name a few I got to see. It starts off, usually, with a new vehicle (though that’s not an absolute requirement), and work their magic...

Working its magic involves a chassis extension, rehanging of spring hangers, and a rather ingenious spring setup that involves a cantilever setup that means that as one wheel goes down the other is pushed up with the idea that the suspension is always prioritising traction. As you’d imagine the chassis extension can be done to suit your needs, however, the Amarok I got to play with had the chassis extended far enough to have a full two-metre-long tray lobbed on the back, with most of the conversions receiving a tray at 2.4-metres.

“I promptly found the biggest cross-axle ruts in the joint, pointed at them, told them they wouldn’t make it, and stood back waiting to giggle as they hooked up straps and winches… Boy was I disappointed.”

Terrain Tamer Heavy Duty Bearing Kits feature bearings manufactured for in Japan, with a Rockwell hardness rating that is 2.5 points higher than the OE equivalent, to enable longer service.

Each kit also includes innovative new Heavy Duty hub seals which rotate on their own internal surface, and utilise a labyrinth construction to better protect against the ingress of contaminants.

Designed for vehicles operating in extreme conditions, these features ensure extended seal and bearing life up to ten times.

Phone 1300 888 444 or visit terraintamer.com

I’m not going to tell you these are for everyone, but I tell you what if a decent load is something you need to carry, and without spending squillions on a full 6X6 conversion, a 6X4 is plenty enough for most of the work you’d need to do.

Something worth keeping in mind too is that if the team at Six Wheeler do end up converting your rig to 6X4, they cover the same warranty as factory, which would be on a lot of punters minds with a “new” Second Stage Manufacture job. Now to just convince the better half I need to convert the HiLux to 6X4…

But how do they drive?
In a word, incredible. Mike and Julian took me out to their little local test track they have and said they would drive the Ranger and Amarok anywhere I thought they wouldn’t go. It was like letting a kid loose in a candy store.

I promptly found the biggest cross-axle ruts in the joint, pointed at them, told them they wouldn’t make it, and stood back waiting to giggle as they hooked up straps and winches… Boy was I disappointed.

Not only did they make it (and easily I might add; no rear diff lockers used here), but they didn’t even get a wheel off the ground. Everything my brain had told me about how a 6X4 would work, was just wrong.

VEHICLES 6X4 Amarok

When four wheels are not enough

WORDS AND IMAGES BY WES WHITWORTH

Whether your escape vehicle has four, six, or eight wheels, drive to all the wheels on the ground is a requirement, right? If you’re anything like me, that’s as simple as it is. Surely having wheels on the ground without drive will only serve to reduce downward force, which translates to reduced traction, or give your vehicle something to make you pop a wheel up, right? It turns out I was wrong.

The only real six-wheeled vehicle I’ve ever spent any time around was a mate’s old 2x6 Kingswood ute that he used as a work rig many, many moons ago, and it was rather amusing watching it lift wheels over driveways and rock back and forth before it could get any drive. So I was a little apprehensive at being told that a 6X4 is actually a rather capable bit of kit; so long as it’s done right.

Interestingly enough, I couldn’t just be told that… I had to go and watch a 6X4 vehicle drive some ruts and wombat holes to actually believe it, and this was with the folks behind Six Wheeler Conversions up in Toowoomba. Read on, and I’ll try to explain what changed my mind, but only after seeing it with my own two eyes.

Only driven wheels work off-road, right? Wrong. We go for a spin in the Six Wheeler Conversions 6X4 Amarok and try and get it stuck. Hint: We couldn’t.

How a six-wheel conversion works
This whole saga started off when I was in Queensland for a work trip, with an offer from Mike and Julian at Six Wheeler Conversions in Toowoomba to swing by on my way through and have a bit of a look at what they get up to. I’d seen the brochures and a few videos here and there, but never really understood everything that went into it.

Six Wheeler Conversions will do a conversion on just about anything you’d like from 4X4 to 6X4. Think 79 Series ‘Cruisers, Amaroks, D-MAXs, and Rangers to name a few I got to see. It starts off, usually, with a new vehicle (though that’s not an absolute requirement), and work their magic...

Working its magic involves a chassis extension, rehanging of spring hangers, and a rather ingenious spring setup that involves a cantilever setup that means that as one wheel goes down the other is pushed up with the idea that the suspension is always prioritising traction. As you’d imagine the chassis extension can be done to suit your needs, however, the Amarok I got to play with had the chassis extended far enough to have a full two-metre-long tray lobbed on the back, with most of the conversions receiving a tray at 2.4-metres.

Interestingly enough, drive is kept to the front of the two rear axles, with the rearmost staying as a lazy-axle only (fully braked, though). Something that blew me away that you’ll see in the images below was the amount of flex (up to 300mm of articulation between the rear axles) they were able to garner out of the conversion, keeping in mind that both the Ranger and the Amarok are empty; there’s no load on them to make the springs work.

A GVM AND GCM upgrade is part of the conversion thanks to the extra axle, increasing the carrying capacity to more than 1.5-2-tonnes of payload capacity, and a towing capacity of up to 4.5-tonnes, depending on the make and model being converted. The load sharing setup on these 6X4s is to locate 60% of the load over the driven axle and leave 40% over the lazy axle, this is done to ensure maximum pressure on the driven axle.

The thing that blew me away was watching the team work on the Amarok they had in the shop the day I turned up. Everything from go to woah is done in house and by some rather skilled tradies. My inner-fabricator that does bird-sh*t welds and can’t cut pipe straight was honestly dumbfounded at the work they were doing.

But enough gushing about the specs, you really want to know how badly they got hung up, and lifted wheels, and had to winch themselves out, right? I’m sorry to say, but you’re going to be disappointed.

“I promptly found the biggest cross-axle ruts in the joint, pointed at them, told them they wouldn’t make it, and stood back waiting to giggle as they hooked up straps and winches… Boy was I disappointed.”

Phone 1300 888 444 or visit terraintamer.com

Terrain Tamer Heavy Duty Bearing Kits feature bearings manufactured for in Japan, with a Rockwell hardness rating that is 2.5 points higher than the OE equivalent, to enable longer service.

Each kit also includes innovative new Heavy Duty hub seals which rotate on their own internal surface, and utilise a labyrinth construction to better protect against the ingress of contaminants.

Designed for vehicles operating in extreme conditions, these features ensure extended seal and bearing life up to ten times.

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But how do they drive?
In a word, incredible. Mike and Julian took me out to their little local test track they have and said they would drive the Ranger and Amarok anywhere I thought they wouldn’t go. It was like letting a kid loose in a candy store.

I promptly found the biggest cross-axle ruts in the joint, pointed at them, told them they wouldn’t make it, and stood back waiting to giggle as they hooked up straps and winches… Boy was I disappointed.

Not only did they make it (and easily I might add; no rear diff lockers used here), but they didn’t even get a wheel off the ground. Everything my brain had told me about how a 6X4 would work, was just wrong.

I’m not going to tell you these are for everyone, but I tell you what if a decent load is something you need to carry, and without spending squillions on a full 6X6 conversion, a 6X4 is plenty enough for most of the work you’d need to do.

Something worth keeping in mind too is that if the team at Six Wheeler do end up converting your rig to 6X4, they cover the same warranty as factory, which would be on a lot of punters minds with a “new” Second Stage Manufacture job. Now to just convince the better half I need to convert the HiLux to 6X4…