Since the beginning of (4WD) time, 4WDers have pledged their allegiance to a certain make or model. Whether you’ve always been a HiLux bloke, or a Triple Diamond fan, or you’re particularly fond of Lada Nivas (we won’t judge), chances are you know what you like and you stick to it.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]This is the 8th GQ this 20 year old has owned, and it’s without a doubt the toughest of the lot[/blockquote]

And then there comes along a young bloke like Brodie Smith from a place called Currency Creek, about 80km south of Adelaide, who makes the word ‘obsession’ look a little under-done. A mechanic by trade, 20 year old Brodie has owned no less than eight GQ Patrols, and says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“There’s just something about em!” Brodies says. “They’re tough, easy to work on, and I like the look of them. I’ve had shorties, utes, wagons, the lot. The toughest of them all before the current wagon was a big coil-cab ute, a TD42 with big turbo and pump, 6inch lift, 35s, rooftop tent, everything. I even had a shorty that looked identical to Graham’s – same colour, same barwork, the lot. But then this thing came up with a V8 in it, but pretty much stock standard apart from that. I had to buy it.”

Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Brodie jumped on the grandpa-spec GQ with the definitely un-grandpa-spec worked Holden 5.0L V8 in it. Like with a lot of engine conversions, big chunks had been done well, and other bits needed attention. Not one to worry about getting his hands dirty, he then set about ironing out all the kinks in the engine swap, and at the same time built the rest of the truck to match the engine bay. So the real question is, with the vehicle done, what’s next for it? Surely you’d keep it right? Well…

“I actually sold it a couple of weeks back!” Brodie says. “I’ve bought a shorty GQ, and I’ve got a supercharged LS V8 I’m putting in it. Should be pretty fun when it’s finished.”

By now you’d assume Brodie could pluck a GQ engine with his eyes closed, so fair enough then. Even though it has now moved onto to a new owner, let’s take a look at what’s been done to this GQ to make it the weapon it is.

  • 4inch Flexy coils with 6inch shocks
  • XROX front bar, lights and Tigerz11 winch
  • Custom tube rear bar
  • 35inch muddies and front auto locker

The best part about owing a GQ? Building the mechanicals tough to take a flogging is as simple as making a few phone calls. So many blokes have built big, tough, reliable GQs over the years that every problem has been shaken out of them. Brodie’s lifted the truck 4inches and made it flex like an absolute animal with a couple of clever mods.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”I just towed a ski boat 1000km in 45c – no reliability problems at all”[/blockquote]

The first was to fit a set of Flexy Coils – specifically-made coil springs that have been designed to allow for maximum wheel travel. They’re backed up with a set of 6inch Dobinsons shocks – longer than the 4inch springs, which means that the shock isn’t the limiting factor in the wheel travel equation. To make the vehicle drive like it should, a set of drop boxes lower the rear of the radius arms down to bring the castor levels back to factory. Without it, the steering would be way too twitchy and would change direction every time you hit a bump – think shopping trolley wheels.

Wheel travel’s only half of the traction equation – getting power to all four wheels is the other half. Anyone who has driven a GQ knows that for the most part, they’re blessed with excellent rear LSDs. To that end, Brodie’s fitted a Lokka auto diff lock in the front end, and left the rear alone. Rather than the $3000+labour to fit a set of selectable lockers, the setup now owes him around $500 and keeps up with anything out on the tracks.

Up front there’s an XROX bullbar with a couple of sets of spotties and a Tigerz11 winch, with a DIY tube rear bar that Brodie and his mate AJ built in the shed at home. The whole setup runs on 35×12.5R15 Federal Couragia muddies on black steelies. Simple, effective, value for money – that just about sums up the whole truck!

  • Commodore 5.0L V8 engine swap
  • Engine hot-up including forged internals, crank and camshaft upgrades
  • Factory TD42 radiator with twin AU thermo fans

When Brodie stumbled across the GQ for sale, it already had the Commodore 5.0L motor in it. Interestingly though, it was originally a TD42 diesel, so why would someone arguably go sideways, if not backwards, in the engine stakes?

“The TD had spun a bearing and seized up,” explains Brodie. That’s pretty major engine damage . It means that one of the big end bearings has lost lubrication – generally from low oil level – and has ‘picked up’ the bearing race (the cup that the bearing spins inside, which should never move) and spun it. It causes major damage to the big-end bearings, bearing races, and the conrods to the point of total engine failure. Big bucks.

“As the bloke explained it to me, rather than spend a fortune rebuilding the 4.2 diesel, his mate had a Marks Adapters Commodore 5.0L engine conversion sitting there,” Brodie continues. “They put the motor in and got it running again. The Marks Adapters gear is all really good stuff, heavy duty and no issues with reliability, but the rest of the conversion wasn’t done the best.”

The motor’s been warmed over in a big way, with forged rods and pistons, port-matching and polishing of the head ports for optimal airflow in and out of the motor, and upgraded crank and cam shafts. It’s now good for a dyno-proven 190kW and a chassis-twisting 850Nm of torque.

We know this from bitter past experience – getting the motor sitting in the vehicle is only 1/10th of an engine conversion. The devil’s in the details – how the motor runs, how it stays cool, how it powers all the things that hang off it like power steering, air con and the rest. Brodie says that it originally had an alloy radiator in it, but it suffered severe electrolysis – a catastrophic condition where stray electrical current makes its way into the coolant and corrodes the radiator from the inside out.

When the radiator bit the dust, Brodie fitted up a factory TD42 diesel radiator, which co-incidentally had the outlets on the right sides to suit the 5.0L motor. On went a pair of AU Falcon thermo fans – a favourite amongst those doing engine conversions as the fans come in a pair along with a shroud, and can be found for as little as $50 at pull-it-yourself wreckers thanks to approximately seven billion AU Falcons having been built. The result? A motor that runs cool even when worked hard.

“I just got back from a 1000km trip towing the ski boat in 45°C weather,” says Brodie. “It ran beautifully the whole time, never got over 100°C.”
That’s music to the ears of anyone dealing with overheating – and all thanks to a TD42 radiator and AU Falcon thermo fans!

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”The diesel motor spun a bearing and this V8 conversion was just sitting there”[/blockquote]

When asked how reliable the conversion has ended up, Brodie says it’s now a cracker. Like all petrol motors it doesn’t love the water or the wet mud, but that’s as simple as carrying a bucketload of WD40 around with you to blow water out of the electrics.

  • Aftermarket bucket seats
  • Custom storage setup with battery pack for fridge

This GQ’s all business – it’s been built to get out there and have a play on weekends. To that end, Brodie hasn’t gone to town with the internal modifications, just adding a few things here and there to made it work a bit better. Like the set of aftermarket bucket seats up the front – a massive improvement over the factory items that vaguely resemble two pieces of plywood nailed together at a 90° angle.

In the rear there’s a single large drawer to make sure the tools and the recovery gear don’t go flying every time the big Patrol cocks a wheel, as well as a Waeco 40L fridge powered by a small battery pack that charges whenever the vehicle’s running. Finally, Brodie’s tucked an ARB air compressor up between the drawers and the back seat to make airing up a bit easier, cause how many times do you end up pulling your vehicle apart just trying to find your compressor? Aside from that, the inside of the Patrol’s been left in peace. Well, as much peace as it can get with a 6,000rpm 850Nm V8 under the bonnet, that is.


VEHICLE:  1990 GQ Nissan Patrol

ENGINE: Commodore 5.0L V8

GEARBOX: 5 speed manual gearbox

4WD ACTIVATION: Manual locking hubs

SUSPENSION: 4 inch Flexy Coils and six inch Dobinson shocks

WHEELS AND TYRES: Federal Couragia 35/12.5/R15


“I’d like to thank Rob Agar for help with the engine conversion, and AJ Thorton for the help with the rear bar.”
How good are mates eh?
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