Every now and again we come across a 4WD that you can just tell has been built with a very clear plan from day one. One of those 4WDs that is so mint, you just want to own it. For us, that truck was Hayden’s Isuzu D-MAX. Hayden bought this truck brand new after working his arse off to get it. “I had a D22 Navara, a KUN26 HiLux and an RA Rodeo,” writes Hayden. “After months of research and speaking to diesel specialists it was clear to me that the D-MAX was the best all round dual cab for my purpose as reliability is second to none in my books.

The reason I upgraded from my RA Rodeo is because I wanted to prepare for some longer trips to Cape York, the Simpson Desert, the Kimberley and Fraser Island and the Rodeo just didn’t have enough kick under the right pedal once all loaded.” When you first lay eyes on this truck, you can tell that Hayden really cares about it, but still puts her to work out bush– for us, there is no better way of defining a true 4WDer.

  • Custom Raslarr Engineering rear bar with tyre and jerry holders
  • ARB bullbar and scrub bars
  • ARB Ascent canopy
  • Tradesman roof rack

Being a new 4WD, Hayden wasted no time in getting it protected. “After months of research I finally decided on a custom designed rear bar built by Raslarr Engineering,” explains Hayden. “I wanted something that didn’t affect departure angle too much and could still incorporate a towbar. As well as this the bar needed side protection and wheel and jerry can carriers.” Incorporate that with ARB barwork up the front and along the sides and the D-MAX becomes the ultimate tough tourer – with an equal amount of protection against animal strikes at high speed, and rocks and ruts at low speed.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”Does it articulate well? Bloody oath it does”[/blockquote]

  • 4JJ1 3.0L four cylinder factory turbo intercooled diesel
  • 3in turbo back mandrel bent exhaust
  • Phat Bars bashplates

After owning a few different trucks, it became clear to Hayden that reliability is key for touring. This was critical when Hayden chose the D-MAX. “THE 4JJ1 is one of the best in its class for reliability and the factory power is enough for my needs,” writes Hayden.” Knowing that Isuzu Ute were onto a good thing, Hayden has only added a Safari Snorkel and freed up the exhaust with a 3in system and left the torquey four cylinder to do its thing.

Because I already had a HiLux, a Navara and a Rodeo, I sort of got a taste of the range of utes out there. The Lux and the Nav were awesome utes but werent exactly what I was after. The Rodeo was excellent, but I just needed a bit more power. I did my research and decided to give the D-MAX a go and I reckon it’s just perfect.

  • Tub mounted compressor
  • Travel Buddy oven
  • Custom rear offset drawer setup and fridge slide
  • Chopping board mounted on the tailgate

“Being a dual cab, utilising the rear cargo area is one of the best things you can do”, explains Hayden” I added a set of drawers, which let me carry everything I need, including a battery setup and compressor. To fit the battery system however needed a bit of adjustment. I customised the Black Widow drawer system by offsetting them, which gave me space to fit the second battery, as well as a heap of room left over for extra gear.

If I need to carry firewood or anything bulky, it can go on the roof rack, freeing up the tub just for touring gear.” Because the interior was already pretty well setup from the factory, Hayden has also left the inside of the truck alone apart from a few creature comforts like seat covers, for those longer trips.

It would have to be the 4JJ1 diesel engine. It’s reliable and puts out good power plus Isuzu make truck engines so you’d think they know what they’re doing.

  • Front end 40mm Tough Dog suspension lift
  • Rear end 50mm Tough Dog suspension lift
  • 500kg rated leaf springs and nine stage adjustable shocks
  • 265/75/R16 Hankook Dynapro muddies

For Hayden, the D-MAX first and foremost needed to be just as capable up the Cape, as it would be getting him around town. With that in mind, the suspension has been setup to give decent travel on the tougher tracks, but not sacrifice load capacity. “All in all I am absolutely stoked with how the suspension performs, explains Hayden. “Everyone was telling me 500kg leaves won’t articulate at all, but I had no option as I have a constant load of 580kg on my rear axle. Does it articulate well? Bloody oath it does for a 40mm lift. The adjustable shocks make a world of difference on-road too.”

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”A dual cab daily that could tackle the cape tomorrow”[/blockquote]


VEHICLE: 2015 Isuzu D-MAX
ENGINE: 4JJ1 four cylinder factory turbocharged and intercooled diesel
GEARBOX: Five speed automatic transmission
4WD ACTIVATION: Shift on the fly and automatic hubs
SUSPENSION: 40mm Tough Dog lift up front, 50mm Tough Dog lift in the rear
WHEELS AND TYRES: Hankook Dynapro MT 265/75/R16


“I’d like to thank Paul from Phat Bars for the brilliant under body protection and the A1 service, Simon from Thomastown ARB for the assistance in the build, Raslarr Engineering for the great work and design of my rear bar and Simon Vella from Tough Dog for the technical support in setting up suspension.”

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