via West County Explorers Club: This first generation Montero, a 1990 LS model, has been transformed from stock into a fantastic looking overlander with very well-thought-out features that I haven’t seen on other trucks. To say I “spotted” it though is to give myself too much credit. Greg showed it to me when Natalie and I met with him in San Francisco to discuss our then upcoming Overlanding in the Land of Twain trip. I was immediately impressed. Here’s what Greg has done. (Mouse over the names of the mods for links to sources.)
Starting with the outside, the entire body has been finished in textured Durabak. Greg says the coating weighs less than Rhino coating but still makes the truck completely key and abrasion proof, a boon in warding off sagebrush pinstriping. It costs about $120/gallon and Greg needed about 2-1/2 gallons to do the job. The flat-black color looks the part. Off-road, the Durabak’s texture has an interesting attribute in that it attracts the surrounding dust, changing the truck’s color depending on the environment.
The only downside that Greg reports is that mud needs to be washed off right away, before it adheres to the textured finish and requires washing with a scrub brush.
He shod the truck with a set of the much loved BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A tires (review by Baja 1000 veteran, Emily Miller, in link). The wheels he flat-blacked with Duplicolor Wheel Coating. At 33x10-1/2", the tires are taller than stock, adding clearance but making the truck slightly underpowered on highway inclines given that the gearing remains unaltered.
The full-length roof rack is a Rola Vortex Lugage Tray, with two extensions, mated to a set of four Thule gutter-mounted load bars. The widely spaced bars of the Rola basket make it easy to attach straps and hooks but smaller items, like firewood, can work their way through the gaps. Plan for about $1000 to recreate that rack yourself.
Wide-angle, Asian-market mirrors sourced from the Phillipines round out the exterior. They sit closer to the body than the stock mirrors which is another a benefit when traveling through dense brush.
The tail and reverse lights were swapped for brighter, LED bulbs (available at Autolumination).
In the interior, Greg had both the front and rear seats refoamed and recovered at A&A Top & Trim in San Francisco. For the seat bolsters he spec’d an abrasion-resistant composite material called Rhinotek. The seat’s center sections were covered in 1050 ballistic nylon. Except for the stitching, the seats are waterproof and the results look stunningly good. As a ballpark, plan for about $400 in fabric and about $1400 in labor, if you’d like to do a similar project.
Greg deleted the carpets and painted the floor with Durabak to further aid weather-proofing. The trade off there is increased road noise.
He also painted the entire dash and all of the door panels with black Duplicolor Vinyl & Fabric paint to match the exterior. Again the results are amazing. You can do this yourself for the price of masking and sweat.
The steering wheel, sourced from Grant, is mounted on a removable hub. The hub’s steel cover renders the truck undriveable, when the wheel is removed.
Behind the front seats he has rigged Hydrapak 100oz Hydrasleeves for driver and passenger, which he says works pretty well, though the straps do dig into the seats when they’re full. Something which he’s working on a solution for.
Underneath the truck, Greg swapped the Gen1 trailing arms, which he read were a weak link, for a Gen2 set. He upgraded the suspension with Old Man Emu shocks and rear springs. A custom, 1/4" steel skidplate protects the transfer case.
Another underside mod that enhances the driving experience is a 2" pipe, aft of the catalytic converter, to replaced the narrower stock pipe. The new setup, from Golden Auto Muffler in San Francisco ($200 ballpark), gives the truck a satisfyingly mellow, throaty rumble.
Greg also swapped the stock Montero horn, which sounded like it was more at home on a scooter, with a pair of Hella Supertone horns. A Hella 7" Conversion Headlamp Kit, with upgraded bulbs, improved headlight performance.
Other under-the-hood improvements included an upgraded idle control unit (ICU), and Royal Purple 20/50 engine oil, which Greg reports eliminates engine ticking in the 3.0 liter V6.
He had a K&N filter installed previously but found that the oil needed to lube the filter interfered with mass airflow meter, so he switched back to a standard, paper filter.
In the back of the truck, Greg built a simple wooden platform out of marine ply to improve access to his recovery and survival gear. The cases are sturdy but inexpensive storage lockers from the Container Store.
Again, I’m really impressed with the thought and detail Greg put into his truck. It’s a capable off-roader that I’ve enjoyed seeing in action.
Greg’s future plans for the truck include and ARB bumper, auxiliary lights, snorkel, custom rear bumper, sliders, fuel and water storage. I’m sure all of those changes will be as well thought out as the rest of the truck.