Four-wheel-drive heaven: the builders of the Bush Ranger are aiming for the ultimate off-roader.
An Aussie-built 'horse' is on course for or bush, writes Andrew Maclean.
If you want the ultimate getaway car, forget about firing up a Ferrari. And don't even waste your time worrying whether a WRX can do the job.
There's a Aussie-built off-roader, the Bush Ranger, with more horses than anything from the Italian stable of the prancing horse.
Even the super Subaru only has a fraction of the traction of the rugged four-wheel-drive beast.
The only thing that could seriously threaten a Bush Ranger is a well-driven helicopter.
Bush Rangers are built in Sydney by Range Rover specialist John Davis, using the basics - chassis, suspension, interior and mechanicals - from the luxury British 4WDs.
But a Bush Ranger doesn't look anything like the conservative British original.
It looks wild. It looks mean. It looks like something a modern day Ned Kelly would drive.
Davis custom-builds all his Bush Rangers, each one taking about three months to complete.
The basic model costs $50,000 and uses a 3.5 litre Rover V8 with either a three-speed Borg Warner auto or a four-speed manual gear-box connected to standard Range Rover differentials.
Davis rebuilds the transfer cases and replaces the springs in the suspension with heavy-duty units for extra off-road ability.
The dashboard is straight out of a Range Rover, but th cabin can be custom-made to seat five people with eiher velour trim or practical vinyl.
The Bush Ranger's biggest change is its body. Davis replaces all the Range Rover sheetmetal with an aggressive fibreglass body and a convertible-style removable roof.
He is also working on a detachable hardtop with gull-wing doors. And that's just the basic model. "We can build one however you like, all the way up to about $120,000", Davis says.
For that, you could get a 370-kilowatt Chevrolet V8, locking front and rear differentials, massive wheels and tyres, heavy-duty suspension with an active hydraulic system to eliminate body roll... and the list goes on.
"What we set out to do was build the ultimate four-wheel-drive", Davis says. "I was getting tired of the compromise between an everyday car and a real four-wheel-drive. So I set out to build the best."
Just getting into the driver's seat of the Bush Ranger is tough. It sits so high off the ground you almost need a ladder to get up.
But once your strapped into the seats the rest is simple.
The Chevy-engined Bush Ranger we drove on a track outside the Melbourne Exhibition Centre just crushed anything it faced. "It could almost climb up the side of a building," Davis boats.