The front end is now up-armoured, thanks to a full suite of TJM steel bar work. Tip of the spear is an Outback bullbar and 63mm tube protecting the radiator and headlights. Nestled inside is a get-out-of-gaol free card with a 9500lb TJM Torq winch with synthetic rope. Helping light up the night are twin LED driving lights mounted inside the bar. The twin Ultima 215 lights are a hybrid spot/spread combo, with 10,500 lumens giving them plenty of punch for their compact size.
Slicker than your average, Rambler Vehicle builds are practical from bullbar to tail-lights
The 4×4 industry is obsessed with game-changers. The biggest, the best, the most outrageous contraptions known to man, all in an effort to make someone’s products or services stand out from the crowd. The 4x4s are getting more expensive, the egos are getting out of control, and it seems the one thing that isn’t getting bigger is attention to practicality.
That’s where Queensland mob Rambler Vehicles figured it could carve out a niche for themselves. A business owned by genuine 4×4 enthusiasts who have learned the lessons with what does and doesn’t work, and can offer turnkey tourers to customers ready to travel the country without the headache of trying to piece together a build themselves.
While the Queensland company is most familiar with Toyotas, it has taken note of the growing popularity of dual-cab utes as do-it-all tourers and figured it was high time it picked up one to show how versatile its builds can be.
The recently released D-MAX makes a great platform to showcase just what Rambler can do. The 2021 version brought the Isuzu up to par in comfort and tech with its competitors and would serve as the perfect Rambler platform.
Before the Rambler crew could start loading the stock-as-a-rock D-MAX to the gills, they needed to ensure it was riding on a solid foundation. The call was made to TJM to option up a full set of its XGS 4000 Series suspension. Up front, the 40mm big-bore shocks bump the independent suspension set-up 40mm closer to the clouds when paired with the constant-load springs. A pair of ball-joint spacers have been thrown into the mix to allow the stock arms to work with the new ride height.
At the rear, the OEM three- leaf spring packs were binned for a set of TJM leafs, in the pursuit of better comfort and load-carrying ability. They’ve had the full treatment with all-new bushes, shackles and U-bolts. They’re paired up with a second set of big-bore XGS shocks, to bump the rear 40mm over stock to match the front. The new ride-height adjustment allowed the Rambler crew to shoehorn in some meatier rubber on each corner. The 285/65R17 Toyo Open Country AT2s replace OE 255/65R17s, bumping the total ride-height increase up to around 60mm.
Moving back along the flanks, the sides are kept squeaky clean thanks to a combination of 63mm-thick TJM side-rails and side-steps coated in gloss metallic black and capped with alloy side-steps. While the black bar work was being installed, the stock D-MAX chrome accents were coated in a healthy slathering of black paint to tie it all.
Up top, a Yakima flat rack has been installed, providing easy storage options for bulky items without causing wind-noise issues like a traditional cage rack. Holding up the rear is an Xbar set-up from Hayman Reese. Tucked high and tight, the Xbar integrates a variety of recovery points while still giving the full towing capacity.
That rack leads perfectly back into the focal point of all Rambler builds: the canopy set-up. For this build, the Rambler crew have opted for a healthy mix of in-canopy storage and tray with a ¾-canopy and ¼-tray combo. The tray provides just enough storage space to throw in a swag, firewood or mountain bike, with clever LED work lights mounted directly above.
Inside the Spinifex canopy, the passenger-side houses an electric control panel feeding power to lighting throughout the set-up. Sitting next to it is the trusty MSA drop slide, with an Engel fridge/freezer ensuring there’s always plenty of food and drinks around camp.
Moving around to the driver’s side and Rambler has chosen to leave the canopy predominantly empty, to give the customer versatility in packing; although, an RV Storage Solutions pull-out drawer serves as a handy place to stash smaller items. Underneath, two tool boxes behind the rear wheels provide additional storage; the passenger-side box housing the TJM compressor for on-board air, while the driver-side box stays free for stowing recovery gear.
Under the bonnet, Isuzu’s renowned 4JJ engine is still providing reliable motoring for the D-MAX faithful; although, in its third generation it’s pushing out more power than ever with 140kW and 450Nm in stock form. The Rambler D-MAX breathes a little easier in dusty conditions thanks to the Airtec snorkel on the cold side, and a Legendex exhaust on the hot side.
The final piece to the puzzle was a simple but effective electrical set-up. With the wire cutters out, the Rambler team did an OE-level wiring job to ensure the lighting and canopy set-up had more than enough power.
A Projecta DCDC charger keeps the 90amp/h deep-cycle battery topped up on the road, while solar inputs allow for expansion if you’re parked up at camp for extended stays. A GME XRS was installed next to the driver’s knee, making for easy comms out in the scrub.
In a sea of extended mega-dollar builds with 37 axles, the Rambler D-MAX is a breath of fresh air. Tastefully modified, capable enough to travel the country, and built once and built right.