The Best of Both Worlds
Meet TREV; my Mitsubishi MQ Triton build project. I’ll apologise in advance that TREV isn’t another outlandish 79 Series build, but honestly, I couldn’t afford the fuel and TREV is my daily drive.
TREV might look more mild than wild, but if you scratch below the surface, you’ll see that just enough has been done to make this MQ Triton work better both on and off-road. I wasn’t interested in wrestling with a 4WD with a big lift, bump-steer, a load of additional weight and compromised handling for the 340 days a year I’d have to drive it on the bitumen.
You can read more about the TREV backstory in Issue 4 of the Loaded 4X4 magazine, but this Triton needed to drive better both on and off-road, which meant being smart and keeping this build realistic was a priority.
For example, there’s a quality Australian designed and engineered Karrman front diff-drop kit fitted. Fitting this kit increased down-travel by 70mm and allowed us to run perfectly flat CVs with a modest 25mm front suspension lift. That means more suspension travel off-road, less chance of breaking a CV shaft or joint and legal amounts of clearance between the control arms and their bump stops.
We took the same sensible approach with TREV’s suspension and had our suspension guru, Brendan O’Keefe from The Ultimate Suspension, custom valve a set of Dobinson monotube shocks. We avoided the remote canister type as that introduces more joints that can leak, and TREV has a full schedule of off-road adventures in his future. Adventures that don’t have leaking shocks on the guest list.
Now, all that good gear is tucked away, out of sight, underneath TREV, and while it works a treat, it’s the wheels and tyres that set TREV apart from the average Triton and getting this part of the build right, wasn’t as easy as you might think.
CSA recently released its sexy HAWK alloy, and it was available in an 18x9 positive 20 offset fitment, which would just fit the MQ, so I locked a set of those in. That was the easy part. It was the tyres that I had to get right if our intentions to improve both on and off-road driveability were going to be met.
I travel to Corryong every year with the same bunch of mates, to tackle the Snowy Mountain tracks in the region, and there has always been three of four in the group who’ve sworn black and blue, that Bridgestone Dueler A/T 697s were the best tyres they’ve ever run on their 4WDs.
Those conversations came back to me during the TREV build, as each of them had waxed lyrical about the performance of these tyres both on and off-road. They talked about improved wet weather handling and braking on bitumen, and better traction off-road. One of them even claimed his Dueler 697-fitted Triton, which was resting back in Brisbane at the time, would walk up a track we were struggling with on the day. Now that’s a big claim, but there was passion behind his words, and it’s always stuck with me. It seemed logical to give the Duelers a run on TREV.
As luck would have it, Dueler A/T 697 are available in the perfect size (LT285/60 R18) for the rims I’d chosen and the space available under TREV’s guards. With a rolling diameter of 799mm, they were also 1mm under the legally allowed 50mm increase in rolling diameter over the factory fitted tyres. The Dueler 697 285/60 R18s are a tyre built specifically to suit the 200 Series Landcruiser, but they fit TREV perfectly, and he’s taken to them like a duck to water.
Compared to some US brands of light truck construction 4WD tyres that I’ve run in the past, the Dueler A/Ts are quieter, in fact, they are nearly as quiet as the Triton’s factory fitted Bridgestone Dueler Highway Terrain tyres. This can of course change as tyres with higher tread blocks wear, but so far, so good. Compared to the Triton’s stock tyres, the Dueler 697s provide a noticeable improvement in grip, handling and braking on bitumen, particularly in the wet.
Off-road they are in their element, with a reasonably aggressive tread pattern – they’ve got to be close to being categorised as an aggressive all-terrain – that offers plenty of grip. TREV hasn’t seen any mud or High Country trails since the build, but he has clocked up around 15,000kms, including around 6,000kms of tough outback tracks and a crossing of the Simpson Desert, none of which has bothered the Dueler 697s.
Importantly for me, I’ve ended up with a 4WD that boasts well-rounded credentials. It’s a dream to drive on-road and more capable than ever off-road, so that’s mission accomplished in my book.
As an aside, if you own a Triton, remember to get a decent wheel alignment when fitting new tyres. The factory settings cause excessive tyre wear, and a wheel aligner that knows their trade will ensure that your new tyres wear nice and evenly. The Bridgestone Dueler A/T 697s on TREV show no sign of uneven wear after 15,000kms.
For more information on the Bridgestone Dueler A/T 697, click here
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