The Simpson on a budget?

Submitted: Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:03
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Been trying to get across the Simpson for years but life always gets in the way..next May however is looking like a possibility..just slightly concerned that my generally good condition 2002 Prado might suffer unless I cough up on a few mods..Catch 22 because if i do the mods, i probably can't afford the trip. Sooooo...how sensible (or not) would it be to do the crossing in a basically bog standard 95 series Prado TD with 285K (at the moment) be? I'm mainly worried about suspension. My original springs are probably sagging a bit and by the time I load the old girl up with people and gear, we might be having issues..

Would I be foolish to try? Should I bite the bullet and spend the $$? Or would we make the trip ok, just coming home with a few extra rattles?

The ideal would be new suspension, hopefully a 2inch lift and that would also allow me some decent rubber. I'm currently running 265 70 16 LT All Terrains but wanted to go for 265 75 16 LT Muddies (I know that muddies may not be the best choice for sand but I have a spare set of rims and would like a set of "play" tyres anyway..

Any thoughts appreciated!
Cheers and beers
Richard
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Reply By: zook - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:08

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:08
Richard,

You would be able to do it no troubles in a bog standard prado even if it does have a bit of suspension sag. I would be more worried about the car mechanically as you are starting to get a few km's on the car. Just have a good look over it/get someone to before you go.

I've driven it a few times in range of different vehicles some stock, some not - if you are worried about vehicle height, just pack a bit lighter.

zook
AnswerID: 515251

Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 19:53

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 19:53
Thanks zook - Will definitely be getting the car checked out professionally, its always been well maintained, timing and other belts all replaced at correct intervals or prior, oils and filters like clockwork..but the potential for Murphy to strike means the old girl will get some serious inspection by an expert before we head off.
Cheers
Rich
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Reply By: andoland - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:11

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:11
Could you do the trip on the original suspension - yes. But I think you will be much more comfortable and will reduce the chance of damaging your vehicle if you put suspension on that is more suited to the load you are going to carry. If the dunes are as rough as they were a few weeks ago then good suspension will be a worthy investment.

You will have no problem with the tyres you already have, the increase in size will not make a measurable difference to your trip.

So my recommendation would be forget about the bigger tyres and spend the money on suspension. Your otherwise bog standard Prado will do the trip just fine.
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Follow Up By: TTTSA - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:29

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:29
Ditto to that.
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 19:57

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 19:57
Good advice andoland - I am really hoping the budget will stretch that far..plus I may be up for new tyres by then anyway - my ATs have 40K on them, by next May that will be more like 60K and the risk of puncture will be much higher..I'm not so much after a bigegr tyre for the trip, but if I was getting play tyres onto my spare set of rims, I figured a minute increase will be good for any other rough stuff I might be doing..
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Reply By: Member - Frank P (NSW) - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:44

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:44
Richard,

I took a stock-standard, heavily loaded 120 Prado with OEM Grandtreks across the Simpson. It was hot, dry sand, pretty rough going, but no problems suspension and tyre wise. I deflated to 15PSI from memory.

As others have said, with the km on the vehicle I think the first priority would be spending the money on ensuring mechanical reliability.

'Course the state of your chosen tracks to and from the Simpson may have an influence as well, though I found my standard Prado had no problems there either, despite the load.

Cheers
FrankP

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AnswerID: 515254

Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:03

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:03
Thanks Frank - glad you had a good trip in your 120. Agree withyou re the tracks either side of the Simpson..the big plan is to drive on the bitumen to Uluru fiirst, then possibly a stopover in Alice to restock the fridge and get any last minute prep done before heading down the Finke to Mt Dare, then from Birdsville we have a few choices to get back home (Sydney).. the Finke has some horror stretches I hear?
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Reply By: Member - Rob S (NSW) - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 18:34

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 18:34
Hi Richard

I think you would be ok with the standard Suspension.as the others have mentioned,
Or you could at least put some heavy duty coils in the rear for peace of mind, if your budget allows

With those klm's on the vehicle i would make sure the shocks are in good condition, or reasonably new, if they are still the original shocks fitted they will be cactus for sure.

If it is a manual i would be concerned about the condition of clutch, with those klm's
As the clutch can get a bit of a work out in the sand??

Rob




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AnswerID: 515259

Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:09

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:09
Hi Rob - Rear dampers were replaced about 80k ago, otherwise its all original suspension..if I'm going to replace springs and front dampers, I might as well go for the 2inch lift while i'm at it..at the moment I think its in passable condition, but I know the trip would be way more comfortable with the new springs etc..I'm leaning towards going on the wagon (aaarrrgghhhhh!!!!) till then to help fund it!

This Prado is an auto so just going to keep the ATF nice and fresh, probably not much more I can do?
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Reply By: hamo - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 21:24

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 21:24
I did the Simpson when my 80 series was bog stock standard.
I just replaced the radiator hose's & aircon, altenator belts & keep the old one's as spare's.

As said tyre pressure's & driving to conditions is the key to a successful crossing.
Its only as hard as you make it.

Hamo
AnswerID: 515273

Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:18

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:18
Hi Hamo - right with ya on the pressures and driving techniques..hoping to get a practice run on Fraser island this November and also a few Stockton beach trips, apart from that i've only had one small foray on the sand
An 80 or similar in standard form would have made light work of the trip compared to some of the first vehicles getting across in the 60s and 70s hey? Having read about Len Beadell's exploits in the outback in his ancient old 4 cylinder Landies makes me realise that even my humble Prado has got the potential to get me way further into the rough stuff than my own potential (driving experience/courage!) will let me..
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:57

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:57
Some years back on a Simpson crossing, a member of our group had a 95series Prado with 230,000k and original shocks. He was bouncing like a yoyo on the chopped up approaches to the dunes. His wife got sick of it and found a spare seat in another vehicle for the rest of the crossing! So I'd definitely replace the suspension.

Tyres don't matter in the desert itself, but the roads that lead to the desert are where people trash their tyres, so use a tyre with plenty of tread and run your pressures at about 25/28 on the Prado when on the gravel.
AnswerID: 515287

Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:24

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:24
Hi Phil - I'm really hoping I can stretch the budget for the new suspension, as thats exactly what I'm worried about..I want the wife and kids to be raving about the trip, not dreading any future trips I may want to throw at them..If the gods of overtime are kind, I'm sure we will get sorted before we leave..otherwise its gonna be the choppy ride!

Same goes for the tyres - my ATs will be half worn by the time we leave so new tyres probably going to go on regardless..looking at Hankook muddies as they seem to be getting good reviews and are a good price? or maybe I'll replace my ATs with fresh ones (currently on Bridgestone D697 LTs) if they work better on sand (but worried about boggy stretches on the tracks either side of the desert) - I seem to see most people use muddies in the desert?
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:48

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:48
Richie, I've done one Simpson Desert crossing on muddies and about another 10 over the years on A/Ts. Your 697's are the perfect tyre for your trip. Only the Victorians use muddies :-))
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 21:23

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 21:23
Hmmm - what about 697s with 60k on them? or should I buy 4 new ones and use 2 of the current ones as spares? If I can get away with these current tyres I'd be chuffed, as I'm really close to the bone $ wise and i won't get annual leave in the cooler months again until 2015..desperate to make this trip happen in 2013!

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 09:15

Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 09:15
I'm guessing your 697's still have maybe 5mm tread. I had a set of 694's that still had 8mm tread on them at 70,000k. The problem that people have with low tread is that you increase the likelihood of tread punctures on SA's outback coarse gravel roads. These happen when sharp rocks penetrate the tread because of
too much speed,
too much weight, and
too much pressure.
If you address these, and carry an extra spare tyre casing then you are unlikely to have a serious problem. Put the best tyres on the rear - they are the most likely to puncture.
So when you travel the Birdsville, Oodnadatta or Pedirka tracks, keep your speed to no more than 70kph, lower your pressures to 24/28 and do your best not to overload the Prado. I tell people to have tyres with at least 50% tread, but I can understand your situation having been in it myself when the kids were growing up.

I know your Prado will be heavily laden. No need for extra jerry cans - 159L standard tanks will cover the crossing easily with the 1KZ-TE. I did a couple of crossings with an identical TD Prado and never used more than 110Litres Birdsville-Oodnadatta. If you're heavily loaded, you might get up to 125L. But with 4 of you in the vehicle, you'll need at least 60Litres water. Try not to put weight up on the roof - the roof of your Prado is only rated for 75kgs.

Springs and shocks are pretty cheap for that model Prado. Ideal solution is to replace the lot. But as an absolute minimum, you'll need heavy duty rear springs with all that weight you'll be carrying. The rear springs will cost about $200 and are easy to fit.
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 18:58

Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 18:58
Just measured the tread - after 40K there is still 10mm remaining so they should still be good by next May.

I do plan to carry 2 spares.. yep the Prado gets loaded to the roof for a weekend camp so a 2-3 week trip into the centre will test us for packing lightly. We have a roof rack which usually takes the sleeping bags and mattresses, camp chairs, gas bottle, kids bikes (not this trip) etc. In the back we have a 40l engel, stove, tent, storage boxes for food, pots, pans etc and so by the time we throw in 60l water we will be struggling to fit clothes in! Might investigate one of the water tanks that sits between 2nd row of seats and the cargo barrier..

I absolutely destroyed one of the tyres when they were only about 10k old on the Wombeyan Caves rd - had dropped to 24psi as the road is a shocker..we clipped a bit of loose rock that somehow flicked into the sidewall and it was all over rover..

If the budget won't allow for the full lift, think I'll at least get the HD springs as suggested.
Cheers Phil!
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Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:21

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:21
I think we have been over-conditioned by the popular four-wheel drive press into thinking that we need to spend thousand's in modifications on vehicles that the car manufacturer's spent tens of millions on ensuring it does what it was intended to do.

And of course, the outback has been travelled in all kinds of vehicles for about a century...

Ensure the vehicle is well prepared in terms of servicing and I'm sure it will be adequate.

Save the money for your trip, and enjoy!
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:45

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:45
Bingo The Landy - The 4wd media must generate millions of dollars spent by people modifying vehicles to then never get anywhere near the potential the mods provide?? As i replied to someone above, I think that the standard vehicle of today (or even 10-15 years ago) would make a mockery of some of the earliest vehicles doing the Simpson..I'm very keen to do the trip as is, I just have a few reservations..
I'm a stickler for servicing, do 90% of it myself and the Prado is running as good as the day we got it 10 years ago.
I know we can do the trip without too much trouble, I just don't want to get out in the middle of nowhere and realise I have a blown shock or two, the springs are bottoming out with the full load, the tyres are struggling if there has been a bit of rain..if i stay with what i've got, this will be a 12 yo vehicle with 300k+, still on original suspension and tyres that will be 60% worn..I don't want to be over cautious but I also don't want to jeopardise the success of the trip.. got 3 other people on board who will be a lot happier if they arent getting shaken to bits or made to get out and help dig the prado out of the mud on more than the odd occasion! I'm trying to reduce the risk of blown tyres too which is another reason why some new rubber is on the shopping list, budget allowing.

But hey, I love your philosophy to just get out there and do it!!
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Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 21:47

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 21:47
Those type of tyres will be fine.

And as far as the suspension is concerned forget the lift - not needed. What we found was that the shockies got a beating from the continuous undulations before and after every dune. Corrugations were on the way there and home and no problem but those undulations could very easily overheat standard shocks. We have Bilsteins and they were perfect for it. You can get Aussie nitro shocks and the like which will be almost as good (am I biased - YEP).

So just bung in some heavier springs and some good shockies. You can add a lift later for other trips if you want.

I believe this is very like others already. Just adding my thoughts and shockie option.

It is not a hard drive at all. I assume all other stuff you are awar of and only commented on the tyres and suspension.

Enjoy mate. We didn't see any other car in the first three days. Not one. A perfect drive. West to east in August. Mt Dare - Purnie Bore - WAA - Lone Gum - Knols Track - Poeppel Corner - QAA - Birdsville.

Phil

AnswerID: 515350

Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 22:10

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 22:10
Thanks Phil - My rear shocks are Old Man Emus, but everything else is original Toyota..I realise I don't really need the lift to do this trip, but if i'm going to put new springs in I might as lift it now (mainly for other trips closer to home where a bit of extra clearance will be helpful) rather than replace the springs again down the track..

sometimes I think i'd like to do the trip on what I've currently got, and by the time I get back it will be REALLY clapped out and then I can do the lift and that way avoid having the Simpson destroy my shockies as soon as they are installed!!

Ahhh what to do..?

Yeah, fairly up on everything else needed for the trip.. still need to buy some goodies (maxtrax etc) and I might be putting my feelers out for anyone else wanting to join forces once I know if I'm definitely doing the trip.. not crazy about the idea of a single vehicle crossing..will rejoin my local club for starters..

A trip report on the forum described the trip as a bucket list item..I've been dying to do this trip for about 30 years! Hopefully this will be the first of many!
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 22:35

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 22:35
We had a bunch of people give us the "don't do it solo" eye when it was in planning mode. But we had some who said go for it. It all depends on you, your car and the desert. We got a satellite phone for emergencies and were prepared to pay the $2000 odd for a recovery if needed. We are both up to ift as far as skills are concerned and the car was definitely okay. So we went solo and when told that the WAA line was the roughest, we went that way.

And it was a breeze. We were in fact overly cautious in our planning and car setup so it was the ideal mode for us.

The flowers were fantastic and the waether couldn't have been better.

A laugh for you and any readers. One night in the wee small hours of the morning there was a strange shuffling noise which stopped quickly. We were both awake even though we didn't know it. Again there it was and again it stopped as if to listen. Then the noise again which seemed to stop right next to me. I am about 2 meters above the ground in our roof top tent. We couldn't see a thing outside as the canvas is very thick and the windows were closed to keep the warmth inside. But the heart rates was going at about a 300. Without saying anything I hit the canvas just to shoo off any camel or dingo. My wife went through the roof. She though it was a wack from the OUTSIDE and that we were under attack by some alien being. Soon we realised that both were awake and that it was I who had hit the canvas. We started to laugh and I am still sore. A story for the grandkids around the camp fire mate.

Phil
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 18:48

Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 18:48
Sounds like an awesome trip - makes me want to do the WAA now..solo even!
Seriously funny story re the "alien attack"! Thanks for sharing!
Cheers mate
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Reply By: Rachael Jayne - Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 08:58

Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 08:58
Hi Richard

I am a 38 yo female with 3 children and am currently packing up to go on an adventure from Brisbane to the top end. I totally agree with The Landy, get out there and give it a go. Of course be as prepared as you can, but it you don't just bite the bullet, you may never full-fill a lifelong dream.

Best of luck and happy travels :)

Rach
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 09:14

Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 09:14
It makes me chuckle sometimes!

And mind you I have a Defender 130 that is modified for long-range touring and a Defender 110 that is stock standard out of the box.

The funny thing is we are constantly conditioned that you need modified vehicles to “do the trip” and often perpetuated in forums, perhaps as a justification for money that has been spent.

But here is the drill, often it is coming from people who in their younger days would have been bumping around in a clapped out Kombi, or Datsun 120Y, went everywhere and loved it.

Mind you, I’m not advocating a Datsun 120Y or Kombi for a Simpson trip, lest I be accused of saying they are capable of it.

Enjoy your trip with the family, that is what it is all about!
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Follow Up By: Rachael Jayne - Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 09:26

Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 09:26
My friends say I am crazy...I think they're secretly jealous. Losing my job after 15 years has been the biggest blessing so far :) I'm teaching my children that us women can do it all, says me who will be broken down on the side of the road....but still with a smile on my face.
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Follow Up By: Alloy c/t - Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 10:31

Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 10:31
Ohh yes ,we must all spend $$$$$$$ [thousands] on modifications ,,
Wife had to regular drive from home to Boulia in her Kia Reo with all of 2inches ground clearance , 90klm of blacksoil dirt and gravel followed by the crap Asphalt from Winton to Boulia , she would always pull into the Middleton pub [1/2 way] , often you would hear the voice of partners asking hubby 'Tell me again why we needed to spend 10/15 thousand dollars to get our patrol /landcruiser/whatnot ready for a 2week drive ' ,,,,, as they sat outside looking at a little red car parking next to their $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ machine. lol.
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Tuesday, Jul 30, 2013 at 12:18

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2013 at 12:18
I also am a bit of a motorcycling fan, have owned and ridden various bikes over various terrains..and while there are the specialty bikes (BMW, KTM etc) for big outback trips a la Ewan and Charley, a $3000 ebay special such as a Suzuki DR650 will get you around Australia or even the world and give you experiences to last a lifetime..It's not what you ride or drive, just get out there and see the country!
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Reply By: The Landy - Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 09:26

Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 09:26
I thought it might be worth posting this up as it puts some perspective around vehicle requirements.

A G60 Datsun Patrol that was identical to Reg Spriggs crossing of the Simpson in 1962 did a re-enactment in 2012 driven by his son.

With all the vehicle development in the last 50 years since Reg and his family made the trip in the original G60 you might be just left wondering why so much needs to be spent on “mods” presuming the vehicle has been refined many times since then.

The fourt-wheel drive magazines have done a great con-job!

You can read the article by clicking the link following, and if you’re feeling a little bored you can read a light-hearted account on the same topic in a blog I wrote recently.

Nissan re-creates desert crossing in a G60 Datsun Patrol

Equipping your truck - a light-hearted review
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Tuesday, Jul 30, 2013 at 12:26

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2013 at 12:26
Thanks for these great links!
Re the modification debacle.., I originally wanted a set of mud tyres to go on my spare rims..but they are only available in 75 series as opposed to 70 series for the standard rubber, which means that i need a small lift..if i did the tyres and the lift, i am now in a vehicle that might get me further into the sh*t than in its standard form..so i better put a diff lock in the rear to help me keep moving forward in case retreating was out of the question..if forward progress was also a drama i better have a winch on my front bar (or at least a hand winch but what happens when the fatigue factor kicks in?) but i need a new bar as my standard Toyo bar has no winch provision..so now for the sake of putting some muddies on, i'm now looking at spending say $6-7K for everything..or i could just leave it standard and spend the $$ on trips to the bush!

Hmmm now I have discovered Hankook do a M/T in 70 series...so maybe I don't need the lift after all..maybe just the Hankooks and a Tirfor and some smarter driving is the answer??
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Reply By: Luke2 - Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 08:20

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 08:20
I support the idea of going on your own and in an older vehicle. If it's the only way you can get there go for it. I did a dozen Simpson crossings in an old 89 Hilux and always had a ball. As long as you have good communications in case anything goes wrong. Two comments that might be relevant for you and your Prado:
1. Conditions change year to year and within seasons. Because someone did it in a particular vehicle one year doesn't mean it'll be the same the following year. I was at Big Red in July and have never seen it so easy to get over, in past years I've had to let tyres down really low and have a few runs at it. This year everyone was flying over.
2. A friend took a stock Prado into the Simpson from the east three years ago and was getting stuck so often that they gave up. They weren't overloaded but did have extra water and a family of four. The lack of clearance meant they were bottoming on almost every dune as they went past Poeppells Corner. After going over a dozen of the big dunes in that area and doing lots of digging (and getting a few snatches from others going past) they realised it was going to be very slow and they didn't like relying on others to help them so often so they gave up and went back to Birdsville. Later in their trip they got some new suspension put in at Alice Springs and crossed the desert easily. So be a bit aware of clearance, particularly with an older Prado.
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Follow Up By: Luke2 - Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 08:23

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 08:23
I agree with other comments here about tyres - once in the desert sand any tyre will be okay as long as you let them down nice and low. Have a look at Oodnadatta Roadhouse's website with tyre pressure info. Your biggest risk with slightly older tyres is the rocky roads to get to the desert, that's where most people do the damage. Read the Oodnadatta info about lowering your pressures about 20% on rocky roads to reduce damage.
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 10:05

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 10:05
Thanks Luke - great food for thought. It's the age and condition of my suspension that makes me think I might have similar issues to the Prado family you mention. We will be loaded up as it looks like being a 3 week trip and carrying extra water, a second spare wheel and tyre, tools, recovery gear etc make me hope that the new suspension fairy will come and visit..as for travelliong alone, I see lots of videos of Simpson crossing and the sudden turns that a lot of the dunes have at the crest make me worry that if the worst happened and we ended up on our side, a 2nd vehicle to winch from would be very handy! But i guess not too many rollovers actually occur in the Simpson? Or am i very much mistaken?
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Follow Up By: Luke2 - Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 10:22

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 10:22
Hi Richie, you do hear about roll-overs but I've never seen one in my 20 or so trips in various parts of the Simpson. If you weighed up the likelihood you'd have to say it was very unlikely and if the worst happened I'm sure you'd attract a couple of other willing vehicles to help in no time. And those sorts of things mostly seem to happen to the young blokes going too fast :-) And I guess if you do find yourself a bit sideways on a slope follow the golden rule of "steer into the fall-line" if this means driving straight down the hill to get it straight again that's okay, the bushes will recover...
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Follow Up By: RichieK - Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 16:35

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 16:35
Thanks again Luke!
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