Anthony Collins is the proud owner of a special VDJ76R. The build was inspired by a life-altering accident which damaged his hand and left him out of work. A self-described late adopter to 4X4ing he has quickly caught up to speed with one of the sexiest builds we have seen yet. Here Anthony gives us a very detailed and emotional insight into how The Black Knight came to life...
The story of The Black Knight
As is typical of my personality, I tend not to do things in half measures. This trait it appears may be reasonably extended to my mid-life crisis. I turned 40 this year, and that I am the proud owner of a very flash looking Toyota Land Cruiser is probably no great shock when put in the context of the timeline of my life.
I remember the exact moment I decided to hit the open road, to venture into the great abyss of the seemingly infinite Australian interior. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was an outback healing that I sought. The enigmatic forces of the universe were pulling me inward, towards the healing heart of our great land. Once I had decided that this was what I craved, I of course needed to depart yesterday.
Following a frenetic few weeks of planning and gathering the basic provisions necessary for such a journey I bid my long-suffering and always supportive wife, an emotional adieu.
Drive first, ask questions later
I’m sure you’re wondering; what was I driving? And this is where my naivety rockets spectacularly to the surface in all its ignorant glory! A 2008 Nissan Murano was my trusty steed, wearing 275/45 R20 shoes which, to my barren level of knowledge, was what constituted a capable 4x4 vehicle. I mean, all I had to do was press a button and voila, the Murano was an off-road beast, right?
Strezlecki Track, Cordillo Road, Birdsville Track, Oodnadatta Track, Mereenie Loop, Humbert Track in Gregory N.P. and Nathan River Road, the plucky Murano conquered all these and more, with zero mechanical melt-down or misfortune and might I add, she passed more than one, much more esteemed, prepared and broken-down 4x4 en route. Beginners luck, perhaps.
It will be no surprise to all of you I’m sure, when I say I failed to see even one other Nissan Murano on my travels. When I crept through the gnarly Humbert Track in the Territory, littered with rocks whose only purpose in life was to shred rubber, my arrival to other seasoned 4WDrivers was met with looks that would usually be reserved for people who’d vomited down their shirtfront. On the other hand, on more than one occasion my efforts in such a clearly unsuited vehicle were applauded. Perhaps it was because I was the under-dog or was it the kamikaze?
I also learned on this journey that the most kick-ass looking 4x4 on the market, a 4x4 that exuded a presence akin to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, was the 70 Series V8 Toyota Land Cruiser.
This was a vehicle whose bass rumble you heard before you saw. And when you did lay green eyes upon one, it was an unwritten rule that you had to observe it until it had either come to a complete stop, or had driven out of sight.
Often prone to a hasty decision I literally walked in the front door after not having seen my wife for over a month, slapped a fist full of dog-eared 4x4 mags on the table and declared I was buying a Land Cruiser.
Love at first sight
She was the only Black Land Cruiser that I ever laid eyes on. And she was a wagon. A 76 Series, they said. I was later to understand that of the 70 Series Land Cruiser’s there was the 79: which was a single or dual cab version, a 78: affectionately referred to as a troopy, and a 76: or wagon or even “Wagmageddon” as the gents at GSL Fabrications liked to call her.
Although I was initially concerned, as time went on it didn’t bother me, especially when the oracle of the 70 Series Land Cruiser Facebook Page, Sir Rob Morris told me, “For an ex-miner, it’s the cleanest one I’ve seen”. This endorsement was enough for me to want to plough onwards in the highly addictive and bankrupting process of pimping one’s ride; or ‘modifying’ it, as it is known in the 4x4 world.
Diesel Power Upgrades, was the title of the article I read and it seemed like a logical place to start the modification process for me. This aim ultimately led me to a shed in a small and albeit for the devastating Queensland floods of 2011, little known town of Grantham.
Allow me to recommend another addition to your bucket-list; that is, to drive the maroon 79 Series Cruiser at GSL Fabrications. If you return from that drive without a Cheshire cat grin, then you really should see a doctor.
Somehow driving that vehicle or any other like it, taps into an ancestral vein with a direct link to our inner cave man. It may sound sad to some, but I don’t mind admitting I feel like more of a virile man every time I get those 8 cylinders pumping.
The Land Cruiser is to me what the stockman’s horse was to him. A sturdy vehicle that will take me safely down the road less travelled; a vehicle that allows me to find solitude and healing in the most remote regions of our great country. I’m sure many of you can relate to these observations, which may explain why many of us give our modern day off-road horses, a name.
As the modifying process progressed, my 76 began to develop it’s own identity. A pivotal moment came with the addition of the stainless-steel forward facing snorkel. A concept I’m chuffed to say, I designed myself. Although not my intention, the result was that the ram-head looked not dissimilar to a medieval Knight’s helmet. And after a few dryly stated Facebook suggestions that the vehicle would not ever be quite complete until I had strapped a jousting stick to the side of it, a friend and fellow 76’er coined her ultimate name: The Black Knight, was born.
My idle hands and need for taking all my passions to the nth degree determined that The Black Knight must have it’s own Facebook and Instagram, chronicling my modifications, travels, stories and photos.
Supporting Australians in need
That I called it ‘Black Knight Off-Road Industrie’, means nothing more than I wanted there to be potential for it to grow and that I enjoyed spelling words wrong.
At the same time of my build, Queensland was suffering some of the worst droughts on record and our pastoralists or ‘cockies’ as they’re affectionately known, were having a very rough time trying to maintain healthy livestock on a land whose teat had run dry.
I was reading about the ‘Hay-Run’ one February day, where charitable farmers from more temperate climates donated hay and organised to have it trucked to those drought-suffering regions.
I decided to approach specific companies specialising in 4x4 accessory components that The Black Knight needed for achieving a status of ‘very prepared’ for such a journey.
REDARC Electronics were first to answer the call and were happy to take the Knight to the next level by supplying a range of 12V accessories and gadgets.
The heart of the Knight is the Manager30 battery management system, it is responsible for pumping 12V power throughout the vehicle, it covers all my needs and features AC-DC and DC-DC Charging which ultimately gives me a choice in where I setup shop for the night. My monitoring capability doesn’t stop at with my Manager30 remote battery monitor. I can also monitor my engine via my 52mm boost & EGT gauges.
As the Manager30 also features an in-built solar regulator means it is perfect because it is directly compatible with my REDARC portable solar blanket. This blanket is perfect for harnessing free power from the sun when you’re out on the road and to put some power back into your battery setup.
If you see a particular company’s sticker on the Knight, then you can assume that this is a company who genuinely cares about the health and well-being of our farmers and if you have a choice to support these companies, that's what my relationship with REDARC Electronics enables.
Having just returned from the Knight's inaugural trip I am proud to say it was a great success. From Kahmoo Station in Cunnamulla to Eulo, Thargomindah, Noccundra and Nockatunga Station and on to Nappa Merri, Innamicka, Merty Merty and Lyndon Stations, we were always met with a grateful and warm welcome and we’re keen as a Cruiser owner to upgrade his exhaust, for our next trip to stations in north-central Queensland.
The story of The Black Knight continues to evolve month by month. Who knows where she’ll be and what she’ll be doing this time next year. Much like life, the joy is in the journey itself and for the first time in a long time, the unknown road ahead excites me.
You can follow not only The Black Knight's travels and mods, but also reach out to find out how you can help contribute to the work Anthony and his team do for the farmers in rural Australia by following his Instagram and Facebook channels.