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MOTORING: Hollywood – Toyota Hilux

Featured in Freestyle Volume 06 2008. Story by Jeremy Shields. Photography by Phil Cooper.

Perth is known for many things. Beautiful beaches, high-paid jobs driving Tonka trucks with Gigantism, an interesting ratio of men to women… And as of now, it’s own private Hollywood.

21 year-old Westsider Beau Pennington is fairly typical of your modern day car modifier, clawing his way up the ladder of skill and knowledge leaving a wake of projects in his trail while continually upping the ante with each new automotive mission he embarks on. This train began roughly five years ago with a Subaru WRX, ending up as a trimmed and painted demon pushing around 400hp at all four wheels. Local steel followed in the form of a VX SS boasting 380hp, and featuring Beau’s first foray into dynamic suspension with a set of air bags under each corner.

“I then went into a newsagency and saw a mini trucking magazine” Beau tells, and it was from this day that his path of customising took an arguable turn for the better.

“I got my hands on a ’92 Holden Rodeo Space cab which I shaved, painted, trimmed and fitted 20” rims to, and started to slowly learn more and more about the mini trucking scene, realising that you cannot have a mini truck without air bags and custom chassis mods”.

With the Rodeo too far-gone to go cutting up now, the decision was made to start afresh, and before long the Rodeo made way for a ’99 model Ford Courier, now better known as ‘Minytruck’ – a project that totally validated Beau’s passion, taste and success in the scene with its 20” front and 22” rear gold wires, chassis mods, bags, shaved body, two-tone paint and several wild custom interiors. If anything, it created shoes that most people would think impossible to fill and after that, many projects within about as many years, you couldn’t blame Beau for wanting a break!

Good thing for us, that this was not only far from the case, the creative juices were now pumping more than ever, and you just can’t keep that shit bottled up!

By now Beau had been through any truck that wasn’t plain butt-ugly, but there was one glaringly obvious exception – the classic of all classic Aussie mini truck platforms – the Toyota HiLux. The time had come…

As with Minytruck, there was the issue of the DPI (think RTA, VicRoads etc) and their stance towards any sort of chassis modification, but also similar to the Courier build, this didn’t really have an impact on how wild Beau’s plans were to become…

The brief was simple – “A semi-show-car, but I wanted to know I could drive it and rail it whenever and wherever I wanted…”. The standard of said build was obviously going to cut another notch above Minytruck, but taking things to the next level is when the complacency of those from the East becomes quite evident; “The Perth car scene is good, but completely different to over East as we don’t have as many quality custom shops such as Xquisite Customs, Custom Works, Queen Street, Living Low and so on”. Knowing all this, a tough decision was to be made, but in reality the deal was already sealed – the car was going to Xquisite Customs for an indefinite period, returning only once the considerable task was complete.

“I wanted my truck to go to a shop that did everything, from shaving to painting to trimming, stereo install and all custom chassis work to bag and notch my truck”. Contact was made, a plan was created, and the ’03 SR5 single cab was shipped off to Sydney, spending 12 months in the capable hands of ‘The Boys’.

One of the first things on the schedule was the compulsory shave, and we’re talking full Brazilian styles in this instance. “I wanted the whole vehicle to be 100% smooth, shaving everything and anything…” Taking their cue, Xquisite got to work. In no time the mirrors were gone, along with the bar indicators, side repeaters, aerial, wiper jets, roof gutters, fuel flap and door handles, although the latter wouldn’t have been much good if left in place anyway, due to the mini truck staple mod of suicide doors, which now use Bear latches and remote, solenoid-activated door poppers. Looking closer will reveal interesting touches such as the removal of the side windows, with the frame smoothed over, closing any remaining gaps to complete the look. This obviously means no driving in the wet, which Beau can happily do without.

Vast expanses of nice flat body surface is one of the fundamentals in creating a killer look in most modifying circles, and it’s not just getting panels dead straight that can help to achieve this. Emphasis on this principal has been made in this case by fitting a pair of thin Cadillac tail lights, which make no intrusion into the custom roll pan and welded/smoothed tail gate aesthetics.

Typical of any mini truck build the tray presented many options, but Beau decided to go down one of the slightly more extreme avenues by turning the SR5 into a ‘Shorty’ by shortening the chassis by around 30cm to take the shorter tray from a space cab HiLux variant. This is not a new thing by any means, but as with anything at this level execution is key, and Xquisite have come up trumps. Why stop there though? Inspired by ex-Freestyle cover car, and mini truck big-hitter ‘BOOSTED’, Beau decided to go the whole hog and unite the tray and cab as one, fully welding them together to carry the body all the way through, uninterrupted.

Punishible crime #1 for mini trucking is being able to see daylight between the floorpan and road. It’s a no-no – make no mistake. You wanna look like your car’s actually rolling? Go buy a Falcodore. Forget rolling. It’s all about looking like your driving a big, multi-coloured sled down the street, and there’s no better way to achieve the effect than with a body drop. In the case of Hollywood, the whole cab and tray has plunged 2” further towards the tarmac, but this is no simple task of a gasless MIG, a few cut-off wheels and a case of beer on a Sunday afternoon.

To do the job properly requires a host of accompanying modifications throughout the rest of the car, starting with tubbing out of the front inner guards as well as the tray, but the main driving force behind getting as low as is physically possible is the notch. Have no misconceptions about how this thing gets treated – Beau built the car to be railed at the drop of a switch, and for true railing action it had to lay frame. This necessitated a serious 12” monster notch worked into the rear chassis rails, allowing Beau to spark it up like New Year’s Eve.

A set of remote-controlled Slam Specialties bags (2500 front, 2600 rear) take care of the ‘how’, working a serious rear suspension setup which now utilises a cantilever 4-link arrangement. Up front custom 2.5” drop spindles, modified radius rods, shortened tie rod ends, custom struts and Monroe shocks all ‘round allow Hollywood to not only get its Pogo on, but also drive like a normal vehicle when required.

An 8 gallon air tank, 200psi pressure switch, pair of Viair 500 compressors and ½” lines and E-Air valves take care of the rest and are all hidden out of sight, keeping it all clean and un-cluttered.

Back in the early days of mini trucking the main goal was getting it lower than low, with little time and effort spent on other areas such as performance. Well we can safely say things have changed considerably since those formative years, with most trucks encompassing every single facet of modification, and Beau’s is no different.

With forced induction on the cards for the future, a strong powerplant was required, and not surprisingly you’ll find not one corner cut when it came to rebuilding the 2.7L 3RZ four-potter, starting with a heavily modified crankshaft. Linking the forged pistons are a set of forged aftermarket conrods, perfectly capable of withstanding the forces of boost that are to be applied upon them.

Guiding air into the polished chambers are ported inlet and exhaust tracts, with a set of custom stainless extractors getting rid of waste gases into a 2.5” exhaust system. Braided lines, hidden wiring and a polished inlet manifold cap off this seriously neat engine bay, and we can’t wait to see it all complete with turbo fitted!

With the engine and gearbox all painted up to match the rest of the truck, Xquisite turned attention to the interior, and after the variety of styles and schemes that Minytruck boasted, this one was going destined to be something special indeed.

Although not what you’d call hideous, the standard Hilux dash was simply never going to work for Hollywood, and with custom being what the truck is all about, Xquisite moulded up a one-off dash using fibreglass, which was trimmed in the same Joker-esque purple suede with green stitching as the seats, doortrims, roof lining and custom floor panels. The seats themselves are originally from a Honda CRX, and straddle a custom centre console, also trimmed in the same grape hue. A billet steering wheel and shift knob highlight the cabin, as do a set of downlights recessed into the roof, while Classic Instruments gauges read out revs, water temp, oil pressure, fuel level, and voltage in mad old-school fashion. A pair of Viair pressure gauges let Beau know where his bags are sitting at any given time.

Banging the beats while it’s banging the rails is a JVC KW-AVX710 wide-touch DVD/MP3 7” head unit, driving 7” Neevox screens in each door, an Orion CO300.2 2-channel amp and an Orion CO500.1 amp, in-turn powering Orion CO652 6.5” front splits and an Orion Cobalt 10” sub respectively. Power is courtesy of an Optima deep-cycle battery and 1 Farad cap.

If you think about it though, all the above are just mere details in the bigger picture of Hollywood, where image is everything, and if you haven’t got the looks, you’re going nowhere. Xquisite followed the brief to the letter though, creating a killer paint scheme to rival the best. After nutting out what colour was going where, the House of Kolor was laid on in a display of pure perfection, with the two-tone Pashion Purple Pearl top and Lime Time Green Pearl bottom broken up with air brushed Cosmic Chrome and Tangello Orange.

Rolling on 18x7 and 18x8.5” Twisted Vista rims (changed to20x8.5” Giovanna Gianelle Cairo B since the shoot), the result is worthy of a Mann’s Chinese Theatre premier, cruising Sunset Boulevard, or lighting up Mulholland Drive with a spark show. Whatever it’s doing, with a taste of Hollywood, Perth’s never gonna be the same.


Owner. Beau Pennington

Vehicle. 2003 Toyota Hilux SR5 single cab

Engine. Toyota 3RZ-FE 2.7L 4 cylinder, Painted block and gearbox, Modified crank shaft, Forged pistons, Forged conrods, Ported and polished head, Custom re-ground cams, Custom stainless extractors, Polished inlet manifold with pod filter, Hidden wiring, Battery relocated under tray, Fuse box relocated inside cabin, Custom 2.5” exhaust, Braided lines

Body / Paint. Smoothed and painted chassis, Chassis shortened 300mm for tray, 12” Monster notch, 2005 SR5 4X4 Space Cab tray welded to cab, 2” body drop, Shaved bumper indicators, corner indicators, door handles, Mirrors, aerial, wiper jets, wipers, door windows removed, Roof gutters, fuel flap, Welded and smoothed tail gate, Custom roll pan, Smoothed engine bay, Tubbed guards front and rear, Cadillac tail lights, Custom fuel cell, Suicide doors with Bear latches, Custom one-off billet grille, House of Kolor Pashion Purple/Lime Time Green paint, Custom air brushed House of Kolor Cosmic Chrome/Tangello Orange graphics

Suspension. Remote 4-way air bag system (Slam Specialties 2500 front, 2600 rear), Custom 2.5” drop spindles, Custom tube control arms, Custom cantilever 4-link rear end, Modified radius rods, Shortened tie rod ends, Custom struts, Monroe shocks, 8 Gallon air tank, 200psi pressure switch, ½” air lines, 2 x Viair 500 compressors, ½” E-Air valves

Wheels. Intro billet Twisted Vista (20x8.5” Giovanna Gianelle cairo B since shoot), Front: 18x7” rims / 215/35/18 Pirelli Dragon rubber, Rear: 18x8.5” rims / 215/35/18 Pirelli Dragon rubber

Interior. Custom fibreglass dash, Custom door trims, Honda CRX seats, Custom centre console, Custom floor panels, Purple suede trim with green stitching, Down lights in roof, Classic Intruments gauges, 2 x Viair pressure gauges for bags, Billet shift knob and steering wheel

Audio/Visual. JVC KW-AVX710 Wide Touch DVD/MP3 7” head unit, 2 x Necvox 7” screens in doors, Orion Cobalt CO104S 10” sub, Orion Cobalt CO652 6.5” splits in doors, Orion CO300.2 2-channel amp for splits, Orion CO500.1 amp for sub, 1 Farad capacitor, Optima deep-cycle battery


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