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Brown Davis turns 40

By Justin Walker, 08 Feb 2019 Gear

Brown Davis turns 40 feature

A bunch of legendary off-road brands head to the High Country to celebrate four decades of Brown Davis, as well as the strong ties that bind them all together.

A 40th BIRTHDAY is always a big occasion, so it’s only fitting that Aussie long-range fuel tank manufacturer, Brown Davis, made sure it celebrated its own four decades of business in true off-road style, with a High Country weekend away.

Cameron Brown and his dad (and founder) David didn’t want to keep it a private affair, though, inviting a slew of industry mates to the party. Piranha Off Road’s Al Johnson drew on his decades of Victorian High Country touring experience to lead the convoy of vehicles including Piranha Off Road, Lightforce, TJM and more.

The vehicles on the trip were a mix of new and old, with the old represented by Al’s 60 Series Land Cruiser and the Brown Davis 1978 FJ40 Land Cruiser short-wheelbase rig. A heavily modified Cruiser that, like the company, was celebrating its 40th birthday as well.

An icon’s take on an icon

THE IDEA behind the reborn SWB FJ40 was to bring the old days back to life, according to Cameron, and it also worked as a great synergy in terms of two 40-year-olds celebrating a shared birthday, as Cameron explains.

“The old man started in 1978,” he says. “I like the vehicles, the Cruiser is 40 years old, we’re 40 years old – it just made sense.”

The FJ40 is slightly less of a ‘shorty’ than in its original form – the wheelbase has been extended by 200mm – while lurking underneath the bonnet is a Chevy 350 V8 petrol donk. Harnessing all this grunt and getting it to the ground is a 75 Series Cruiser five-speed gearbox (with custom cross-member), mated to the engine via a Marks Adaptors kit. Also included is a heavy-duty clutch and a 60 Series master cylinder.

 

Ensuring the oomph doesn’t cause any dramas throughout, the FJ40 runs 60 Series axles front and rear, which not only widened the track slightly but allowed fitment of larger, more effective brakes at both ends. Even the chassis was beefed up, with new brackets and cross-members added. A TJM bar up front adorned with Lightforce spotties combines well with the custom bar-work and Rhino-Rack roof rack (with MaxTrax attached), to provide a no-nonsense appearance.

Keeping it all riding smoothly the suspension received plenty of attention; the front leaf springs were re-fitted in reverse to minimise bump-steer, with the front axle also moved forward 50mm. A 3.5-degree positive caster angle (for more effective steering) was achieved via a change to the diff pinion angle which, in turn, helped align the tailshaft for a reduction in vibration. The rear springs also copped a re-shuffle, moving back 150mm. Custom shock mounts keep the long-travel 60 Series dampers in place and working perfectly. 

Looking at the FJ40 side on, you can see how the body panel-work has also been ‘stretched’ to cater for the longer wheelbase and tweaked position of both axles. The front guards were also pushed out to cater for the wider track. New wheels and Cooper Tires rubber followed, with the Kaymar rear bar sitting further back – and higher – than the former stock jobbie.

Cameron is justifiably proud of the work, although he’s not adverse to the sound and power of the big Chev, he also hinted at this one being rebuilt, with a ‘proper’ Toyota diesel donk under the bonnet; a 12HT his preferred option, citing it as “Toyota’s best engine”.

With a little help from their friends

THE 4X4 aftermarket industry in Australia is an incredibly strong one, filled with passionate people who live and breathe the lifestyle. Cameron was keen for this trip to be a celebration of not only Brown Davis’s 40-year milestone, but also the strength in community that the industry has, hence the invitation out to the companies involved in the FJ40 build – and who he and his father have had long-standing relationships with over the 40 years.

It was a short and sweet trip up around the Jamieson area for a couple of nights, tackling a few tracks in that area and circling back to camp which was a convenient 10 minutes’ drive to the Jamieson pub – the perfect end-stop for each day and a chance to catch up with mates, and the odd beer with dinner. 

“There are a lot of good friendships that come with a lot of the old-school iconic four-wheel drive companies…
The trip was a great excuse to get away and see everyone.
“The trip was not just about Brown Davis, it was about celebrating all these people involved and the hard work they put in.”

Demands and rewards

OVER the four decades, Brown Davis has produced tens of thousands of long-range fuel tanks for everything from Aussie touring cars, to fulfilling a massive 30,000-tank order from the US Army. It was this huge job that saw the company flat-stick just producing this one tank, but it was a huge coup for an Aussie company, with the Brown Davis team rightly proud of that achievement.

Since that epic, all-consuming order was fulfilled Brown Davis has turned its attention back to producing its highly regarded 4x4 long-range fuel tanks. Cameron makes particular note of how much of an impact 4x4 dual-cab utes have had on the market (and Brown Davis sales) since these workhorses became the do-it-all vehicle for buyers.

“One of the best things for our fuel tanks is that now, the 4x4 of choice is a dual-cab ute,” he says. “They can be used as a run-around in town and then you can head off on a 4x4 trip on the weekend; 60 to 70 per cent of our sales are for current model dual-cab utes.

“…With the [ute] fuel tank, they all come out with around 70 to 80 litres as standard. And for around $1200-1300, we can double the capacity and you can drive away. And that, to me, is why long-range fuel tanks are just a tick-the-box item for 4x4 owners these days.”

Cameron also mentions the fact that the vehicle’s ground clearance remains unaffected and there’s nothing inside your vehicle. Plus, compared to the ‘old days’ of auxiliary tanks and associated feeder pipes, pumps and switches, the new tanks are one unit, built extremely tough (thick metal, better baffling than standard and a drain plug to get rid of contaminated fuel) and it takes only a couple of hours to fit.

It’s hard to argue with Cameron’s reasoning; a few hours in the shop, a reasonable investment (compared to other accessories) and the immediate benefit of twice the touring range.

Here’s to another 40 years

WITH Brown Davis tanks now more in demand than ever, it’s a busy time for Cameron and his folks (his mum and dad still run the business, with Cam). However, as Cameron stated earlier, it’s also very rewarding, not only in terms of business growth but also in the fact that all this hard toil is recognised by others in the same industry, forging a strong community feel that us off-road tourers are bloody lucky to be a part of.

Oh, and before you ask, no, that FJ40 won’t be the last modified Cruiser to emerge from the Brown Davis workshop; we hear whispers that a Troopy body sitting on a tough 80 Series chassis may be on the way – fuelled by a Brown Davis long-range tank, of course!