Ready to tackle the Old Telegraph Track, but with the road manners to remain a daily driver, Matt Kinsela’s HiLux is at home crawling over red rocks, and through Sydney traffic. Over seven years of building, fixing and wheeling his 2002 HiLux, Matt has built more than a car. He has built a bond and a thriving business.
With total familiarity of every aspect of the car, Matt has created the confidence to travel carefree to destinations most of us will only see on Google Earth. Matt’s HiLux and the journeys the pair have shared are testament to how far passion can take you.
Matt’s love for adventure began at only a year old. Strapped into the back of his dad’s 40 series LandCruiser, he recalls spending every weekend picking lines from the baby seat. His passion for off-roading isn’t just an inheritance. “I like four-wheel-driving because it’s a challenge”, he said. “No matter how good your car; whether its stock or a full blown comp-truck, it doesn’t matter. There’s a skill involved in it and it develops the more of a relationship you build with your car.”
“Knowing how it drives, that’s how you progress.”
Matt started car life at 16 with a locked and lifted 60 series LandCruiser. He cut his modifying teeth on the big Toyota, battering the ‘Cruiser for two years before starting the search for a forever fourby. There was a simple criteria with an obvious answer – it needed four doors, a tray that could squeeze in a dirt bike, and it had be a Toyota. Something stock, that Matt could build to his vision.
The HiLux was in full B&S ball trim when his dad found it, just down the road from their home. Ready to rev all night with a five post bulbar, clearance lights, mud flaps and truck stacks to match, the Lux’s lairy looks were first on Matt’s list. They got to work stripping it immediately, selling the gear for what it was worth as they transformed the car from form to function. Sidesteps were swapped for Matt’s custom rock sliders. Modifications like the tidy front bulbar, lockers and mud tyres came in time, but getting out on the track, getting familiar with his new pride and joy was priority one.
Working up to 40 hours a week on the car, on top of his day job, identifying weakness and honing improvements. Matt’s approach to his dream car was simple. “Cut everything off, start again.”
LandCruiser diffs, water-to-air intercooling, 35” mud tyres, a solid axle swap, high mount winch, custom electrics. Every inch of Matt’s car has been fettled. The location of every switch has been agonized over; he knows every bolt and every quirk. He can anticipate how the car will react to anything. The result?
“I can jump in it and drive it anywhere, and it will get me there,” he said.
At a Queensland HiLux meet, Matt and a mate were speaking with a bloke regaling them with his two-year preparation for a trip to Australia’s northernmost tip, Cape York. Regarded by the off-road fraternity as one of the ultimate belt notches, Matt felt that level of prep was excessive. To prove his point, he headed north from the HiLux meet the next day. With almost zero planning, he conquered the toughest tracks in Australia, worry free.
“It was the best two weeks of my life…” said Matt. “It was totally unplanned and we saw it all.”
“I pride myself on the fact I can drive my HiLux to work Monday to Friday and on the weekend if there is a competition I can drive to Queensland, enter, compete and then drive home while the others guys put their cars on their trailers.”
With the Hilux built to it’s current evolution, Matt was left with idle equipment. He noticed a steadily rising tide of mates wanting to hang out and wrench.
“I’d work on their car instead of mine, and then their mates would come round and ask for some help and then mates of mates cars. I started out as a small business on Facebook but it got too big for the backyard.”
Splitting the costs of a workshop space, Matt has turned his hobby into a side hustle – Kinselas Kustoms. Offering everything from custom fabrication to engine swaps, the shed is where you can find Matt when he isn’t at work.
“On a standard Monday, I finish work, come straight to the shop, finish around 10pm or sometimes 2am, go to work on Tuesday.” Repeat.
Despite seven years together, familiarity has only deepened Matt’s bond with the dependable dual cab.
“The feeling you get from building it yourself is incomparable. I can trust it. I can drive to Cape York or to work tomorrow… There is no way I could buy something new and have the faith in it to do that.”
“Besides, if I bought a new 4WD I would make it exactly the same!”
Us too, Matt.