Mitsubishi MR Triton Build - Keeping It Simple And Light
Important note: The author is a single dad of one boy. He travels most places with two swags, a loaf of TipTop High-Fibre white bread and a packet of snags. You're situation may be very different to his and you may really need a canopy, dual battery system a one of those roof rack things with lights and stuff. :)
Whoa there stud! If you came into this article looking for a mega-dollar, 6-inch suspension and 2-inch body lifted MR Triton with twin stainos, a fox tale, Longhorn sticker, big lips and its own Insta page, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
However, if you’re looking to improve your MR Triton or even an MQ Triton for that matter, then you’ll probably find this little yarn interesting.
We know Tritons backwards. Brendan’s been sorting their suspension out for years, and I’ve owned MR, MQ, and ML.
The ML was my first Triton and one whose memory still gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. It was also my first 4WD build and I loaded it down with a canopy, steel bull bar and spotties, rock sliders, a winch, fridge, UHF, steelies, Mickey Ts, a 3” turbo-back exhaust, suspension that made it ride like a truck, and I chipped the donk just cos I could.
My old 2007 ML Triton. I found this image online, nicked by one of those el-cheapo 4X4 accessory businesses. That's a pre-winch shot. Shortly after this shoot I fitted a Tigerz11 winch...remember those and that dude who sold them with the gold chains? I'm reasonably certain that his success selling cheap Chinese winches is why Kings exist now.
All of which was great fun, for a while, but somehow, I’d managed to build a 4WD that was awesome for those times I managed to get away and hit the tracks, but pretty crap the other 95 percent of the time, when I was just getting from A to B. I can remember driving around with 20psi in the tyres on the bitumen trying to get a reasonable ride out of it and the whine from the muddies as they got a little worn. The weighed down front end had lost all of its responsiveness and the thing bucked and weaved over rippled and broken bitumen like a bull with its balls strapped.
Then the chip got some water in it, which was fun, the snorkel's pillar mounts would come loose and the canopy would always fill with dust and need constant adjusting. I could go on and on but I don’t want this to be a ‘do what I say and not as I do’ rant. I may have created a 4WD that was more difficult to live with than when it was stock, but heck I had some fun doing it, so don’t let me put you off that experience!
Those 3.2s were great engines but nowhere near as quick or as refined as the MR's 2.4-litre. When that chip over on the right side got wet, all sorts of weird stuff would happen, none of it good. Provent catch-can 'early adopter' as well!
Having learnt from that first build experience, each Triton I’ve had since has had progressively less done to it.
Do I really need the weight of bull bar or even worse, a winch hanging off the front end? Nup, and I do plenty of remote travel, I just make sure I’m nursing a glass of something around the campfire at around 4pm, well before Sonny and Skip come out looking for their next adventure. I haven’t ever needed to use a winch with any of my Tritons, ever, or recovery boards for that matter, and that includes a heap of beach and desert sand driving, and plenty of fire trails and steep rocky tracks. If I was to rate the terrain I've driven in those years, I'd say it was moderate to difficult at times, and very occasionally bordering on extreme, for this type of 4x4. I don't go looking for trouble these days, nor do I go looking for mud anymore.
The other thing about bull bars that bothers me, is how they block air flow to the radiator, intercooler and in the case of the Triton, the transmission cooler. Some aftermarket bars are pretty ordinary in this regard straight out of the box, and the rest get that way by the time you’ve mounted a winch in front of all of those radiators and bunged on a set of 20” Prince Night Blinder Pro SuperCreeLED (TM pending) spotties. You can see 10,000 metres ahead of you, but you can’t drive there without overheating.
I ran spotties on my ML and could turn them on and light up every roadside sign for 5 kilometres in front of me, which made it harder to see than when they weren't on. When I had to dip them for oncoming traffic, I couldn’t see a bloody thing at all. Honestly, I have more chance of staying alive by walking with a torch, or just sticking with the lights the car was born with.
Do I need a snorkel? I’ve been through the High Country and the Snowies many times and I did put the old ML through a huge water crossing coming into Wonnangatta Valley once, and needed the snorkel, but I won’t be doing that again. I shouldn’t have done it back then. I don’t believe that nonsense about them ramming air somewhere or see the benefits of raising the intake above the dust in a convoy. The dust from a convoy is fricken everywhere. So no, I don’t need a snorkel and certainly not two and never ever one of those staino things.
Some decent steel side steps are a definite maybe, but I can’t find any I like. Rock sliders are useless for anything but rock sliding, and often offer little or no paint protection, so you keep a straight sill panel, and sandblast the paint off it on dirt roads - don't ask me how I know this. What I’d like is a set of steel steps that are as wide as the stock steps but you know, steel.
I’ve had a love-hate affair with canopies. I hate, well let's say I'm not partial to the way they look, particularly on the MQ & MR Tritons, they fill with dust, they stop you from carrying some larger objects and they need constant adjusting to keep them locked on, or at least that was my experience. I will admit, that if you have a bit of gear to carry around, they’ll keep it dry, secure and yeah, dusty. Having just put these thoughts into words, I realise it’s more hate than love, so, canopies are out of contention.
What about an auxiliary battery to run the fridge? I’ve been there and done that in a few 4WDs now and if you’re a base camper that spends a few days in one spot, I’d say you’d want one. But that’s not how I roll on a trip, there’s always a dune or track that needs to be driven tomorrow and I’ve taken to connecting my fridge straight to my starting battery. Never had an issue yet either, except that one time in my Defender, but this is a Triton yarn, so that doesn't count.
My theory is that dual batteries are one of those mods that appeals to the 12V nerd and I think people just do it for something to do. You know, make it all as neat as possible, tuck it away, run wires where you can’t see them and post the results on Facebook. Which is cool, and some of the setups are brilliant, but I often wonder if they really need that second 35kgs of battery and DCDC charger, or if it was just a project to fill in some time, kind of like binge-watching Justified but more expensive.
This brings me to that mod that I’ll never do, even if it is all the rage right now and seemingly a must-do for MR Triton owners.
The roof rack.
What a thing they are. Expensive to buy, expensive to drive around with, noisy, ugly and on top of all of that, their sole purpose is to provide a handy platform that allows you to raise the roll-over point of your 4WD, which is diabolically convenient.
Triton folk fit LED light bars between the rack and the roof to cut down the wind noise, so there's more cost, more weight, a bunch of dangling wires that you somehow need to connect to the battery under the bonnet and all for, yet another, shitty lighting experience and possibly a fire you weren't planning on.
Taking less stuff on trips and not fitting a roof rack will save you thousands, but if you must have one, heck, click this link and we’ll sell you the best brand of roof rack you can get, at a great price too!
At this point you’ll be thinking I’m a hard to please prick that should just keep his Triton stock and shut up about it, and you might very well be correct, except that stock, they are just a little bit crap.
Let’s be honest here, all of these utes, once the mist in the ‘new car goggles’ has cleared and you’ve spent some time driving them, are a little bit crap in a few key areas.
So here’s what I now modify and why.
Loaded 4X4 Dynamic Tune Suspension
David and I (Loaded4X4 Media) have had the pleasure of driving and reviewing most of the 4WDs currently on the market, and while they’ve all improved dramatically, from a ride/handling point of view, over the years, the manufacturers are mostly fitting rubbish suspension components, that aren’t durable and don’t last. The Triton is one of the worst in this regard and upgrading the suspension to high-quality gear has always been a ‘must-do’ mod.
I loathe hard-riding cars with a passion. They don’t handle well on anything but perfectly smooth roads and they are just plain uncomfortable on every other type of road. Too soft isn’t great either, but I’d take too soft in preference to driving the proverbial brick around.
I’ve never been happy, until now, with the aftermarket suspension I’ve run in previous Tritons, it was always a let down on rough roads, as the designers failed to build in enough initial compliance. So, when we kicked off the Loaded4X4.Store, I teamed with our business partner, and suspension expert Brendan, to develop our Dynamic Tune shock absorbers. I told Brendan what I wanted, and he built it. Over the course of a year we tried different adjustment combinations, and I suspect there were times when Brendan wished he'd never met me, but he’s too nice a guy to ever tell me to bugger off.
We started with the unique twin-tube with a monotube piston style shock that he specialises in and we mucked around with the valving and bleed, to get it just right. I now run one of our Dynamic Tune levelling kits and hand-on-heart, it’s by far the best driving Triton I’ve ever owned or experienced.
Since writing this article, we've put together our 'Forty20' suspension kit, exclusively for the Triton, and this is now fitted to my MR, shortly after the stock rear springs sagged. As the name suggests, the Forty20 kit raises the front 40mm and the rear 20mm. The rear leaf packs are a high-quality (much better than stock) two-stage comfort spring, that provide significantly improved ride, handling and load carrying ability.
The MR fitted with our Forty20 lift kit, oh, and CSA's new (as of early 2022) Ridgeline alloys that replaced the CSA Bullets I was previously running.
CSA Bullet Alloy Wheels
CSA Bullets, Toyo Open Country AT 285/60/18 tyres, EGR flares and our Loaded4X4 Dynamic Tune levelling kit and bash plates.
For me, wheels are what makes or breaks your build, from a purely aesthetic perspective. If you’re the type that is only interested in pure off-road performance, and ultimate practicality, like David, then you’ll never go beyond a 17” wheel and tyre combination. I prefer to run an 18” wheel as anything smaller just doesn’t look right to me.
I combine the 18” alloy with a 285/60/18 tyre, which just fits the Triton, with a bit of trimming and a 40mm lift in the front, and it hasn’t let me down in four years of Outback tracks, Flinders Range’s rocks or High Country mud and shale.
I chose one of CSA’s newer designs, the Bullet, for the MR and have previously run their Hawk on my old MQ. We’ve had a close relationship with CSA for many years and trust their super high-quality product implicitly. David has been running CSA wheels on his 4WD training fleet for decades.
We’re like that guy who liked his shaver so much he bought the company. We like CSA alloys so much, we sell them in our store, at some of the best prices out there, and with free freight. We couldn’t afford to buy CSA unfortunately.
As above, I run a Toyo Open Country AT2 285/60/18, which is a tyre size developed for the 200 Series Croozer. You have to say that right by the way…it’s Croooozer, not Cruza. I used to run the big American brands of tyres and never had issues, but I’m now quite partial to the Japanese brands, in-particular Toyo, which in my experience is the pick of the bunch, when it comes to ride, handling and strength.
You might think that all Light Truck tyres with a decent load rating would have similar ride characteristics - I know I used to - but it was a revelation changing over to the Toyos, which absorb bumps better than any tyre I've previously run.
I didn't have a whole lot of choice here as my wheel and tyre combo had a smidge too much poke. I could have gotten away with it, but the narrow body Triton looks way better with these flares pumping it out a bit.
I'm not a big fan of flares usually, most are ugly and look like tacked on after-thoughts, but these EGR flares look factory and are actually a Mitsubishi genuine accessory. You'd be mad to buy them from Mitsubishi, because they charge close to double what EGR does on their website. Another great Australian product.
Milford Ult1mate Towbar
You'll be thinking that a tow bar is nothing special, but you'd be wrong. These days you can spend stupid money on '4x4 towbars', you know the ones with flashy red 'recovery points' built in, but you know what? If you have a towbar fitted to your 4x4, then you already have one big, fat and pretty damn safe, centrally located, rear recovery point. Just remove the hitch, and use the hitch pin to hold the recovery strap.
What you need is a towbar that tucks up neatly under the rear step and impinges as little as possible on the vehicle's departure angle. Ideally, it'll also protect the rear of your tub from damage. Miford's towbars do just this and they do it better than most, certainly better than those overpriced off-road style towbars, which reduce the rear departure angle in order to fit additional, but un-needed, recovery points.
I opted for Milford's premium Ult1mate towbar (see above pic), which is about as good as towbars get, from both a quality and design perspective. All of Milford's towbars are made in Australia, and that's not a claim that all, supposedly Aussie, towbar brands can claim anymore.
Pacemaker King Brown 3" Exhaust
A lot of people say there’s no point putting a larger exhaust on a DPF equipped car, and that may well be the case with some of them, as the DPF can be a chokepoint beyond which few gains can be liberated. But, we’ve proven that’s not the case with the Triton and we have the dyno sheet to prove it.
Those dyno results show that the Triton’s 2.4-litre 4N15 turbo-diesel engine with a 3” DPF back Pacemaker King Brown exhaust system, runs a lot cooler than standard and produces 12 extra kilowatts as well. My theory is that Mitsubishi fit a very restrictive exhaust system designed to keep heat in to aid the DPF soot burning process. Can you remember the last time you noticed your Triton doing a DPF regen burn? They never seem to but within a day of changing to the Pacemaker exhaust in the MQ, it started to run burns like most other cars.
I’d rather have the engine running cooler and DPF regens being run as and when needed.
Oddly, changing the exhaust in the MR didn’t result in noticeable DPF burns, but I know it’ll be running cooler and that it’s freed up some kilowatts. There’s also a more noticeable exhaust note with the MR compared to the MQ, a subtle difference but a difference nonetheless and suggests that perhaps there have been changes made to the DPF between the two models. I don’t know for sure, that’s just a guess having owned both back to back.
I love the subtle way this exhaust has changed the MR.
Why Pacemaker? Well, they have been manufacturing in Australia (Adelaide) for decades, they’re a family run business and they’re bloody nice people. I’ve had a tour of the factory and can attest to their clear focus on quality and ease of fitment. Why stuff around cutting and welding a cheap, thin-walled, copy exhaust from China, when you can buy the real deal, that’s made here, fits first time and lasts forever?
Loaded 4X4 Bash Plates
The stock Triton bash plates, like most stock 4WD bash plates, are crap. Having said that, I didn’t upgrade the plates on my old MQ, I just drove carefully. I did have to straighten them out a couple of times, but both times were after someone else drove the car, and well, you know how that can go. The MQ made it through some fairly serious tracks in the Flinders Ranges and Snowy Mountains, and all without doing any damage.
But, for peace of mind, and for that day when I don’t see that rock just over there, upgrading the bash plates is a good idea. If you’re unlucky, it would be possible to damage the radiator, the front diff actuator, smash the sump plug off (difficult but not impossible) and even punch a hole through the auto trans pan. You’d either be in some fairly serious terrain, and dragging the chassis cross-members over some rough ground, or just plain unlucky. It happens.
So, we teamed up with Milford Industries in Adelaide and designed our own bash plates and they’re bloody rippers. We went with 3mm mild steel – it’s the best compromise between strength and weight - that is given the Milford Armortex treatment. Armortex is a high-tech super corrosion resistant pre-treatment, undercoating and powder coating process.
We’ve increased, not decreased the amount of airflow through the plates, added a strengthening bracket for the weak factory front cross member mounts and our transfer plate is a standalone item, not just a floating extension of the gearbox plate as is the case with some other aftermarket solutions. They have a cool, beefed up OEM look and because Milford is making them, the quality of the finished product and the hardware is as good as it gets.
So now I don’t worry about ‘that rock’ when I head off-road.
ARB Long Range Fuel Tank
We wished we could sell them in our online store, but alas, they won't let us, so you'll have to sort one out with your local ARB dealer.
Not a necessity, but by crikey, once you’ve had one you’ll never go back to ‘just 75 litres’ ever again. I fitted ARB’s Frontier tank to my MR and ran a Frontier in my old MQ as well. It’s good for 120 litres, will take exactly 120 litres and the fuel gauge counts those 120 litres down perfectly.
I love the fact that it’s bullet-proof plastic and that there are no welds or seams to split or crack if impacted. It doesn’t hang down below the chassis enough to be an issue off-road and it was easy to fit in the driveway at home.
There are other options, some that hold more fuel, but I’ve never been anywhere that 120 litres weren’t enough.
You’ve got to have one if you head out on the tracks, travel in groups or just want another aerial to bolt to the bull bar. I’ve always used iCom and David has always run GME with his training vehicles. Either is good and I’m sure there are other brands worth considering as well.
The iCom I use has all of the controls and the speaker in the hand piece, so I hide the unit under the passenger seat using velcro and pull the hand piece out when I need to use it.
I ran some suitable sized cable from the starting battery, down under the car (along the chassis mostly) and up through a grommet in the floorpan about where the rear sear passenger would put their feet. It's easily accessed by removing the plastic sill trim and lifting the carpet a little.
Once the wiring is through the grommet it runs under the carpet up to around the back of the front seat, where it runs out between the back/front carpet overlap.
SupaFit Seat Covers
I’ve got a cool set of Loaded4X4 embroidered SupaFit seat covers. They’re one-offs and date back to when we were looking at selling these seat covers in our online store. They are bloody fantastic and take all the worry out of wrecking your seats. Triton front seats don’t like sliding bums, they wear prematurely and fall apart, so this is almost a must-do mod in my opinion. I’d better get onto SupaFit about getting their gear listed in our store…
And for this Tritons build th-th-th-that's all, folks!
Or is it?I’ve got a couple of products in mind that will change the way the tub can be used and how careful I do or don’t need to be off-road. Development is about to begin…