EMG Pty Ltd, the company behind the Team Isuzu D-Max precision driving team, showed they’re more than just handy drivers when they unveiled a pair of specially-constructed concept vehicles, based on the current Isuzu D-Max ute and MU-X SUV.
Making their debut at the Melbourne 4x4 and Outdoors Show this past August, the ‘Concept X’ creations are the product of more than six months work by EMG.
Vastly bigger than the 4x4s they’re based on, the Concept X duo feature aggressive, muscular styling, enormous pumped-out bodies and huge suspension lifts to accommodate massive 38 x 15.5-inch R20 Toyo Open Country Mud Terrain tyres.
It was these tyres that turned what was going to be a simple pair of accessorised Isuzus into bespoke behemoths. “It was the tyres that got us started, following a throw-away comment made at a 4WD show,” explained Team D-Max lead driver Jack Monkhouse. “We saw some gigantic tyres on the Toyo stand and Wayne joked about putting a set on his company car!”
‘Wayne’ is Wayne Boatwright, EMG Director and owner of the Team D-Max squad that entertains crowds at 4x4 shows, ag shows and other events throughout Australia with their precision driving displays. What started as a joke became a light-bulb moment for the team and set them on a mission to build the ultimate double act.
“It certainly got a bit out of control,” laughed Wayne, “but once we’d started, we were determined to make them special. We didn’t set out to build a racer or pre-runner or rock crawler, or yet another version of the ultimate 4WD tourer.
“It would have been easy just to bolt on a lot of accessories, but we really wanted to go our own way, so most of the build; the guards, bull bars, bonnet, brakes, suspension and chassis mods, are all in-house custom work.”
Impressively, all those bespoke panels, including the tray, are formed from steel or alloy, with each piece shaped and finished to a high standard that can only really be appreciated when you see these machines up close. Fortunately, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to do that, as EMG plan on taking the Concept X duo to 4x4 shows and other events nationwide.
While retaining the operational diesel engines and the fully-functional interior of the regular D-Max and MU-X, the Concept X pair will remain as static displays, with the action work, like jumps and two-wheel driving, handled by a set of D-Max utes with only minimal modifications
At the Melbourne 4x4 Show, Monkhouse was taking show visitors for two-wheel rides in the close-to-production spec D-Max all weekend, while the popular ‘Iron Summit’ – that demonstrates the D-Max and MU-X’s hill-climbing and hill-holding ability - was also in action. “We’ve used different vehicle brands throughout the team’s history, but Isuzu’s truck DNA sets them apart from the rest,” Wayne explained.
“Their diesel engines are simply the best in the business and the whole package has been outstanding in terms of reliability. The performance vehicles are close to showroom spec and get jumped, bumped and driven on two wheels, week in, week out. We really want to show people how capable they are without having to go crazy with modifications. “The Concept X duo is a bit on the wild side, though - they’re a bit like the evil cousins of the family,” Wayne laughed.
The Concept X pair would look at home in the next ‘Transformers’ movie, says Team EMG, but the JUST 4x4s crew, along with a number of Melbourne 4x4 Show visitors who pored over the vehicles all weekend, reckon they could be the ultimate Dakar machines, ready to blast their way through everything that that extreme rally raid can throw at it.
While the Concept X Isuzus look cool, they’re not just a bunch of bespoke panels. The spec sheet includes functional front and rear winches, as well as a bespoke suspension package with 60mm remote reservoir shock absorbers.
On the D-Max-based Concept X, that full-alloy tray attracted a lot of attention, but savvy showgoers noticed that underneath it, the ute’s standard rear leaf spring suspension had been replaced with a custom, MU-X style 5-link independent coil spring arrangement.
Combined with the big tyres and seven inches of suspension lift, Team EMG says the approach and departure angles steepen from the production D-Max’s best of 30.0 and 22.7 degrees to an impressive 50 and 38 degrees, respectively.
Breakover angle is not listed, but at that ride height, about the only thing that could hang up the D-Max Concept X is its MU-X Concept X companion! For ultimate stopping power, each vehicle also features a high performance four-wheel disc brake package that combines six-piston calipers with 390mm full floating rotors at the front and four-piston calipers with 355mm full floating rotors at the rear.
Both Concept X vehicles retain the 4JJ1-TC 3-litre diesel engine and 6-speed automatic transmissions of the vehicles they’re based on, but the exhaust systems have been tweaked to suit. Interiors remain unchanged, but Team EMG and Isuzu staffers at the unveiling hinted that a full makeover for the cabin may be next on the list.
Concept X on tour
Following their debut at the Melbourne 4x4 Show, the Concept X will join Team EMG at shows around the country so check out the Team EMG website – teamdmax.com.au – for more information on the Concept X and when these vehicles will beat an event near you. Special thanks to Isuzu Ute Australia and Team D-Max for assistance with this article.
Words: Mike Ryan Photos: Isuzu Team D-Max