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Project for Toyota fans rebuilds more than an old Hilux

It was the ultimate accolade for Toyota New Zealand when a competition seeking much-loved trucks in dire need of refurbishment uncovered Rolleston’s Rubecca Soper-Hazlett and decades of Hilux history. ­­

The 34-year-old Hilux bought brand new by Rubecca’s father in 1982 was chosen as the deserving winner of the ‘Give Your Lux Some Luv’ competition, offering entrants the chance to win $20,000 worth of upgrades.

“When we launched the competition, we were hoping to find a Hilux that reflected its 40 years of hard work and dedication to New Zealand” said Andrew Davis, Toyota New Zealand’s general manager of marketing.

“We were overwhelmed by the entries and the stories about Kiwis and their Hilux; some great tales, epic adventures and times of hardship people’s Hilux had gone through and why they deserved a revamp. It was tough to pick a winner but Rubecca’s story was a standout and the restoration was about far more than just the Hilux itself”.

At first, Rubecca’s story seemed familiar; she had grown up with it, learnt to drive in it and was her father’s noble stead on the farm until he passed. Her mother sold it in 1999 and the truck went from owner to owner before aligning with its, then destiny, to rot in a paddock.

However, it was the labour of love that saw Rubecca’s husband undertake a 620 km trip and four years of elbow-grease to return the vehicle to a road-worthy state as a wedding anniversary gift that set their story apart.

With 195,000kms on the odometer and known as ‘Granddads truck’ in the Soper-Hazlett household, Rubecca’s heart-warming plea to restore the vehicle to its ‘legendary’ former glory and remain fit and strong for her children to grow up with was one Toyota New Zealand could not turn down.

“I was asked to take it to Miles Toyota in Christchurch for assessment and when I got there I was told I had won. They took the old ute off me and gave me a new one to use in its place,” said Rubecca.

With an extensive overhaul of restoration underway, a nervous Rubecca ensured that Toyota New Zealand and the team remained respectful of the truck’s heritage without replacing the character which had made the vehicle an integral member of the family.

“The prize was based around $20,000 worth of upgrades but once our team and wider supplier family heard about Rubecca’s story it became all about giving the truck the ‘Luv’ it deserved and we were stoked with the final result - a huge thanks to everyone involved and we look forward to hearing about Granddad’s truck for many more years,” says Davis. 

After six weeks and changes to the structural integrity, signature improvements included retro tan upholstery, a ‘Granddad’s Truck’ motif painted onto the driver’s door and a new paint job using the original white base with the iconic 1982 yellow, orange and red decals across the bonnet and doors.

Rubecca received the keys to her transformed 1982 Hilux at Miles Toyota in Christchurch earlier this month – the result being ‘beyond her wildest expectations’.

“It was a bit emotional and a bit of a shock. It’s like a new truck, but the bones of the ’82 model are still there. Some bits have been upgraded. It’s got a new stereo and central locking. That’s hugely functional. Dad would’ve loved to have some of the accessories it’s got now,” says Rubecca.

As part of the refurbishment, the Hilux has been stripped with new panels fitted as necessary. New headlining and carpet, dashboard cover and modern seat belts were installed.

While the engine, transmission and hydraulics have had a complete service and a new exhaust system built from scratch. A new tray with sides and a customised cover and storage box was fitted, together with a stronger tow bar, while the bull bar was straightened and a bash guard was added.

 “It’s fit for another generation of adventures with our kids.”