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Rambo Penguin's Gen 3 Montero Build

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Rambo Penguin:
I wanted to start a build thread for my 2003 mitsubishi montero limited. I picked this one up for $3,500 with 146,000 miles on it. Only 2 owners before me, well maintained and documented, and it appears that it had never been taken off road.

I’m very excited about this build! I’ve been inspired by other forum members to make this rig awesome. This is actually my first time building up a truck and i’m excited to learn and grow along the way. My hope is that this thread will serve as its own share of inspiration for others as well as offer a little how-to knowledge. I’ll try to keep it interesting. I also will include prices for everything I do. I’m on a budget, my money is worth more than my time and this build will likely show it. Hopefully by the end i’ll have something I have a lot of time and love into and still have enough cash to pay for gas to get me lost in the mountains :)

I’ll start with goals and purpose. My goal is to build a very capable overlanding/camping rig for me and my wife. It needs to drive at 75 MPH on the highway for days at a time and then be able to jump into the dirt and light trails to take us to camping spots, sweet views and mountain tops. I want to put a drawer system in the back with storage for quick camping set up, lots of lights, and a sleeping platform so that we can camp inside. I’m not building a rock crawler. This is also going to be my daily driver for the foreseeable future, so it needs to be very streetable.

So now that I’ve got that out of the way.. Let’s start building!

Rambo Penguin:
First steps

First thing I did after getting the truck was swap out the firestone destination street tires for some Goodyear Wrangler Kevlar A/Ts. Same size as stock 265/70 R16. I opted to get to stay stock on rims and tires because I want to get some miles under my belt before i start changing the dimensions (lift and tire sizes). The wranglers give me the performance edge I need off road as well as good streetability.

With the tires came a few extra things: Removed the spare tire cover, remove factory side steps, tinted the front two windows to match the rest and paint the stock rims black with plasti dip.

Rambo Penguin:
Next up I added cross bars to the stock roof rack. I picked up some Thule adjustable cross bars and they fit perfectly. I added a BVG roof rack. Itís about 50Ē long by 40Ē wide and fits the roof space behind my sunroof. My plan is to add 3 sets of lights to the rack for camping and driving. More to come on that later.

Rambo Penguin:
On to some cosmetic stuff. My least favorite part about the Gen 3 monteros is there front end. So I wanted to modify the grill to give it a more modern and simple look. Iíve always been a fan of the simple metal mesh grill. So i broke out the dremel and got to work removing the plastic. I cut the bigger pieces off with a hacksaw and then used the dremel to sand down rough edges. Next I spray painted the chrome trim black and also touched up the newly sanded edges. I also painted the factory mesh and emblem black. After everything dried i attached the mesh with the factory mounting points and some zip ties :) i used double sided tape and emblem glue to attach the triple diamond right in the center. Back on the truck it goes. And now itís looking more modern and less ugly!

Stock grill as it was..

Back side of the grill with the mesh. I will reuse the mesh

Mocked up

Cut and paint

And done!

The emblem is much more visible in real life. Hides nicely enough to give it a true mesh look but still show off the branding.

Rambo Penguin:
Next big step is the stereo. Car audio was my first love when it came to building and modifying cars. Iíve had trunks filled with woofers, dual amplifiers, and installed tens of stereos in friends cars over the years. But for this build i wanted to keep it simple: no sub box to move in and out of the car, no amp racks taking up cargo space, no need to run sound dampener throughout the entire interior. I just wanted quality sound and easy interface.

Headunit: Pioneer NEX 1300
I chose this HU because I really wanted apple carplay. Iíve used it in the past and it makes interfacing with my phone and apps super simple.

In order to fit the double din unit i needed to relocate the climate controls to the lower slot of the center dash (where the 6 cd changer once lived). This is very easy to do and does not require anything more than unscrewing and rescrewing the unit into the different bay. After that was out of the way stereo install was pretty straight forward. I used the factory amp to power the front and rear speakers and attached a new set of RCAís for the aftermarket sub amp. One of my favorite things that I did was run the USB input cable into my top glove box. I drilled a hole in the rear of the box and covered the edges with a rubber ring to hide the hole and also keep the USB wire from falling behind the dash. Now, whenever i get into my car for a drive, i attach my phone to the USB cable, tuck it into my glove box, shut it and drive. I can do everything I need to from my HU. This means i wonít be looking at my phone at stop lights or even worseÖ when iím driving, and it will keep me and others safer on the roads. It also keeps my cockpit area very tity. Safe and functional is a win for me.

Front speakers: Focal is165
Rear speakers: Focal ic165
These speakers are 6 ĺĒ which is larger than the 5 ĹĒ stock speakers. I have pictures for comparison. The focals fit the opening just find and only required a little tweaking to get them to fit. I was only able to use 3 screws to mount them but it should be fine. I liner the speaker hole with a single sheet of sound dampener just for good measure and called it good.

All the components lined up. Old on the top, new on the bottom

An interesting note: Initially I had installed the component speakers in the traditional and recommended wiring order: stock speaker wire into the back of the woofer, then the tweeter wire feeds off of the woofer terminals, runs through a small crossover and up to the tweeter. When I first installed the speakers I was getting little to no sound out of the tweeters and the front speakers were noticeably less crisp than the rears. I went back and disconnected the tweeters from the focal woofer, and instead wired them directly up to the factor lines that were used by the original stock tweeters. This brought the tweeters to life and the sound clarity, quality and volume went way up. Apparently there is a factory crossover somewhere in the factory amplifier that only sends lower frequency notes to the woofer and higher frequencies to the tweeter. When the tweeters were attached to the focal woofers they were trying to play high frequencies that were already being filtered out by the factory amp (hence the lack of sound and quality). This is actually a very smart system and iím pleased with how it turned out, but I had never encountered it before and found it quite puzzling at first.

Here is how i initially had it hooked up, with the woofer part of the speaker connected to the tweeter using the component speakers crossover..

And here is how it is now, with the tweeters plugged directly into the factory tweeter wires. Sound it crips and clear. Although I do get a little bit of annoying white noise out of the tweeters.

Subwoofer: JL 8W3V3-4
Sub amp JL lx250/1
My original intentions were actually to leave the factory sub alone.. But after just a few days of having the aftermarket HU installed i blew the stock sub to smithereens. So i figured, if iím going to do all the work to replace it, i might as well make it better. I have had JL subs and amps in the past and think they are the best bang for buck out there. Some things I read on the interwebs said that removing the rear panel was a pain, but i found it to be quiet manageable. Itís mostly plastic snaps with a few screws here and there. Chances are if you are pulling on something and it doesnít budge, there is a screw holding it down somewhere. Once inside the panel I went a little nuts. The stock sub is just open in the body panel, which has lots of holes in it. This is not good for quality as an aftermarket sub is going to like a specific size and internal dimensions. I knew I wasnít going to be able to get it perfect because i was working with pre existing space. So I started by lining the whole area with sound dampener and trying my best to seal up all of the holes in the body panels. After a long battle with the side panel, clearance issues, cutting and modding, I finally gave up. I wasnít getting the sound quality, power, volume, or really anything good out of the sub. It rattled like crazy, wasnít timed correctly, and was too quiet to even tell i had it on sometimes. So i threw it back in the factory box (which i should have tried first) and it blew me away. Amazing quality, power, hits every note well, boomy and punchy. And itís small enough that i can pack gear and stuff around it or take it out with one hand if i need. So now i have a very well dampened void with some perminate panel cuts in the side of my truckÖ but fear not! I think it will make an awesome auxiliary power panel later on down the road :)

Stock ďsubĒ next to the new JL 8Ē

My best attempt to fit the speaker involved a ĹĒ spacer i made from MDF. Even with this spacer the sub magnet hit the back wall of the opening and stuck out so much that I had to cut the plastic panel

And finally gave up and put it back in here. Itís better this way

Nothing special for the amp. Itís really small so i tucked it up under the passenger side seat. Hides under there well and still gives me access to the amp controls.

Alright enough nerding out about stereo stuff, on the the rest of the build!


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