4WDING, CAMPING,CARAVANING, ADVENTURING...& A BLOODY GOOD LAUGh
Custom HZJ105R 100 SERIES LANDCRUISER
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK ALLEN
JACK OF ALL TRADES
Recovery vehicle, tow truck, test bed, long distance tourer, rock climber, work truck and family hack – Mark Allen’s Cruiser tackles it all
It’s a tall order to ask any one 4x4 to excel at all facets of the offroad world, but our very own Mark Allen reckons he’s ticked all the boxes with this dinosaur-engined 100 Series (HZJ105R) Land Cruiser.
From winching and snatching busted trucks out of magazine photo shoots, hauling all manner of camper trailers and caravans around the country side - all for that perfect photo, trying to avoid rock rash while tip-toeing through angry boulders and floating over powder-soft sand or plugging though mud that sticks like ‘you know what’ to a shovel; this Cruiser has to tackle all of that and more on a regular basis. What could possibly be more you may well bellow? Try carting a tribe of kids around the country side – those plane-Jane vinyl floors really come in to their own when it comes time for a clean.
Once hosed off though, the big Cruiser is still perfectly street drivable to tackle the shopping centres, drop the kids at school and is just as easily driven by the good (non-mechanically-minded) wife. Now, that’s one big ‘must-do’ as far as I’m concerned: I’ve spoken with many custom vehicle owners over the years who mention they’d never let their fairer halves drive their truck for fear of cooking the over-boosted turbo system, rolling the unstable, over-suspended gangly-looking setup or even for fear of breaking down. We have none of those fears with this ever-reliable setup, although (unfortunately) we did suffer one major break down that was totally non-related to any of the mods that have been done. Rather it was a silly design fault of Toyota – gotta blame someone eh… but more on that later.
This Cruiser you see, is owned by 4x4 Australia’s Mark Allen, who strangely (or cleverly – depending on where you sit) enough, given he has access to the industries latest and greatest gizmo’s, chooses to keep it mild rather than wild. It’s not packed full of the latest high tech electronic gadgets, it hasn't had an engine conversion and certainly doesn't stand tall amongst some others we've seen on the tracks. Nope, this sensibly accessorised Cruiser has everything it needs to do its job – both during and after business hours – and not a skerrick more to weigh it down.
That’s been a major consideration too; the weighty issue of over-accessorising for the sake of it; being sensible with accessories is an art form these days with the plethora of gimmicky bits and pieces available for many vehicles – many not worth their weight in two-bob-plastic!
That’s not to say this wallowing Cruiser is any lightweight; unfortunately, some of the most-needed parts are pretty heavy in their own right, but well worth it in the long run. That’s where careful planning and foresight helps to choose the right parts while making allowances for that extra weight.
Starting from the ground up, Mark opted for reasonably heavy-duty 2-inch raised Tough Dog coils both front and rear, together with 9-stage adjustable Tough Dog 45mm shocks and Polyair air bag inserts for the rear coils. The all-round adjustability of the ride (via the shocks) and the load carrying (via the Polyairs and coils) was the foundation of the whole build-up. This set up provides plenty of suspension flexibility on the harder tracks, firmness for good on-road driveability, plus good load carrying ability while towing and packed to the gunnels without resulting in the sagging-rear-end syndrome.
The Tough Dog adjustable steering damper also helps with the weighty larger 285/75R16 Cooper ST rubber that’s wrapped around the alloy CSA Stampede 16 inch rims – they’re a 16x8 with a 5/150 PCD and 0 offset for those that really must know.
To help the Cruiser get over the ‘wonders’, an ARB polyurethane 2 degree caster kit has been added to the front control arms. So, does the whole show steer dead perfect – nup, not at all, but it’s pretty good considering the offroad orientated, deep treaded rubber, taller flexible coils and the extra weight of the rear ARB dual wheel carrier aboard. While having two spares aboard all the time may seem like a little overkill, given the use this Cruiser gets it’s good precautionary insurance to avert holding up jobs out in the scrub too long should a tyre pop, plus having that second spare does bode well with security for the family while out in the boondocks.
To ensure maximum ‘go-forward’ drive is passed down to the rubber, front and rear manually operated TJM ProLocker diff locks have been fitted together with an under bonnet-mounted air compressor, to which can be connected an extra air hose for tyre inflation duties.
Leading the way through the long country drives in the dead of night is a set of HID NARVA spotties, which are fitted to an ARB steel winch bar. This bar also is resting place for a GME UHF antenna that is hooked up to an ICOM IC400proo UHF radio. A Warn XDC (Extreme Duty Cycle) 9500lbs winch with wire rope serves duty for recovering vehicles and… stuck cows from mud baths believe it or not! While this winch may not be the fastest on the block, it does pack plenty of pulling power and hey… Mark’s not in any competition-type-hurry, plus the water and dust proof contactor pack is far more reliable than the older-style solenoids found in many other winches.
The (aforementioned) rear ARB wheel carrier carts two 33 inch spare wheels and, while not designed to do so, also serves as a step up to the mis-matched roof rack setup of three Rhino commercial cross bars with a rather crudely attached full length aluminium rack bed left over from one of Marks previous 4x4’s. That rack… umm…Mark looks down in amusement (or embarrassment)… was temporarily put up there about six years ago and has served so well that it’s become a permanent fixture and is a talking point to all that notice how it’s attached – sorry no happy snaps of this… the camera battery mysteriously went flat!
While I've been part of many engine transplant stories – both V8 petrol and replacement diesels, many of which are simply brilliant – I've chosen to stick with the old dinosaur-aged, sleepy 1HZzzzzz factory naturally aspirated diesel engine, albeit with a huge increase in oomph via a DTS water cooled Mitsubishi TDO5H turbo and top mount intercooler that incorporates a stainless steel heat guard and a GU Patrol bonnet scoop to direct the air into the horizontally positioned radiator. A 3-inch mandrel bent Beaudesert exhaust system with ‘straight through’ muffler completes the power up system and returns a nice engine and turbo note without being too intrusive or annoying to the good wife’s sensitive ears. All up, this prehistoric engine has been safely upped from just 95Kw of power and 260Nm of torque at the flywheel to an impressive 153Kw and 430Nm – that’s just over a 60 percent increase and a set up that hasn't returned a single ounce of problem in almost 70,000km of use.
While the turboed 1HZ used to breathe through a washable / reusable K&N air filter, I've since reverted to good ol’ replaceable paper units – not that there’s anything wrong with the washable versions, but I couldn't be bothered washing them and am just as happy putting a totally clean new one in each time.
Under the bonnet a secondary AGM deep cycle Fullriver 120 amp hour battery is squeezed into a custom made battery holder and is charged via a Projecta 150 amp battery (smart) isolator. That battery provides up to (about) four days power to the 20 year old 40 litre Engel fridge that usually resides in the rear cargo area. The homemade steel tube frame incorporates the fridge slide and a top shelf that has proved invaluable for storing camp chairs, a solar panel, Max Trax and also gets stuffed full of pillows and blankets when the family tags along. The Milford cargo barrier sees that none of that gear finds its way onto the kids’ heads.
To help protect the sills from rock rash and to help with ingress into the higher riding cabin, I’ve had a custom set of sliders / steps grafted to the chassis rails by Macquarie 4x4. These steps are plenty strong enough to ahmm… jack off… on and are upswept to enhance ground clearances.
While I’d like to get better fuel consumption (who wouldn't) I’m generally happy with the 13 to 14L/100km (not towing) – not great but okay for such a large, heavy 4x4.
As far as what extra parts I’d like to see bolted on; better seats are at the top of the list, followed by a set of LED bar lights to throw out more light to the sides, an air tank and I should really fix that roof rack set up.
There’s no doubting there are tougher, more hard core weapons out there, so too are there better highway performers as well as far superior fuel-feasting engines, but ya know what… I reckon that after 70,000km of hard service, it really is a Jack-of-all trades and damn near master of every single one.
PROBLEMS, LET DOWNS AND FAILURES
An Airtec snorkel and diff breather extensions have been fitted to allow for safer wading, although one unfortunate incident saw the mighty Cruiser flat towed for major surgery after the fan blade ripped the radiator apart. The said water crossing wasn't all that deep, but the steep, soft sand bank at the exit, combined with towing a camper trailer, saw several attempts at conquering. With the reversing into the water after each failed attempt, the fan blade struck the water, twisted forward and gave the old radiator several extra water outlets – which led to overheating and a cracked head.
Now, this is where I’ll throw a little blame Toyota’s way; did you know that Toyota have in fact three different fan blades for the 100 Series LandCruiser – each of which may or may not have been fitted to any 100 Series from any country? All three are the same size, have the same number of blades (eight) and are interchangeable into the standard central fan hub. But, the one huge difference is the flexibility of each fans blades with some almost able to be pushed by hand into the radiator and some much stiffer. For anyone else that pedals a 100 Series, have a look on your fan blades for a coloured paint dot about the size of a 5 to 10 cent piece – it’ll be either blue (the most flexible one and what I had) or yellow or red (the more rigid options). Needless to say, once I found the problem I swapped over and have never had that problem again, but of course, do use a water blind if wading through very deep water.
Tyre wise, I’ve only had a single puncture in the big Coopers – a damn nail through the tread!
The dodgy cheap bucket seats I’m using have been re-upholstered once already due to the internal foam falling to bits and are getting close to needing another upgrade – perhaps they’ll get the flick and I’ll try a better set to help support the aging back.
Due to their oversized outer body diameter, the Tough Dog shocks just, and I mean only ‘just’ touch the sway bar arm at full flex. It’s nothing to worry about bar a bit of paint scratched off and doesn’t affect the workings of either the shock or the sway bar.
Other than that, I’m happy to report no other failings or major problems and would happily rebuild an identical truck if the need arose, albeit I’d probably go for a GXL rather than the standard barn-doored wagon to incorporate a few little luxuries like electric windows and central door locking – yep, I’m still winding the windows up and down manually and that’s a bit of a pain with little kids in the back seats. Being able to do it from the driver’s seat would be brilliant; so too would the ability to unlock all four doors at once instead of walking around them all – technology… ain't it great!