Toyota LandCruiser LC200: Custom 4x4

Toyota LandCruiser LC200: Custom 4x4

WHEN you first lay eyes on what is inarguably the neatest 200 Series Land Cruiser in Australia, the only word that can do it justice is perhaps one of the most overused: Perfect.

We’re not using that word lightly. In fact, we spent hours poring over Cale Walton’s immaculate LC200 trying to think of another angle, some other detail that makes it stand head and shoulders above the crowd. We couldn’t. Nothing sums it up better than that one word.

It’s not perfect in the way some other 4x4s have earned the title. It’s not the kind of bus that can rock-bounce with the best of them without turning vital components into a slurry of gear oil and metal shards. It’s not the fastest in the whoops, capable of leaping tall washouts in a single bound. It’s not even the most modified LC200 we’ve seen.

Custom Cruiser LC200 rearBut every single modification, alteration and customisation has been so thoroughly researched and meticulously planned that the end result is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a mechanical work of art very few will ever fully appreciate.

If it sounds like we’re exaggerating, it’s because it’s hard to put into words just how rare it is for a build of this calibre to fall into place the first time around. It’s a testament to the careful planning of Cale, and the organisational skills of his wife Krystal, who makes things happen when Cale’s off working the gas lines.

We’ll kick things off at the logical starting point: the very front of the 4x4. There’s a growing trend among late-model 4x4 owners to work with the design of their vehicle rather than against it – form and function working together. With that mindset, Cale searched high and low for a bullbar that’d give him the protection needed for remote touring, without covering up the instantly recognisable styling of the 200.

Custom LC200 front bullbarHe found it at the end of a lengthy import process, with an Ultima bar coming from Viper 4x4 in Venezuela. Shoehorned inside the bar is an Ox winch that’s best described as un-killable.

Cale laughingly assured us he’s never found himself on the business end of it, but it’s seen countless use recovering others or dragging fallen trees off the tracks. An LED light bar from Rigid Industries keeps it company on the Cruiser’s front.

Down each side is a pair of Viper 4x4 heavy-duty sidesteps that provide easier entry and exit without trekking mud inside. Cale says they’re more than strong enough to protect the sills, having taken the Cruiser’s full weight more than a few times in their life.

Custom LC200 rear drivingIn an unconventional move, the spare tyre still lives in the stock location. To keep the rear panel and quarter panels in one piece, a colour-coded Kaymar rear bar resides down back.

The protection package is rounded out with a full set of TJM bash plates guarding the vital, and somewhat exposed, components underneath.

Cale has run Mickey Thompson MTZs for years, including on his rock-crawling-orientated GU IV Patrol that the 200 replaced. So it’s no surprise to see them shoehorned inside the LC200’s wheel arches. They measure in at a somewhat common 33 inches tall and 12.5 inches wide, but there’s an 18-inch hole inside to suit the black Monster XD alloy wheels.

Custom Cruiser LC200 undercarriageTo make room for the larger tyres, the 200 is sitting 50mm higher, thanks to a spring and shock package from Tough Dog. And, as with most things Cale does, it wasn’t a ‘throw it in and hope for the best’ sort of arrangement. Up front, the upper control arms have been replaced by Superior Engineering units that correct both camber and castor, with spherical bearings up top for increased articulation.

The rear has copped a similar treatment, with a Superior Engineering Panhard rod re-aligning the rear axle in the centre, while heavy-duty Superior Engineering lower control arms replaced the weak factory offerings.

The exterior package is finished off with two very simple additions. On the roof a Rhino Pioneer Platform rack provides a lightweight storage solution, but the Airtec snorkel from TJM is where things get really interesting. 

Custom LC200 driving through waterFollowing the snorkel down the roof and through the front ’guard leads to a trick sheet-metal airbox and custom intake piping put there by the guys at Fingers Fabrication & Machining. The new airbox works hand-in-hand with the twin three-inch stainless exhaust that Cale had custom-built to help the 4.5-litre V8 turbo-diesel breathe easier.

The engine package has come a long way since it first rolled off the manufacturing line. Cale had the guys at Just Autos Mechanical Repairs in Nambour, Queensland, put together an engine package with their HKS F-CON iD diesel fuel computers.

In a world-first, the team replaced the stock LC200 computer with twin HKS units (one for each cylinder bank). The ECU package, along with larger injectors and tuning, has netted Cale’s Cruiser a monstrous 315rwhp (235kW) and 900Nm – a 20 per cent and 40 per cent gain respectively.

Toyota Land Cruiser LC200 engineCale added a 70-litre auxiliary diesel tank from Long Ranger to keep the 200 going longer between stops. Despite the huge power gains, the only negative effect Cale notices is the relays from the torque converter lock-up being too slow to engage, causing the HKS ECUs to flag a fault. The new computers are literally too fast for the TC lock-up to keep up with.

However, an upgrade to solid-state relays should rectify that soon. The rest of the drivetrain remains stock for now, although front and rear diff centres now house ELockers from Harrop, something Cale says “just work”.

With leather trim and NVH levels that’d rival most high-end luxo-barges, interior modifications have been kept simple and tasteful. Up front there’s nothing more than a simple stereo upgrade. The rear treatment has been a little more heavy-handed, though.

Custom LC200 storageThe cargo area is now home to a storage system from Black Widow, with a full-length drawer on one side and a pull-out fridge slide on the other holding the Engel. It’s kept running for extended periods of time by twin Fullriver batteries and a Redarc BCDC1225 charger from the team at JTS at Caloundra.

It’s hard to point to one single aspect as this build’s defining piece. There’s no crazy engine set-up, no wild camping set-up and no desert-race-inspired suspension. Instead, this is a well-thought-out and meticulously planned build. Each piece complements the rest perfectly, and the end result is a 4x4 that just flat-out works.

It’s a stylish tourer that can keep up with the best of them, with plenty of power and factory reliability. It proves that when you fit the right gear in the right way, a modified vehicle can be better than stock in every single way.

Custom LC200 front driving 2

CASTOR WHAT?

EVER pushed a shopping trolley around with one bung wheel that constantly sends the trolley into orbit? It’s the result of castor, or the relationship between the top and bottom mounting points of a front wheel. In a live-axle 4x4 it’s the difference between the top and bottom kingpin bearings; on independent suspension it’s the upper and lower ball joints. When the suspension is lifted as little as 50mm, it can throw that angle right out of whack, causing twitchy steering, tracking, and all sorts of dangerous issues. Aftermarket control arms, castor plates, drop arms and offset bushes are all bolt-on ways of getting it back into spec.

Get the latest info on all things 4X4 Australia by signing up to our newsletter.