OVER THE past few months you may have noticed my maroon Land Cruiser popping up frequently in 4x4 Australia.
Those with keen eyes may have noticed a few things that just don’t add up, so it seemed appropriate I give a little background info to explain how it got to where it is today.
A few years back I was at a Toyota Hilux meeting at Lithgow, NSW, and after snapping my front diff and pretzeling my steering rod in my IFS Toyota Surf, I was rescued by another 4x4: an LC60 with a high-mount Warn hanging off the front. It was something that would inspire me years later.
This LC60 first found its way into my driveway a little over two years ago. For the reasonable price of $3500 I scored myself a 1989 FJ62 Land Cruiser with 300,000km on the clock, a tired, old petrol donk, 33-nch All Terrains, a 50mm Ironman lift, and a rear air-locker. Despite having solid foundations, its age and lack of preventative maintenance were showing through. Worn joints, missing bolts and an attention to detail that can most politely be described as non-existent had the 60 anything but adventure-ready.
The course of action was simple: Fix the stuff that needed to be fixed, upgrade what needed to be upgraded, and do it all without losing the old-school charm of what is now a classic Land Cruiser. First on the chopping block were the square headlights and fibreglass flares. They’ve always felt like a stop-gap to me, like Toyota was trying to breathe a little (1980s) modernity into something clearly designed in the 70s.
A replacement radiator support panel and front end were slotted in over the course of a weekend, with upgraded headlights and H4 globes giving the Cruiser a reasonable amount of lighting at night.
The 60 now looked how it was originally meant to look, but had the good gear from later models, including the five-speed H55F gearbox, power steering, lap-sash rear seatbelts and power options.
The next thing to grab my attention was the tired and sagging suspension. The old girl was sitting almost 50mm lower on the passenger side, so a fix was desperately needed.
My ultimate goal for the 60 was a classic-looking 4x4 with modern refinements and comfort. To this day I’ve never found a 4x4 with leaf springs on all four corners that has even a modicum of ride quality, so the choice was made to replace the tired front leaf springs with a set of King off-road racing shocks. Custom hoops in the front hold the 12in travel. 2.5in-body remote-reservoir coil-overs, with a pair of hydraulic bump-stops, ensure there are no hard hits on any unseen washouts.
The brakes and steering were both typical of a near-30-year-old 4x4, so I replaced both front and rear axles with those from a 1996 LC80. This netted me four-wheel disc brakes and much larger front CV joints, but also a vastly superior steering design and tougher steering box. The front axle is held in place by LC80 radius arms and a Panhard rod, while the rear sits on top of Dobinson 60mm lifted leaf springs.
The LC80 axles added roughly 120mm to the track width (front and rear), so the -44-offset steel wheels were replaced with 0-offset 17x8.5in Standards from Method Race Wheels. They’re wrapped in 35x12.5in Nitto Trail Grapplers, which required a 50mm body-lift to be temporarily installed due to scrubbing in the rear.
Up front there’s a custom tube bar constructed by my mate at Kinselas Kustoms. It holds up a set of Baja Designs LaPaz halogen driving lights, but more importantly houses my Warn M8274-50. The winch is wrapped in Dyneema rope and has been fully rebuilt with all the usual upgrades like a pinned free-spool, braced housing, capped brake shaft, and fill and drain plugs.
For now, the tired old 3F still has a home under the bonnet, although it’s now joined by a PWR radiator, an engine crossbrace for the coil-overs, and a new electronic ignition system from Piranha Offroad.
So far, interior upgrades are minimal, with a little sound deadening to cut down exhaust drone and a pair of leather bucket seats from an EB Falcon making things slightly more comfortable.
The 60 is starting to look the part and is more than up for a weekend camping trip or night run through the rocks, but it still needs a little work before it becomes truly adventure-ready. For starters, the diff gears need to be upgraded to handle the larger rolling stock, and the 3F is sucking down 22L/100km, so it needs to be axed for a more economical powerplant. A few extras would also make life off-road a little more comfortable, including water storage, dual batteries and a few electronic gadgets.
The 60 still has a long way to go before I’m truly happy with it, but I’ve got a near-on 30-year-old Land Cruiser with plenty of room for the family and more than enough off-road capabilities. Plus it’ll stick with most modern cars through the twisties!
DATE ACQUIRED: 2014
KM THIS MONTH: N/A
AV FUEL: 22.0L/100km