Fitting big tyres under this 200 Series for increased ability required a flair for engineering and the vision to make it happen.
Those zany Icelanders have a lot to answer for when it comes to wildly modified 4X4s.
Seemingly otherwise standard 4X4 utes and wagons roam the streets of the capital, Reykjavik, and the nearby highland glaciers and snowfields wearing anything from 37 to 54-inch balloon tyres. Everything from Suzuki Jimnys and Hyundai Terracans to massive Ford F-Trucks cop the same treatment, and many of the best big-boot builds come from local company Arctic Truck (AT). AT sprung to worldwide fame when it prepared the Toyota HiLuxes for the Poms from Top Gear to drive to the North Pole, but it also builds all sorts of fat-tyred creations for specialist agencies operating in polar regions.
Perth’s Steve Doggett couldn’t live much further from anywhere with snow and ice problems, but when it came time to equip his 200 Series LandCruiser with bigger wheels and tyres, he sought expertise from the tiny island in the far north Atlantic Ocean.
“After owning a string of 4X4s, HSVs, etc, I wanted something with comfort, performance and off-road ability all in one. The 200 almost had what I was after and nothing else came close,” recalls Steve.
He searched high and low for a new turbo-diesel Sahara and contemplated flying to the east coast to buy one. Then this used 2008 model turned up for sale locally — well local if you consider the alternative was the east coast — and the soon-to-be previous owner agreed to drive it the 500-kilometres to deliver it. Done deal!
But Steve’s love of the 200 in its standard form was short lived. “After bogging the new 200 on the beach and thinking how easily my old 80 would get through this, I decided I needed bigger tyres,” says Steve. “I also was not that fond of the 200’s side styling … the modifications seed was planted.”
Steve’s 80 ran 35s under a five-inch suspension lift and, with a turbocharged 6.5-litre GM diesel under its bonnet, there wasn’t a lot of terrain that could stop it. Modifying the older LandCruiser to accept such tyres was relatively simple, but doing the same to the modern and more complex 200 Series required a bit more thought.
An aircraft engineer by day, Steve has an eye for technical detail and the talents to put it into metal. When researching options for bigger rubber, he was drawn to the Icelandic creations.
“I approached and corresponded with Arctic Trucks in Iceland. Their flares are nice, but they are plastic so they are harder to modify. Their flare kit alone cost over $4000, and then there are the rims and you have to send your truck to Iceland to have them do the modification as they won’t send them [the flares] to you!”
There was no way the 200 would sit over 35s without flares, so Steve found a solution from another Icelandic company, Fjallasport, which does a flare kit for the 200 in fibreglass at about a third of the cost of the AT equivalent. The flares are dual-layer fibreglass and bond on with a flat lip. Being fibreglass, they would be easier to cut, reshape and modify as required.
“Fjallasport were the first to do flares on the 200. They do some big mods and have flares for many vehicles, as using 44- to 54-inch tyres is normal for them.”
Steve ordered a flare kit and a set of AT wheels from Fjallasport, but soon struck his first problem. “Icelandic post is a tad slow. I received the first pair of wheels after about three weeks and had to wait a further month for the rest. I must have phoned my wife 50 times asking ‘Have they arrived yet?’, and received 49 ‘No’s in response.”
With his flares and two wheels in the Southern Hemisphere, Steve set about the task of fitting them. While waiting for the kit he had an Old Man Emu suspension kit fitted to the Cruiser by ARB to give the required 50mm lift in ride height. He also fitted air bags in the rear coils and, with 15psi pumped into them, the lift goes to around 80mm at the back.
The alloy wheels measure 17x10-inches and are fitted with Mickey Thompson MTZ 315/70R17 rubber. The 35mm offset rims widen the 200’s wheel track by around 50mm. They fitted the vehicle with the raised suspension, but hung out of the factory guards, and full suspension compression wasn’t possible. The Sahara has Toyota’s impressive KDSS, so there’s plenty of articulation and this is retained with the ARB suspension. Fitting the flares would cover the tyres, but only taking to the guards with a jigsaw would allow full travel.
Cutting into a near-new $100k Cruiser takes balls and plenty of skill. Steve made up templates and took the well-tested approach of measure twice and cut once to get it right. Full clearance also required modifications to the inner guards, which required a strip-out of the 200’s cargo area and special care taken with the rear aircon system. The front and inner guards were cut about 60mm higher, and the rears 30mm. The bottom edge of the flares sit close to the same height as the standard guards, but about 100mm further out allowing clearance for the tyres with full suspension travel. The flares themselves are bolted and bonded to the factory sheet metal using stainless steel fasteners.
The reason Steve wanted fibreglass flares and not plastic was to make them easier to modify and/or repair after the inevitable brush with the Aussie bush. Modifications were needed to clear the bullbar as the flares are not made to accommodate one. The Cruiser has an ARB Deluxe winch bar, and the front edge of the flares had to be reshaped to suit. Steve also made up and colour-coded some fibreglass extensions to continue the profile of the flare on to the bar for a more seamless look.
Around the same time as Steve finished the flares, the second pair of wheels arrived so the tyres were fitted ASAP and the combo bolted onto the Cruiser to see how it looked. The result was just what Steve was after. Not only did it give more clearance for the bigger tyres, but the flares break up the slab-sided look of the 200 and the finished product is even a bit 80 Series retro. It’s a great look for the mammoth LC200 and we can see it catching on here in Australia.
Also about this time, a genuine Toyota Accessories snorkel arrived in the post from Japan. This snorkel isn’t offered here — hence Steve’s need to import it — but he needed it to fit over the flare on the front guard. While the aftermarket snorkels used on most Aussie Cruisers sit low, the import sits high on the guard and wouldn’t fit with the flares. More cutting and drilling of the factory sheet metal was needed, but after the job done, fitting the flares was no problem.
After the wheel, tyre and flare combination, the other modifications to this Cruiser seem run-of-the-mill and follow the traditional Aussie outback tourer route. In the ARB bar is a Tigerz-II 12,000lb winch with synthetic rope. An ARB air compressor sits in one of the bullbar wings and a pair of Lightforce XGT HID spotties improves the odds in wildlife roulette. A low-profile WindCheetah roof rack is fitted up top to carry extra load.
Under the bonnet is that sweet 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel, but Steve was used to the 80’s 6.5-litre V8 oiler, so has tweaked the new version for more grunt. A ceramic coated, stainless steel exhaust system from Taipan XP uses twin three-inch pipes with high-flow cats and merges into a single four-inch muffler. Steve says that the exhaust system delivers a great note without any resonance in the cabin.
To make the most of the free-flowing exhaust, a Chipit programmable control module is used. This gives multiple settings that are selectable on the run from a switch in the cabin. Tuned on the dyno, the high performance setting delivers 808Nm at 2655rpm and 242kW at 3200rpm. That’s up from the factory 650Nm and 195kW.
Still under the bonnet, the factory batteries have been replaced with N70s and rewired in parallel with a Redarc isolator and in-cab override control, for when the winch is used. A separate heavy-duty wiring loom runs from the auxiliary battery to the back of the cargo area where there is a fuse block, extra 12V power outlets and a 600W inverter, all tucked neatly behind the factory panels. A Black Widow cargo drawer system is on the cards for future installation.
Being a Sahara model, this Cruiser comes pretty well equipped with interior features. Power leather seats, three-zone climate control, satnav — you name it, the Sahara has it. An Icom IC440 UHF radio is the only addition Steve has had to include so far.
Saharas do, however, miss out on the factory-fit second fuel tank. This was fixed with a 70-litre tank from Long Ranger/ARB, which goes where the factory unit would have. A keen eye under the vehicle will also notice the taller bump stops at the front, made and fitted by Steve.
Steve reckons the finished Cruiser (Finished? Really?) could be the only 200 riding on 35s in Australia, and already there are owners in the US and UAE mimicking the build after seeing this one on the web.
“The best part of the build is that any change in on-road drivability is hardly noticeable,” says Steve. “Sixth gear drops in 5km/h higher than previously (now at 100) and fuel usage is up about 2L/100km. But off-road, it’s a different story!” No more getting bogged on the beach now, Steve? “She now has the off-road and, importantly, the all-round ability I was after.”
Steve though about fitting lockers but says, “With the 200’s traction aids, combined with added lift, ground clearance, track increase, and bigger rubber, they are not required.”
The Cruiser has had the usual 200 Series fault fixes, including the transmission re-map to shift into top gear sooner and the replacement rear driveshaft to get rid of the clunk that’s a common problem. It serves Steve as daily transport, but he has plans for a Kimberley trip with the family.
“The parents want us to join them on the Canning Stock Route in a year, but with three young boys, we will break them and the truck in on the Gibb River Road first.” Before they set off, the aforementioned drawer system will be fitted, and an off-road camper trailer hooked on to the back. This will be one impressive looking rig when it hits the outback as Steve obviously doesn’t do anything by halves — but he has had help along the way.
“First, I’d like to thank my beautiful wife, Nat, who put up with my endless pacing (waiting for parts), and disappearing into the garage at every opportunity. Reynir Jónsson, the CEO at Fjallasport, was also a big help with the build.”