As a base for an outback tourer, it doesn’t get much better than Toyota’s 79 Series Land Cruiser dual cab. Straight from the showroom floor, this thing has what it takes to tackle Aussie offroad tracks. An urgent turbo-diesel V8 engine with decent low-range gearing and optional front and rear diff locks – live axles front and rear.
As well as its chassis and driveline goodies, the dual cab Cruiser also has the practicality of a decent-sized cabin that will comfortably sit five people and the big tray at the rear is perfect for hauling all that’s required on an extended trip away.
As with any vehicle, there’s a lot that can be modified in the quest to build a better truck, and this trick Cruiser is a great example of what can be achieved by fitting the right gear.
It belongs to aftermarket accessory manufacturer MSA 4x4, and the company’s Matt Mason regularly pilots it. To say four-wheel drive enthusiast Matt is happy with it would be a huge understatement; “It would have to be the ultimate touring machine. You can cart the family around and you can get a whole heap of stuff in the back – fridges and slides – so it’s perfect all-round.”
Despite running around visiting MSA 4x4 stockists, Matt still finds plenty of time to get the Cruiser dirty.
“We’ve done Fraser Island, Inskip Point and Double Island Point. I’ve taken it up the back of the Gold Coast, up in the hinterland there, and the national parks down in NSW,” he said.
Shane Miles, an MSA 4x4 proprietor, added; “He goes out and hammers it around, and goes touring and camping.”
Far from concerned about how much offroad action the Cruiser sees, Shane encourages Matt’s forays into the bush, and joins him when he can.
“We’re taking it up the Cape soon, with a couple of other MSA company vehicles, probably around July,” Shane said. “Hopefully we’ll be going to the Kimberley later this year, before it gets too hot. That will be with other MSA company cars as well; our 200 Series and a new Prado we just got that we’re building up.”
The vehicles are put through vigorous field tests to develop better products.
“Our products have only ever gotten better. We go out and test them and try and break stuff. Then we try and make everything bulletproof. We use the best materials we can find.
“All of the MSA 4x4 gear on show on this Cruiser is off-the-shelf stuff, so anyone can buy it. None of it is custom,” he said.
There’s plenty of MSA gear on this Cruiser. Protecting the seats (Recaros up front) are MSA seat covers and for added comfort on the front seats are the MSA sheepskin lumbar support system that fits on top of the seat cover.
“It attaches from the headrest posts and goes down the centre section that sort of follows the bolster line of the seats, and straps around the sides,” Shane said.
“And inside there’s a fully adjustable air bladder, you can put up to four bladders in if you want, and it’s pneumatic – you can pump it up to whatever you want, let it down, adjust it during the day, and it’s easily installed and removed.”
For stowing small items there’s an MSA dash organiser and a pair of seat organisers – one with a drop-down table.
“When I’m travelling alone, I actually use one of the seat organisers on the front of the passenger seat to keep all my paperwork in check. But when I’m travelling with the family I put them on the back of the seats – they hold all the maps, small radios, winch remotes and stuff like that,” Matt said.
They’re also handy for Matt’s kids, aged eight and nine, to stow their own stuff on family trips.
Other interior accessories include a GME Electrophone 5W UHF, a Hema Navigator HN6 and an LCD monitor for the reversing camera, as well as a couple of MSA LED striplights.
“I carry a few striplights in the vehicle at all times. Two in the back of the cab and two in the gull-wing doors on the tray body – and then I carry two for setting up around the campsite. They come with a long 5.5 metre lead so they can reach from the truck to the tent,” Matt said.
“There are two brightness settings and they use absolutely minimal power, so you could run them forever and never worry about flattening your battery. They’ve got hooks on each end and eyelets so you can tie them up if you want. They’ve also got a full Velcro strap on the back and they come with a heap of adhesive Velcro tabs,” Shane added.
On top of the Cruiser’s cab there’s a custom alloy roof rack holding a 900 x 1200mm MSA 4x4 roof bag, ideal for stowing bulky items such as tents, swags, bedding, tables and chairs.
Behind the cab is a custom colour-coded aluminium tray body with gull-wing doors on both sides and at the rear.
“It was an off-the-shelf design but we got them to put the rear door in it, and then we got them to integrate some underbody boxes and an underbody slide-out drawer. We wanted maximum storage space and accessibility,” Shane said.
There are two MSA 4x4 drop-down fridge slides in the tray body, one holding an Engel and the other a sideways-mounted unit housing a Waeco.
“They are for demos, obviously, for when we do shows and visit dealers, but I also use them for personal use,” Matt said.
The dropslide design provides easy access to the contents of the fridge – or in this case, fridges – and Shane is particularly proud of this product.
“That’s our patented fridge slide. I personally designed it in 2007. It’s made a little bit sturdier and a lot prettier since then,” he said.
Fridge barriers are also fitted, which prevent items falling down behind them when they are pulled out.
“You can pile all your stuff up against [the barrier],” Shane said. “Before, if you filled the back of your vehicle, and then you wanted to get the fridge out, everything fell down into where the fridge was. Obviously, now you can pile all your stuff up against it and if you want to get the fridge in and out, then no problems.”
There’s also an MSA barrier organiser in the tray body that’s handy for storing small bits and pieces. “It’s designed to go on a cargo barrier but, as with this example, you can use it for whatever you need it for,” Matt said.
Finally, the tray body houses a 55 litre Boab polymer water tank from Opposite Lock, which is hidden under carpet. On top of the tray body there’s a Kimberley Mycube Roof Top tent.
“It’s a really good design,” Shane said. “It sits within the lines of the body, so it folds up quite neat and it looks good… and it’s got a lot of extras you can’t get with other rooftop tents such as under-mattress heating and internal LEDs.”
There’s also an ARB awning for shading quick roadside tea breaks, or for offering shelter overnight when conditions are less than ideal.
Powering all of the accessories is a Redarc dual-battery system with an Optima D34 55Ah battery – one of the few batteries on the market to combine deep-cycle capabilities with strong cranking power. A Redarc BCDC1240 charger keeps the batteries in an optimal state of charge.
Protecting the front-end is an ARB steel bullbar and side rails. “It’s a good-looking bar and it matches up to the vehicle perfectly,” Shane said.
A Warn 9.5XDC winch fitted with synthetic rope takes care of things if the big Cruiser can’t extract itself under its own power. Why synthetic rope? “After using cable all our lives, rope is just beautiful, so much more user friendly,” Shane said.
“It’s not so much overall weight you save by using the rope,” Matt added. “But when you’re actually using it, it’s so much easier. If you’ve got to pull that rope up the hill to get it hooked up, it’s a lot easier to use and you haven’t got to worry about frays in the cable.”
A pair of ARB Intensity LED driving lights cater for night-time driving. “At night, you don’t get the big reflections like you do with HIDs. It’s instant light; you haven’t got to wait for them to warm up. They have a great range and good spread,” Matt said.
In keeping with the ARB theme, there’s an ARB diff breather kit, ARB recovery gear and ARB air compressor on board – although Shane points out that MSA 4x4’s 200 Series Land Cruiser runs predominantly Opposite Lock gear and the company’s Prado runs mostly TJM gear.
Suspension-wise, the dual cab runs Old Man Emu kit. “We’ve run OME on our company cars, we’ve been all over the place with them, and we’ve never, ever had an issue with them,” Shane said.
While the Cruiser’s powerplant is stock, it breathes through a Safari snorkel, rather than the standard Toyota item. “The factory snorkel’s not watertight. It’s got two or three joins in it – one outside and one under the bonnet – so if you want to do water crossings…” Matt said.
The standard wheel rims have been ditched in favour of a set of trick-looking American Racing Wheels.
“They’re on all of our display cars and we like to keep everything matching. And the black goes with our tone of grey on all of our display cars. It’s just a really nice looking aftermarket rim,” Shane said.
The rims are shod with LT285/70R17 Cooper ST Maxx tyres Shane said they’ve never had a problem with them.
With all of this gear, both inside and out, the Cruiser is hauling a fair amount of weight, and you’d hardly describe it as aerodynamic, but with a Long Ranger 180L replacement tank fitted, Matt said he gets around 1300km between refills. “On a good run it probably does around 15L/100km – if you stay below 100km/h it’s a lot better on fuel,” he said.
“The only downfall we’ve found with the vehicle is it’s probably a little under-geared at freeway speeds,” Shane added.
Like most modified vehicles, this Land Cruiser is a work in progress, but according to Shane it’s nearly finished: “I’ll make a custom dual wheel carrier for the rear, but then it’s pretty much done.”
CUB SUPAMATIC CAMPER
When heading off on extended offroad trips in the Land Cruiser, Matt tows a Cub Supamatic Regal camper trailer.
“It’s all been matched and colour-coded to go with the Cruiser,” Shane said. “It’s a Supamatic Regal, with independent suspension. It’s got dual 110Ah batteries, a Redarc BCDC1240 charger, which when you hook it up to the car it charges the batteries properly. It’s also got adapters to hook it up to solar power, with a Redarc solar panel.
“It’s got the same wheels and tyres as the ute, a slide-out kitchen/pantry and a 47L ARB fridge. It’s a hard-floor model and very comfortable to sleep the whole family.”