Overland Cruisers Company Truck
I guess a good starting point for our case studies is to have a look at what I drive, the modification made and why.
I bought my 1994 80 series 4.2 Turbo Diesel Land Cruiser from a fellow ELCO member back in 2004 with 120k miles on it. This was my second 80, after a brief foray with an earlier model a couple of years earlier. The previous owner had used it for occasional overland trips, something that at the time wasn't really on my radar so I didn't blink when he sold on his winch, roof rack and fridge and I even foolishly sold off the ARB bumper that was in the boot because I couldn't see the point. So when I brought it down from its old home in Scotland it was pretty standard except for a basic Old Man Emu 2" suspension lift.
I ran the car in standard form for a while, but then as I realised the car's full potential and started planning for a trip to Morocco I drew up the shopping list for the first round or preparation which consisted:-
- Complete front and rear axle rebuild with new disks, CVs, bearings, seals, etc.
- Full service including Big End Bearing replacement, injection pump and injector service
- Extra oil cooler for the automatic gearbox
- New 285/75 R16 BF Goodrich AT's all round
- African Outback Roof Rack
- IBS Split Charge system with 3rd battery (big Odyssey) to go into the boot
- Waeco fridge
- Second hand fridge slide
- MyWay roof tent
- Second hand laptop mounted above the gearbox with USB GPS receiver with Touratech software running old French IGN maps
- 2 x 20l jerries for fuel - filled up in Morocco, used several months later
- 1 x 20l water container
- 2 x solar showers
- Airbag jack - never used
For our Morocco trip we added on a second roof tent kindly lent to us by a friend and used a Toyota dog guard as a cargo barrier. As ever we ran out of time getting things organised and my greatest regret was not spending some time properly organising our storage - all we needed was some sort of cage over our fridge and food boxes so that they could be slid out without having to unload all the rubbish on top. We were travelling with three children with one in nappies still drinking formula so you can imagine all the extra stuff we took.
So we survived the trip and the car ran faultlessly. It was a wee bit overloaded with the full boot and two roof tents, but wasn't too unwieldy and we managed to get some good average speeds on the long stretches.
And so it begins....
Having returned from Morocco and been bitten by the bug I had imagined that starting Overland Cruisers I would end up doing a lot more to the car, which I suppose I have to a degree, but it has been in dribs and drabs - parts get ferreted away into the store room and then a show like the RGS weekends or a weekend away with Paul @ One Life Adventures prompts me to pull my finger out and give the old girl some pampering.
So, in no particular order, here is a list of some of the upgrades…
- Allisport Intercooler
Being a bit of a boy racer at heart I like to be able to overtake. I had got pretty good at tweaking the pumps to get more power without drowning people in black smoke, but having sold a few of the kits thought it was time to get one myself - she goes quite well now!!
- Upgraded Brakes
The braking on standard 80 series is pretty poor, so when the disks were starting to wear out I upgraded to Nitrac grooved disks - these are cryogenically treated to strengthen them and when combined with decent pads means that the car now stops quite well. I also threw on stainless steel brake lines because the old ones were starting to stretch a bit.
- Snorkel and Raised Breather kit
Not much to say about this. Having encountered a stack of floods that have lapped over the top of the bonnet before fitting this, typically now that I have it the deepest water encountered so far is about a foot deep - I think I need to get out more!
- 3" Slinky Suspension Kit
The standard Old Man Emu suspension is a good all round basic kit, but unless heavily laden it can be a little harsh and a little skittish on rough corners. We sell a complete 3" suspension kit developed in Aus by Darren McRae at Auto-Craft in conjunction with Ridepro. This is streets ahead of the OME kit - it provides much more car like handling on the road whilst also providing superb articulation from the progressive springs and long travel shocks.
- Hacked Exhaust
Quite early on I had a hole in the main silencer and rather than go to the expense of replacing the box, I just cut it out and replaced it with a straight through pipe. This drastically reduced the back pressure from the exhaust enabling the turbo to spin up much quicker providing more power much lower down in the rev range - with the appropriate pump tweaks this transformed the truck. The car sounds a lot better as well without being too boy racerish or sounding like and old John Deere tractor!
- Walbro Fuel Pump
As standard the 80 series fuel pumps can suffer slightly from under fuelling at high revs, and then when you throw in wear in the pump and you start driving up steep slopes the whole under fuelling issue can get exaggerated. Fitting a pusher pump down by the tank to provide a pressurised feed to the injection pump can transform the way a car performs.
- SV Winch Bar with Milemarker Hydraulic
It's not often I need a winch, but when I do I just want it to work and I'm not too bothered about the speed. Organising the original ELCO weekends I thought it would be sensible to be able to provide some recovery so opted for an SV bull bar mainly on price, although I'm warming to the look, and then the Milemarker winch because I've had to rebuild too many electric winches that have seized or rusted out due to lack of use. The winch is very slow being powered by the power steering pump and makes the steering a little heavy, but long term I'll fit in a separate standalone pump for the winch, something we have successfully done on a 24valve 80. For ease of use I fitted plasma, but currently run it through a standard fairlead - I have a proper stainless steel one waiting to go on.
- Darkened Windows
In the hope of trying to reduce some internal temps whilst travelling in Morocco I did some basic tinting in a campsite in Fez, it wasn't that bad, but have now had it all done professionally and it's a lot better.
- Dinitrol Underbody Rust Treatment
Having fitted all the toys I wanted to protect the rest of the underside, particularly from road salt and some slurry from the farms I occasionally drive over - the Dinitrol has done a fantastic job so far although the axles could do with more regular touch ups as they get sand blasted by grit on the roads and tracks.
- Toughbook Mount
Having started with an old laptop, I eventually moved on to a Panasonic CF-19 Toughbook for mapping and have made a custom mount for it using RAM mount components. I'm not a fan of satnavs shouting instructions at you or just following waypoints on a handheld GPS, so the laptop just sits there showing you a map and where you are on the map. In reality my mobile is now taking over most duties of the laptop, but I still dust it off when going on a major trip.
- Batteries under the bonnet and rewire
With the car constantly being used for the children, I need to keep the boot free of junk so at the first opportunity I moved over to Optima batteries that were small enough so that I could all three under the bonnet and then I re-wired the car so that a central fuse bank near the gear lever handled all the auxillary power sockets and a built in transformer provided power to my laptop and USB power into the glove box for phone charging, etc.
- Upgraded Lighting
The front headlight bulbs have been replaced with HID units that provide a fantastic light, certainly no need for any spotlights, and I have also upgraded all the internal lights to LEDs with extra LED down lights mounted in the upper tailgate to light up the area we usually cook in. I'm also still experimenting with various upgraded reversing light options - with tinted windows you need all the light you can get!
- Expedition Storage Pod
This is very much work in progress. Frustrated with not being able to have a dedicated expedition vehicle I am developing a storage system that can be easily lifted into the back of the car prior to a weekend and then removed on my return, fixed in with four easy to access bolts. The pod started with a couple of deep drawers stacked up on the left hand side and then a fridge slide on the right hand side with space at the back for extras. In the next month or so I'll be replacing the fridge slide for an integrated version and fitting the custom built water tank, electric pump and shower attachment. I am also having a bit of a rethink on the cooking side of things so may also need to consider storage space for a small gas cylinder for cooking.
Still on the 'shelf'
I still have a few things sitting on the 'shelf' to go on to the car in the coming months….
- Patriot Roof Rack
I ended up selling my old African Outback rack to a customer on the basis that it was due to be replaced by the Patriot - they make a good sturdy rack and one of the few 2.5m ones which will be handy for throwing on a couple of roof tents.
- Hannibal 2.4m Awning
As long as you have a sturdy rack, you cannot touch the Hannibal awning for all round ease of use, speed of setup etc. This will be perfect for weekends in Wales as well as the occasional Point to Point or Pony Cub event that I end up taking the girls to.
- MadMan Gauge
This is mainly for demo purposes, but will help with fine tuning the performance and warn me of any problems.
- On board air compressor
Whilst we have a decent compressor in the workshop it is always handy to have one the vehicle on trips as well as to help others out. Again, I sold my old one on to a customer to get them out of a hole, but now have all the tanks and fittings to build something in, I just need to decide on a compressor.
Planned Preventative Maintenance
Overall the truck goes really well. Performance wise I haven't come across another 80 to touch it, it pulls like a train from low revs through to the red line and handles like a car on the road, however at over 208k miles she is getting a little long in the teeth so here is a list of some preventative maintenance planned for the coming months:-
- Engine Top End Rebuild
The valve stem seals are a little worn (probably due the my early over exuberance with the fuelling) producing puffs of smoke on start-up and it's getting a little rattly so I'm keen to get the head off to get the seals replaced and then whilst whilst we have the head off I'm going to check the big end bearings, bores and pistons and will probably also get the injectors and pump checked.
- Upgraded Turbo
You can never have too much power!! From the abuse that it has been given, my turbo is getting pretty worn - the engine rebuild will be a good time to swap it.
- Paintwork Touchup
The paint work is getting pretty scratched, particularly from little children climbing all over the bonnet and I have rust holes and rust spots on the off side rear sill as well as around the rear side and upper tailgate windows - the touch up will sort the rust spots and get the vehicle into a show ready condition.
- Front Diff Rebuild
Over time the front diff has developed a bit of a whine that hasn't been fixed by a bearing refurb so a new ring and pinion is required.
I know we always bang on about the reliability of the Land Cruisers, so here is a confession that actually you can have problems. Below is a list of the problems that I have encountered in 8 years of ownership….
- Various punctures
- Diesels won't run on petrol - me once and a customer once!
- Odd earth problem causing the oil level light to flicker - turned out to be a dry joint in one of the battery earth leads
- Worn bearings - The original swivel bearings were complete shot when replaced prior to Morocco in 2007 and the cheap wheel bearings fitted at that time only lasted around 10-15k miles and have all been replaced.
- Worn CVs - the original CVs were replaced at 120k miles with cheap ones from Milners. These lasted around 60k miles and were replaced with the same again, but this time drilled so that grease can be pumped directly into the centre of the CV, which seems to be working well.
- Rear heater hoses - these looked a little damp around one of the joints and the Toyota clip had rotted away - I thouight a simple jubilee clip replacement would solve the problem but it turned out the metal pipe had rotted away under the joint - with the proper pipes on the shelf we swapped them - major pain to do, would have been easier to take the gearbox out and do it that way.
- Engine died completely - turned out a wire to the fuel pump had worn and shorted - not 100% sure if this this was down to major exertions trying to wiggle the engine around (using ratchet straps) as we tried to install new rear heater pipes (never again with gearbox in place!!)
- Various Universal Joints - the cheaper ones are difficult to grease on the car so I try to annually drop the props and grease them properly, sometimes this isn't enough.
- Rear brake light bulb and number plate bulbs.
- Fuel filler pipe leaked - common rust spot - just replaced it.
I think that about covers it. It has been an interesting 8 years of ownership and the car is definitely a core member of the family.
Here are some pics of the old girl...