Custom 4X4: 200 Series LandCruiser
Chopped, Shopped, Extended!
If spending three months in a purpose-built adventure machine exploring the Territory doesn’t excite you, you might as well stop reading and renew your subscription to Better Homes and Gardens, because that is exactly why Dave and his wife Kerry have been building this breathtaking 200 Series. Based out of the NSW mid-north coast, they are both avid four-wheel drivers; each having the best part of 30 years’ experience taking their five (now grown-up) children out on countless trips and passing on the passion for exploring the Australian bush. According to Dave, they are “in the bad habit of building new trucks”. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a bad habit to me!
Some of their previous builds include a kitted out 79 Series, a loaded up F250, and the ever reliable 80 and 100 Series ‘Cruisers. It was only a matter of time until they landed on Toyota’s most luxurious offering, the big 200 Series VX LandCruiser. So far, they have done three desert crossings, explored Cape York and ventured right through the Kimberley region. Together, they have already seen more of our country than most of the coastal dwelling population ever will, but they insist that this is only the beginning. They have spent the last nine months meticulously preparing the 200 for a 12 week stint up in the guts of the NT, exploring the Hay River Track and whatever else takes their fancy.
Dave and Kerry needed a vehicle that could do both the remote touring with ease and tackle odd jobs around their property like a regular farm ute. But what makes someone who has just bought a brand-new wagon cut a third of it off and throw it in the bin? That might sound bat-sh!t crazy to some people, but as Dave explains, “It’s a gap in the market, no one makes a dual-cab wagon with this level of luxury, space, motor size and reliability”. After seeing Dave’s dual-cab vision come together with the flawlessly finished conversion (and the amount of 200’s getting the chop these days), perhaps it should have been a factory option… are you listening Toyota?
After placing the vehicle order at Toyota in August 2016, it was nearly a full year before the 200 arrived. “Toyota took their time, well and truly,” remarked Dave, “It was a week off 12 months by the time the vehicle arrived, and even then, we didn’t take delivery of it until it went to see the team at Creative Conversions.” The ‘Cruiser emerged from the workshop three months later as a dual-cab with an 850mm extension and a GVM upgrade to 4.2T. A strengthened rear diff and a fully welded rear crossmember and towbar means the big girl can retain her impressive 3.5T towing; perfect for when they want to tow their caravan for a quick weekend jaunt to those easier locations. Following the surgery, it was off to receive one of Jackson Campers full size carry me campers. This is certainly not the first time a Jackson Camper has been on the back of one of their builds, nor will it be the last. The slide-on canopy is much more versatile for remote touring, allowing a base camp to be set up without the hassle of packing everything up in the mornings before heading out to explore.
“If you are going to do it, you have to do it right.” Dave doesn’t just talk the talk, he didn’t stop until he was sure the ‘Cruiser could walk the walk as well. No aspect of the vehicle has been neglected, as rugged dependability is of the highest priority when you are a few hundred clicks from anywhere. Continuing the trend started by their previous builds, nearly every aspect of the vehicle from installations to regular maintenance has been looked after by the team at Taree Off Road. Both Dave and Kerry agree that they wouldn’t take the 200 anywhere else. 600kg constant heavy-duty springs and airbags from Icon Suspension keep the ‘Cruiser moving over even the roughest trails like a limo, with the option to drop back to a 400kg set when the ‘Cruiser is tasked with farm duties. The factory wheels and tyres have been thrown out in favour of a much hardier combo; a set of six 33-inch Nitto Grapplers wrapped around 18 x 9 Allied Byron rims.
Stepping into the cab is like entering a mappers’ fantasy. A Hema HX-1 lets the driver navigate with confidence and an iPad running Hema Maps lets the passenger simultaneously plan ahead. The heated leather seats and privacy tint create a real separation from the outside world. In fact, if it wasn’t for the steering wheel staring you in the face, you could almost believe you were in a padded lounge-chair.
The Uniden UHF is tucked up under the dash to handle comms on the road, and the HF has already proved to be a worthwhile investment for the remote areas. It came to their rescue deep in the high country after sheering off some wheel studs, when a quick call brought a local out from Omeo to help get the ‘Cruiser back up and running again. Wisely, a mobile booster and sat phone are always on hand as further back-ups.
To maximize the distance between fuel stops, a 270L fuel tank was slapped in the unutilized space beneath the tray, providing upwards of a 2,000km range. Occasionally on long trips, Dave carries a 100L diesel bladder up on the Rhino Rack, you know, just in case a couple of thousand clicks isn’t quite enough! Being able to spend weeks at a time away from civilization demands a solid 12V system to keep the food fresh and the beers cold. Dual fridges run off a triple battery system with two solar inputs that all plumb into a Redarc management system to keep the whole operation running smoothly. They have also prepared for the drought, with 70L of water tucked up under the tray and the canopy holding a further 80L.
The V8 turbo diesel is no slug from the factory but the conservative factory tune leaves some room for a little extra get up and go. Installing an iDrive was the first port of call, with the ‘Cruiser then getting manoeuvred onto a dyno to get the power down when the big girl needs it. To reduce the stress on the six-speed auto, a Richardson auto torque converter lockup dropped a handy 900rpm off the cruising speed and reduced transmission temps dramatically. A dual straight through exhaust from the DPF back lets the twin turbo breathe a little easier while hauling around 4.2T of ’Cruiser.
As 4wders, we know that a build is never done as there is always something left to do. When we asked Dave what the future plans for the Cruiser where, he simply said, “This is our adventure vehicle… for now. Who know what the future holds?” Considering this certainly isn’t their first foray into building a one-of-a-kind vehicle, we think it is safe to assume that the 200 won’t be their last either. Give us a buzz when you are planning the next one mate, we can’t wait to see what you create!