Come for a ride in one of the most well-travelled Cruisers in the country…
If you haven’t heard of Jamie Benaud before, chances are you’re probably still familiar with his work. He’s the bloke behind Australian Images, and he’s photographed for just about every off-road publication in the country including the best one (hint… you’re reading it right now).
As you’d expect, this requires him to travel all over the country, and as you also might expect, it requires he has a vehicle that can get him anywhere with reliability and comfort at the drop of a hat.
After perusing the options on the new vehicle market, Jamie eventually settled on his 200 Series. But the stock setup was never going to do. He knew he’d be putting a lot of remote area kays on the odometer so a few tweaks were in order.
Jamie’s got plenty of experience building tough tourers, and he isn’t afraid to break out the tools and do things himself either. So when I ran into him a few months back at a show and saw his two-hundy for myself, I immediately started pestering him to get his rig in the mag. After months of nagging, attempted bribery and even a few threats of violence (all empty, he could totally beat me up), he finally gave in and agreed to show his steed off. Come take a look at one of the neatest, most well-travelled and tastefully-modded LandCruisers in the country.
The 200 Series needs no introduction these days. It’s tried, tested and proven in the Aussie bush and is one of the best blank canvases from which to create a touring masterpiece.
With a stout IFS setup, solid rear axle, decent fuel range and plenty of aftermarket support, there’s a lot to like about the Toyota flagship. Interior comfort is up there with the best of them too; and do I really need to talk about that 4.5L V8 twin-turbo intercooled diesel? I’m sure you guys know how good it is by now. Plenty of power and torque for cruising and towing… you’ve heard it all before, but let’s just say that engine is a big part of why Toyota is killing the sales figures and Y62 Patrols are few and far between. But that’s another story; back to Jamie’s bus.
Having built plenty of solid front end 4X4s previously, Jamie was initially a little nervous heading into the IFS realm – but his worries were proven unfounded after the first bush shakedown trip, where the IFS handled itself admirably and was a lot better over corrugations than a rigid axle.
Still, we all know that stock suspension on any vehicle is usually about as useful as mudguards on a tortoise once you’re off the blacktop – so Jamie hooked in and installed a Tough Dog 20-40mm lift kit. After having the same brand of suspension in his 4WDs for the last 20 years, you could say that he’s on to a good thing and sticking to it.
He also threw a set of Firestone helper airbags in the rear coils to assist with varying loads – he tows a camper trailer that he completely fabricated from scratch (check the vid) on bigger trips, so versatility was important.
The lift also meant that the limits of adjustment were reached for maintaining a decent wheel alignment. This was fixed by fitting up a set of SuperPro upper control arms from Fulcrum Suspension, and these allow a full range of adjustment on any lift up to 75mm.
With the bouncy bits sorted, Jamie turned to the rolling stock. Aussie-made 17×8 ROH Octagon alloys were wrapped with 285/70R17 Mickey Thompson P3 all-terrains. From there he dived into the engine bay and fitted up a Unichip Q4 and a stainless 2-into-1 exhaust system from the same company – which netted him 182kW at the treads and just shy of 700Nm, all while delivering 5% better fuel economy which along with the 180L Long Ranger fuel tank gives him a hell of a touring range.
The 12V system has had the treatment too. Jamie wired in an accessory fuse box, UHF, iPad for navigation, onboard air compressor and 4L reservoir as well as a set of Fyrlyt halogen driving lights.
Keeping suicidal wildlife at bay is an ARB steel winch bar that’s had a Warn Tabor 10K winch slotted into it. An Outback Accessories rear bar keeps the 200’s bum from dragging and also sports a pair of wheel carriers in case Jamie gets unlucky and stakes a couple of tyres. The underbody has also been ‘hey, I might drive over a landmine’ proofed with a three-piece stainless steel bashplate from Custom Offroad Accessories.
While Jamie was pretty impressed with the 200, one part he always felt needed attention was the Aisin 6-speed auto transmission which is pretty average in a number of areas. After a lot of research, he settled on a torque converter lockup kit from Richard’s Auto Electrical. It’s a speed-sensitive unit that allows the driver to pre-select the speeds the converter locks up at. This not only results in better economy, but allows Jamie to lock the converter at lower off-road speeds should he need to.
It should also be noted that Jamie has gone out of his way to choose proven, reliable aftermarket accessories and (just as importantly) Australian-made products wherever he can. He mentions that he’s not quite finished yet… with sliders, a catch-can and lockers still to come; but for a round-Oz tourer, we reckon this has to be about as good as it gets.
Ah, how’s the serenity