UNSEALED 4X4 SUB-EDITOR TREVOR LANG RUNS US THROUGH THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF LANDCRUISER OWNERSHIP.
Early in 2008, I drove a new LandCruiser out of the Toyota dealership at Bathurst. The paperwork described it as a ‘Toyota LC Military Workmate 4.5L T-Diesel Manual Single C/Chassis’. I dubbed it the LangCruiser – and it’s still doing sterling service in 2018.
I’ve heard it referred to as a 70 Series and a 79 Series. In simple terms it is a 4WD light truck boasting standard 3.3-tonne GVM, a rugged no-nonsense attitude and seating for 2.5 adults. It has vinyl on the floor and a steel dashboard. No electric windows and no automatic transmission. If I want to get serious in the scrub, I have to get out and lock the front hubs in by hand. The air-conditioning works brilliantly.
The accessories I chose included a steel bullbar, a tow bar, a ‘non-genuine’ steel tray and rubber floor mats (after 194,000 kilometres, the driver’s side floor mat is showing some signs of wear). The total price was just shy of $60K… money well spent, I am happy to report.
Early in its career the steel tray was modified with the addition of a heavy roll bar and a rack extending over the cab. I mounted an 80-litre auxiliary fuel tank on the roll bar, raising the total fuel capacity to 260 litres. A large aluminium toolbox was bolted into the tray.
I bought the LangCruiser because I wanted a solid and reliable long-term vehicle that could go just about anywhere, carry heavy loads and tow heavy things. I have covered large parts of Australia in it during the past decade… it is very comfortable to travel in for one or two people. It has carried (and towed) massive loads with great ease. I have used it to commute to the city quite a lot; and it’s also done its fair share of rough country 4WDing in the Outback and the bush.
In the course of 10 years, the vehicle has seen a few important changes. The OEM Toyota rims were swapped quite early for wider black steel aftermarket rims with tubeless rubber. The Toyo Open Country tyres currently on these rims are brilliant.
In 2014, I lashed out and had a Steinbauer performance module installed – together with a 3-inch exhaust system. This proved to be a great investment which boosted the engine’s already considerable power and also enhanced its fuel economy. A secondary diesel filter kit was mounted in the crowded engine bay to keep things running clean.
A few months later I was asked to ‘test’ a Terrain Tamer suspension upgrade. That meant bolting in a full set of quality aftermarket springs and shockies and it resulted in a modest 50mm lift. The new suspension transformed the Toyota… and needless to say the Terrain Tamer gear is still there and still performing beautifully.
The fine people at Terrain Tamer also asked me to evaluate one of their Heavy Duty Radiators in 2016 – and thus another quality component became a permanent part of my 4WD.
I’ve put a UHF radio in the dashboard along with a decent stereo head unit. The main speakers for the stereo are mounted in plastic tool boxes placed on the floor behind the seats. I built a clever little centre console arrangement behind the gear levers to carry a drink bottle and a few other small items. I carry a fire extinguisher in the cab, mounted in front of the passenger seat. The LangCruiser also has an electronic trailer brake controller fitted and it’s wired with an Anderson socket at the rear of the tray.
I ditched the feeble original horn and put in a pair of aftermarket ‘Freeway Blasters’ that tend to make other drivers notice my presence. There’s a pair of LightForce spotties mounted on the bullbar… they’ve been there for ages and they do a great job. The UHF antenna also serves as a handy height gauge – I know if that bastard fits under a low clearance sign, then everything else will too.
Where has it been?
Central Australia, all over New South Wales, lots of Victoria (including the High Country), large parts of Queensland and much of South Australia. It still has some unexplored places to discover. It’s been to the city too many times to mention. It’s been a beast of burden for a number of building jobs.
What has it towed?
Well… there’s been a camper trailer; a steel box trailer loaded with building materials, camping gear, furniture, firewood, tools and/or garbage; small cars; large 4WDs; and even a medium-sized tip truck that got stranded on a steep construction site. Nothing much phases it really.
This has been (and continues to be) a really reliable truck. It gets serviced regularly and I always use high quality oil. I’ve had to replace its battery once; and I think it’s on the third set of brake pads – due to normal wear and tear.
Twice in the past decade I have found water in the primary diesel filter. This triggered a warning light on the dash which could be reset after the water was drained out and the filter cartridge was replaced. I believe the problem was caused by dodgy fuel on both occasions. The engine was protected by its warning system and the valuable secondary filter kit.
What do I love?
I really appreciate the reliability and robustness of the LangCruiser. It is always ready to do whatever is required of it. I can climb into it with dirty boots on if I feel like it – there’s no need to fuss about a plush interior. I can drive it more than halfway across a State without having to refuel. I can take whatever I want to along for the ride (as long as I limit the human cargo to 2.5 adults). I know it was an expensive thing to buy when it was new, but I believe it has held its value well. In today’s market, I would struggle to find a new 4WD that I would rather own.
What do I not love?
Nothing’s perfect. While it’s a comfortable vehicle to drive, it is NOT comfortable to sleep in. The cab size is limited and a tall person simply can’t stretch out much in there. For me the seat has only one position and it can’t recline through the back wall of the cab. Only an occasional problem; but a problem nonetheless.
It is a fairly high vehicle at about 2.35 metres. I don’t love driving around in the city searching for a parking station with a clearance of more than 1.9m; and I don’t love repeatedly feeding street parking meters at about $4.80 per hour. Loading zones can be a real blessing sometimes. I do not love the annual cost of keeping it legal on the road. Even with my enviable driving record, the CTP green slip costs about $550. Add another $865 for registration and I’m up for more than $1,400 in statutory charges every year. Not to mention comprehensive motor vehicle insurance on top of that. It is sadly true that we must pay for our pleasures.
Where to from here?
There is a trend these days for people to ‘upgrade’ vehicles every two or three years. Owning the same mechanical conveyance for more than a decade might make a bloke seem strange. In spite of that, the LangCruiser is here to stay. It is more than just a means of transport now; it feels a bit like a staunch and dependable friend. It has evolved over the years to become even more capable than when it was born, and it represents a thoughtful investment in what a primary vehicle should be for me. In terms of mileage it is still relatively young… these vehicles are designed to last way beyond half-a-million kays if they are cared for.
There is another disturbing consideration too. Toyota is still the only badge to offer a vehicle like this – but with its newer 70 Series models, the brand has taken the design in a direction that doesn’t quite meld with my psyche. I don’t like the new plastic dashboards or the overabundance of electronic bastardry that supposedly makes 4WDs more user-friendly. I am still content to control my own engine and gears and all the other stuff… that’s what actual driving is all about. Call me old-school if you will but I know I’m not alone.