Been there, done that… got the T-shirt. Come and take a trip with one of the most versatile touring vehicles we’ve ever seen!
Given that he’s been heavily involved in one of the world’s largest 4X4 forums for over a decade and has been off-road driving for the past 40 years or so, it’s probably fair to say that Ian, the owner of this beaut 76 LandCruiser, knows how to modify and drive an off-road vehicle with a degree of capability well beyond your average punter. We caught up with him at 4x4earth.com’s annual gathering in the Victorian High Country last year – and as soon as we saw his setup, we knew we had to share it with you guys. Ian is one bloke who has been there and done that; so if you’re looking for a few pointers on how to modify your own vehicle into one of the most capable tourers getting around, you could do a lot worse than copy what this bloke has done.
It’s no secret that the V8 70 Series LandCruiser stable has some of the best out-of-the-box touring vehicles sitting in its stalls, but there are very few new 4X4s that couldn’t do with a little prep for tackling the destinations Ian likes to get to. Still, the 76 offers a great jumping-off point. Two more doors than a Troopy, heaps more enclosed space than either of the ute options, and no huge wheelbase or excess body panels make it the pick of the bunch for tackling tighter tracks.
With places like the Cape, two trips up the Oodnadatta, Alice Springs, Robe and Googs Track already under his belt, Ian reckons he’s got the ’Cruiser dialled in nicely now. And given that he’s about a month away from retiring, he’s ready to start doing more trips more often… and he’s got the perfect vehicle to do them in. And seeing how he’s a moderator on 4x4earth.com we’re pretty sure he’ll be kept pretty busy maintaining the three campsites the forum looks after in the High Country too.
If you ask 70 Series owners what the two main problems with their vehicles are, you’ll likely hear the reply: “The wheel track is different between the front and rear and there’s no auto option!” Both of which are sadly true. The manual is desperately lacking a sixth gear and the wheel track difference, to accommodate the wider V8 turbo-diesel engine, is a bit of a pain. Ian solved this issue by running 0 offset rims on the rear and +22 offset on the front – which brings the variation back to within 5mm. Interestingly, he carries twin spares on the back (both with 0 offset). The way he sees things, the drive tyres wear down a lot quicker than the steering tyres – and he can always run one up front in a pinch. Makes sense to us.
As for the transmission, he’s gone the whole hog and solved a whole bunch of issues while making his 76 a heap nicer to drive in the process. Yep, after a few phone calls to Rodney at Wholesale Automatics, the old 5-speed got relegated to paperweight duties and in its place a 6-speed automatic now handles the cog-swapping. While it’s not a cheap conversion, Ian reckons it’s brilliant! “Absolutely love it,” he says. “With the Unichip and Redback 3in exhaust it just wants to go, and after putting a small muffler into the exhaust system it sounds excellent too.”
He’s also fitted a converter lock-up for a little extra low-range control, which (after owning a similarly equipped 80 Series auto in the past) he reckons is a must. Inside the vehicle Ian fits a second cargo barrier behind the front seats for trips so he can utilise the rear seat area for increased storage, including a 110L water bladder which takes care of the hydration needs. Out front a TJM winch bar leads the way while a twin-spare Kaymar rear bar protects the bum from any damage. An ARB roof rack holds onto the Foxwing awning while a pair of Fyrlyt Halogen spotties light the way forward. Ian mentions that since he’s fitted an LED light bar, it makes the halogens look a bit yellow – but overall he’s pleased with the Fyrlyts.
As for camping, we reckon he has all bases well and truly covered. He’s got a swag for quick overnighters, a rooftop tent if he’s looking to get up off the ground, a Cub camper trailer should the trip require an increased level of comfort, a 14ft pop-top camper if he’s on an extended trip; and, oh yeah, a 24ft Leader caravan should he feel like camping out of a palace for a few days. Geez mate, you don’t muck around do you?
So what’s next for Ian and his 76, which he’s dubbed Grumpy? He’s helping organise the next 4x4earth gathering down on the dunes of Robe this year, and we’re reasonably confident he’ll have another trip or three up his sleeve once he hits retirement.
With your setup mate, we’re more than just a little green with envy. See you out there soon.