Lockers beat lightbars
This is the most un-modified vehicle we have ever featured … and that’s what makes it so special
You might be thinking, why is this LandCruiser being featured in Unsealed 4X4? I mean, normally you see juiced up dual-cab utes, capable long distance tourers and even wild rock crawlers like Tiny the Land Rover Defender we featured a few issues back. The beauty of Rob’s LandCruiser is its evolution over time. It could do with a coat of paint, but as it sits this vehicle just oozes character. So, what if we told you Rob and his short-wheelbase (SWB) LandCruiser not only kept up with Tiny on the day of our photoshoot, but only had to winch once the whole day? Yep, Rob Knight, the owner of this slightly unmodified 4X4, knows two things. He knows how to drive, very well. And he knows just how unstoppable a SWB LandCruiser can be … well, once you add front and rear diff locks, that is.
Rob Knight is a regular face in the NSW 4WD scene, heavily involved with the Lithgow 4WD Club and promoting off-road tourism in the Lithgow region. In his spare time away from work, he enjoys rebuilding and repairing 4WD tracks that see too much traffic and perhaps a little too much heavy right foot driving. Well, enjoys is probably not the right word … but it is something he is passionate about and dedicates a lot of time to.
On the day of this shoot, I enjoyed getting to know Rob and his laidback approach to 4WDing. He was eager to point out you don’t need 37-inch tyres and portal axles to drive technical terrain … even though they don’t hurt. In his eyes, the only modification you need to drive these tracks is diff locks and the right attitude. It must be said, it is hard to disagree with him after seeing just how far he can take this Shorty-40.
Rob’s LandCruiser is a BJ42 model featuring a five-speed manual gearbox and tractor like diesel power. He has owned it for the last 12 years, and it is his daily driver… something it does with ease since the turbo was bolted on. Now, if you’re not in the know, 1984 was a prime year for LandCruisers. Disk brakes on the front, power steering, cloth interior … it doesn’t get better in terms of 40 Series ownership. Rob’s beast even has air-conditioning. That works exceptionally well! And I’m not talking about the flaps in the foot wells (even though they are a nice touch). As well as being a daily driver, the BJ42 is used for local trips of varying difficulty and extended trips when Rob has a spare moment. The whole point of this vehicle is having something that can do everything. Considering it only has 250,000 kays on the clock, it is safe to say this machine will be hitting the tracks for many years to come too.
We asked Rob what size tyres he runs; his typically laidback response was, “I’ll have to check”. This sets the scene for his build, whereas most people can rattle off figures and facts and how much their modifications set them back, Rob uses what works. Case in point, his suspension system has been hand-crafted by the man himself, and we genuinely mean that. Rob made a jig, and cold reset the springs at home to provide a bit of lift, and from first hand experience a surprisingly plush ride for a leaf sprung SWB vehicle and the front end flexes with impressive authority. He also added an extra leaf to the rear to keep the arse end from sagging once loaded. One thing Rob certainly can chew your ear off about though is the importance of regular maintenance.
By fixing problems before they happen, you can travel the country in an older 4WD – don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. In terms of lockers, Rob has two air-operated ARB units, which have caused no issues after many, many hours of use. If all else fails, Rob has a PTO winch on the front of the ‘Cruiser to pull him or other less capable vehicles out of the mess.
Oh, the tyres are 235/85R16 Maxxis Bighorns on split rims … or 32-inches for anyone playing along at home. Future modifications? It might get a coat of paint at some point, otherwise regular maintenance and trips, particularly around the Lithgow area, are all that’s in the future for this very cool SWB Cruiser.