ByUnsealed 4X4March 4, 2019
Three years in the making, we answer the question… should you buy and build an ex-mines 76 Series LandCruiser?
Words by Mark Kendrick, Images by Harry Temple

Rusty started life as a common-as-dirt white LandCruiser 76 Series, with gaudy stickers, and a short life expectancy (thanks to its job in a Hunter Valley coal mine). Through a stroke of luck, or a moment of stupidity, we placed a winning bid on an auction and picked up what we thought was the bargain of the century. Well, let’s just say you get what you pay for, and we now were the owners of a much bigger project than first anticipated. Use your imagination – there’s a reason we called this LandCruiser ‘Rusty’. We wanted to build a robust and reliable touring 4X4 capable of towing and supporting our trips anywhere in Australia. Occupant comfort was a priority, as well as adaptability to the trip at hand.


Starting in Unsealed 4X4 Issue 018 of November 2015, staff members poured countless hours into extracting mud and filth, enlisted the help of our more talented friends at Drivetech 4×4 to get it on the road and bolted a great variety of parts on to make the best tourer we could.

The crew at MORE 4X4 at Brookvale in Sydney did some seriously hard yards fixing the electrical side of things, sorting the clutch out properly and who knows what else those poor blokes had to attend to! We ran them ragged with special requests and plan changes … not to mention a few jobs that had to be redone a second or third time. Sorry for that guys, but you did amazing work! If you haven’t followed the build, you can view our videos at our Project Rusty page.

Take one 2011 built LandCruiser 76 Series Workmate, cake on a tonne of corrosive filth in every hard-to-reach spot and then some, throw it down a mine for a few years and flog it off at auction. Counter that with a handful of enthusiastic spanner-spinning journalists and a few hired hands of superior skillset and we have the answer to our formula. Did we win or did Rusty have us beat?

Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of serious mechanical woes – after rebuilding the diffs, installing a Terrain Tamer ELocker in the rear diff, replacing some universal joints and changing the clutch, there was little that needed touching.

The beautiful factory V8 diesel is as robust as ever, but we let the rumble out with a twin 3-inch Redback exhaust, poked and prodded more power out with a Steinbauer performance module and coupled it to an iDrive to get some throttle response when we wanted it. A 170-litre diesel tank from Long Ranger gets Rusty to the moon and back compared to the thimble-sized factory tank it came with.

More motive power calls for more braking effort, and with Toyota’s renowned lack of braking performance and our intention to tow a fair bit, it called for some aftermarket solutions to stop the big 4X4. We started with a JMACX uprated brake booster to put extra force into converting motion to heat, which we followed up with DBA slotted and ventilated rotors to dissipate that heat quickly. What little braking confidence we had has been improved tenfold with these modifications.

We also discretely installed a Redarc Tow-Pro to control any trailer we might hitch up and a suite of Redarc gauges to keep an eye on Rusty’s vitals. There are a few other modifications that aren’t apparent to the casual viewer – to go with the long-range fuel tank is a Long Ranger 100-litre water tank, which also feeds the Glind hot water system.

It was a mild November day in 2017 that Rusty gained registration. It was a happy day for all, but we weren’t finished yet. The same week Rusty was driven straight across the country to Perth, with another couple of states since visited. This taught us how bloody loud it is on the highway, prompting us to park Rusty in MORE 4X4’s workshop again to go to town with the Resomat sound deadener from Tru-Fit Carpets, which could possibly be our favourite improvement of all! It just goes to show, like all good projects, we have continued tinkering and refining the build over time.

When we tallied up the retail price of all the modifications and accessories, we came up with a substantial figure: just over $60,000. This is before labour costs as we did a heap of work ourselves, thankfully. We didn’t skimp out on bottom-shelf or parts-bin specials though. Everything is of the utmost quality so we can rely on the 76 for our remote touring.

To put it into perspective, you can buy a second hand 2010-2012 model WorkMate usually with a bullbar, sometimes a winch and spotties, occasionally with drawers or a roof rack for around $40,000. The service history is probably just as unknown as an ex-mines vehicle too though it won’t fertilise your lawn with coal dust. A brand new 2019 model will set you back $63,740 plus on-road costs.

Is it worth your while taking an ex-mines ‘Cruiser, pumping a heap of dollars and a whole lot of time into it? We think it certainly can be. We have ended up with a 4X4 that’s far better than the factory provided. We have top quality suspension, more power, bigger tyres, great bar work, superb seats, extra lighting, a really cool auxiliary battery management system, and that awesome dune sand colour that just looks right. Having said that, we probably won’t build another ex-mines vehicle again … so what should we build next?