79 Series LandCruiser, Let’s just hope this time he doesn’t roll it…
If you like 80 Series ‘Cruisers, then chances are you have come across a picture of Jacob’s kitted out old 80 Series at some point. In fact, this fresh 79 Series build was inspired by the 80 and brought about by it’s unfortunate end. Let me back up a bit. Jacob is an avid four-wheel driver from the small town of Yarramalong, a stone’s throw from the Central Coast. He describes his off-roading passion as a borderline fetish (but we aren’t here to judge), heavily influenced by the time he spent as a child exploring the Barrington Tops with his parents. Growing up, his father had more than his fair share of Land Rovers. Jacob reminisced, “I needed something more reliable than a Land Rover, so I bought a stock standard 1989 SR5 HiLux with the 22r engine. She was slower than a wet week, but she did the job”. No offence intended to Land Rover owners there … his words, not ours.
After offloading the HiLux, he found himself in a VY Commodore, but soon enough he was back behind the wheel of a 4WD. This time, a grandpa-spec 1991 GXL 80 Series fitted with an aftermarket turbo. It didn’t stay that way for long, soon running a 4-inch lift with 7-inch shocks, a winch, 35s and much more. Jacob spent many days and nights steering it through his local area, Ourimbah State Forest, with his mates and even started on longer trips up into the Gulf and down to the Kosciusko National Park. All good things must come to an end though, and the 80 was no exception. It met an unfortunate end out on the infamous McBrides Beach track near Forster, where a rear coil-spring fell out and she slowly teetered over, landing on the driver’s side (See pic). Thankfully no one was seriously injured, with Jacob’s partner Zoe falling across him and only sustaining a minor laceration to her head. However, a crushed A-pillar and roof meant the end of the line for the four-year build.
It was a low point for Jacob; only a few months previously he had been diagnosed with a couple of serious autoimmune conditions, ITP and coeliac disease. The 80 had been something to fall back on during the medical rollercoaster, but in its absence, it left a LandCruiser-sized hole in Jacob’s life. Enter the 79 series, a 2001 model with the faithful N/A 1HZ. He spotted it on the roadside one afternoon looking very neglected and well used. He explained to us, “After the roll, my focus has shifted towards touring and further away from the extreme tracks I used to do, and this seemed like the next best thing”.
A couple of phone calls later and the farm-spec single-cab was sitting in his driveway with a gun rack on the dash and five years of rubbish, beer bottles and cigarette butts littering the floor. After decontaminating the interior, the focus shifted to restoring the exterior to its former glory. The panels needed some love, as did the paint. After the fresh respray in the factory metallic silver, he needed some extra funds to keep the project moving, so he transferred what he could from the written-off 80 and sold the roller for parts to keep building the 79. The Mitchell tray was crying out for attention, and boy, did it get some. Completely resprayed and strengthened and with all the hardwood boards looking more like driftwood, they were replaced with Modwood decking to ensure maximum durability.
Nearly every mod on this vehicle has been done with remote touring in mind. Spending weeks at a time away from civilization, reliability is of the utmost importance. However, Jacob hasn’t let that stop him from throwing a couple of cheeky parts in to maximize the flex, and we agree: why not have both? The front received a Dobinson 4-inch heavy-duty lift, 5-inch superior shocks and 3-inch castor correction bushes in the upgraded radius arms. The Tough Dog Panhard and Return To Centre dampener have brought both the diff and steering back in line respectively.
A lot of calculation went into tucking the diff breathers up out of harm’s way and extending the brake line enough to ensure a full range of motion for the 33-inch tyres. Economically speaking, the 33s are a perfect fit for touring and don’t slow the ‘Cruiser down too much according to Jacob. Let’s be honest though, it was never going to win any races to begin with! The steel rims are a must for remote travel, as is the winch up front. They are cheap forms of insurance when self-reliability is paramount. The bar work from the previous owner has been left on, as it provides adequate protection and suits the new use of the ‘Cruiser.
Mounted to the bar are a set of Lightforce HIDs that illuminate any critters from a safe distance. The factory candles have been thrown in the bin in favour of some aftermarket 7-inch LED lights that are not only much brighter, but much better to look at as well. The interior lights were thrust into the 21st century with a complete LED conversion throughout the cab. A set of 6x9s and an aftermarket stereo are more than enough for Slim Dusty, and the 79 even has working aircon … talk about luxury.
Once the tray was back on he began trying to price a canopy but after exploring various styles and sizes, he landed on two large alloy boxes that could be fitted out individually from the shop with shelves, drawers and importantly, water and dust-proof sealing. This set-up retained some vision out the rear window and allowed bulkier items to be stored between them, as well as leaving room for a couple of motorbikes on the back. The roll bar on the tray also doubles as an air tank – perfect for that quick air filter clean of a morning or reseating any troublesome tyres. To make the most of the roof space over the cab, Jacob adapted a 2001 HiLux roof cage to fit with some leftover gutter mounts.
The dual battery system under the bonnet runs to the rear, allowing two fridges to be run out of the boxes on longer trips. The two under-tray storage boxes fit neatly, with one holding tools and spares such as axle seals and CVs, while the other side houses a 15m hose and 11L per min pump for cleaning and cooking off grid. 100L of water split between two tanks is always a safer option than one, something that Toyota had the foresight to do with the fuel tanks. Two 90L tanks give a generous range, but with almost 300kg of weight over the rear in liquid alone, the suspension has been supplemented with 5-tonne airbags to keep it from dragging its bum when fully loaded.
Jacob cites his father as the main inspiration behind the build. Together they share a lot of pastimes, including four-wheel driving and bowhunting. “We needed something that could take both sets of gear and bikes easily halfway across the country,” he explained. “She isn’t quite done yet, but this next trip up to the Gulf in June will be the big test and will decide which way the build progresses”. If it takes four extra days without a turbo, that may get pushed up the priority list a bit. Whichever direction the build takes, it is fantastic to see two generations out exploring what our country has to offer!