After a month spent out at Terrain Tamer fixing all the oil leaks and replacing all the worn out parts, followed by a couple of trips to the mechanic before he’d give me the roadworthy certificate, my old mid-wheelbase Land Cruiser is back on the tracks. It had been sitting in the driveway for the best part of five years since moving to Melbourne, but the time had come to get it going again.
Allan Grey and the guys at Terrain Tamer did a heap of major work on it – replacing the rear brakes, the clutch, and various oil seals, rebuilding the steering box, the gearbox and the front hubs plus fitting a Harrop E-Locker in the rear diff. But it was all the little things they were able to replace from their extensive stock at the warehouse that made the big difference.
New rubbers on the pedals, new tail-light lenses, new heater blower switch, washer fluid bottle, indicator stalk, new shocks and steering damper. All the details that make the 38-year-old bus better to drive.
It took a deadline to finally get it on the road and I set myself the magazine’s annual advertiser trip as the date. Each year, we head out for a few days of four-wheel driving with some of our best mates from the industry for a bit of fun, doing what we all love the most. This year we were heading to the High Country on the tail of winter, so the prospect of driving the Middy in snow had me excited.
With the roadworthy in hand I fronted up to Vic Roads to get my 90 days of club rego. This isn’t my daily driver so three months’ worth of use will be enough for it, and I have plenty of other 4x4s I need to drive for the magazine.
On the test drive before the snow trip, the little Middy was going like a champion. It still has all the rattles and squeaks I remembered and it was never much of a rocket ship, but it was great to be back behind its big steering wheel looking out through that flat windscreen.
Honest and simple motoring at its best, until it died at a set of traffic lights and wouldn’t start again. I knew the problem was related to some dodgy wiring on a vacuum solenoid, so I was able to disconnect it and get back on the road to home.
Rather than try and fix the wiring, I chased down a replacement for the missing plug and Early Land Cruiser Spares in South Australia came to the rescue. The 3.4-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel was rattling away again like Thomas the Tank Engine.
And so it chugged on into the High Country on a sunny spring morning. Running on a set of Cooper ST Maxx tyres that have been on for many years, but don’t have a lot of kilometres on them, the Middy was always going to struggle on the steep, wet clay tracks. However, with the E-Locker doing its thing in the rear diff the rig held its head high among some bigger mud-tyre equipped vehicles.
There was one steep clay hill where all but two of the trucks had to be winched up. Alan from Piranha Off Road has a high-pulling-power Gigglepin twin-motor on the front of his 79 Series and it made light work of it. But then as Al lead us into deep snow, it was my Warn winch, freshly fitted with a new synthetic line from Bubba Rope, that was pulling his rig back out.
A big thanks to Alan and Michael from Piranha for the use of the snow chains, which were needed when the snow got heavier, and even the double-locked 4x4s on 35s couldn’t get through. The guys were saying that due to the epic snowfalls this past winter it was one of Piranha’s biggest seasons for chains ever and as the only company in Australia that makes snow chains, they are the place to go for a set for your 4x4.
It was an epic trip that showed the strengths of the old Cruiser and a few areas that still need attention. The FRP roof started to come off on the way home and I found that all the bolts on the leading edge near the top of the windscreen had come out, while the old headlights are pretty poor and will be swapped out for an upgrade real soon.
Some proper front recovery points and a set of mudflaps won’t go astray either. It’s great to have it back on the road and on the tracks and I’m looking forward to spending more time in the old bus.
4x4 Shed Log: 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ73
Current mileage: 421,000km
Date acquired: 2008
Mileage this month: 900km
Average fuel consumption: N/A
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