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Ron Moon's LandCruiser 79 build from go-to-whoa

By Ron Moon, 08 Oct 2020 Reviews

2013 Toyota LandCruiser 79

We follow Ron Moon's 2013 LandCruiser 79 Series build.


Part 1: Take-Off

The wheels are in motion for Ron's 79 Series, with some great Aussie-made accessories - 08/04/17

WE BOUGHT the 2013 dual-cab V8 Land Cruiser last year, but it promptly went into the garage while we were overseas in our Dodge Ram.

Finally, once we got back home and with a few bob in our pocket, we started to source some aftermarket gear for it. Then we headed to Outback 4WD in Bayswater, Victoria, who do all our service work, to get the first lot of goodies fitted.

First up was a bullbar to protect us from wayward animal strikes. We opted for an ARB Summit bar, which not only delivers airbag compatibility but also has a 60mm top tube, LED indicators and fog lights.

We also added a set of side rails and steps for extra protection; the OE alloy ones getting the flick for something that will give a lot more protection. The build quality and finish on this bar work is exceptional.

Tucked in behind the bar is a Warn XD9000-S winch with Warn Spydura synthetic rope. I thought long and hard about this as the Warn range of winches don’t come cheap, but their reputation is as big as the hills they help you climb, so reliability and durability won the day over any savings I could have made.

The synthetic Warn winch rope has a special braided-type construction, and it has a temperature resistant coating on the first few metres of the rope (which is the section that wraps around the drum of the winch) to set it apart from many other synthetic ropes.

 This helps protect the rope from the detrimental effects of the heat generated from when the winch is working under load. The synthetic winch rope has a few more advantages in the field: it’s lighter, safer to use (especially if it breaks under load), and if it breaks it can easily be joined together in the scrub.

Helping light the way is a pair of Lightforce DL230 HTX hybrid driving lights featuring a ring of 20 LEDs and a 70-watt HID light within a 170mm reflector. The LEDs provide an instant flood of wide-beam light, while the HID bulbs produce a far-reaching light that punches down the track ahead. It combines the best of both worlds in LED and HID technology, and they’re a dream to drive behind.

Combine that with Lightforce’s effective and sturdy mounting brackets and you’ve got a great light ideal for long outback drives. If there are any downsides to this light it’s that the size is too big in many situations – they just managed to tuck in behind the leading edge of the Summit bar.

Wanting to tow our camper and/or van we fitted a Hayman Reese towbar to the backend of the Cruiser. Again, these are a well-engineered and Aussie-manufactured product that sit at the very top end of design and build quality. We completed the installation with a seven-pin trailer connection and an Anderson plug to bring 12-volt power to the trailer.

A Redarc Tow-Pro trailer brake controller was also wired into the system; we’ve had one of these on our Patrol for a few years now and I wouldn’t have any other electric brake controller, simple as that!
Before we do any more work to the Cruiser, the bank account will need replenishing and the old wallet will need to be refurbished. I’m sure all who have built up a vehicle know what that is like!

Current mileage: 105,600km
Date acquired: April 2016
Price: $59,000
Mileage since last update: 1100km
Average fuel consumption: 15.4L/100km

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Part 2: New Rubber

Moonie fits new wheels, tyres and mirrors to his Cruiser - 29/08/17

IT HAS been a slow start to our Project 79 Series Cruiser but, like most of us, I’m curtailed by a lack of finance and a desire to spend my hard-earned on travelling rather than vehicles and accessories.

‘Oh, poor you’, I can hear you mutter. Still, there’s been progress.

First up, we added a set of Clearview extension mirrors, which are the best set of towing mirrors I’ve ever used. These units have two mirrors in each housing – the top or main mirror (powered in some units) provides a clear view of the road behind; while the smaller, convex mirror eliminates blind spots.

When towing, the mirror housing extends a further 100mm to give a better view down the side of the vehicle/caravan. Yes, they are big and, when folded inwards, still protrude some way out from the vehicle body, so you need to be careful on a tight, scrubby track. However, I still wouldn’t swap them for the originals.

Wanting to improve the rubber on the Cruiser, I decided on a bigger rim and, after a lot of procrastination, I settled on a set of 17x8.5 Pro Comp Series 29 Satin Black alloy rims. These aggressive-looking units feature a split five-spoke design, and the thick outer lip provides added protection and strength for travelling the backroads and tracks of Australia.

Pro Comp has a huge array of rims to choose from, with this particular style available in 15-, 16- and 17-inch sizes, 5-, 6- or 8-bolt stud fixtures, and load ratings that vary from 1133 to 1587kg per wheel. Not only do they look good, they do everything required of them.

When it came down to what tyres I’d fit, there was no difficulty in choosing a brand. With the three other 4WDs in my garage wearing Cooper tyres, the only real choice was which particular model to choose. Once again, I settled on a set of Cooper S/T Maxx tyres and went for a slightly bigger tyre size than standard fitment, stepping up to a 285/70R17 with a load/speed rating of 121Q.

The ‘121’ means each tyre is designed to carry a maximum load of 1450kg, with a maximum speed designated by ‘Q’ of 160km/h. In all, there are 30 different tyres sizes in the S/T Maxx range suitable for 15-, 16-, 17-, 18- and even 20-inch rims, so we’re a bit spoilt for choice.

Why do I like the S/T Maxx so much? They have proven over the past 10 years or so on our travels around the world to be a tough, reliable tyre with good handling and wear characteristics. While I’ve had the occasional puncture, and even shredded one a couple of years ago (due to my own stupid fault and not having a tyre monitoring system on board), I can’t see any other tyre giving me the same off-road performance and long-time wear life.

As we write this, the 79 Cruiser has just had a new alloy tray and canopy fitted by Boss Aluminium in Bayswater, but that’s a story for next time.

PRODUCT INFO
Pro Comp rims: www.dynamicwheelco.com.au
Cooper tyres: www.coopertires.com.au
Boss Aluminium: www.bossaluminium.com.au
Clearview mirrors: www.clearviewaccessories.com.au

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Part 3: Tray and Tank

Moonie’s dual-cab Cruiser gets a new tray and a 180-litre fuel tank - 12/10/17

WHEN I first looked at fitting a new canopy to the Cruiser, I was going to keep the original Toyota tray, but it looked shithouse.

I was convinced a new tray would make the overall package better, so we bit the bullet and took the heavy galvanised steel tray off and fitted a brand-new custom-built beauty from Boss Aluminium in Bayswater, Victoria.

This is more a work of art than anything else and I’m super impressed with the tray; its design, construction and quality of finish. The tray is 1800mm long by 1860mm wide. We decided not to have a headboard, which allows the canopy to be 100mm longer and, as I don’t have any intention of removing the canopy when it’s fitted, we didn’t see the need for a headboard.

When we took the old tray off we found a few bent mounts, so all of them were replaced by heavy-duty 5mm-thick steel ones. Up front, a 57-litre water tank was fitted complete with filler hose, a 12-Volt SEAFLO diaphragm pump and a tap at the back end of the tray. Taking up the rest of the central under-tray area is a roller drawer complete with a handy sliding top that can double as a bench or table.

On each side of the tray is a pair of underbody boxes with a tapered shape to them to keep the departure angle where it should be. Like the under-tray drawer, the boxes are well-sealed from water and dust ingress by good rubber seals and effective lockable latches. Smart LED stop/tail-lights finish off the tray.

Its aluminium construction allows for a significant saving in weight from the previous steel tray, but some people may still be surprised at the weight of a good alloy tray. In the Boss case, the tray (which includes mounts, infill and guards) comes in at 105kg.

Each of the underbody boxes weigh 15kg, the under-tray drawer weighs 40kg, and the 57-litre water tank (when empty) weighs 5kg. Total weight of the tray and attached componentry is just 180kg.

Wanting to increase the fuel range of the Cruiser, I’ve opted for a replacement 180-litre ARB Frontier tank fitted by the crew at Outback 4WD in Bayswater. These tanks from ARB are made from a resilient cross-linked polymer and UV-stable plastic material and have a wall thickness of 7-9mm, which is much thicker than any of the OE plastic tanks I’ve seen.

They’ve proved to be strong and rigid, having been tested by driving a 60-tonne Centurion tank over them. They are also significantly lighter than a steel tank and, depending on the model of tank for a 79 Series, weigh up to 22kg empty.

The tank comes with all the fitting hardware required, as well as a fully machined filler neck made from aluminium, while the tank breather pipe is fitted with a one-way valve to stop any spillage in case of a rollover.

We’re sure to get years of effective and trouble-free service from both the tray and the tank and, while 180 litres is about the same as what my Patrol carries, like the Patrol, if the occasion demands more fuel capacity, then we’ll opt for a couple of plastic jerry cans.

PRODUCT INFO
Frontier fuel tank: www.arb.com.au
Boss alloy tray: www.bossaluminium.com.au
Outback 4WD: www.outback4wd.com.au

Current mileage: 109,900km
Mileage since last update: 150km
Average fuel consumption: 13.5L/100km

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Part 4: Weight Management

New fixtures in the endless quest for tourer greatness - 27/01/18

The LC79 has turned into a lesson in weight management.

When I fitted the alloy tray and canopy from Boss Aluminium in Bayswater, Victoria, I was wanting a good-looking, robust canopy and tray at the lightest weight possible... but I soon realised how quickly weight adds up.

The canopy (my fourth on 4x4 vehicles I’ve owned) fits all the criteria and is a work of bloody art; it’s so well designed, manufactured and finished off. However, I digress. Let’s talk weight.

The canopy, with its internal shelving, framework and drawers, weighs in at 200kg; the two spare wheel holders, without the wheels, weigh 15kg each; the drop-down fridge slide, without a fridge, weighs 37kg. So there’s another 267kg on the back of the Cruiser without even blinking, and I’ve yet to put anything into it.

The canopy has been custom-built – like most from Boss – and comes complete with a robust frame, while the canopy is bolted to the tray. This, in turn, is mounted on heavy-duty steel mounts that connect the canopy firmly to the vehicle chassis.

Inside the unit is some internal shelving, which we’ve fitted with a range of Oates Smart Storage Drawers from Bunnings. We’ve used these lightweight units in the Patrol for more than 10 years and found them to work well and be durable (we’ve never replaced them). There’s a fairly large pull-out drawer and a slide-out table below that, while there’s also room for a fridge at the front of the canopy, all on the passenger side of the vehicle.

The driver’s side is a vast open playing field at present and I’m not even sure what I’ll be putting into it. My swag and tool roll will be the start. There’s some great LED lights, one on each lift-up door and two along the centre-line of the roof, and they do a great job illuminating the interior.

Up the front, close to where the fridge will go, is a power distribution box with light switches, 12-volt power outlets and fuses, and an auxiliary battery voltage read-out display.

On the outside rear wall, connected into the framework of the canopy, are the two spare wheel carriers. These are adjustable so they can carry any size rim and tyre up to 38-inch in diameter, but we won’t be going that big. I could have fitted a roof rack or a set of roof bars to the canopy as well, but I’d have an access issue to my garage, so that is on the back-burner at present. We’ll see if we need one.

Back on the inside and the drop-down fridge slide is an Easy Slide from Clearview Accessories, which was also fitted by the crew at Boss. I’ve had the forerunner to this unit in my Patrol for years and it has been a beauty, so I knew what I wanted right from the start.

The Easy Slide lowers the fridge unit 290mm, making it a lot easier to get a coldie or some salad from the fridge. Designed in Australia, the unit has been improved since my Patrol’s early model, making it easier and safer to use and capable of handling up to a 180kg load. With its safety locking mechanism and additional travel lock the unit has been crash-tested and is ADR compliant, with a 36-month warranty on moving parts.

Available in three different sizes to suit myriad portable fridge/freezers, I opted for the ES-100Plus Easy Slide, which handles an ARB 47-litre fridge easily. It also fits the Engel 40-litre or the National Luna 55 Weekender.

As soon as the canopy was fitted I was back at Outback 4WD to fit a dual-battery system. We used an Auxiliary Battery Kit from ARB, the battery box being made from 2mm powdercoated steel, with well-designed supporting and holding brackets. This ensures the heavy battery doesn’t break away from the vehicle’s body work when on continuous rough roads or tracks. I have seen and used lesser quality battery kits which cause nothing but trouble once off the bitumen for extended trips.

To control the charge of the second (auxiliary) battery I’ve fitted a Redarc BCDC1240D DC-DC battery charger. This isn’t the cheapest option (I have a Redarc Smart Start SBI unit in my Patrol, which has worked just fine), but the DC-DC charger was considered the best option. Not only does this unit act as an isolator for the main battery, it ensures your second battery is fully charged at all times, whether it takes power from the alternator or from any solar panels you may have connected.

Now with an extra battery in the system I’ve added, yet again, more weight on top of the bar work and winch, along with the capacity of the bigger ARB fuel tank that has already been fitted. I’ll be running the rig across a weighbridge soon and then looking at better aftermarket suspension along with an increase in GVM.

Current mileage: 111,165km
Mileage since last update: 1265km
Average fuel consumption: 13.6L/100km

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Part 5: Smooth Ride

A smoother ride and a quieter cab - 05/05/18

OVER the last few weeks we’ve been busy adding a few accessories to the Project 79 Cruiser because we’ve got some trips lined-up for the next couple of months.

Just after the new tray and canopy from Boss Aluminium were built and fitted, I installed an ARB dual-battery setup, having a timely reminder when I was up in the mountains of how important a well-mounted and supported battery tray is.

I had a friend whose bargain-priced battery-mounting system was tearing away from its mount on the inner guard and we had to bogey up a repair to make it last until we got back home. It’s not the first time I have seen cheap battery mounts break away and/or destroy the mount, what it is mounted to, as well as the battery and cabling.

I backed-up the auxiliary battery with a Redarc BCDC1240D DC-to-DC battery charger. This unit acts as an isolator for the main battery and will also ensure your second battery is fully charged at all times, whether it takes power from the alternator or from any solar panels connected.

To improve fuel filtration – a weakness in most modern 4WDs, especially when you are travelling in our remote country – I’ve fitted an extra Flashlube fuel filter, which will help save the injectors and fuel pump if (when) I get a gutful of contaminated fuel.

Because of ever-stricter environmental standards, modern engines feed some of the exhaust gases (containing moisture and oil fumes) back to the engine via the EGR valve and the engine’s air inlet. Those contaminants can cause issues with intercoolers, turbos, inlet manifolds and EGR valves, resulting in poor engine performance and leading to possible expensive engine repairs.

Fitting an oil catch can will help stop those issues and keep your engine running like new, so we’ve also fitted a Flashlube oil catch can. Both Flashlube kits come complete from Terrain Tamer, with appropriate brackets, cabling and hoses.

With the smaller jobs out of the way, the crew at Outback 4WD got down to the task of fitting a new suspension system. It’s important to know what you’re carrying, the weight involved and where it is distributed, so I waited until I had most of the heavy gear fitted before I looked at what suspension system and how heavy a spring set I needed.

It’s essential to discuss those facts and figures with your suspension specialist, and don’t blame them when the springs sag because you forgot to tell them about the winch or the 200-litre fuel tank you were about to fit for the next outback trip.

The 79 had an aftermarket suspension system already installed, but as this was originally a mine-exploration vehicle the spring set was a heavy mongrel and bloody uncomfortable, even with a fair amount of weight in the back. I wanted something that would ride better over the rough stuff, give good articulation in 4WD situations and yet handle on-road travel well while carrying the weight I wanted.

I settled on an OME suspension kit all ’round. OME has a choice of four different rear spring sets (the heavier two also available with an extra spring leaf for even more weight carrying) and with the weight I was carrying, I opted for the standard 700kg-rated springs. These are designed and manufactured as a two-stage leaf pack, which allows the spring to ride largely on the primary stage when unladen, while the second stage comes into play when loads are carried.

These leaf spring packs were fitted with greasable shackles and came with all the bushes and hardware required. The attention to detail is one of the reasons I like the OME kits so much, and it’s superb even with small brackets and spacers.

OME offers two different rated coil springs for the front and, again, because of the bullbar, extra battery and winch, I fitted the heavier of the two.

With a wide range of shock absorbers available from OME I opted for the Sports range, deeming the top-of-the-range high-performance BP-51 shocks a bit of overkill for a vehicle that drives, performs and handles more like a truck than a touring car. And, I also like the simplicity of twin-tube shocks which have proven time and again to be durable and reliable in the scrub.

A purposely valved OME shock absorber is available with each of the leaf spring sets, while the two different coils at the front can run the same valved sports shock.

I noticed the improvement in ride comfort on the very first speed bump I hit after leaving Outback 4WD, and the vehicle is more comfortable and the dampening well-controlled on corrugations. The vehicle now sits level even when loaded with gear, 60L of water and 180L of fuel, and I couldn’t be happier.

I started 2018 by stripping the seats and the basic, thin floor matting out of the cabin. Then we fitted sheets of Dynamat to the floor and front doors to help deaden some of the road, wind and engine noise prone to infiltrate 79s. This is a time-consuming process but not difficult; you’ll need a few basic tools including a roller, scissors, box cutter and a brush for cleaning the metal surfaces.

Some turps might come in handy, as will a good torch and tape measure. You may find it useful to use the mat’s backing paper as a template for the more intricate pieces of matting you’ll be laying.
I ordered the Dynamat kit online and spent a couple of days cutting and fitting it. Now at least I can hear the stereo … and Viv.

Current mileage: 111,930km
Mileage since last update: 850km
Average fuel consumption: 13.8L/100km

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Part 6: Air and Comms

More air and better comms for Ron's resident Cruiser - 22/07/18

IT WAS a mad scramble getting a few things fitted to the 79 Cruiser before we set out to film the series of High Country videos for the mag.

You need good comms wherever you go in the scrub, so the crew at Outback 4WD in Bayswater fitted a GME TX4500S 80-channel UHF radio (RRP $540). Backing that up was a GME AE4705 heavy duty 6db antenna on a spring base (RRP $280).

I have a similar setup in my Patrol and have always liked the standard of the radio’s reception and the voice quality of the front-mounted speaker, while the antenna is flexible and robust.

For a bit more storage space in the cab of the 79, we fitted a 4WD Interior’s Top Shelf unit (RRP $495). The shelf imposes little on headroom and not only does it hold the UHF radio but it’s a handy place to throw a few small items such as maps and guidebooks. Still, I’d like to see a support located in the centre of the shelf just to make the shelf a little more solid so it doesn’t vibrate or flex on rough tracks and corrugated roads.

Last but not least, I fitted an Armax snorkel (RRP $594 for the complete kit, to suit 70 Series) from Safari 4x4 Engineering. Good, unrestricted airflow to the engine is one of the most important criteria for a proper functioning powerplant; while keeping the air that flows to the engine as free as possible from dust and other particles, as well as any water, is critical.

Safari has been building snorkels for a whole range of 4WD vehicles for darn near as long as I have been writing for 4X4 Australia ... and that’s a few decades now. Now with the introduction of its Armax range of snorkels, Safari has three model line-ups of snorkel to choose from, with more than 250 models of snorkels to suit more than 300 models of vehicles, both old and new.

Its RSPEC range is made for non-current model vehicles only, while the VSPEC range covers most current models of 4WDs as well as the popular 100 Series Cruiser and GU Patrol. The Armax range is designed to deliver huge gains in airflow and engine performance, and Safari now offers 14 different models to suit the most popular four-wheel drives.

The 70 Series does come with a so-called “snorkel”, but it’s a sad piece of equipment comprising a number of separate pieces and joints that aren’t properly sealed against water entry. The raised air intake flows 265CFM (cubic feet per minute) while the replacement Armax snorkel flows a whopping 540CFM, so my best advice is to dump the OE ‘snorkel’ and get a real one-piece unit.

With the right gear and skill an experienced DIY mechanic could do this job, but, as there is a lot of panel-cutting, I’d be leaving it to the experts – if you know what you’re doing, it’s about a three-hour job.

With no other accessories or improvements to the engine, I can honestly tell you I felt the difference as soon as I drove the Cruiser out of the workshop; the engine was breathing easier and better, getting more cool air with less effort to improve performance.

Over the next few months we’ll bring you reports on how the Project 79 Cruiser and its accessories are faring, not only in the Victorian High Country but also in the Outback, where we have a long trip planned.

TOTAL KM: 112,800km
KM THIS MONTH: 900km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 13.8L/100km

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Part 7: Winter Wanderings

Ron preps his LC79 with a new compressor and roof rack - 23/01/19

THE CRUISER has been wandering the backblocks of Australia for its annual winter sojourn, including a trip across the Madigan Line from Mt Dare to Birdsville. Before it went on the trip, though, we had it up at Outback 4WD in Bayswater for a pre-trip inspection, where among its general service requirements we changed the rear brake pads and skimmed the rear discs.

As a prerequisite for the desert trip we fitted an ARB twin compressor, which we shoehorned into one of the under-tray boxes of the Boss canopy. The twin motors of the high-performance compressor incorporate internal thermal protection, while in-line heavy-duty fuses offer protection from extreme current draw. The compressor draws up to 68amp at maximum pressure, so it requires heavy-duty wiring to cope with the current drain.

On the plus side it delivers up to 174 litres of air per minute at 0kPa and 131 litres per minute at 200kPa (29psi), which is bloody good. This makes short work of inflating tyres or running some air tools; the latter requiring an air tank for optimum operation. We fitted a four-litre tank into the under-tray box.

The setup, ready at hand all the time, makes it easy and quick to inflate tyres, and for even better tyre inflation we went all out and got ourselves one of those fancy digital tyre inflators. This makes obtaining the right tyre pressure that much easier, with a stated accuracy of +/-1psi at 25-75psi.

With a lot of sand running and half-reasonable outback roads in store, we swapped back to our Cooper ST Maxx tyres, as they perform extremely well in these conditions and you get better fuel economy on these than when running heavy-duty mud tyres.

More recently, after discovering there was a shortage of space for long bush trips, we fitted a Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform roof rack to the Boss alloy canopy.

Rhino has a heap of racks and support bars to choose from and we’ve used a variety for many years now and they’ve never let us down in any way, even when we load them past the recommended limits.

These platform racks come in a variety of sizes, from 928x1426mm to a mammoth 2528x1586mm, so there is one that will suit you and your vehicle’s roof; we opted for the 1928x1236mm, which should be capable of handling everything we want to carry.

I was limited in what I could fit to the Cruiser because of the roofline clearance getting into our garage, hence the platform design. With clearance being the real issue we couldn’t use roof bars of any sort, so we mounted the rack with just a few spacers, enabling enough room for ropes or tie-downs to be used but keeping the overall height as low as possible.

At home it was a tentative drive into the garage, with the new rack clearing by just one centimetre. The accessories I bought – a shovel holder and a gas bottle holder – will require fitting before the next trip, and they’ll also demand removal before I try and drive back into the garage. It’s not perfect, but I can live with it.

We also took the opportunity to fit a set of Narva LED globes, which come in a variety of fitments so you’ll be able to find one suitable for your rig. You’ll find the improvement over normal halogen globes to be more than worth the price, especially if you’re doing plenty of night driving and can’t use or don’t have a good set of driving lights.

Then, with stories of dusted engines and extremely high repair bills circulating on social media and ringing loudly in my ears, we went searching for a better air box and air-cleaner system.

We settled on a unit from Fatz Fabrication based in Rockhampton, Queensland. These aren’t cheap, but if they save an engine from an early death then that will be a godsend. I’m not a great lover of flatbed air-cleaner elements, anyway, so this new smart-looking unit has already won me over. We’ll provide a full report on this when we’ve done a few dusty miles and seen how it performs.  

TOTAL KM: 123,500km
KM THIS MONTH: 300km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 13.7L/100km

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Part 8: Trip Preparation

Project 79 gets air-lifted and monitored - 16/06/19

WE’VE BEEN preparing the Cruiser for its next sojourn, which will be a longish one of a few months up to Alice Springs and across to WA via the Gary Junction Road to Marble Bar and then up to the Kimberley for a month or so.

We’ll then head south to Central Australia and the Eastern Macs before arriving back in Birdsville. Not sure what we’ll do after that, but I doubt we’ll be coming home … maybe a run through the Gulf before heading to the tip of Cape York?

The crew at Outback 4WD in Bayswater, Victoria, where I get all my service and maintenance work done, has been busy giving the Cruiser a service and a pre-trip inspection (always a good idea, no matter where you are going), as well as fitting a set of airbags to the rear suspension.

Airbags as a suspension aid have been around for ages and I’ve got a set on our Dodge Ram in the States to help carry the load of the slide-on camper. My stretched Patrol has never needed them as the rig is so well sprung and balanced, even when towing a camper. But the 79 Cruiser is a different ballgame and, with its long rear overhang, we’ve had trouble keeping the truck level, even with a set of Old Man Emu springs in the back.

I could stretch the chassis like I did with my Patrol, but the turning circle of the Cruiser isn’t great and that would make it even worse. I could go heavier in the spring set or add another leaf, but that would affect the ride all the time, making it bloody uncomfortable when it’s lightly loaded. So I went for a set of airbags.

Polyair make a range of airbags for vehicles, and its Dominator Bellows are the toughest, biggest airbags in the Polyair line-up, designed with rigs like the 70 Series Cruiser range in mind and that have suspensions varying from standard to a three-inch lift. There are two kits available: one for standard to 30mm lift and the second from 30mm to 75mm lift. Both are made from heavy duty, four-ply material with steel end caps and are adjustable from 5 to 100psi. They come supplied with all fittings, hoses and brackets, and come with a two-year unlimited-kilometre warranty.

A good handyman could fit these, but I let the experts at Outback 4WD do their thing. No drilling is required as the kit is a complete bolt-on affair, taking about two hours to fit. Take care when running the airlines as they must be kept out of the way and protected as much as possible.

I also opted for the optional airbag cradle kit, which allows more movement in the suspension as the airbags aren’t connected to the axle (or chassis) at one end. The cradle allows the suspension to go to full droop without any hindrance; it’s something I should fit to my Dodge.

While airbags don’t change the GVM of the vehicle they help carry the load and are rated to carry 2200kg. The minimum air pressure in the bag is 5psi, but that comes with the caveat of only being suitable for an unladen vehicle on a smooth road.

For loaded situations a minimum of 20psi is called for, and we found 20 to 25psi was more than suitable for the Cruiser when it was lightly loaded and didn’t have a camper on the back. With a camper hung on the rear it requires about 40 to 50psi to keep the rig level and the shackle plates to be near upright, with just the slightest angle backwards.

With all the electronic controls and sensors of modern vehicles, some form of code-scanning device makes a lot of sense; so I got myself a ScanGauge II for the Cruiser. These are simple to fit – the hardest thing is finding the OBD11 connector, which, in the 79’s case, is under the dash on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. Plug it in and run the cable to where the unit mounts – in the Cruiser’s case that’s on top of the steering column in front of the dash, which seems as good a place as any.

Once plugged in and the vehicle ignition switched on the ScanGauge will communicate with the vehicle. You’ll then need to calibrate it for engine size, fuel type, distance in kilometres, fuel tank size, etc., all of which is pretty easy.

Once all that is done the gauge will display a range of readings including engine revs, fuel usage, speed, intake air temperature and a whole lot more. Importantly it also has a scan tool, which you can use to view and clear diagnostic trouble codes, pending trouble codes, as well as being able to turn off the Check Engine light. The unit is also very easy to move from car to car.

There are many scan gauges on the market, but for the cost and peace of mind the ScanGauge II takes a lot of beating. I’m also much happier now that I’ve fitted the airbags – not only does the rig sit flatter and look better, it also rides better as the airbags allow the leaf springs to work to their fullest.

TOTAL KM: 132,250km
KM THIS MONTH: 5700km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 16.3L/100km

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Part 9: Ready and Able

The 79 gets a good going over - 8/10/20

I AM A firm believer in fixing or replacing things before they become an issue. The part in question may last a bit longer and save you some dollars in the short term, but whatever you saved by stretching your luck is going to cost you more if you break down in the scrub. Plus, it’ll take up valuable holiday time and generally stuff you around no end. It’s just not worth it!

So, in the last couple of months the Cruiser has been getting a good work-over. For starters, we rolled into Outback 4WD in Bayswater at the start of the year for a 140,000km service in preparation for a year of touring (which kinda never happened).

Apart from the normal full service and pre-trip inspection, the crew at Outback serviced the front and rear wheel bearings; replaced all hub seals axle gaskets and front brake disc pads; machined the front disc rotors; and replaced the rear spring shackle, pin bushes and all sway bar bushes.

A bit of ‘notchiness’ was noticed in the front-end swivel hubs and the clutch pedal was down a bit, indicating the clutch was on its way out. With assurances that both would last for at least 10,000 kays, we headed off on a little jaunt through Outback NSW, towing our Trakmaster camper. It wasn’t too strenuous a trip on either man or machine, but we did come unstuck on one occasion when we slipped off the road and into a quagmire of black soil.

With no MaxTrax (I’d left them at home as it was planned to be an ‘easy’ trip) and not a tree in sight, it was out with the shovel. Slipping the Cruiser into low range and engaging the front and rear diff locks, I managed to extricate myself from our silly predicament. The clutch got a hammering amongst all that though, and it wasn’t smelling really well after it!

Back in town I washed the mud from underneath the truck and rolled back into Outback 4WD for the two biggish jobs of clutch and swivel hubs.

For the replacement clutch, I again went for an Exedy Safari Tuff clutch kit (exedydirect.com.au). I’ve had these same units in my Patrol for the last 340,000km and, while I replaced one at about the 250K mark, I’ve found them to be a tough, durable and a very reliable replacement to the not-so-great original units. These Safari clutches are also easy on leg muscles and I haven’t had any issue with noise or any shudder from these units. I expect to get the same years of service and mileage out of this new clutch.

Having dropped a gearbox of an early model Cruiser while in my carport, it’s just amazing how quickly a well-trained mechanic with all the right gear can do such a job. It’s no wonder I now leave most of my mechanical work to professionals.

With the clutch done it was time for the swivel housing. This time I went for a Terrain Tamer kit (www.terraintamer.com). TT has a large range of wheel bearing and swivel hub kits for different model Cruisers and Hilux vehicles, and they come complete with all bearings, seals, washers and the like.

All the bearings are made in Japan, have a Rockwell hardness rating 2.5 points higher than the OE bearings, and are designed and manufactured for a longer service life. The seals are also the very best you can get, with improved sealing surfaces and construction to prevent oil loss and protect against ingress of unwanted substances. It was a job of a few hours to fit the new kit, but I knew if I had to do it the job would have taken a lot longer.

With all that work done, the Cruiser drives and steers better while the clutch feels healthier. Let’s hope we can do an outback trip before the year is out!

TOTAL KM: 156,500km
KM THIS MONTH: 
5200km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 
15.9L/100km

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