THE traditional 4x4 ute, or pickup depending on which side your bread is buttered, was always a single cab-chassis. The perfect tool for getting you and your offsider plus a load of whatever you’re hauling, to wherever you want to go.
Over the years utes have become more family-friendly with double-cab bodies and a raft of safety and convenience features, but the old single cab really has remained the realm of the farm truck, missing out on the best of factory equipment.
Cut-down and often stretched LandCruiser and Patrols are a great way to get the functionality of a ute with the comforts and equipment only a 4x4 wagon comes with. The LandCruiser 200 is a popular candidate for such a conversion and we’ve seen them in many guises including 5-seaters, 7-seats, 4x4 and 6x6 but generally, they are always 4-door double-cab bodies. What you’re looking at here is one of the few single-cab LC200s we’ve seen.
Mick Whitehead had what was for many years his perfect outback touring 4x4 in a GU Patrol coil-cab. After buying the Nissan new and having engineer-approved 35s, the Patrol served Mick on many trips.
As the Nissan drivetrain aged and NSW registration changed to make engineering a newer car more difficult, Mick replaced the TD42 engine and manual gearbox with a 1HD-FTE Toyota engine and the associated 5-speed auto transmission to create something special. But after more years and thousands more kilometres, you couldn’t hide the age of the GU and Mick went looking for something new.
“After looking at and driving the 79 Series I thought it would be a good truck but not a good touring truck,” said Mick.
“I also wanted an auto transmission which is not available in the 79 and after doing the spread sheet with base being the 79 with a (auto) transmission conversion, and fixing the rear track to match the front, there was not that much difference in the cost of the 200. Plus I got two cupholders in the 200.”
A new 2019 LandCruiser GXL was bought and shipped straight to Specialised Vehicles in Western Sydney for the body chop. John at SV has done a few single-cab 200s before but usually with a chassis stretch, so Mick’s request was a little different. The way the body is cut allows for a bit of space behind the front seats, a bit like an extra cab but there are no side windows in the fabricated panel. In fact Mick has tucked a fridge in there behind the Recaro seats and there’s still space for some soft luggage.
With the cabin chopped it was time to create a custom aluminium canopy for the new ute and this job was given to Daniel at D.A.M. Steel Fabrications.
“I wanted to replicate what I had in the Nissan with the ease of packing the back and being organised with the camping gear for touring,” says Mick of the setup.
It’s an aluminium canopy that sits on a tray and was made with two compartments: the front most space for the two spare tyres which are in the best place for weight distribution. Likewise the two MSA Drop Slides and ARB fridges (one each side) are mounted as far forward as possible within the main compartment to keep the weight forward. Yes, that’s three fridges in total.
The tapered tool boxes are on each side and a trundle drawer extends out the back. Up on top is a Budutop rooftop tent that opens up at the push of a button and an ARB awning.
Once all the custom parts were done to make this Cruiser unique it was time for the regular 4x4 touring kit and as a long time customer for all his vehicles, Mick again handed his car over to the crew at ARB Artarmon.
The boys pretty well threw the catalogue at the Cruiser starting with a GVM upgrade OME suspension kit using the premium BP51 OME shocks; an ARB long-range fuel tank; underbody protection and recovery points; ARB bar; Intensity LED lights; Warn winch; ARB drawers; and ARB Air Lockers front and rear.
While Mick has kept the drivetrain as standard as possible for reliability and serviceability wherever he may find himself, he did have ARB fit a Safari Armax snorkel and ECU along with an exhaust system from Torquit. EGT and transmission temp gauges are inside to keep an eye on things when Mick is towing his caravan.
“The idea all along was to build a functional touring truck while keeping all mechanicals as factory as possible. “ Mick explained. This was also the reason for not extending the chassis and so far it’s proving itself up to the job.
BUILDING a custom touring 4x4 like this comes from years of experience and learning what works and what doesn’t, who to work with and brands to trust. Mick didn’t just jump in to this blindly, having many years of touring and 4x4 competitions under his belt. His list of previous 4x4s is impressive with a trend toward the Toyota product but by no means one-eyed.
3 x LandCruiser 60 Series
1 x LandCruiser Troopie
1 x LandCruiser 80 Series
3 x LandCruiser 100 Series
1 x Range Rover Sport TDV8
1 x SWB GQ Patrol (comp truck)
1 x Bush Ranger (comp truck)
1 x Jeep TJ Wrangler (comp truck)
1 x GU Patrol Touring Truck
1 x LandCruiser 200 (current daily drive)
1 x LandCruiser 200 (this touring truck)
“I think the 200 Series touring truck will certainly take the mantle from the Patrol,” says Mick with his ever-present smile. “I have only been on one trip in the new truck and already I feel very comfortable with the modifications we have completed on it!”