In this line of work we come across a lot of four-wheel drives. We drive them, look at them, and draw pictures of them in our notepads while we’re in meetings.
Article originally published February 8, 2016
You get the point – they’re a large part of our lives. So you can imagine it’s a bit of an oddity when something comes along that absolutely floors us. Norm’s 79 is that something.
Now we’ve all seen 79 Series Cruisers before; they’re everywhere. And why shouldn’t they be? They’re good; bloody good. So good, in fact, that Norm figured the best course of action in life was to ditch his wildly modified turbo-diesel TD42 Patrol and slot his backside into the uncompromisingly tough dual-cab 70 Series to start all over again.
Now you can’t exactly order a 79 Series like this – you have to build it – and Norm didn’t hold back when it came to building it. The Cruiser had a grand total of zero kilometres on the clock before Norm dropped it off to the guys at Patriot Campers, ready to cut it in half with a grinder.
For now, though, we’ll take the story back to the dealership, because that’s where this story really starts. Norm has a young family and, like other young families, his family enjoys doing things like kayaking, and riding quad bikes and dirt bikes. They also enjoy doing these things for a month at a time in exotic places like Lorella Springs and less exotic places like Tasmania.
It was this that motivated him to build what he described as “the ultimate Super Tourer”. So there was Norm at the dealership, signing the dotted line for a brand-spanking-new 79 Series Cruiser. While most of us would be trying to get it down the first dirt road we could point the road-terrain tyres at, Norm was calculating.
SANDY 79: Custom LandCruiser
Before he had even taken delivery of his new adventure machine, he had the guys in the service department install a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) upgrade from EFS suspension. By having it installed before he took delivery, it became a dealer-fitted option and, thus, would be legally engineered for every state in Australia – yes, even you, Tasmania. The upgrade allowed Norm to load an extra 700kg on the Cruiser without running afoul of the law.
With the GVM upgrade parking the 79 a good three inches closer to the sky, Norm took it straight to the guys at Patriot Campers for one of their ‘Super Tourer’ builds. For those of you currently living under a rock, they’re the guys responsible for some of the most pants-tightening 4x4s, campers and trailers in the country.
The base model Super Tourer tray runs in at a comparatively modest $15,990. But Norm didn’t want comparatively modest; he wanted a 4x4 that’d do everything he’d ever ask of it, take him everywhere he’d ever want to go, and do it without ever complaining.
So he ticked a few boxes in the ‘optional extras’ column. Options included a 300mm chassis extension for better weight distribution and a bigger tray, as well as a built-in water tank to go with the standard pull-out kitchenette and rear drawer set-up. See what we mean by pants-tighteningly cool?
CUSTOM: Patriot Campers' 79
Norm didn’t order up the bigger tray because he was planning on carrying a smart car with him everywhere he went. It was given the nod so he’d have room for a massive lift-off camper tray from the guys at the ambiguously named Jackoff Campers. The lift-off camper gives Norm a versatile set-up that can function as a job-site work truck, and a family vehicle with a month’s load of camping gear on board.
Tucked inside the canopy you’ll find twin 12V fridges: a 100L Engel and 35L Waeco, both strapped in tight to two MSA4x4 drop-down fridge slides. The pair is powered by a Redarc battery management system, which keeps the tray- and camper-mounted lithium batteries charged up so the standard battery under the bonnet can worry about doing standard stuff.
There’s also a 15hp Yamaha outboard engine attached to another slide in the camper – we assume this isn’t powered by lithium, but we’re not really boat people, so don’t quote us. What you can quote us on, though, is that Norm would need a boat to go with the outboard motor. A tinny fits the bill, and when it’s not attached to the previously mentioned engine, it’s strapped down on top to the roof-mounted boat loader.
That’s handy. The canopy also plays host to the simply designed 12V electrical skeleton system. We say skeleton because Norm’s 79 is currently still in the build, so expect a whole heap more gadgetry-like LED light bars and inverters to be installed.
If you’ve got an eagle eye, you might have spotted a big vacant spot in the bullbar. Part of that electrical wizardry Norm has got on order is a pair of Lightforce’s brand-new LED driving lights. Until then, the full suite of TJM bar work will provide more than enough eye candy for you to ogle. Up top, the roof rack is a custom-built unit. It’s bare for now, but it’ll soon see a roll-out awning bolted to it with a matching Foxwing awning for the canopy.
To those who don’t know Norm, it might seem like he’s caught up in the hype and throwing every bit of gear he can find at his 79. After speaking to him and hearing firsthand the passion he has for it, I can say that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While he’s had the 79 for near on two years, it has only racked up a little over 6000km. It’s spent most of its life in shops getting work done, and getting it done right. See Norm is not the kind of bloke to rush in half-cocked, throw an eBay light bar on the roof and have it burn his pride and joy to the ground on the very next trip.
Every modification is carefully planned and executed with an attention to detail that’d make the Mars Rover look like a downhill billy cart piloted by your drunk uncle. In fact, it’s so well built, and so carefully planned, Justin Montesalvo from Patriot Campers described it as “the best camper/tourer set-up I have ever seen (besides mine of course)”. While that sounds like something only a race across Australia can adequately settle, it’s telling of the quality of this build.
That attention to detail has found its way under the bonnet, too. While you won’t find three extra turbochargers punching out a gazillion extra horsepower, you will find subtle upgrades like an oil catch can, fuel filtration system, a three-inch exhaust and a Roo Systems chip that improve reliability and usability.
Even the rear track has been corrected to keep all the wheels in line (a problem with the 79 is the rear wheel track is narrower than the front wheel track). The wider stance helps the steel wheels and 35-inch Mickey Thompson MTZs fill out the guards.
While the interior does have the oh-so-desirable double factory diff-lock switch, it’s also copped a heap of understated, yet important upgrades. There’s the standard UHF and overhead console, but there’s also trick gear like front and rear cameras feeding into the in-dash Polaris DVD player, and a pair of fold-down seat back tables to give the kids in the back seats room for activities.
Would we say it’s the best tourer in Australia? No – but only because we don’t want Justin Montesalvo coming after us.
Every bit as impressive as the vehicle towing it is the Patriot TH560 trailer. If we were to rattle off the spec-sheet, it’d read like a high-end 4x4 built in its own right.
500mm ground clearance, fully independent suspension with an airbag and dual shocks on each wheel, an aluminium body, a 120L water tank, a roof-top tent, a 304-grade stainless steel kitchen and 285/75 R16 mud tyres.
What the spec-sheet doesn’t list is the versatility the trailer allows families like Norm’s. With the one trailer they can load up the kayaks, the quad bikes, the dirt bikes, and head off for weeks at a time.
The trailer can change to suit their needs as the family’s needs change. And that’s something you won’t ever find on a spec-sheet.