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Rigged for Adventure: Custom Toyota LandCruiser 105 Series review

By Dan Everett, 14 Mar 2020 Custom 4x4s

Custom adventure Toyota LandCruiser 105 Series review feature

The rig is built and the tanks are full. Now it's time for one hell of an adventure.

ADVENTURE, Explore and Challenge are themes ingrained in the 4x4 world that’ve probably been punched out millions of times on these pages. And the young family you’re looking at now understand these words far more than most.

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While the Toyota LandCruiser may have started out as a bit of fun, it has led them down a path that has changed their lives forever. With little Ryder staring down impending kindergarten, Amie and Mitch have packed in their full-time gigs, sold everything that wouldn’t fit in the ’Cruiser, and are setting off into the sunset for one hell of an adventure. They don’t know where they’re going or when they’ll be back, and they’ve built the rig to do just that.

If you were to ever look for a serious long-term adventure rig, a 105 Series LandCruiser might just be the perfect choice. A knife’s edge between old-school reliability and new-school comfort, it balances live axles with ABS, a sturdy six-cylinder diesel with a modern interior that won’t rattle your ear drums loose on every corrugation, and rugged reliability with modern comforts.

There’s only one big problem, and it blows. While the 105 Series might have kept the old-school suspension of the 80 Series, it also kept the old-school engine options: the petrol-drinking 4.5-litre straight-six 1FZ and the gutless 4.2-litre naturally aspirated diesel 1HZ. If you wanted the turbo-huffing, god-among-men 1HD-FTE, you could find it in the softer IFS 100 Series.

The solution for Mitch and Amie was simple: yank the old 1HZ and slot in a factory turbo 1HD-FTE engine and get to work. Where the stock 1HZ was struggling to push out 120hp to the rear wheels, the new factory turbo motor now pushes out a huge 300hp and 850Nm to the rear treads. It has achieved that with a healthy dose of internal and external goodies.

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Starting with the four-inch Moonlight Fab snorkel, fresh air is sucked down through the custom air-box into a red-wheel GTurbo that compresses it to an eye-watering 30psi. From here it’s forced through a PDI front-mount intercooler and into the head.

Inside, ceramic-coated pistons cope with the added stress, before DPU injectors pump in 30 per cent more fuel than stock, all timed together perfectly with a DPU chip. An Xforce three-inch exhaust rounds out the package, with a H151 manual cog-swapper and 25 per cent reduction gears in the HF2A transfer case sending power to each end.

“I think the whole conversion all up probably owes me $30K,” Mitch tells us. Not bad at all for modern power and old-school reliability.

Underneath there’s beefed-up coil-sprung live axles at either end. Up front, the stock housing has been stuffed full of chromoly, with RCV axles and CVs providing a serious strength upgrade. King 2.5-inch remote reservoir shocks smooth out undulating terrain, with matching King progressive coil springs keeping it four inches higher than stock.

The OEM radius arms have been dropped off at the tip, with Comp Rods radius arms replacing them to correct the all-important caster and stop wandering steering, while also providing a significant strength upgrade.

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The drag link, tie rod and Panhard rod were also swapped out for stronger units, this time from Superior Engineering. In the rear, matching Superior Engineering stickers can be found on the upper and lower control arms as well as the rear Panhard rod. A second set of Kings progressive coils and King 2.5-inch remote reservoir shocks also got the nod. Both diffs have been fitted with Elockers from Aussie company Harrop Engineering.

DBA-slotted rotors are bolted to the end of each axle and provide upgraded stopping power, a must-have to get the big rig engineered and legal with the 35-inch BFGoodrich KM3 mud tyres. Braided stainless steel brake lines helped with pedal feel, too, and the whole lot resides around 17x9 -25 PCOR rims. They’re matched to the Patriot Campers X1 GT in tow, making for a simple setup with spare tyres and rims.

While the wheel and tyre combo were spec’d up for simplicity, when it came time to deck out the barwork Mitch went to town with welder and grinder in hand. Up front, starting with the guts of an Xrox bar, metal has been bent, shaped and hammered into place, with new wings giving a more modern look and housing the Stedi wing lights. The centre section has been subtly warmed over, too, and now houses a Drivetech 4x4 dual-speed winch and Stedi light bar.

Moving down the flanks there are custom-built rock sliders below each sill panel, with a Rhino-Rack flat platform mirroring them above. It houses the Darche 180-degree awning as well as a second Stedi light bar and side lights. The rear has copped more plate steel, with a custom rear bar sitting high and tight against the body. With the stock 50-litre sub tank swapped out for a huge 180-litre unit, the stock spare had to be relocated up onto the rear bar.

Swing open the tyre carrier and it’s clear just how purpose-built the ’Cruiser is. Home-brew storage drawers house the 75-litre dual-zone Waeco fridge, with an extensive Redarc triple battery setup running the 700W inverter, as well as the 4WD Evolution automatic tyre-inflation system. An extensive sound system looks the goods, but the GME XRS Connect unit and Redarc boost/EGT and dual battery monitors are the real workhorses of the interior.

The build sheet of the ’Cruiser might read like a who’s who of aftermarket goodies, but it has been carefully pieced together to do just one job: serve these three adventurers on the next leg of their life. Some folks might have a fancy back deck or a flash new TV, but Mitch, Amie and Ryder have traded all that in for an endless adventure. 

Powerful Pottery

WHEN MOST people hear the term ‘ceramic’ their thoughts no doubt run to primary-school art classes but, for us, ceramic is a little more exciting. We mentioned previously the Cruiser’s engine is running ceramic-coated pistons, and there are a couple of pretty cool reasons why.

The first is reliability. Until they invent a 100 per cent efficient engine, you’re always going to lose some percentage of power potential into heat (studies have shown up to 2/3 of the fuel’s energy is wasted through excess heat).

Under load this heat can produce hot-spots in pistons, potentially cracking or melting them. Ceramic coating on pistons acts like a heat blanket, slowing down the heat transfer into the metal and oil beneath the coating.

The second is power. While we don’t know how much difference it’ll make on a dyno, by keeping more of that heat in the combustion chamber, and less of it in the engine’s metals, you’re getting a stronger burn and more bang for your buck.

Now that sounds like our kind of science!