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Custom Toyota LandCruiser 79 "Rambler" by TJM review

By Justin Walker | Photos: Ellen Dewar, 30 Apr 2019 Custom 4x4s

Custom Toyota LandCruiser 79 "Rambler" by TJM review

Big, brash and brawny Rambler LC79 is a dream made true, in all its track-busting glory.

BUILDING a top-notch tourer can be a lengthy process, especially if you’ve started with a showroom-fresh new vehicle. It can be weeks of figuring out what to fit, what you can afford, and waiting while it all happens. Then you have to sweat it out regarding what insurance coverage to get for all your just-fitted goodies, and then consider if your now heavily modified rig is still covered by its factory warranty.

Or, you could head to TJM 4x4 Megastores and jump behind the wheel of something exactly like this Sandy Taupe monster: the Rambler Edition LC79 by TJM. It’s a rig built to be the ultimate answer to any tourer’s question of “what vehicle do I need to tackle any and all off-road adventures?”

Covered in all essential touring kit, the Rambler is bloody impressive. Adding to that is the fact this big bopper is covered by its original five-year factory warranty, along with a three-year warranty on all fitted accessories. Yep, the Rambler is a turnkey tourer with everything included, right down to the small print on the warranties. A spark of genius, if you ask us.

Dreaming a reality

TOYOTA’S 79 Series is a hugely popular vehicle for touring; its combination of a big V8 diesel engine, large fuel capacity and tough build quality and engineering sees it as the ubiquitous outback tourer, in many and varied modified incarnations.

Even with that, Kris Humphrys, director at TJM 4x4 Megastores, and business partner Brad Russell, saw there was a space in this modified tourer scene for a full turnkey offering that wasn’t only an effective tourer but a vehicle that could be used every day as general transport.

“When we approached this, we felt there was a hole in the market for doing these at an affordable price,” Kris says. “Our approach to this is we’ve always wanted to – well, we put it on the website – ‘built in the real world for the real world’.

“We wanted a vehicle you could drive to work Monday to Friday and then take the family to the beach on the weekend. We felt that a lot of the offerings out there were a park-in-the-shed car and take it on a trip twice a year, type of thing; it wasn’t practical Monday to Friday.”

The idea for this type of tourer had been kicking around for a while, Kris reckons.

“Me and my business partner Brad, we’d  been talking about building vehicles for a long time,” he explains. “We’d seen plenty of people building 70s and we’ve always thought there are things that we’d do differently... Brad and I have travelled all over Australia – we know what works, we know what doesn’t work. We’ve combined all of that knowledge into building these vehicles and, like I said, it’s about being practical for the real world.”

Helping the project happen is the fact Kris runs three TJM stores and an independent TJM 4x4 Megastore, as well as Spinifex Manufacturing, which specialises in tray bodies, canopies and electrical accessories.

Being able to utilise excellent TJM accessories, build a fully custom tray and canopy specifically for Rambler (more on that later), and build the Rambler up from a new vehicle, is a huge advantage.

Even bigger – and better for all concerned – is the fact the vehicle still retains its full Toyota warranty once the build is complete. Plus, owners know they can drop into one of the 70-plus TJM 4x4 Megastores around the country and, if the unlikely happens, get any damaged accessory fixed or replaced easily. They call it peace of mind ... and that is something you won’t lack when you’re driving the beast, either.

Sending a subtle message

MODIFYING a single or dual cab LC79 for touring isn’t new, but the Rambler presents as just that, thanks to numerous as-expected mods mixed with some unique to this vehicle.

The exterior is visually subdued, belying the Rambler’s serious intent. A TJM Outback bullbar, side rails and steps take care of that schmick Sandy Taupe paintwork, while the TJM Torq 12,000lb winch ensures recovery (if the unlikely happens and this thing is ever stopped) and the TJM Airtec snorkel keeps that tweaked 4.5TDV8 (it now pushes out 40 per cent more power thanks to a TJM 4x4 Megastore ECU tune and a sweet-sounding Torqit exhaust) breathing easy.

Move around the rear and it is here where you see more distinctive Rambler-only mods, with the rear tray and canopy (both powdercoated) the handiwork of Spinifex Manufacturing.

“The body on the back of that was the first one we’d built that way out of our Spinifex business,” Kris says. “We’d been getting requests for that half-canopy and we’d never done one. We took the plunge on that and built one and integrated it into a tray so it is a one-piece body – it’s not just a bolt-on canopy that sits on the back of a tray.”

Incorporated on the rear of the chassis is a Hayman Reese X-Bar tow bar with included recovery points. The tray also includes six flush-mount tie-downs and, like the canopy interior, is coated in protective Raptor Coat; the Spinifex team also added underbody tool boxes.

The canopy houses a utility tray setup on the driver’s side, with a cargo drawer and storage space above that for luggage, gear, etc. For this particular rig – build No.001 – the crew added one of the optional extras: a TJM Connect compressor kit (canopy-mounted compressor, pressure perfect module and 10m air hose).

The left-hand side of the canopy continues with the options showcase, featuring the optional upright fridge and power upgrade comprising a Bushman’s 130-litre upright fridge housed in a neat surround panel, two cigarette sockets, one USB (a double) wireless switchgear for all the lights, and a Spinifex Power Panel.

The result is a full-house, fully functional canopy that looks like a factory fit. The rear of the tray remains empty for stowing swags, tents or other bulky items, and there’s a Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform on top of the cab for additional load-lugging.

The canopy, tool boxes and utility hatch all include LED lighting, plus there’s a 100W fixed solar panel atop the canopy. Other lighting enhancements include the fitment of an LED headlight upgrade kit, and LED door lights and tail-lights. The Rambler decals are subdued, too, with a dark strip down each side and one along the rear of the canopy. I guess when you’re this capable, there’s no need to shout.

A lift in driving experience

LONG-DISTANCE touring requires plenty of gear, so you obviously need a rig that is up for it in terms of off-road capability, load-lugging capacity and driveability – there’s nothing worse than trying to manhandle an over-weighted pig of a 4x4 on- and off-road.

Kris and his team were determined to ensure the Rambler could walk the talk, so they started off by fitting durable, touring-oriented suspension in the form of TJM’s adjustable Pace remote reservoir shocks and upgraded coil/leaf springs.

Added to this was TJM’s heavy-duty sway bar, a TJM steering damper, plus bush touring-friendly 17-inch KMC alloy wheels shod with 285/70R17 Toyo Open Country R/T hoops (with the spare wheel/tyre the same combo). Finally, to stay legal and safe when fully loaded, the team added something a little special.

“That LC79 is the first one in the country to have the TJM second-stage manufacturing GVM upgrade done to it, with the remote canister shocks,” Kris affirms. “So that is brand-new to market, with 3950kg GVM and 3500kg towing capacity. The vehicle weighs 3180kg dry, so there’s plenty of payload in it, too.

“The vehicle would be more than suitable without a GVM upgrade, but at 3180kg with everything in it – a full tank of fuel, the whole lot – that upgrade gives you almost 800kg. You put four adults in that and a big boat on the back and you’re still legal. I don’t know what other vehicle you can do that with.”

The interior of a Toyota LC79 is hardly what you’d call comfortable for long-distance driving, but Rambler No.001 showcases what can be done with that big utilitarian interior. There is now an Alpine stereo complete with Apple CarPlay, with the sound pumped through three-way Alpine speaks up front and two-way jobbies in the rear.

Kris enlisted fellow Queensland Toyota specialists, Cruiser Consoles, to fully overhaul the trim and storage with front door pockets (including bottle holders), rear door speaker pods and a sweet-looking, functional centre console and gear surround. Yep, seeing a centre console inside an LC79 takes a little bit of time to get your head around, and a 3M window tint ensures nobody sees just how much you enjoy that interior.

All this is standard kit, too (barring the aforementioned two options). Depending on how big your wallet is, you can pretty much go to town on additional extras, with numerous upgrades that include bigger mud-terrain tyres, Brown Davis long-range fuel tanks, beefed-up brakes, even more sound system, a lithium-ion battery upgrade, and plenty more.

High demand 

WHEN I asked Kris if he’s taken Rambler Edition No.001 for a big trip, he just laughed. “We finished it, photographed it, shot a video of it, and then put it up for sale. In three days, it was gone.” 

The team’s concept of a versatile, tough outback tourer seems to been borne out, and it means they’re already onto the next Rambler, plus a few other pretty intriguing ideas…

“Mate, it’s gone nuts,” he says. “I’ve got another one that’s being delivered this week … a silver one. We’re in the middle of building a red one, which I have three people talking to me about. And we’re about to do a 200 Series (in partnership with ASG 4x4 Toowoomba).”

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Picture: Ian Richardson, owner of Rambler 001, with Lacky the pup.

The sheer demand for this turnkey terror is easy to understand; the fact it’s a super-capable modified vehicle with the added lure of a factory warranty (and three on the accessories) makes it a no-brainer. Equally a no-brainer is Kris’s plan to give the 200 Series the same treatment and also make the ‘Rambler package’ available to any off-road vehicle a client may wish for.

“We have taken the approach that we’ll build them (the Rambler option) to what the customer wants,” Kris says.

“If you don’t want a 70 Series but you want a Hilux or a Colorado, we’ll build your Rambler around that platform. We can package it – that whole package of being able to finance it and insure it – (and) give them a driveaway package.”

This ready-for-anything Rambler LC79 must be close to the ultimate ‘driveaway deal’ on the Aussie new-car market.