VICTORIAN Scott Round wanted something different for his 70 Series LandCruiser build and forwent the common LC79 ute for a Troop Carrier with the works.
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In doing so, he created the first LC78 to be fitted with Marks 4WD portal axles, but that’s not all there is to his unique Troopy.
The venerable Troop Carrier is the 4x4 vehicle of choice for so many adventurous travellers due to its outback-proven heavy duty platform and the ability to accommodate a couple for self-sufficient remote-area touring.
The Troopy body hasn’t changed much in 35 years, so there are a host of modifications and equipment you can get for them with some clever camper conversions done professionally and by enthusiasts.
The Troopy is also popular with surfers and it was this that attracted Scott to the versatile model.
“To me, it’s just the ultimate setup,” says Scott who lists surfing, snowboarding and camping among his favourite ways to get away from work. “Travelling and exploring are important to me, just to get away and break the everyday grind.”
Scott’s work 4x4 is a nicely kitted up Ranger, but he was looking to take a vehicle to the next level for this build. Extra Large in more ways than one.
“I wanted something I could hop in the driver’s seat, start the key and be gone for a weekend, a month, or two, or more,” he explained.
“I always loved the idea of the Troop Carrier with a rooftop conversion – it’s an icon of Australian adventure,” he says. “I also wanted something unique that hadn’t been done, and the idea of putting a 78 on portals has intrigued me.”
MARKS 4WD: LC79 with portals
Pop-top camper conversions for Troopies have been popular for decades, but have improved in their simplicity and usability in recent times. When Scott was researching the available options he came across a recently converted new model available from the Queensland Alu-Cab distributor, Mick Tighe 4x4 in Toowoomba. Mick is also the Queensland dealer and installer for Marks 4WD Portal Axles, so when the two of them started talking, plans were hatched and the Troopy became Scott’s.
The idea was that Mick would undertake the portal axle conversion and registration in Qld and Scott would fly north and take the long way home, exploring in his new rig. But 2020 had other ideas for that plan.
Mick had already chopped the top off the Toyota and fitted the Hercules conversion from Alu-Cab. The Hercules is a pop-top tent that erects in seconds and, unlike common rooftop tents (RTT), is accessed from within the back of the Troop Carrier giving you stand-up space within the vehicle and access to the cargo inside without having to step outside in poor weather. It is lower and more streamlined than traditional RTTs, so better for fuel consumption and you can still fit roof racks atop it to carry more gear; perfect for Scott’s quiver of surfboards!
Scott’s idea to also fit Marks Portals to the Troopy was relatively straightforward, as Mick has fitted plenty of sets to LC79 utes and a few LC76 wagons. But LC78 Troopies have a unique rear wheel arch which required a specific flare to cover the wider wheel track and 35-inch Nittos.
“The flares took a lot of work and longer than expected to get right,” recalls Mick Tighe. “These were the first ones we did and we made them to cover the widest legal wheel and tyre combo with the portals.”
The portal axles widen the track by 80mm while correcting the difference in track from front to rear. More significantly, they give the vehicle a 150mm lift under the differentials and allow the use of a shorter suspension to give more a stable vehicle. They are approved Australia-wide with 35-inch tyres as part of the Second Stage Manufacturer scheme.
The Troopy copped the full Marks 4WD kit that included the heavy-duty one-piece swivel hubs and park brake upgrade to rectify the well-known Toyota weakness. The Marks park brake uses a brake drum setup mounted on the back of the transfer case that is derived from a Nissan setup.
TROOPY FEVER: Another custom Troop Carrier
Mick fitted the portals under the Troopy using Ironman 4x4 suspension with Foam Cell Pro shocks and a 30mm rear sway bar. Wheel specifications for the portals are fairly specific, meaning that the choices are limited, but we reckon Scott has nailed it with his selection of Pro Comp Trilogy alloys in 18-inch, wrapped in Trail Grapplers.
The wider track, high stance and 35s give the Troopy a real purposeful look that is not so tall and narrow as the stock vehicles are. It’s a much tougher stance that adds a bit of modernity to the ageless Toyota.
ADDING to the unique look of the XL78 is its colour and graphics. Scott likes playing with design and logos, and all the company vehicles for his concreting business look neat. He wanted something special for the Troopy and worked with Paul at iStyle Studio in Brisbane for the unique vinyl wrap.
The car was originally white but Scott wanted a more retro look and the chosen colour is a pale seafoam green that changes from white to beige to green depending on what light it is in. The sill stripes tie in with the corporate colours on Scott’s company cars and trucks.
A few pieces that were custom made for the Troopy include the front bar, side-steps and rock rails. These had to be wider than standard 70 Series items and the work was done by ATD Customs in Crows Nest, Qld. The front bar is a real neat piece with its integrated fog lamps, LED indicators and mounts for Stedi lights, Ironman winch and GME aerial. It’s available in a shorter version for regular width 70s in case you’re wondering. Clayton and the crew at ATD also modified the Kaymar rear bar and wheel carrier to take the 35-inch tyres and laid them back on an angle to better hug the back doors.
Mechanically, the Troopy remains standard with its 4500 V8 diesel engine, five-speed manual gearbox and factory lockers. Even the exhaust was still stock when we photographed it, but Scott says that will be changing soon. There’s still a lot more to go on the vehicle to make it the escape machine he wants including fitting out the back of it, installing some FPV GTP seats up front, and fine-tuning all the accessories for life on the road.
For now, Scott is just happy to have the car back in Melbourne where he can get all those final touches sorted. His plans of taking his time to drive it home down the coast were thrown out the window by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
“Once I got the call from Mick to say it was ready to go, I had to fly to Queensland, get all the paperwork together and drive straight back, hoping there would be no problem crossing the borders,” Scott recalled. “Now I just can’t wait to start using it!”
Once it was home, the registration all had to be transferred to Victoria and get those ‘XL78’ plates fitted.
“Getting this vehicle back to Victoria in the midst of a pandemic, border closures, and shutdowns, was an experience. I’d like to thank ABS Ringwood, Ironman 4x4 and Alu-Cab, and Marks 4WD who were all super helpful and accommodating to get that done,” said Scott.
“I’m also extremely grateful to Mick and his team, Clayton at ATD Customs, and Paul at iStyle, for bringing my vision to fruition. The experience building this car with these blokes has been absolutely outstanding and the results better than I could ever imagine. Now I’m really looking forward to the future in this thing.”
It goes to show that having a plan and vision, then working with some of the best names in the 4WD industry to make them a reality, sure pays off with stunning results.
Mick Tighe tells us he has another portal and Alu-Cab equipped Troopy ready for registration as we go to print and another in the works. We reckon there will be a bit more demand for them once the world sees Scott’s XL78.