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Custom Toyota LC79 GXL review

By Justin Walker | Photos: Alastair Brook, 17 Aug 2018 Custom 4x4s

Custom Toyota LC79 GXL review feature

Allan and Kathy Huxtable built a tough touring LC79 to ensure their trip of a lifetime is, indeed, for life.

DREAMS rarely come true, unless you’ve got plenty of time, you plan properly and you’re prepared to put in the hard yards; which is precisely what Allan and Kathy Huxtable did. The end result after nearly six years is this tough-as-teak, fully kitted Toyota LC79 single-cab.

Their dream was one we all share, to escape the rat race and disappear over a dusty horizon on the Big Trip, exploring every remote campsite, rutted track and waterway in this awesome country of ours – and not worry about time. Yep, we’re already envious.

GOTTA START SOMEWHERE

ALLAN and Kathy initially built the Cruiser for shorter escapes: a few weeks across the Simpson Desert, a month doing Cape York, etc. The vehicle already had the schmick canopy (built by MFI Service Bodies in Warragul, Victoria, but designed by Allan), rooftop tent, kitchen, fridge and electrics.

Circumstances changed when Allan accepted a redundancy from his job, which led to a re-evaluation of what they wanted to do, and the couple sold up everything (yep, including the house) and hit the road on a more permanent basis, alternating between work periods (to fund travel) and heading out exploring more of Australia.

They just needed to add a few things to their touring kit first, such as a caravan and a tinny, which, in turn, meant more mods for the Cruiser – the perfect excuse for Allan, who takes any chance he gets to improve on what’s already a pretty awesome touring rig.

GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT

“THE Cruiser’s six years old, but it’s an ongoing transformation,” Allan said. “I wouldn’t say it’s finished yet, it’s still a work in progress.”

For a work in progress, the Cruiser is impressive. The canopy and its internal setup has been tweaked slightly over the years, but the setup (two side doors and one large rear slide-out tray underneath) retains all the essentials, with the kitchen, fridge, cooker, lights, food and all-important beers on one side, accessed via a large lift-up door.

The drawer setup on this side is excellent, with the larger items positioned lower down, and the lighter-weight plastic drawers capable of holding food, condiments and smaller utensils. Allan has also utilised one of MSA 4X4’s excellent drop-down fridge slides for the Waeco fridge, maximising cargo space on that side and ensuring everything’s close to hand.

The opposite side of the canopy is where larger gear is stored, as well as tools, a gas bottle, a Coleman hot-water camp shower, and drawers loaded with recovery gear and other equipment. Also fitted inside the canopy is the power system, comprising two 120amp/h deep-cycle batteries, an ARB air compressor and a Redarc 1000-Watt inverter; while Redarc’s excellent Manager 30 battery management system keeps it all running smoothly. Hidden underneath is a 110L stainless steel water tank, accessed via a 12V pump.

A boon for the couple is that rooftop tent (also built by MFI Service Bodies) on top of the canopy, with Allan stoked that the unit can fit a double mattress inside it.

“The first time up in the Cape we (had) a tent and inflatable mattress,” he said ruefully. “Then across the Simpson we had stretchers, which didn’t really work, so we thought, ‘something had to change’.”

The rooftop tent features a heavy-duty PVC outer with a full-mesh inner, allowing use in any conditions, be it chasing additional crossflow ventilation on balmy Cape York nights, or when you’re zipped closed for chilly desert evenings.

The rooftop tent’s solid top incorporates a boat loader for the couple’s Sea Jay 3.9 Nomad tinny, along with a permanently affixed Redarc 200W solar panel. Cleverly, Allan has built a unique boat-loading system that uses the Cruiser’s Runva 11XP winch (a waterproof jobbie), which is housed in an ARB bullbar.

“I have a bracket that fits onto the bullbar, so the winch rope goes straight up onto this bracket that’s about a metre high,” Allan explained. The rope then goes across to the back to hook onto the boat. This way, the rope doesn’t get wrecked on the bullbar and doesn’t mark the bonnet.

“You only have one winch and they play up when you don’t use them, so putting the boat on and off means you know it works!”

LIFTED AND LOADED

THE rooftop tent gets plenty of use, but Allan and Kathy also tow a caravan for when they’re staying in one place for longer periods or when they’re working. This saw Allan look to remove the LC79’s standard leaf-sprung rear suspension setup and replace it with a trick JMACX Offroad Solutions rear coil-spring conversion, while also upping the GVM to 3900kg. This kit offers a wider rear track to match the 79’s front end, hardened axles, Lovells coil springs, Icon remote-reservoir dampers, and airbags (controlled via an in-cabin setup) for towing.

The Cruiser sports a four-inch lift as a result, and rolls on beefy 16x8-inch Allied Wasp wheels shod with BFGoodrich LT285/75R16 rubber. Allan used to run even bigger 35s but they affected the gearing too much; although, he now says if he did it again he’d just keep the 35s and swap the diff gearing to something more suited to bigger rubber.

Keeping the big rig moving along is a subtly modified 4.5L TDV8 donk that now punches out 160kW and 603Nm. The turbo has been tweaked by Munro Turbochargers, a Unichip Q4 has been fitted, and there’s a two-inch cross-over pipe, with a three-inch stainless steel straight-through exhaust.

Allan wasn’t too keen on going crazy with the engine and has been more than happy with the performance delivered from the mods – and the fact the engine (and vehicle itself) is dead-easy to service, no matter where they end up.

“The one thing I do like about having a Toyota is when you’re out in the bush, every mechanic has a Land Cruiser,” Allan said.

“They know them inside-out and back to front, so you just pull into any mechanic’s workshop if you have any issues and they’ll just say yeah, yeah, that’s one of those, I have got parts. We’ll have it sorted in half an hour. That’s the best thing with Land Cruisers: every mechanic out there knows what to do and how to do it to fix them quickly.”

Stopping the big rig is an upgraded brake booster with braided lines and slotted rotors up front.

LIVIN’ THE DREAM

WHEN your vehicle is your home you need to make sure it has as many comforts as possible. The cabin has all the essential instrumentation – EGT exhaust gas temp gauge, boost gauge, airbag controls, gauges, etc. – to ensure everything ticks along.

Allan has also added a brilliant roof console, centre console and door pods (both from Cruiser Consoles, Qld), with the latter also housing the Alpine sound system’s speakers.

Anyone who’s tried to have a conversation inside a moving LC79 knows how noisy they are, so Allan and Kathy added Dynamat sound deadener throughout to up in-cabin liveability further. Proving Allan’s point that you never stop modifying or changing your tourer, the next tweak is a decent set of seats to replace what he describes as the ‘shit’ stock items.

It’s hard to argue with that: spending most of your life touring in a vehicle (and then spending weeks residing in/near it) means it needs to be a place you really like. A bit like Allan and Kathy’s life, we reckon, and best summed up by Allan when he described that tipping point that led this adventurous couple to their nomadic, Cruiser-borne life.

“Every time we’d go to a work conference and you’ve got to introduce yourself, people would eventually ask ‘what would you do if you won a million bucks?’, and they’d all answer ‘travel’,” he laughed. “And you sit there and think ‘why do we just say that and we don’t do it?’”

“You should make plans to do it,” he affirmed. “I actually suggested that to Kathy when we talked about the redundancy, and then I turned around and she wasn’t there – she was already packing the bags!”

After chatting to Allan and drooling over his well thought-out, tough-as LC79 tourer, it’s hard not to start packing the bags ourselves.