LAST MONTH we unveiled the blueprint for what could very well be the most impressive Toyota Land Cruiser ever built in Australia: think 200 Series VX wagon with an extended chassis, a six-wheel drive system and a Trig Point service body on the back, all while retaining a wagon configuration with three rows of seats to accommodate a family of seven. Yep, this weapon lives up to the name Super Cruiser, as its owner, MSA 4x4 proprietor Shane Miles, has named it.
When we last visited Project Super Cruiser, MSA 4x4’s new Land Cruiser VX was at Australian Expedition Vehicles (AEV) in Townsville with its tailgate removed, body lifted off its chassis and rear wheel arches cut out.
In the past month the project has moved along at brisk pace, with the rear of the Cruiser’s chassis cut off and a new extended section slipped over the top. A new JMACX coil-spring rear axle was fitted to the 6x6 cradle so the vehicle could be moved around (the centre axle will be fitted at a later date), and then the Cruiser was put on a flatbed and shipped off to David Taylor Spray Painting & Panel Beating, where major fabrication of the rear end’s bodywork started to take place.
The Super Cruiser is the first project of its type undertaken by AEV (most customers opt for a dual-cab conversion, not a full wagon with a service body on the back) and, as such, there has been a lot more fabrication work than had initially been anticipated, pushing the build schedule out further than planned.
“It’s not our normal conversion, as you can appreciate,” says Mick McMillan from AEV. “There’s a lot more (custom manufacturing) in panel beating than we initially anticipated. To make it look like a factory finish, we can normally achieve that with standard Toyota parts, but with this vehicle we’ve had to rely on the skill of a tradesman to put the bits and pieces together.”
MSA 4x4’s Shane Miles has spent a fair bit of time personally overseeing the panel work and, despite (or because of) the timeframe blowout, he’s impressed with how the job is progressing so far.
“They were going to put a Land Cruiser 79 rear panel in, which is what they usually do on a dual cab conversion, but the LC200’s body tapers in the further back it goes, so the 79 panel was too wide for it,” explains Shane. “They’ve got a custom-shaped glass section instead and they’re going to custom-fabricate the rear body section around that.”
Another component that has added to the overall build time is the Land Cruiser VX’s massive rear air-conditioning unit, which used to be housed in the passenger-side rear quarter panel. “They’ve flipped it around and laid it down (behind the third-row seat) and then they’ve made up about half a dozen ducts to redirect all the air everywhere,” says Shane. “They’ve also made a panel that goes around the whole thing, and then that’s going to be trimmed in matching leather.”
To ensure the back of the Land Cruiser’s body has a factory look, the body fabrication team has made a wide-radius curve where the roof and the sides of the Land Cruiser meet up with the new rear panel. “It’s not just a square panel welded on there; it’s all shaped with a wide radius so it all looks factory,” says Shane.
Another detail that will ensure the vehicle has a completely cohesive look when finished is the reshaping of the Super Cruiser’s rear wheel arches to match those of the Trig Point canopy.
“Instead of just moving the Cruiser’s curved rear wheel arches back about 700mm (to account for the extended wheelbase), they’re actually shaping those wheel arches to match the Trig Point body at the back, so it looks really cool,” says an excited Shane.
“Where the wheels have been moved back, they’re also going to put two nicely shaped tool boxes in there – that’s a week-and-a-half’s work for those two boxes alone – and then they’ve got to finish off the body and then spray the whole car.
“It looks a bit ugly at the moment, with all the rough edges, and the body has got to be blasted to get all the surface rust off it, but it’s still got about six weeks more work before the bodywork is complete and it gets sent back to AEV.”
The good news is that once back at AEV, Mick McMillan reckons the Land Cruiser shouldn’t take too long to complete. “For us to finish what we’ve got to do, we’re looking at probably one-and-a-half days to have it finally driving out the gate as a six-wheel drive,” he says.
The Super Cruiser will then be sent to TJM Townsville for fitment of a bullbar before it lands back at AEV where the side-steps will be extended and fitted, and then the Trig Point canopy will go on. “Shane has got some additional products provided by Icon, Rugged Brake Systems and all these other accessories that aren’t standard factory stuff that we’re going to fit, so we’ll probably add another day and a half for that,” says Mick.
Shane initially hoped to have the Super Cruiser finished by July for a trip across the Simpson Desert, but due to the extra fabrication work the expected completion date has been pushed back a couple of months.
“We’re going to miss the first trip I was going to do,” says Shane. “It’s now looking like we’ll get the vehicle back in September, which will still give us heaps of breathing space. I was going to try to get it into the Melbourne 4x4 Show – if it’s done by then there’s a stand that we’ll put it on there – but I’m just not sure.
“We have got a fair bit of stuff to do once I get it back here to MSA 4x4; I have got about a month’s worth of work to do on it, and there are people coming from all over the place to do other stuff on it,” adds Shane.
As they say, good things take time, and this Super Cruiser is certainly shaping up to be a good thing. Keep an eye out for the next issue of 4X4 Australia to see how Project Super Cruiser is progressing.