WHEN WE asked Shane Miles from MSA 4x4 how Project Super Cruiser was coming along, he was about to board a plane back to the Gold Coast after spending the morning at David Taylor Spray Painting & Panel Beating in Townsville, where his six-wheel drive 200 Series Land Cruiser VX was still far from finished.
By now, all the bodywork should have been completed and the vehicle should have been back in the Australian Expedition Vehicles workshop having its Trig Point Canopy fitted … but there have been several unexpected delays, as is often the case with a first-of-its-kind build.
Sure, Shane sounded a little disappointed his Super Cruiser was taking longer than expected, but he was still very upbeat about what he had seen. And he now had a firm grasp of why the completion date had been pushed back.
“The bodywork has taken six, seven weeks longer than we predicted,” explains Shane. “They’ve come up against a heap of different obstacles, from unexpected things like the drainage channels from the sunroof and all sorts of other detail stuff.”
Of course, it’s not really all that surprising that there have been a few setbacks; after all, this vehicle is a bespoke one-off, and the artisans at David Taylor’s have not been cutting any corners … well, not figuratively. In fact, they have resorted to some old-school coach-building and have had to fabricate a lot of custom parts to turn this seven-seat 6WD Cruiser into a reality.
“There have been no shortcuts taken,” says Shane. “They could have done things easier; they could have just welded a square panel on the back, for example, and butted it up to where they’ve cut the rear of the vehicle, but that would have just looked like a square panel welded on there.”
Picture: Cabin now fitted with custom-made rear glass window
Instead, they’ve fabricated a one-off rear panel and fitted a custom-made rear window to it, and then ensured it neatly matches up to the rest of the Cruiser’s bodywork.
“They’ve radiused every single join,” adds Shane, “and not a small amount; I’m talking probably a 70mm radius, so it looks like a factory finish … or as factory as it can.”
Shane wants the LC200 wagon’s body to mate up to its new canopy as neatly as possible, and to that end the team at David Taylor’s have not only fabricated those radiused rear corners but have also reshaped the rear wheel arches with a straight edge that matches those on the canopy. In addition, they’ve even widened the Land Cruiser’s rear bodywork where it used to taper in towards the tailgate.
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Picture: Cruiser's body is widened to give a factory look
“The body lines that tapered in towards the tailgate just didn’t look right, because there’s no longer a tailgate on the vehicle,” says Shane. “To make the vehicle match better with the canopy, they’ve had to widen those body lines to give it a factory look, which has all been achieved through meticulous custom fabrication.”
A further delay at the body shop is a result of a practical rather than a cosmetic reason. “We’ve added tool boxes in the area between the Cruiser’s rear door and the reshaped wheel arch,” says Shane.
“This means I’ll have two toolboxes that I can use to stow items. Originally they were just going to fill in that panel, but they thought that would be a waste of space … so these tool boxes, although they’ve added another two weeks to the project, they’re big enough that I’ll be able to put gas bottles down there, or even a generator.”
As well as all of the custom fabrication and bodywork, there have been several small hiccups such as the aforementioned drain channels for the sunroof.
Picture: Rerouting wiring work; drainage channels coloured in pink
“There are all the little fiddly things like drainage lines, which we didn’t even know about,” says Shane. “There are two drainage channels so the water that gets into the rim around the sunroof can drain out; they run along inside the roof and down the back of the vehicle, and these have had to be rerouted. It’s all of this stuff, not huge things but a number of extra things that they’re finding along the way.”
Once the bodywork is complete the Cruiser will head back to AEV, where the Trig Point canopy will be test fitted before the Land Cruiser is sent off to be painted.
The paintjob is also unlikely to be a straightforward process. “What I’ve been told is, the Cruiser’s metallic paint, if you just undercoat it and paint it, the new paint will fade at a slightly different rate to the factory paint,” says Shane. “So, what they’re going to do is black the bodywork first … well, undercoat it and then black it, and then undercoat it again, then get it smooth and then paint it … that will prevent uneven fading over time.
Picture: Custom-made toolboxes are fabricated
“Mick McMillan at AEV will then go through and put all his stuff on it. Hopefully it will only be about three weeks before it’s got its canopy on, and its new Icon suspension and wheels, and Mickey Thompson tyres … and then there’s the TJM bar that’s going on, and the side rails extended side-steps, the exhaust, two Brown Davis long-range fuel tanks, a Trig Point water tank, an air tank … all that stuff will go on in a few weeks.”
More in the September 2019 issue of 4X4 Australia.