Custom 79 Series is born in the USA

Expedition-ready LandCruiser is not what it seems at first glance.

Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series custom in the USA

IT seems that no matter where you are in the world, you always want something that you can’t have. It’s the automotive ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ envy for vehicles that aren’t readily available to us.

For Australians it might be the new Ford Bronco or Colorado ZR2 that you are hankering for from the USA or some sort of exotic sports car available exclusively in Europe.

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For the Americans, there’s always a touch of auto envy when we start talking about and showing pictures of the LandCruiser 70 Series that are so popular here in Australia. The 70s have never been openly available in the USA, although plenty have found their way in through private channels. In many states of the USA there is a rule that allows the importation of vehicles 25 years and older, so many older Cruiser are finding their way across the Pacific now, but they still can’t buy a new one.

So what’s the deal with this left-hand-drive LandCruiser 79 camper wearing New Mexico plates? On first glance it looks like a current model LC79 that has been stretched and fitted with a camper on the back, but all is not what it appears with this rig.

“I love LandCruisers, especially the 70 Series,” says Albuquerque, NM resident Tim McGrath. “This truck checked all the boxes for me.”

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As we know, it’s one thing to love a vehicle but another to be able to get one in a country where it isn’t allowed. Luckily for Tim, German expedition company Maltec has a solution for Cruiser loving Americans.

The ‘Maltexplorer Series 7’ is actually built on an 80 Series LandCruiser chassis and basing the build on a 25 years or older 80, the vehicle is allowed to be imported in to and registered in the USA. Maltec build these rigs using both single and double-cab 79 bodies and Tim chose the latter to accommodate his family.

“We wanted a camper that could fit our family of four,” he told us. “A camper that was extremely capable, that could take us to places other campers can’t go. A true four-season camper that could easily go up a mountain and keep us warm and dry at 13,000 feet no matter what the weather was doing. There are a few trucks on the market but the 70 series checked all the boxes and I really wanted a truck that I was very passionate about.”

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Tim’s not kidding when he says he’s passionate about Cruisers. We featured his stunning 1966 FJ45 Troopy a few years back and he also owns a ’74 FJ40. Tim’s business Sackwear Overland Outfitters produces Toyota 4x4 oriented apparel among other 4x4 kit and off-road accessories. Check them out at for some cool stuff.

For the double-cab camper, Maltec stretched the 80’s chassis 808mm to give it a 3658mm wheelbase; around 480mm longer than the standard wheelbase of an LC79 double cab. Maltec mechanically refreshes the chassis with all-new suspension including remote-res shocks, bespoke coil springs, 16-inch brakes, and new bushes and rubbers throughout.

Braid wheels are usually found on Dakar race cars but Maltec fits them to its expedition builds for their superior strength in the toughest terrain. Tim has wrapped his beadlocked Braids in 37-inch Cooper STTs.

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The extra length in the chassis not only improves the ride and stability of the Cruiser, but also accommodates Maltec’s carbon-fibre camper module. These campers are next-level in terms of design and fit-out with bespoke timber and stone finishes that can be chosen by the owner. Tim selected teak flooring with grey cabinetry to match the vehicle’s Porsche grey exterior paint, while grey and back leather and suede covers the seats and door panels.

The rear of the 79 cab is cut open to allow a walk-through to the camper where there is sleeping for four, two Dometic fridges, a Webasto heater, a sink with hot and cold water, 3-burner stove, LED lighting and charging ports. A pair of AGM batteries are split using a Simarine PICO system that also regulates the input from solar panels on the roof. A tablet-like touchscreen controls all the electrical functions, while a 2000W inverter allows 120V power to run appliances like the coffee machine.

Describing camping with the family in the Maltec, Tim says, “There’s not a lot of room but it’s doable. The trade-off is that I can wheel this thing to places where most campers can’t go. I love that we can do that and set up camp someplace crazy and stay comfortable and warm at night.”


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