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Toyota LandCruiser 100 Series review

By Glenn Torrens, 10 Mar 2011 Road Tests

Toyota LandCruiser 100 Series review

Michael Beaumont’s sensibly modified 100 Series is a great example of a sharply-built budget tourer.

Michael Beaumont’s sensibly modified 100 Series is a great example of a sharply-built budget tourer.

You’ve gotta admire some Poms. They come here for a holiday, blag themselves a job and live happily ever after, scoring a glowing suntan and starting on a career of teasing family and friends in Old Blighty with stuff like, how’s the weather over there? And, of course, stirring up their Aussie mates about the cricket or footy results. Gee, some even find a good-sort Aussie girl.

Cheeky buggers

Sydney’s Mick Beaumont rates right up there in that category; not only does he now call Australia home, he has a great job, and jangles the keys to this terrific Toyota LandCruiser 100 Series. Heck, he also has a good sort hanging off his arm. It’s enough to make many an Aussie bloke stand up and walk away from his beer… But wait, there’s more.

“Want to know how I built this?” asks Mick, who’s been in Oz for 12 years, after being coaxed by an ex-Pom mate into emigrating. “To be honest, all I did was click on a For Sale ad online!”

That’s right, Mick didn’t endure much of the time, expense or headaches that are inevitable when building a tourer such as this, because he bought it just about the way it is. The lucky bugger.

“A mate of mine came over; he’d emigrated 18 months before I arrived and he phoned and said ‘Get yerself over ’ere!’” Mick elaborates. “So I said, I’ll come over for a holiday. To which he replied, ‘Don’t waste your money on a bleedin’ holiday – you won’t be going home! Get over ’ere!’

“So I rented my house out, packed in my job and here I am!”

Seeing plenty of Australia was high on the agenda, with a Toyota HiAce pop-top camper bought and used for east-coast adventures as far as Melbourne and up to Fraser Island from Mick’s Sydney home.

“I think I pointed it down a gravel road once or twice,” reckons Mick. “It was a great thing, but I sold it. The drift toward more serious away-from-bitumen touring began with a crash in my work truck.

“A fuel tanker went through a red and bugger me, I ran straight into the side of it,” says Mick. “Luckily, I was doing about 50 kays, and the bloke driving beside me was going just a little faster. We both T-boned this tanker. Lucky it wasn’t the other way around … if he’d T-boned us, we would’ve been dead.”

Mick’s Navara work ute was a write-off and, thankfully, his injuries were minor. “I was paid out for that and I decided to get a TroopCarrier,” he explains. “It was nice and big, good for travelling and good for my trade. I built a few drawers in the rear and away I went!”

The Troopie was used for plenty of treks but, being an old-tech diesel, it proved to be painfully slow. But Mick toughed it out, being passed in the slow lane by grey nomads for three years. Until he’d had enough. “Then I bought a GQ Nissan Patrol, a petrol one. I had a lot of fun in that, but it was getting old. Then I rented a 100 Series and it was fabulous!”

With great interior comfort and accommodation, and no shortage of off-road performance – plus prices becoming easier to manage thanks to depreciation – Mick decided a Toyota LandCruiser 100 Series would be a great replacement for his Nissan. Mick’s long-term plans included a trip around Australia and plenty of weekends in the bush with mates, within a few hours’ drive of Sydney.

So the hunt was on for a good ‘hunjy’ and Mick found a white one in great condition for a sharp price. Mick gladly handed over the dollars.

But then he saw this one for sale. “I was stuck between a rock and hard place,” says Mick. “I hadn’t sold the Nissan yet, I’d bought the white 100 and now this one came up with all the gear that I wanted, already fitted. It was a mix of opportunity and torture! But I stretched my bucks and bought the loaded 100.”

And loaded it was, with a long list of modifications and touring hardware making it a sensational rig, and keeping Mick’s dollars safe, too.

Up front is an ARB frontal protection bar with a Tiger II winch. The rear bar is ARB, too, with a spare-wheel mount neatly book-ending the solid body protection hardware, that includes side-steps and double-rail front guard protection.

This 100 Series is powered by Toyota’s 1FZ-FE 4500i twin-cam four-valve six-cylinder petrol. This engine was available in Australia for only a handful of years before being replaced by the V8, but is well regarded and tough, generally living up to Toyota’s bold claim (at the launch in the 80 Series) of 400,000km without major overhaul. Updated for the 100 Series, it delivered an efficient 165kW and 387Nm from its 4477cc; line-ball with Ford and Holden 5.0-litre V8s of the era.

Although the maximum torque number was developed closer to redline than idle, there was enough beefy goodness down low to make the heavy Cruisers – the 100 weighed around 2350kg – respectable performers on- and off-road. Mick’s big six is dual-fuel with a sequential LPG gas injection system (see Dual Fuel Freedom, left).

Toyota’s five-speed manual is also a tough unit and Mick’s driveline has been converted to part-time four-wheel drive with aftermarket freewheeling front hubs. Being a GXL specification, it rolled out of the factory with a full-time four-wheel drive system through its beam front axle. On Mick’s wish list are diff lockers front and rear – although Toyota offered optional diff locks, this one retains its standard rear LSD and open front differentials.

As you can easily see, there’ve been a few other enhancements, too. Part of the purchase deal was two sets of rims and rubber – a set of Centipedes and a set of Cooper STTs. “The Centipedes sound like a Lancaster bomber coming down the road,” says Mick. “I usually run the Coopers.”

The Coopers roll on no-name aftermarket alloys bolted under a chassis that sits three inches higher than standard on Dobinson coils and Desert Fox dampers. The steering damper is a 4-Way Suspension coil-over return-to-centre unit and, with eccentric caster bushes in the front control arms, helps keep the lifted Cruiser tracking straight. Both axles are centred with adjustable Panhard rods as raising these Cruisers – or just about anything else with beam axles and Panhard bar geometry – skews the axle sideways in relation to the chassis.

Inside is an impressive complement of gear to keep things comfortable. Above the front seat occupants is an overhead console. Michelle’s Sacs seat covers, um, cover the original seats, and Mick built his own quick-release cargo divider. There’s an air compressor behind a load area side panel (it feeds a 30-litre air tank) and Mick built his own triple-drawer set-up in the rear (he is a carpenter, after all). With the cargo divider removed and the seats folded, there’s room in the rear for Mick to sleep solo on those beer-sozzled camping weekends with mates. And the drop-down tailgate is useful for preparing bacon and eggs the next morning.

One glaring omission from this Cruiser’s as-bought touring specs was a second battery to power the Waeco 12-volt fridge. Mick soon fixed that, installing a deep-cycle volt box to back up the Bosch cranker.

With Toyota’s petrol Cruisers leaving the factory with one battery, Mick made use of the space designed for the second battery required by the turbo-diesel model. Controlling the source of zap is a simple rotary switch. “If one battery dies, I switch to the other,” says Mick. “It’s a simple system and it won’t go wrong. I also installed a double-DIN Pioneer GPS system in it. Plus the roof rack and the spotties.

“All the rest of the gear was already on there.” The lucky bugger!