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MDT Southern Scorpion 6x6 LandCruiser review

By Matt Raudonikis | Photos Stuart Grant, 13 Aug 2014 Road Tests

MDT Southern Scorpion 6x6 LandCruiser review

If 4x4 is good then 6x6 must be better, right?

Multi Drive Technology’s Southern Scorpion 6x6 LandCruiser conversion will go anywhere a regular 4x4 LC79 will but will do it with three tonnes of gear on its back.

That’s the claim from MTD and, after spending a day with the Scorpion, we’ve no reason to dispute it. While there may not be a huge market for massive 6x6 utes, the three-tonne payload of this one provides the platform for a serious camper conversion on the back without the problems of GVM and weight over the back axle that come with a regular LC79.

Geelong-based MTD is a part of Kinetic Engineering Services and has been in the engineering business for close to 40 years. It has built 6x6 conversions for many industrial and recreational users including the mining sector, emergency services, DSE, fire fighting and others requiring a heavy duty offroad vehicle.

MDT 6x6 landcruiser Scorpian rearSome of its conversions have been done specifically for customers overseas so it’s good to see there’s still some one building and exporting vehicles out of Geelong. Generally these conversions have all been on LandCruiser 70 Series utes but there also has been Toyota Troop Carriers done.

With recent publicity about AMG 6x6 vehicles in the Middle East, the crew at MDT thought it was about time they created a showpiece to display the many aspects of their skilled team.

Most of the vehicles built at MDT are functional and plain but the one they have dubbed the ‘Southern Scorpion’ is not one of those. It has MDT’s six-wheel drive conversion, a chassis stretch, widened rear track, Paradrive seats and fabricated style-side body among the jobs that are all done in-house and available to the public and industry.

4x4 multidrive 6x6 extended chassisThe Scorpion started as a new LC79 double cab-chassis. In fact it only had a few kilometres on it when we took it out for a test drive. The chassis has been lengthened one metre exactly from behind the cabin but the reinforcing extends all the way up under the cab to ensure superior-to-OE strength. All of the chassis from behind the cab is fabricated from scratch.

The rear axles are factory Toyota units with braced housings, offset centres and factory locking diffs but they have been widened to match the front wheel track (see side bar). The axles are mounted on custom leaf spring packs with a cantilever system between them so that as one axle moves up it pushes the other one down to keep a wheel on the ground as much as possible for the best traction. The system clearly works as we evidenced when traversing uneven terrain on our test drive.

MDT 6x6 landcruiser Scorpian undercarriageThe drive splitter installed between the rear axles to cope with this cantilever arrangement is one of MDT’s own designs and improves on alternative efforts that have the drive running through the first rear axle diff. The splitter reroutes the drive upwards to a tailshaft that runs to the rearmost diff.

This required reconfiguring the Toyota diff housings to locate the centres as required, with the rearmost diff centre offset to the left of the vehicle. The driveshaft is positioned so that it isn’t fouled as the rear axle moves through its travel arc.

The drive splitter is fitted with its own Detroit Locker differential so, combined with the three Toyota cross-axle diff locks and the transfer case, you could say there are five locking diffs in this vehicle.

MDT 6x6 landcruiser Southern Scorpian sideThe front and rear diff locks are actuated using an OE-style dial on the dash so there’s nothing tricky or unusual about operating the Scorpion. It’s just an extra large, extra heavy duty ute. You can drive it anywhere but it sure would pull a crowd in a shopping centre car park, once you find an extra-large spot.

The styleside tray on the Scorpion is made by MDT and not one based on a Toyota wellside. The company will be making these for normal 4x4 LandCruisers in both single and double cab models.

MDT 6x6 landcruiser Scorpian rear trayThe tray is made from fibreglass over a steel frame. MDT designed it and made the timber bucks to form the moulds. It is finished with LED taillights, wide flares, a fabricated rear bumper and a custom fuel filler. The rear bumper even has parking sensors. A custom wing, or sail plane, mates the rear of the cabin to the tray to give it a less squared-off look and on this vehicle MDT reshaped the back of the cab to achieve a better fit and look.

Keen ’Cruiser spotters might also notice that the ends of the factory front bumper have been reshaped as well to clear the 35-inch Toyo M/T tyres fitted to 16-inch alloy wheels. The neat wheel centre caps, fuel filler cap and Southern Scorpion badging on the tailgate are all pieces made in house as well.

MDT 6x6 landcruiser Scorpian interiorThe Scorpion logos continue inside, where they are applied to the four custom trimmed Paradrive seats. The Paradrive brand also is part of the Kinetic stable and the seats are fitted to many of their modified vehicles where long hours behind the wheel will be required.

They are a huge improvement over the minimalist Toyota seats and when trimmed in leather, add an element of luxury to the otherwise workhorse LandCruiser. The suede roof lining, full length centre console and GPS/camera screen entertainment unit and speaker system are also nice touches not normally found in a spartan 70 Series.

The Southern Scorpion ate up our short offroad test drive in a quarry but, to be honest, so would have any 4x4 LC79. Likewise it felt like any other competent ’Cruiser on the tracks around the property. But factor in the 5.75-tonne GVM of this unique vehicle and you see where all this clever design and engineering starts paying dividends.

MDT 6x6 landcruiser Scorpian driving in quarryAll that engineering comes at a cost. A vehicle built just like this Southern Scorpion will cost you in the vicinity of $180,000; all approved, on the road and including the purchase price of the donor LandCruiser. You might think that’s a lot of money but MDT is already working on one for its first customer and it will be going to the Middle East.

In fact, the customer shipped the 4.0L petrol V6-powered 70 to Australia for the conversion and hopes to find a market to sell them back over there. Also consider that an AMG 6x6 will cost you more than $1million if you can get one and the Scorpion starts to look like great value.

MDT 6x6 landcruiser Scorpian engineFew buyers would want the full luxo four-seat interior of the Southern Scorpion and many not the styleside cargo tub so you could knock some dollars off the cost there. Enough to invest in a serious camper box to go on the back that would otherwise be too big and heavy for a regular 4x4 cab-chassis and the finished product would be easier to drive than a light truck conversion such as a Canter or Iveco.

Someone asked “why would you do that?” when we showed them a pic of the MDT Scorpion. With its heavy GVM and retained offroad ability, we can think of plenty of reasons why you would.

Uphill driving in the 6x6 LandCruiser Track Correction

A common complaint with the VDJ7X LandCruisers is the disparity between the front and rear wheel tracks. Aside from the burden it places on offroad ability in sand and mud, and the added fuel use from creating two sets of wheel tracks, the instability it causes has become a concern for many industries that use these vehicles.

A common fix is to fit wheel spacers to the rear axle to widen the rear track but this is illegal and you won’t find industrial users doing it. You also could fit different offset wheel rims but this means different wheels front and rear and the need for at least two spares, plus the wider wheels can still put excessive load on the wheel bearings.

MDT drive splitterKinetic Engineering has come up with an approved, road legal fix by fitting extensions to the axle housings that take the entire stub axle outwards and uses longer and stronger half shafts. This takes the load off the bearings and fixes the problems created by the narrower rear end.

This is just one of the many engineering fixes that Kinetic has done, including GVM upgrades for LandCruiser 70s, chassis extensions, dual battery fitting kits, Paradrive seats and general engineering jobs. With its in-house design team, 3D modelling, prototyping, machining and fabrication skills, Kinetic has the ability to take a good idea to production. Just as it has with the Southern Scorpion.

Find them at www.kineticeng.com.au or 03 5278 5300.