4WD Build Costs; what did our 80 Series Cost?

You can spend an enormous amount of money on 4WD’s. Unfortunately, it’s often only after spending a fortune that people realise the vehicle they have bought and built is not suitable for what they really need. This is why it’s so important to start with the end in mind when looking for a 4WD.

Thinking about the amount of money I’ve spent on our 80 series Landcruiser has been a painful exercise. I sat down one day and thought I’d make a spreadsheet up, and share it with everyone to see. Hopefully you will get something out of it!

Sure, I love it to bits, and it’s been built for a purpose. Still though, I got a bit of a shock when I did the figures. Have you taken the time to add up the amount of money you’ve spent? Would you do it differently next time?

Roof racks are very useful
The 80 the day after getting it

Why the 80?

My previous 4WD was a dual cab Hilux, which was a great vehicle, but was not suited for touring. We wanted something with more range, economy, comfort, reliability and room.

The 80 was purchased with the intention of building it into a tough tourer, and I am very relieved to say that it’s pretty well finished. That means no more money!

So, what have I spent on our 80?

I got the 80 for an absolute steal. A 1990 factory turbo diesel 80 series with a heap of mods done, a 70,000km old engine for $10,500. From there, I’ve built it into a tough tourer, with a huge list of work completed. Please not these are RRP prices, and not what I actually paid.

Marks adaptors part time kit ($585)

Most of the 80 series Landcruisers came out with full time 4WD, and a center differential. This meant that all 4 wheels were receiving power at all times. However, our 80 had a serious amount of backlash in the driveline, caused by wear over 360,000km.

In order to quickly remove the majority of the backlash, I purchased a Part time kit from Marks adaptors, which involves installing manual locking hubs on the front, removing the center diff lock and installing a spool in its place.

This removed majority of the backlash, and was a good move.

Part time kit 80 series
Manual locking hubs

Icom IC-400PRO UHF ($400)

Whilst stripping my dashboard apart one day I noticed that the GME radio I had in the vehicle was not in very good condition.

Someone had shortened the wiring from the back of the radio, and it didn’t look very healthy. With some big trips planned, a working UHF was imperative, so I grabbed a new UHF from Prestige Communications.

Parts for rear drawer system upgrade ($150)

Our 80 came with a drawer system and fridge slide. The issue though, was that the fridge sat on top of a drawer, and was far too high to access, and the lid wouldn’t stay open.

I realised I could mount the fridge inside the right hand drawer, and build a box over the top, and a second drawer on top of the other. A quick visit to Bunnings saw me pick up some 12mm marine ply, 1.5mm x 30mm equal angle (aluminium), screws and other bits and pieces.

80 Series drawer system
It’s still not finished!

I had the drawer slide in the garage already (they were supposed to go in the Hilux!). A number of hours in the shed later, and I had a much more user friendly drawer system.

ARB winch compatible bull bar ($1284)

Asides from looking very agricultural, the aluminium bull bar that came with our 80 series seriously impacted on its entry angle, and didn’t have the capacity to hold a winch (which I knew we would want down the track). ARB was an obvious choice; they sell top quality bar work.

ARB make some awesome quality gear
ARB make some awesome quality gear

Kaymar rear bar with twin tyre carriers ($3511)

Having owned a Kaymar rear bar on the Hilux, I knew how well they were built. I needed something to store 2 tyres on, as well as protect the rear of the vehicle. I picked up a Kaymar twin wheel carrier and rear bar from ARB, and installed it a few days later.

80 series tyres
Dual tyre carrier

ARB headlight wiring loom ($242)

The factory lighting on 80 series Landcruisers is truly abysmal. Not just terrible, but in reality very unsafe. I never felt happy or comfortable driving at over 100km/h on bitumen with low beam; it was just shoddy as.

One of the major reasons for the poor lighting is the factory wiring Toyota put in. ARB sell a pre-built wiring kit which allows a lot more power to flow to the headlights. I did this upgrade with the below Narva one, and it made a massive difference. You can read more about it here – ARB upgraded wiring looms.

Low beam Narva upgrade
Low Beam upgrade

Narva headlight upgrade ($331)

Having sealed high and low beam lights, these were ditched in favour of Narva’s alternative. I grabbed the plus globes whilst I was at it, and in combination with ARB’s wiring loom upgrade, the difference is night and day. Find out more at Narva Light upgrade

High beam Narva upgrade
High beam

Narva LED light bar ($500)

Figuring that I wouldn’t really be doing a whole lot of high speed night driving, the Narva LED light bar was an obvious choice. Top quality, very bright and for slow speed stuff, absolutely amazing. On the road at night it’s really not bad at all; better than the halogen spotties I had on there!

Narva light upgrade high beam
High beam and the light bar vs the old high beam and 35W Hella spotlights

3 inch Beaudesert Exhaust ($900)

Chasing better fuel economy and a bit more power, I went to Beaudesert for a new 3 inch system. Upon removing the factory exhaust, it was obvious that it was restricting the air flow.

There was a few sections that were seriously squashed (more than they would be from factory!). Asides from giving the 80 a nice note, the 3 inch exhaust allowed the turbo to spool up earlier, passed on some power increase and helped to reduce the fuel usage a little! I’m very pleased with the Beaudesert Exhaust.

The new Beaudesert exhaust
Mandrel bent

Scintex EGT gauge ($170)

Driving a turbo diesel without gauges to monitor the engine condition is not something I was comfortable with. An EGT gauge measures the temperature of the exhaust gasses, and gives you instant feedback as to the engines condition.

You can monitor how hot it gets, and make sure when you are pushing the 4WD hard you don’t go above what it can safely handle. Post turbo, this is around 500 – 550 degrees. The only time I’ve come close to that is overtaking triple road trains up north, and even then, it would only get to around 480.

I can now drive with the confidence that if I lose coolant, oil, boost or a fan, the EGT gauge will immediately notify me, and allow me to pull over without blowing my engine up!

I will say that the heat destroyed one of the probes that came with the Scintex gauge, so they could do with being made better.

Exhaust Gas Temperature Gauge
Scintex digital EGT Gauge

Diff breathers ($70)

Knowing that I regularly drive through water over differential height, a quick visit to Hoseco saw me pick up some rubber fuel line, hosetails and adaptors.

I extended the factory breathers into the engine bay, and now have some comfort knowing water isn’t getting sucked into the diffs! Diff Breathers should be one of the first modifications you do, if you use your 4WD in anything over shin height water.

Harrop ELockers front and rear ($3000)

I’m always looking for ways to make our 4WD more capable, functional or comfortable. I’d never even heard about the Eaton Harrop ELockers, until flicking through some threads online. A bit of digging into them and I realised they really had something worth looking into. A few emails later and I had both a front and rear ELocker on their way to Perth.

E locker switches
Instant traction buttons

These have completely transformed the 80; making it crawl up things with very little effort at all. They are my favourite modification so far, and you can read more at 7 reasons why I love my ELockers.

ELocker installation ($600)

I decided I would pull the diffs out and take them and the lockers to Perth Differential and Gearbox in Belmont. They installed the lockers, replaced the bearings, checked them over and gave them back. I fitted them back in place, and had a mate run the wiring.

Engine tune ($200)

Not long after picking the 80 up, a few mates were commenting on the amount of smoke coming out the back. United Fuel Injection has the reputation, and Matt got the 80 running much better, with more power throughout the range, less smoke and better economy. $200 well spent.

Dynotune of 1HDT
The results

Interior light upgrade ($6)

This one won’t break the bank – you can buy LED panels off eBay for a few dollars each, and swap them into any festoon interior globe location. A massive, massive increase in light for a few bucks; you can’t go wrong!

Powerful 4×4 side awning ($200)

A side awning was a logical step to getting some easy access shade. Powerful 4×4 had a good reputation, and promptly delivered an awning to my door.

Major mechanical repairs ($7000)

When buying our 80, I knew there would be things that would need attention. It’s a 25 year old car, which has done 360,000km. As a Maintenance Planner by trade, I’m pretty careful to keep things in tip top condition. If you look after your car, it will look after you.

I wasn’t going to take any risks either, with a 9000km trip planned into the Kimberley, so booked the vehicle in for a huge list of jobs at a good friends workshop – Quickshift Auto’s in Myaree.

After receiving a long list of things to be done, the 80 got a big birthday:

  • Big end bearings
  • Timing belt
  • Water pump, coolant, thermostat
  • Valve clearances
  • Transfer case rebuild (had to purchase a 100 series transfer case as mine was beyond repair!)
  • Turbo inspection and safari intercooler hose replacement
  • Engine oil and filter replacement
  • New suspension bushes
  • Hand brake repair
  • Rear axle seal replacement
  • New brake pads and machined rotors
  • Reinstall missing bolts on gearbox cross member
  • New genuine air filter
  • Other minor work to tidy the vehicle up

OME suspension kit ($1245)

Ever since I bought the 80, one of the rear air bags was leaking air. Not enough to make it completely useless, but it needed pumping up every couple of days. I tried to find the leak, with no luck.

Having a fairly constant load in the 80 meant air bags weren’t really needed anyway, so I decided to rip them out and replace the suspension with a new kit from OME.

Smittybilt winch with spacer kit ($1144)

I knew at some point I’d need to get a winch. I’d been putting it off for a long time, but committed to a 10,000 lb stainless Smittybilt winch from ARB.

Kaymar telescopic light ($283)

I very nearly built my own telescopic light for the tyre carrier, but due to time constraints I needed something I knew was going to be top quality, so the telescopic light was added to the shopping list

BFG KM2 tyres x 6 with king sunraiser rims ($1950)

Our 80 came with 6 tyres, but they were different tread patterns, and two had flat spots from the previous owner hanging on the brakes to avoid a kangaroo.

When I came across the 285/75/16 BFG KM2’s from Don Cornells in Sydney for $265 each, fitted and balanced to king sunraisers for $60 more, I couldn’t resist it.

The KM2’s have a fantastic reputation for touring, and are great in the mud, sand and rocks too. I’m very pleased with them.

Total 80 series build cost

So, you add the above up, and you get about 34 grand, which includes the initial cost of the vehicle. Ouch. I was genuinely shocked to see how much I’d spent. I will say though, the actual figure is lower than this, due to negotiations. Still, it’s a lot of money, and it really had me considering whether I’d made a bad decision (or several) and it brings the importance of really looking at your 4WD from a long term perspective.

The thing is, once you start modifying or repairing your 4WD, you get attached to it, and the money continues to roll out the door. There is a point where it’s not worth selling the car you’ve built, and we are way past that. There is no way in the world I would recovery all the money I’ve spent on our 80!

I’m very glad to say there aren’t any more modifications planned for the 80. It is set up exactly as we want it, and I won’t be parting ways any time soon. It will be used more and more now, starting with a trip to the Kimberley in 3 weeks!

What would I do differently?

Honestly, looking at it now, probably nothing. Every modification was justified, and a lot of the expense was to bring a 25 year old vehicle back up to standard. It now has a rebuilt engine, differentials, transfer case and should be good to go for a very long time. Fingers crossed!

Bigger tyres on our 80
The 80 as it is today

So, what about you?

Have you taken the time to work out how much you’ve spent on your 4WD? Does it do what you want it to? How much further are you going to take it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Hi Mondira,

    Congratulations on the new purchase. You do not need a diff lock. They are very useful in some situations, but until you reach that level of confidence the factory setup will be just fine. I still don’t have lockers in my Dmax. A suspension upgrade is worth while for towing a van, but it needs to suit the loads you are carrying (and intend to carry in the future).

    A snorkel and winch are also a good idea. The main thing is that you modify the vehicle so it does what you need it to. No point going overboard on accessories that don’t really help you.

    All the best

  2. Mondira Borg says:

    Hi Aaron,
    I have just purchased a Isusu mux top of the range 2020 edition (still in shipment) and will be taking a 4×4 class but what i wanted to know is there is no diff lock (and not many bells and whistles) and i will be using for some hill accents and descent and if it is absolutely necessary to have it? Also I am getting Suspension upgrade also because i want to tow a caravan is it a good idea? I am getting a snorkel (to protect from dust as well) and a wench installed, too much?

  3. Hey A.C,

    Yep, we are very happy with it all, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

    Modify the vehicle to suit your requirements, but there’s no need to do it all in a rush!

    All the best mate

  4. All worth it! Looks absolutely sic!! Thanks for the list, I’m currently adding to my wish list and this has given me a bit more to read up on 😀 Total 4B newbee but already hooked!

  5. Hey Laurence,

    The Disco’s are certainly a great vehicle. Some people have great runs, and some don’t. They are certainly up there in terms of capability and all the fruit

    All the best

  6. Laurence McCarthy says:

    Hi Arron yep you give great blogs alright ,but let me ask you .Why does everyone spend a fortune on bloody old Toyota’s that shake the living daylights out of you ? I know every one poo poo’s Land Rovers ,but let me tell you All the downsides one hears about them are totally false. Its all to do with bad servicing and the people whom own them that don’t have a clue how to maintain a vehicle.I own a discovery 3.Practically EVERYTHING you talk about here they have as standard from new.Mine has not cost me hardly a cent apart from general maintenance and never let me down in the outback and i drive regularly to communities in the territory and as you well know its remote and rough as all hell.Not only that but i drag a trailer loaded with gear for my work.The Landy has done 391000 km and like i said never missed a beat .The motor runs like a sewing machine ,Why ,because i look after it. Recent maintenance cost this last year,Front control arms x2,1 new air strut front ( the rest are all original so that blows the theory air suspension sucks),new air suspension compressor,3 reconditioned valve blocks , stop light switch,new rotors and brake pads .Full service and timing belt replacement,all fluids.Total cost 4300 au.I have done all the work myself apart from the Timing belt and i am 71 yo. I 4 wheel drive regularly and would drive that vehicle to England tomorrow .You see what i am saying why not buy a vehicle that has all the bells and whistles to start with and please don’t reply on reliability issues hehe .

  7. Hey mate,

    Sounds like you are having fun. Just make sure you use it a lot, and then modify it to suit what you need. They are a good vehicle for sure

    All the best

  8. I made the mistake of browsing through some car yards and came across an NM Pajero. It had receipts for everything spent on it, but high K’s. Cut a long story short I bought it. I didn’t expect to get into 4 WD, but now I am hooked. If I bought a new one and fitted it out, depreciation in the first year would be much more than I have spent on it.

    So far, 2″ lift, Boo’s bash plates, CB, Diff breathers, and will be fitting a snorkel. Still looking for a second bull bar, Further projects, long range fuel tank, bigger wheels maybe a roof rack. All for less 10k.

  9. Hey mate,

    I guess the first thing is what motor is it running? What mods have you done so far? I wouldn’t change anything unless its causing you problems. I would also be very wary of spending as much money as I did!

    Have you looked into second hand dual cabs, or would this not suit your purpose?


  10. Hi Aaron, I have a 1991 model 80 series and it looks like a family decision has been made and I can spend around 20k on her instead of forking out big bucks for the latest model. I love my 80 series and the first thing she will be getting is a new paint job as the paint job is appalling. No rust which is good. I found your blog a great read and gave me some ideas. If you had 20k to spend on a stock vehicle what would be your priority for the upgrades? We camp a lot but mainly on sand and firm dirt tracks with the usual potholes and ruts,Chat soon

  11. Hey Lachlan,

    Good on you for looking into it all. The value of a car depends on heaps of different things; if its been highly modified there’s a pretty good chance it would have been used for 4WD work, which can mean its got a bit more wear and tear.

    The motor is what will determine its value most. The TD42’s are a great motor, and worth a lot more than the ZD30’s, which I would be wary of if its pre 2004.

    You’ve got lots of time to find the right car; look for something that is going to suit your requirements. If its going to be a daily driver, something economical and smaller might be the go until you have the hang of it all. How long do you plan on keeping it for? What do you want out of the vehicle? I’d happily pick up a Sierra, Jimny, Pajero or Pathfinder.

    Keep researching mate

  12. Hi Aaron,
    I love the work you have put into this site! I just have a few questions.
    I am 16 and dont have much knowledge of 4wdriving, other than reading and learning about it online. I want to own my own 4wd when I get P-plates so I can go camping and offroading with mates. As I am only young, the job in maccas wont support a $20k+ car ha ha! I’d dream for a 79series with a neat canopy but toyota aint cheap. So I’ve been looking at Nissan Patrols, A wagon would be alright. Is a Patrol with 200000kms for $15k a good deal or should I keep looking? It isnt a standard car, it has many mods.
    If the car has $10k worth of mods and is selling for $15k, wouldnt that mean the car is practically $5k?
    I would also attatch a rooftop tent, does the weight matter?

    Hope that made sense!

  13. Hey Harry,

    There was no special deal; I didn’t even ask for a price when I dropped it off. Bearing in mind this was over 2 years ago now, so prices have likely gone up. A mate had his GQ done there a few months ago and spent about $330 too, from memory. Maybe the price varies depending on how long is spent tuning the vehicle?

    I’d go to Gturbo next time you need it tuned; Graeme is a Landcruiser guru.

  14. Harry Fisher says:

    I just noticed your tune from UFI was only $200. They have always charged me $330 for the same car. Did he give you a special deal?
    I also noticed that my car puts out pretty well identical figures (1 less hp and 5 more nm of torque). Obviously that’s a bit different now with the GTurbo though.

  15. You’re making me feel better. You can’t go wrong with an 80. That said, I have thrown a bit more money at the old girl (despite saying I wouldn’t!). I’ve just replaced the turbo and had to get the injector pump done as it was leaking diesel. What do you do though?! It’s all worth it in the end

  16. Harry Fisher says:

    My 80 series Sahara is very very close in terms of the setup and it has cost me around $35k all up so don’t feel too bad!

  17. I’m glad you’ve put such a positive spin on it. I was thinking maybe I’d gone overboard on it, but looking back I can’t say I’m displeased with any of the decisions!

  18. I nearly did; I was days away from signing the paperwork for a 2.8 turbo diesel GU. I’m so glad this 80 popped up!

  19. Jack Mehoff says:

    Could have saved yourself all that time and money and gotten a Nissan.

  20. That model was around 60k new without all those modifications, the comparable new model around 95k, add the mods you did (not including major mechanical repairs) compares it to a new one at $111,765.00. So you have a sub 34k fully reconditioned and all the fruit 4×4… doesn’t hurt as much when you think of it that way 🙂