EDIT: We’ve sold our 80 Series Land Cruiser, and replaced it with a 2016 SX Isuzu Dmax.
EDIT: If you want to see photos of the full build up, check this out; 80 Series Land Cruiser Build Up
As time has gone on, my love for traveling and 4WDing has only grown, and despite the voice in the back of my head telling me to hold onto the Hilux, I knew I had to let it go. It just wasn’t suited to touring, which is what we really wanted to do. I cleaned it up, threw it on Gumtree and not long after saw it drive off with its new owner. From there, the hunt started for a wagon, with coil springs, diesel and that was well maintained. I had very nearly purchased a 2.8 litre turbo diesel Nissan Patrol when I saw an ad for a turbo diesel 80 series. I wasn’t even looking at them; they command such a high price and as a result I had ruled them out. However, this was advertised for 12k!
I managed to negotiate the price down to $10500, and walked away with the bargain of the century. When I purchased it, the vehicle was well set up for touring already, but I had a long list of plans for it (don’t we all!)
In its standard form, it was a 1990 Toyota Land Cruiser 80 series with factory turbo diesel engine (1HDT). It came with the following:
Aluminium bull bar, Aluminium scrub bars, Aluminium side steps, Kaymar rear wheel carrier and work light, Aluminium full length roof racks with a giant aluminium box on top, 4 x jerry can holders on the roof, Rear drawer system, Additional cigarette lighter outlets in the middle and rear of the car, Hella spotlights, Uniden UHF radio with a dodgy antenna, Air bags in the rear, Rear interior lighting upgrades, OME rear springs and shock absorbers, with WCS front springs and shocks, Kelly 31 x 10.5″ tyres, Dual Battery system with a Redarc isolator, Electronic rust protection setup, Dual spare wheels, 5″ DVD player with Ozi explorer, Fully rebuilt engine 70,000km ago ($7000 worth; a complete rebuild), Safari front mount intercooler and a new radiator
With 341,000km on the clock, it had been used, but not abused. The paintwork wasn’t bad, and although you could see it had been touched up in a few spots there was no evidence of rust, and I was very pleased with the way it handled.
Why the 80 series?
Having already done plenty of research on 80 series in the past, there wasn’t much thinking that needed to be done. 80 Series Land Cruisers are well known for being brilliant touring vehicles, with an incredible reputation for reliability. I was more than happy with an 80 series because of the following:
– Minimal electrics. I’m not too good with electrics, and having a vehicle that is primarily mechanical out in the bush is always a bonus
– Plenty of power. For a 24 year old vehicle, these have plenty of punch. On the dyno, this does 126 KW; comparable to many of the modern 4WD’s
– Reliability. 80 Series are extremely well engineered, with very few problems at all. They don’t have many rust issues, the drivelines are strong and the engines are one of the best Toyota ever made
– Economical. For a vehicle that carries quite a bit of weight, they use minimal fuel. They come with 140 litres of fuel standard, which makes travelling longer distances much easier
– Comfortable. Having come from a leaf sprung Hilux, this thing is incredibly comfortable. 4 coils ensure the ride is comfortable and the suspension works extremely well off road.
– Capable. Off the factory floor, these go very well off road with just a decent set of tyres. I’m amazed at where this will go; you just pick a line, and it walks up!
Anyone who owns a 4WD and really uses it off road will tell you they still have things to do to the vehicle. However, I believe in only modifying a vehicle to make it more capable, comfortable, reliable or functional. If it doesn’t fall within one of these 4 categories, forget it! With this in mind, I began to make a few upgrades to the new (well, to me!) 80. To see all the modifications in photos, I wrote another post – 80 Series Land Cruiser Build Up.
Removing the driveline play
Part of the negotiations were due to the backlash (or play) across the drive line. 80 series Land Cruisers are constant 4WD, which means that after doing a lot of km’s the little amounts of play add up to be quite a bit. The first thing to do then, was to try to remove some of the play. I did this by fitting a part time kit from Marks Adaptors, which was well worth doing. You can read more about this at Marks Adaptors Part Time Kit.
Removal of accessories not required
Everyone sets their car up to suit the way they travel, and I knew I wasn’t going to need the jerry can holders on the roof, or the big aluminium box, so it came off. It’s kept in the garage for later (maybe) but I can’t have that much weight on top of the vehicle.
Modifications of the rear drawer system
I’m not really sure why most of the ‘off the shelf’ drawer systems are built with two drawers on the bottom with the fridge sitting on top of the drawers. Majority of the time the fridge lid can’t open all the way, no one can see into it and you still need a box around it to stop gear from falling onto the fridge. This was the way the drawers came, and I couldn’t have it like that. I put the fridge in the bottom drawer, and built another drawer on top of the other one, then covered the whole lot with a box. I built it out of 12mm marine ply, and made sure the joints were properly routed, glued and screwed together. I still haven’t gotten back to finishing it off with carpet though!
Repairs along the way
As with every 4WD, you will find things wrong from time to time. One of the rubber safari front mount intercooler hoses needed replacing, and a mate helped remove a heap of wiring under the dash and under the vehicle. We also found that the vehicle had a few earth problems, but nothing a decent earth cable fitted wouldn’t fix. Other than that though, its just been standard repairs and maintenance, so I’m a happy camper.
Water is a big part of 4WDing, and even though I try to avoid mud as much as possible, you are going to get water over the height of your diffs from time to time. When this happens, the water can be sucked into the diff, causing all sorts of long term problems. To reduce the chance of water getting sucked in, you simply extend the breathers into the back of the engine bay, with a filter so they stay clean and can’t suck any water in. If you want to know more, check out Why you should install Differential Breathers.
Bull bar upgrade
Asides from looking hideous, I needed somewhere to mount a winch, so the alluminium bull bar had to come off. I picked up a Deluxe winch bar from ARB, and bolted it on the front. ARB make the best bars on the market, and I have been very happy with it so far.
Rear bar installation
Anyone who has done four wheel driving on rocks will know the chance of panel damage to the rear of your four wheel drive is very likely. To reduce the chance of any damage being done, I fitted a Kaymar rear bar with twin swing away tyre carriers. This enabled me to remove the tyre from under the vehicle, which often gets hung up or damaged off road. I wrote a review of the Kaymar rear bars (this is my second one) which you can read here; Kaymar Rear Bar Review.
Front and rear ELockers
If you want your four wheel drive to go further off road, lockers should be at the top of the list. They are only really needed for the tougher situations, and can be done without in many cases. For me though, I wanted to have the ability of 100% traction on demand. I am not a person to use momentum to bounce my way over an obstacle; if I can’t get up it with controlled speed then I will give it a miss. I’ve seen too much damage done to vehicles by giving them a flogging, and this was the main reason for getting lockers. The Harrop Eaton ELockers are a great bit of kit, and have been the single modification that has improved the cruisers performance off road. Lockers out do a lift kit and bigger tyres 10 times over. You can find out more about them at Eaton Harrop ELocker.
Driving Light upgrade
I am going to say that the factory low beams on an 80 series are downright dangerous. The light output is measly; I have LED torches that can outshine them. As a result, I decided to remove the sealed beams and replace them with Narva inserts. I got plus 120 globes, which improve the output significantly.
I also purchased new wiring harnesses from ARB. One of the main reasons for poor performing headlights is the voltage at the headlight is no where near that of the battery. By the time the current runs through all of the wiring it has lost a significant amount, hence the upgraded looms. These get current directly from the battery, and use the existing wiring only for switching the lights on and off via relays.
The Hella halogen spotlights made a difference, but it wasn’t enough to warrent keeping them on. Instead, I purchased a 9800 lumen light bar from Narva, and installed that. These lighting upgrades have totally transformed the 80 in terms of driving safely at night both on the road and off road. If you want to know more about this upgrade, have a look at the Narva Light Upgrade post.
UHF Radio upgrade
After stripping the dash down one day, it became apparent that the wiring on the back of my Uniden UHF was very close to giving up the ghost. I got a new ICOM commercial grade radio, and installed it in the same position. Communications are imperative when heading out bush, and I wasn’t going to let a few hundred dollars get in the way of safety.
Interior lighting upgrade
You can never have enough lighting, so I replaced the interior lights with LED panels, which are at least 3 times as bright. I am looking at doing some more modifications with LED strip lighting in the future too; the brighter the better!
Engine monitoring system
There’s no point having a nice turbo diesel engine under the hood if you have no idea how it is going. An EGT gauge measures the temperature of the exhaust gasses (Exhaust Gas Temperature probe). These vary depending on the amount of fuel being injected, the load on the vehicle and the heat of your engine. I fitted a digital Scintex gauge, which is an instant indication of when something is wrong. If the radiator gets a hole in it, or I lose oil, or the fuel pump has an issue, the temperatures will go through the roof and you know about it instantly.
You can’t tour with an ice box, so a fridge/freezer was in order. After a lot of research, I settled on an Evakool 55L fridge. These are bright yellow, but despite their looks they are a top quality product, which I have been very happy with over the last year.
Keeping the tyres at the right pressures
I’ve always gotten away with borrowing a compressor, so it was about time I forked out and got one. Bushranger were a pretty obvious choice, with a full 5 year warranty and sterling reviews. I picked up their supermax air, which I’ve been extremely happy with.
Keeping your gear away from occupants
When your 4WD is loaded with fishing boxes, recovery gear, food boxes and other heavy items, it is imperative that you install a cargo barrier. One wrong move off road and you could end up with a very injured driver or passenger. A cargo barrier was purchased from a 100 series Land Cruiser and chopped down to fit, to ensure the potential missiles are kept away from the car occupants.
Free flowing exhaust
Most 4WD’s that come off the factory showroom have exhausts which limit the flow of air. By fitting a 3″ exhaust to the 80 series, we gained more power, better economy and a nicer note, whilst maintaining a relatively quiet exhaust noise (and not a noisy drone!). You can find out more about the exhaust at Beaudesert 3 inch Exhaust.
After one of the first 4WD trips in my 80, a few people commented on the black smoke at low revs. I took it to Matt at United Fuel Injection, who took a look over it, and gave it a bit more power with less smoke and considerably better fuel economy. This was a very simple job that has paid itself off many times!
Finally I took the plunge, and picked up 6 new tyres, on black sunraisers. They are 285/75/R16 BFG KM2 mud terrain tyres, and have been fantastic off road. They look tough, and perform even better! These were purchased from Don Cornells in Sydney, and shipped to Perth with 16 inch King steel rims for $355 each (or $265 each per tyre). Yes, you read that right; give Don Cornells a call!
I’ve known for a while that the 80 had a bit of rust around the accelerator pedal. I pulled the carpet up the other day, and began chipping it away. I’ve ended up with a sizable hole that needs to be repaired, but it all stems from a design flaw which allows water to sit where it shouldn’t. Still, you can’t really complain; its a 24 year old vehicle and still drives very nicely; I won’t be giving up on it any time soon.
Mud flap replacements
I lost one of my factory mud flaps down in Esperance, and the other one nearly fell off out the back of Brunswick. They are too rigid, and are easily ripped off. I managed to get hold of some conveyor belt, and bolted it to the Kaymar Rear Bar. Now they cover considerably greater of an area and are much less likely to be ripped off
Since I bought the 80, the passenger side air bag has continued to go flat over a couple of days. No biggie, but something that has been a bit of a pain. Given we only really use the 4WD for travelling or day trips, I knew we could get away with some heavy duty springs. ARB was consulted, and we fitted a full OME coil and shock set. The rears are rated at 600kg, which suits the weight in the rear perfectly. With a winch being bolted to the front too, I knew the springs would have to be replaced soon anyway.
The suspension has since been used for 5 weeks in the Kimberley, and we are wrapped with it. It no longer sags, and I don’t have to worry about adjusting air bag pressures!
Whilst we love to travel with mates, we do tend to spend a lot of time by ourselves. A winch has always been on the agenda, and when I found out the price of a 10,000lb Smittybilt winch with dynamea rope, I jumped on it.
I’ve yet to use the winch, but no doubt it will get used plenty of times!
Rear work light
A light on the rear of your 4WD is extremely handy. We’ve been using a portable light that plugs into a cigarette lighter, but in order to reduce the gear we took up north, I purchased a Kaymar work light. Fairly straightforward to install, and its been brilliant up north. Possibly a little overkill for cooking at night, but it works exceptionally!
Battery voltage monitor
Running a fair number of accessories meant I was always checking the battery voltage. The only way to do it was to pop the bonnet and use a multimeter; not exactly convenient. Instead, I picked up a Projecta dual battery monitor, and a mate helped install it. I can now check the condition of the batteries in seconds.
A few weeks before we headed up north, the cranking battery failed. I decided to stick with the yellow top optima, and picked up a new one for just over $300. In Broome, we replaced the secondary battery for $200, as the existing battery was not handling the load very well. The auxilliary battery is 105 ah, and handles our requirements very well, coupled to a 100 watt solar panel.
What did it cost?
A while back I sat down and worked out exactly how much money I’d spent on the 80 series. To be honest, I was actually a bit shocked, but it’s done now! You can see the full cost breakdown here – 4WDing Australia’s 80 series build up.
There really isn’t much more that I’ve got on the list of things to do. Possibly scrub bars and rock sliders, but I’m pretty glad to say the build up is complete. It’s taken us to some truly amazing places already, and we look forward to any future adventures.
Life is full of compromise. Everyone wants a 4WD that is as capable as a unimog, that fits in a garage, can be driven around town easily and uses very little fuel, but the reality is you aren’t going to get all of that. You have to make compromises to suit your most important goals. Our 80 may not be the flashest 4WD out there, but it is an extremely capable one that I know is reliable, relatively economical and does everything we need it to, very well. I will be hanging onto this one for a long time yet! We’ve had some Amazing 4WD adventures in our 80 series; its all worth it!
Feel free to ask any questions you have below!