Our Sturdy 76 Series LandCruiser Build
*30th July 2021 – this article is currently being updated with the build updates. Our apologies for the errors over the next couple of days while we make these changes.
Some of you may have read this original build article back in 2018 or seen our 76 Series LandCruiser in some of our travel stories on the site. We’ve owned the Cruiser for over three years now and it’s taken us across the Bight and Simpson, to the High Country, Arnhem Land and the Kimberley and many places in between. In that time we’ve also completed the Phase 2 of our build and made some changes from what we’ve learned along the way. It’s now mid 2021, as good a time as any for a major update of this article.
While this article focussed on the build details, for us this vehicle allows safe passage to wild and rugged places. And it’s the travel to these places that we treasure most.
My wife Gen and I, often travel as one vehicle, so at every choice with our 76 Series LandCruiser build we have opted for quality, reliability and longevity.
We also do a wide variety of trips each year. Sometimes we tow our camper trailer and pack our canoe, kayaks, hiking gear or surfboards. For other trips we bolt on our rooftop tent and travel lighter. So we needed a vehicle that could be flexible to suit different trips, whilst still being an ok daily driver for me.
Why a 76 Series LandCruiser?
Our previous vehicle was a Toyota LandCruiser Prado 120 Series. It was a great vehicle, but with more frequent rugged travel we were starting to have some issues from the lighter build quality. We bent steering rod arms twice and the wheel arch began cracking from flex. And while it drove superbly off-road with a light load the 4 cylinder diesel ran out of steam on the demanding stuff with heavy loads and when towing.
I love wagons and I love the reliability and remote area availability of Toyota parts and know-how so the choice of vehicle quickly simmered down to 76 Series LandCruiser vs 200 Series LandCruiser.
For what we do, both would have been a good choice. The 76 Series LandCruiser is lighter and back in 2018 the largest GVM upgrade possible for both vehicles meant the payload for the 76 Series was a lot higher, which was definitely an attraction. In the end it really came down to preference. The 76 Series LandCruiser isn’t for everyone, but I love the manual transmission, simplicity and ruggedness. For me, it feels like I’m a little closer to the adventure.
So we bought a 2018 76 Series LandCruiser GXL model, through our local dealer Melville Toyota. While I quite liked the idea of the vinyl of the Workmate model, ultimately the dual factory electronic diff locks, power windows, central locking and cruise control won out.
Suspension and Tyres
Old Man Emu GVM Upgrade
Old Man Emu BP51 Shock Absorbers
Airbag Man Helper Kit
The suspension system in our 76 Series LandCruiser works really well, but with full water, fuel and gear it sags a little in the rear. We already upgraded the leaf packs from the 400kg to 600kg constant load option, and while there is an 800kg model I was worried that it would be too stiff.
The solution was to add an Airbag Man Helper Kit. These are designed to assist the leaf packs to keep the our 76 Series LandCruiser level with the varying loads of full and empty loads and when towing.
JMACX Diff Replacement
JMACX High Clearance Plates
JMACX Radius Arms
JMACX Brake Booster
Originally I ran 28570R17 Toyo R/Ts. The tyres performed well but I changed configuration for a few reasons. Firstly, the HD steel rims weren’t staying true. Secondly, once I’dd corrected the narrower rear wheel track with the replacement JMACX diff the 285 width tyre would need wider flares to stay legal. Finally, I’ve always loved the narrower 255 width tyre.
We now run KM3s in size 25585R16 with 0 offset. The BFGoodrich KM3 is a rugged and grippy tyre. It’s a mud terrain, but it’s at the quieter end of the noise spectrum. The 25585R16 is a great size tyre for these vehicles in my opinion. It’s 33.1″ in diameter, so it’s nice and tall, but it’s not too heavy and it’s easy to manoeuvre on more tricky lines.
While it is skinnier than many tyres it’s wider than the stock 225 of the LandCruiser 76 Series Workmate model and only slightly narrower than the 265 tyres of the GXL. The 255s also fit neatly and legally within the stock GXL flares with zero offset rims. Speaking of rims, after the issues with the original steel rims I sourced a set of Toyota 76 Series LandCruiser Workmate steel rims and had them powder coated. My hope was that these rims withstand the abuse of miners and farmers so they would serve us well, and 18 months on I’m happy to report that they haven’t missed a beat.
We also run the same wheel, offset and tyre combo on our camper trailer to make it easy to share spares.
ARB Deluxe Bar
Originally we fitted a Uneek 4×4 bar. We bought it site unseen, and while the quality was nice it sat really close to the front of the vehicle and the top of the hoops was quite low. While I had no issue, ultimately I was worried that it wouldn’t offer the very best protection for a big animal strike so switched it to an ARB bar.
The ARB bar sits away from the vehicle, sits higher and is made from thicker steel. I think it will offer better protection should we ever need it, but I’m happy to never put this theory to the test!
I opted not to fit scrub rails to save width and a little width on the tightest squeezes. While it’s possible I’ll cop some damage here, I think it’s unlikely this will stop the vehicle and I can always get it straightened. For me the weight saving is worth the risk.
Uneek 4×4 Rock Sliders
Uneek 4×4 Rear Bar
Engine Protection & Performance
While fitting a quality snorkel is a no brainer, tweaking the engine was the decision I was most reluctant to do. While the 76 Series LandCruiser is de-tuned for mining and farming, reliability is incredibly important to us and I didn’t want to rush in to any change I might regret.
Safari Armax Snorkel
While the factory fitted 76 Series LandCruiser raised air intake is better than nothing, we changed it out with a fully sealed Safari ARMAX Snorkel. These keep water out of the precious engine far more effectively, the ram snorkel head design and four inch diameter body together deliver ~50% more air to the powerful V8!
Safari Armax ECU
Safari Armax Performance Clutch
Safari Armax Fuel Pre-Filter
Safari Armax Oil Separator
For our 76 Series Land Cruiser I chose a DPF back, 3″ stainless steel exhaust from local Western Australian company Manta. They have a few options and I also opted for the quietest of the three exhausts. I can now hear the V8, but it’s still pleasant in the cabin on long drives and it doesn’t upset fellow travellers.
The stainless steel is also stronger and obviously more corrosion resistant. I’m hopeful it will last a long time and handle any bumps far better than the original steel version.
The DPF back 3″ exhaust also offers a small performance improvement and assists with keeping our Exhaust Gas Temperatures (EGT) down.
While keeping the DPF won’t deliver the same performance gains, for me it was important to choose a DPF back exhaust. Firstly, it’s the legal option, and I wanted our build to be compliant. But more importantly, this 76 Series LandCruiser is a tool for exploring beautiful wild places. I didn’t want to remove technology that reduces the volume of particles reaching the atmosphere that ultimately leads to the degradation of where we love to explore.
With the ECU fitted our 76 Series LandCruiser has more than enough power, the DPF is fitted with an insulating shield to reduce the risk of fire and additional it’s possible to manually control the DPF burn in a safe place when you are navigating high fire risk areas like overgrown tracks.
Inside the bar we bolted a WARN ZEON 10-S winch. We do lots of trips with one vehicle, so for us it was great to have the peace of mind of a quality winch. We chose the Spectra version at 27kg is 17kg lighter than the steel version.
We’ve mounted two RFI Antennas. The CDQ7195 connects to a Bury iPhone cradle, and the CDQ5000 to our Icom IC-450 UHF radio. In the city/country pack the CDQ5000 comes with the CDQ34, a short whip which is designed for getting in carparks, but I think we’ll use more to increase driver vision when we don’t need 5dBi of gain.
We’ve mounted ROLA Heavy Duty cross bars. They have a high load rating and are light. For carrying sea kayaks, whitewater kayaks, canoes, surfboards and rooftop tents we find cross bars the best.
We’ve also have a flat ROLA Titan Tray for when we need to load lots of gear up top. It simply bolts on top of the cross bars – we’ll show you that at a later date.
*Update – We’ve changed the taller ROLA feet out for their smallest ones with 20mm spacers. It gets the centre of gravity of our vehicle a bit lower.
Our electrical system will go in soon – but we wanted to give you a sneek peek at the parts that have just arrived. We’re stoked to get hold of the new REDARC REDVISION ahead of it’s consumer release.
REDVISION is a vehicle management system. The display (or APP) controls the connected accessories. In our case this will be two water tank pumps, our UHF radio, fridge, air compressor, inverter, interior lights and USB sockets. It also displays the battery levels, water tanks levels and lots more.
The REDVISION connects with the REDARC Manager 30 to smart charge a variety of deep cycle battery types (including lithium). It has an inbuilt solar regulator and enables charge from the vehicle and mains power.
The REDVISION Distribution & Fuse Box is absolutely impressive. We can’t wait to see how simple and neat the wiring turns out.
The REDARC 1500W Pure Sine Inverter should allow us to charge all of our cameras, drones, radios and laptops at once.
We’ve pulled our Icom IC-450 UHF radio from our Prado. These things are bullet proof. Now where to mount it?
Suspension wise we’ve chosen OME BP-51s. We’ve upgraded the GVM to 3,660kg. From the tare weight, this gives us a hefty 1,495kg to cover the build, plus everything we might need for remote trips like the Canning Stock Route.
The 76 Series LandCruiser is known for its toughness, not comfort. We’ve heard great things about the positive difference the BP51 shock absorbers make – we can’t wait to try them out.
*Update we’ve added an extra leaf in the rear so the leaf packs are now 600kg constant load, up from 400kg.
The guys at Booragoon TyrePower fitted up our TOYO Open Country Rugged Terrains. These tyres sit between an all-terrain and a mud terrain. With the long highway drives to get to the remote tracks they look like to fit a great niche – we’ll let you know how they go.
We’ve fitted 28570R17s (32.7″), which is up from the factory GXL tires which are 26570R16 (30.6″). With the factory rims sitting at 7″ wide, we’ve changed to 8″ wide rims to fit the tyres. The wheels are Dynamic D steelies, are rated to 1,200 kg apiece, and are all 0 offsets.
With the lift and bigger tyres, there is still plenty of room at full lock, and for articulation without striking.
Gen is big on the naming of vehicles. A few ideas floated, but one of her earlier suggestions seems to have stuck – meet Tintin. It’s great to finally have him on the road!
As we approached registration, insurance was the next thing to research. The real challenge for remote travel seems to be covering everything that is bolted to the vehicle, plus all the areas you may end up travelling. I openly quizzed Club 4×4 and they weren’t phased by big builds or plans to travel places like the Canning – so we signed up.
On some trips, we carry some gear up top. On the weekend we loaded up our ROLA Titan Tray and took it for a test run. It’s a relatively light platform and is easy enough for one person to fit. ROLA make some solid accessories which are all quick to fit and adjust. They build brackets for jerry cans, gas cylinders, spare wheels, awnings, MAXTRAX and more – and most work with tailored ratchet straps to cinch everything tight.
With the arrival of our custom
The drawers have built-in slots to store a kitchen, the Snow Peak Iron Grill Table and Extension Bench.
The Extension Table can be used as a bench if hal extended. This was the favourite feature of our last drawers. Coffee, breakfast, lunch and laptop station – we couldn’t live without it!
We’ve seen some units with an extra stove slide under the fridge slide. We looked at doing this, but decided we prefer to be able to have the option of moving the kitchen away from the vehicle, or to leave it behind under the Hexatarp we carry if we’re based for a few days and want to go for a drive.
The Snow Peak IGT setups are like the Lego of camp kitchens. We can drop in our BBQ Box or stove, and there are heaps of other accessories to choose from.
We’ve fitted a Cruiser Consoles Centre Console – the all important coffee for two.
Up front we’ve bolted a pair of Baja Designs LP9s. They pack 11,025 forward projecting Lumens, a further 1,120 to cover peripheral lighting – we can’t wait to test them out.
In the back we’ve fitted a Hayman Reese cargo barrier behind the front seats and a second rear cargo barrier to suit the drawers and water tank. We’ll add some simple shelves that are easy to remove, and are light soon. Any heavy cargo will live on the floor – forward of the axle, and low. The other shelves we’ll use for our personal gear, and things like camp chairs. Our goal is to be able to get to all the everyday gear without double handling.
For overlanding style trips we love hardshell rooftop tents. This time we’re trying an iKamper. New to the market, iKamper burst onto the scene in 2017 after raising a whopping US$2.3 million on Kickstarter! We’ll show you how these work separately soon (stargazing roof window and all).
With a wagon, it’s hard to beat 270° of shelter. While I like the speed of the freestanding models, to shave a few kilos, and to allow for pitching at sharper angles we’ve gone for a Rapid Wing made by Supapeg. In strong winds and bucketing rain we’ve always found substantially lowering the outside edge of the awning stops the wind from gusting under as much and helps with drainage.
We’ve replaced the rear windows with Front Runner Gull Windows. We’ve boxed out the insides, and the left side will be filled with our REDARC electrical system and the right our recovery gear and tools. We’ve got plans for the low and hard to access space too.
While the factory fitted 130 litre fuel tank isn’t small, for long trips it’s not enough. We’ve fitted a 180 litre aluminised steel Long Ranger tank which is neatly designed to avoid a decreased departure angle.
Since our last update, the guys from Install A Gadget have been working hard to install our remaining electrical gear as well as wire everything up – no small job.
We’ve mounted our Icom IC-450 out of the way of the gear stick on the passenger side. The guys neatly placed the cord connection near the handset which means it reaches the passenger and driver with less stretching. Next to that is our Bury iPhone Cradle which connects to a RFI CDQ7195 4G Antenna.
Above that we’ve mounted an iPad Mini running the Hema Explorer App PRO. We have used a double RAM suction mount, as we have previously found it would randomly fall off with a single.
The power for the radio, iPhone and iPad all runs off the second battery – it’s handy as we often use them when the car isn’t running.
The guys neatly recycled the cigarette lighter as a neat spot to house the REDARC Tow-Pro Elite electric brake controller.
Cracking on this week, the guys from Install A Gadget finished our electrical system. It was a massive job, and we’re stoked with how neat the install is!
Paul from Install A Gadget also operates RV Lithium Systems. They specialise in high quality batteries, and can uniquely custom build them in different shapes. We positioned the battery beside the drawers and behind the wheel arch on the passenger side. Paul had originally thought a 100 Ah battery would be the limit for the space, but after building a test box they confirmed they could fit in a whopping 180 Ah unit.
This 180 Ah lithium battery is only just taller than a standard AGM battery. Being lithium powered means it’s equivalent to three 100 Ah AGM batteries, but roughly a quarter of the weight and almost a third of the size. Lithium batteries aren’t cheap, but they far outlast AGMs, so the true cost of long term ownership make them more reasonable. We’re planning on keeping this vehicle for a long time, and for us the benefits in performance, weight and size are worth it.
The RedVision control panel is really intuitive and consolidates a tonne of gauges and controls into one display. Our lights, air compressor, water pumps, inverter, and more can easily be toggled on and off. Our power levels, water tank gauges, in vehicle and fridge temperatures are also displayed, along with historic power usage and charging records. RedVision also pairs with an App that mirrors both the display and functionality of the system – it’s perfect to have access to this when you’re on the road, or even up in the rooftop tent.
In the void beside our rear drawers on the right we’ve mounted an ARB Twin Compressor. We’ve left plenty of air space around it to cool down. In that space we’ve also mounted one of our small water pumps.
Above that space and inside a second Front Runner Gull Window we store some of our 4WD and camp tools and recovery gear.
Above our drawers we’ve fitted an easily removable shelf. We can store 10 of the large Snow Peak Tote Bags. They are deceivingly big – one can hold 22 tins of beer!
We’ve spoken to people that found Dynamat on the doors made the biggest to cabin noise in the 70s. Being mindful of weight we’ve started there. The guys at Free DB did a great job sound proofing thinner and outer door.
While they were at it they fitted some Cruiser Consoles Speaker Pods to accomodate some basic Pioneer speakers. The sound deadening and improved sound has made a massive difference.
To get more weight forward and low in the 76 Series LandCruiser we fitted a second underbody water tank from Long Ranger.
To get the weight of our spare wheel off the door and to allow us to carry an additional 40L of fuel the guys at MAC 4×4 fitted a Uneek 4×4 Rear Bar. Our MAXTRAX are mounted with their Rear Wheel Harness.
To improve the ramp over angle and add some sill protection to our 76 Series LandCruiser we also fitted Uneek 4×4 Sliders. They are a grippy step and have positive high lift jack points too.
We’ve also fitted a Factor 55 Fairlead and Flatlink E. The Flatlink allows for safer winching connections through what’s known as Closed System Winching. Anything that makes recoveries safer is something we’re keen to try out.
What’s Still To Go?
Top of our list is to upgrade the front seats. To be honest, the Toyota seats have been better than we thought they would be, but I’d like more adjustability, a higher back and a bit more support for the big days on the road.
Otherwise, it’s more likely that we’ll make small changes as we continue to use our 76 Series LandCruiser as a base vehicle for field testing new release gear like driving lights, fridges and other accessories.