Considering it would have to be my number one most favourite camping accessories, I am well overdue writing about it explicitly.
It’s also something I could take several hours talking about so I’m going to start with key points on the timeline; Why, what and where are we now with the LandCruiser 76 build. The build is ongoing and several of the componenants deserve their own in depth write up.
I grew up in the back of a 4wd and real life adventures for my childhood included camping and the country life, be it small town, seaside or in the paddock.
Once the idea of my own car became a less unlikely purchase I remember plotting with friends at school it would be a Rav4 or a Jeep Wrangler.
It wasn’t, in fact, not even close. But, as most grownups, we eventually have enough money to buy bigger toys and after two years of microadventuring in the Forester we started to look into something with low range gears and longer range travel.
From the start it was down to two for us, Land Rover Defender or 76 Series LandCruiser, the wagon appealed to us having the dog in the back (she never loved her time in the back of the Holden ute). The diesel Jeep Wrangler was quickly scratched because of its reputation and more so the challenge of storage with the aesthetically pleasing plastic roof.
The simplicity of these two vehicles appealed to us for reliability and offroad performance; whilst both do not necessarily share the same aspects, each have a proven reputation in their field. After considerable reading, test drives and YouTube research we made our decision. And to this day, still offer a quiet thanks to both Andrew St Pierre White and Luke Drifta Sutton who helped that decision process. The LandCruiser offered better on road manners, interior comfort and offroad or remote reliability and serviceability compared to the Defender. Despite how insanely good looking the Defender is. We also appreciated the ergonomics of the rear cargo area better and considered the 8cyl more ideal to a 4cyl when fully laden.
Now that we had the decided on which vehicle, this actually simplified the process; with a very limited secondhand market and exorbitant recommended retail, we were not drowning in options.
But after some time, a couple of 76 GXLs did popup. After thoroughly testing both we were delighted to bring home a low kilometre silver GXL, equipped with only a Toyota steel bullbar and electronic trailer brakes. Our blank canvas.
Whilst we had waited on the right 76 to come along I had narrowed down a few key accessories at the top of the list. Black Duck seat covers, an awning and a roofrack. I think we ordered the seat covers the day we brought Cecil home, so these were installed a couple of weeks later. Considering Tracklander and Hannibal, after a couple of months with the Oztent as an armrest inside the cabin we decided and made our first visit to Drifta for a Hannibal roof rack and awning.
The BajaDesigns LED lightbar and UHF removed from the Forester and installed during a weekend stuck at home.
After a few weekend adventures, tyres and suspension became the next priority; the Dunlops offering next to no offroad stability and the suspension had very few manners on the unsealed road.
The Goodyear Duratracs were Night and Day in performance both on and offroad, their stiffer sidewall helping both on the roundabouts as well as on the firetrails.
In no time at all we were booked into ARB for suspension and a long range fuel tank, our eyes on Outback NSW. Luckily I worked near one and was able to drop it off before work.
This left our weekends clear for almost weekly micro adventures, addictive as it was/is.
The suspension for me was an investment for the future corrugations we planned to traverse and so the immediate rewards were unexpected, the unsealed performance increase meant I wasn’t slipping it into H4 immediately on the gravel. The LandCruiser would never handle the gravel roads like the Forester.
The suspension also levelled out the weight of the Ironman winch and dual battery too, even though we actually returned for softer front springs because the noise was unbearable. Even with the ARB brushbars, these held the front nicely.
From memory it was only some Narva HID driving lights and a Fuel Manager Pre-filter that we added before setting off for our first real trip. The lessons from that yet to be learned, and the modification bug put on hold while we focused on the important things like filling up on outback pub meals rather than flies, and the biggest damn sky we’d ever seen.
The 76 performed faultlessly, and we fell even more in love, further planning started shortly after returning home from 5 weeks of red dirt.
Space has never been an issue (unless referring to the engine bay) but storage was, and made very apparent so we started down that path of resolution with a Drifta drawer system, read a little more here.
Our hearts were stained with red dirt and our next adventure was predictably back into the middle. So, as anyone with a 70 series can attest to, or deny; we equipped the 76 with cruise control for added comfort on the longer drives. Upholding 100km/hr in 5th gear is hard and tiring work. As well as a Redback exhaust system, and a Safari snorkel, to breath that desert air.
The snorkel, as hesitant as I was to give up the OEM intake (Cape York water crossings have never been on my Bucket List) made a marked difference to the noise and the power; it really added poke and the noise reduction was really quite something. I was actually quite nervous the exhaust was going to be too loud; my thinking, that this was a 76 series, not a 79 and I didn’t want it thong-slapping around town. But, aside from a glorious rumble in low range, we were remiss to tell the difference; if anything it seemed quieter and less choked up.
Born for it, the 76 performed above our expectations, dunes were a dottle. Low range on the rocky trails put the slow in ‘slow and steady’.
We travelled around 70,000km out of the Goodyear tyres so we went with the same again, having no punctures or issues other than the expected noise after 30% wear in. Unfortunately, this set were only 2ply; Goodyear had quietly changed from 3ply so we were just a little nervous and had our eyes on perhaps a mud terrain next time around. A first for me, I have since replaced the tyres at less than half worn, selling them within days, for Toyo Open Country MT, stupidly excited to try a narrow 255/85/16 size. First impressions can be read here
Another quiet achiever is the catch can. This and differential breathers installed, there is now no more real estate under the bonnet. Except maybe for more dust.
Prior to our planned WA trip in the swag we installed an ensuite awning made by QuickPitch; grabbing the pre-production model in our impatience. It’s mounted on top of the shovel holder.
I had noticed that 2nd gear wasn’t my go-to for take offs anymore and we considered that the life of the OEM clutch was wearing down. An NPC 1300n took its place and the 76 felt like new again, despite the whirring noise you can hear in neutral, this clutch is lighter and stronger and thus far 20,000km later still going well. Given plenty of 70 owners barely get 50,000km out of theirs, I was happy to replace at 150,000 odd kilometres.
The Old Man Emu suspension had begun to sag and after around faultless 100,000km served, it was time.
Despite their solid service, research into an alternative lead unequivocally to Koni Raid 90. A serviceable rather than throwaway dampener that also had the Beadell family tick of approval. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Koni ride just as powerful and responsive as it is in the HSV application, a tall, 3 tonne diesel powered cart-sprung HSV that is. The 76 now rides and feels insanely more comfortable on and off the bitumen. Also sits nicely with the Polyair Dominator airbags.
I wouldn’t say it stops like a HSV, but it stops really well now it has had a Bramac brake booster installed. Definitely gives that confidence at the amber traffic lights, or meandering wombat on the backroads. The Bramac throws out the big anchor if you apply that extra bit of brake force.
In somewhat of an impulse, we boosted ARB share prices at a 4WD Show and scored some Intensity driving lights and Recaro replacement seats at a reduced price, including Black Duck seat covers. Whilst both were on the list, they weren’t at the top, but the price brooked no argument.
Opting for twin spot lights, these complement the 5year old BajaDesigns stealth bar really well. I don’t miss the shadow stricken light beams of the HID lights at all really. The headlight candles offer moral support only, so auxiliary lights go without saying.
The comfort level, or perhaps the uncomfort-level of the Recaro seats and the OEM seats still triggers a giggle. Why I stubbornly accepted the OEM seats for so many kilometres, I don’t know; well actually I do – such an expensive vehicle, I guess I wanted to be proven rather than told that its seats were church pews and as unforgiving. Needless to say; we refer to the upgraded 76 now as the 276 Series. Especially after I installed the Carbuilders and SolarScreen insulation, cooler and quieter…. The cute but next to useless console has been lifted by Front Runner, whilst I resist an order from Department of Interiors for a while longer
Wanting to avoid numerous jerry cans and the question of where to carry them, underbody fuel and water tanks were installed; the latter 40L custom fit to our vehicle to mount alongside the Long Range Automotive 90L fuel tank.
Whilst these both have equal shares in disrupting our most recent trip, they still free up the need for multiple jerrycans, and keep the weight of extended travel down low. The fuel tank has a pump to top up the main, but plans are in motion to change this for redundancy. The Uneek rear bar is also free to carry two spare wheels for added self reliance.
Speaking of self help, for communications and navigation Cecil sports an Iridium9555 satellite phone with booster aerial, Celfi mobile booster, iCom440 UHF. Paper maps, Garmin eTrex20, SPOT Gen3 and Hema HN7 and iPad apps.
The most recent and childlike glee-inducing modifications for me would be the rear awning and the gullwings. Having that shelter at the kitchen/workshop/hospital was something we always planned. Thinking long and hard about the various 270degree options, but I simply couldn’t give up my Hannibal. Big, proven and simple – it suits Cecil and I, so I ordered a small one for the back.
The gullwings shake any delusions of jealousy of the 79 Series. My pint sized 76 can jet about town and track but I can still access and store my worldly possessions within the new fitout and Aussie made half cargo barrier; after a while I am confident I will be able to provide a true and positive review.
The roof rack is also devoid of realestate nowadays with a Goal Zero Boulder 90 solar panel and the MaxTrax mount, but other than firewood, and one day a canoe, I can’t think of anything else to carry….
Where Cecil is now is at a stage of transplantation preparation, think track correction and GVM. And some more 12v work. There is also a boxed Terrain Tamer 5th Gear waiting to be installed while I try and decide on the next trip or two….