From the shell-shocked battle fields of the Middle East through to the urban sprawl of inner city Sydney the term LandCruiser is synonymous with quality, reliability, and an uncanny ability to power on despite all odds. While the current iteration is every bit as refined as its European equivalents (and every bit as expensive) the earlier LandCruiser’s were more, agricultural, to put it politely.
The early 40 Series first brought the brand to the world stage, with a heavy influence from the WW2 Jeep’s left behind by the American Forces throughout South East Asia, they were primitive at best. Leaf springs on all corners, a bell-crank steering set-up that provides less steering feedback than the glovebox handle and a body on ladder frame chassis construction. The later 60 Series sought to rectify this in the early 1980s, although all that really changed was a (slightly) more responsive steering arrangement and full wagon body with seating for five. Toyota has hundreds of engineers on staff and years of experience developing vehicles for all terrains, in all conditions, all over the world. I thought I could do better. I was wrong.
Like any car-tragic, the modification bug bit before I had even pulled my new-to-me 60 Series into the driveway. The inspection revealed worn tie rods, missing bolts, a uni-joint with an ominous ‘ding’ on acceleration, and sagging suspension that could easily be mistaken for a 300kg passenger sitting beside me. Although the carb-fed 4.0L straight six had a throaty roar long since lost in later model alloy engines and was backed by a 5-speed gearbox that demands to be treated with authority, lest you find yourself double clutching gears much to the amusement of passengers. The passion was there, but the refinement needed in a daily drive was not. The solution was simple, and involved lots of grinding discs.
The front suspension was the first to go. From the factory the LandCruiser was fitted with archaic leaf springs, presumably similar to the chariots of Ancient Rome. Their replacement, a set of 12” long King Coilovers and multi-link arrangement provided a worthwhile upgrade with more responsive steering thanks to greater caster control and an increase in both ride and articulation. Except the 60 now had a death wobble that could put fear into a thousand bearded Vikings should they foolishly travel faster than 30km/h. While we spent countless hours custom building a Panhard rod to clear the tie rod, drag link, and diff pumpkin the size of an actual pumpkin, we failed to account for its flex on every bend we painstakingly made. So that’s why Toyota moved the tie rod to the rear in their coil sprung models. For now the rear remains a traditional lifted leaf spring arrangement, mainly because I’m poor.
With the Panhard issue sorted with yet another custom Panhard and the 60 now sitting close to 5” closer to the sun the side mirrors were dangerously close to scraping the black top on tight, winding corners. The centre of gravity was now apparently somewhere around the rear view mirror while the roll centre was roughly 4ft below. Not a good combination. Enter car enthusiast who believes he knows better. The extra track width provided by a set of 15×10” Black ProComp wheels should surely fix this, and with a -44 offset they’d sit 2.5” wider in both directions. Except they now hit the tie rods and tore them to shreds. The new ones. That I had just replaced. 6mm wheel spacers and longer studs fixed this issue, and with the hilariously named 35” Dick Cepek FC2s fitted the 60 had its centre of gravity fixed.
Next stop was the interior. The electric windows were as reliable as a politicians promises with an impressive ability to stick open roughly 30 seconds before an impending storm. A month of Sundays and a week of wages in electrical supplies later the 60 now has functioning windows, albeit with an entirely re-designed electrical system operating them. Now all it needs is brakes. And sound deadening. New rear suspension. A tighter steering box would be nice too. The 3F petrol motor needs to go as well. Despite the aural porn every time it’s fired into life there’s nothing romantic about an old motor that chews 22L/100km without the benefit of power. If you’re looking to buy a classic LandCruiser they’ll provide years of simple, nostalgic pleasure. If you’re looking to build one, just buy something newer, it’s cheaper. Trust me.