If you're the man running sales and marketing at Norweld, one of Australia’s better known tray and canopy manufacturers, chances are you aren’t going to leave your Toyota 79 Series LandCruiser stock.
In fact, there’s a fair chance you are going to throw the kitchen sink at it. And when I was offered to sample for a quick spin, I was keen to see what kind of net result all of these modifications add up to.
There’s been plenty done, with a big focus on the driveline. With that in mind, let’s start under the bonnet.
The 4.5-litre, 1VD-FTV diesel V8 has been building a reputation amongst off-roaders - and the aftermarket - as a great candidate for power gains, and this LandCruiser, in particular, is a great example.
The stock turbocharger has been replaced with a GTurbo G350 Vortex Red unit, matched to a GTurbo Power Pipe on the intake side, Torqit 3-inch exhaust system and upgraded (+90 per cent) injectors. I’m sure there are many other small modifications and changes made, but the net result of this, after being remapped by Power Torque Victoria, is 998Nm and 265kW, both measured at the wheels via a dynamometer.
Interestingly, this high-power setup goes against some of the more conventional thinking when it comes to tuning the 1VD-FTV. While there is a high-flowing Safari Armax snorkel, it’s still feeding the stock air filter box and top-mount intercooler; no front-mount conversion here. The intercooler is bigger however, and has a couple of thermo fans strapped onto the top.
That huge bump in power and torque transforms the way the LandCruiser drives. Compared to stock, there is a slight delay in the turbocharger beginning to build boost. There’s probably only a few hundred rpm difference in turbocharger uptake, whereas the stock setup is tuned to kick in not far off idle.
Once there is enough exhaust gas flowing, this modified setup quickly feels 100 times better and more responsive. It feels more confident and zingy, but with a surprising amount of control via the throttle. Normal driving is just that: normal. Only when you start to press the throttle down is there a more concerted rush of torque through to the wheels. Ask all of the questions, and the bulky heft of LandCruiser moves with a giddying pace.
The next big improvement in this LandCruiser is how it rides. Another modification in the ‘very expensive’ basket, rear leaf suspension has been cast aside in favour of a Jmacx coil conversion. Pull out the stock setup, and bolt in a subframe/crossbrace that works out to be lighter than the two leaf packs. It becomes a five-link setup with panhard rod and swaybar, using a stronger fabricated differential housing to complete the picture.
This kit includes a GVM upgrade of the LandCruiser, and also corrects the disparity of wheel track at the rear end. To my untrained eye, it looks very quality. The trailing arms use the chassis mounting points for the leaf springs, and the entire rear suspension setup is now significantly lighter than the two big, heavy leaf packs. There's a massive drop on unsprung mass, as well.
The coil springs this conversion uses are the same as an 80 Series LandCruiser, so your choices of modification and setting are virtually endless. This LandCruiser uses Jmacx coil springs that are made to suit the coil conversion, with a 4-inch overall lift and Airbagman helper airbags in the rear.
It’s also worth noting this kit comes as a fully engineered and nationwide-approved conversion, as a second-stage manufacture.
The improvement in ride is massive. Gone is that stiff, jittery feeling from the rear end; instead it’s more composed, more compliant. The wider wheel track at the rear, combined with wider alloy wheel offset (Evo Corse, sourced from Italy and $800 each) leaves it feeling more stable, despite the increased ride height. Part of that is the improved wheel track.
The other part of the puzzle here are the shock absorbers. Icon Vehicle Dynamics 2.5 inch remote-reservoir units are employed, which aren’t an off-the-shelf item for the 79 Series LandCruiser. They have a ⅞-inch shaft, adjustable compression, and stacks of oil capacity. They’re a soft shock, but firm up nicely towards maximum compression. Combined with the wide wheel track and the 35-inch Toyo R/T rubber, it’s a much-improved experience.
Naturally, there’s a Norweld tray and canopy package on the back of this LandCruiser. Like the CarAdvice 79 Series, this model has the compact canopy that keeps the rear-mounted spare(s) within tray dimensions and overall height on the lower side of things.
This canopy has a few important differences compared to our own worth noting. Firstly, the driver’s side has a raised floor and big drawer built in, and the passenger side uses an upright fridge instead of a chest fridge. An upright fridge setup like this saves a lot of weight, especially when you consider the fact that you don’t need a drop slide to improve accessibility.
The interior is improved as well, with a double-din Alpine head unit, Department of Interiors centre console and Recaro seats. These things alone are a big improvement. But what is less obvious is the sound deadening, which does a great job of reducing the amount of wind and road noise that permeates into the cabin. You’ll notice it at highway speeds, and you’ll also notice it when the door shuts with a heavier thud.
Everywhere you look at this LandCruiser, you'll find areas where it's been modified for improvement. The end product is impressive, but no doubt expensive. Prohibitively for some, but it shows what this antiquated Toyota design is capable of. And it shows why this expensive and cumbersome four-wheel drive continues to remain so popular in Australia.