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Feature Vehicle 1998 Toyota Land Cruiser Troopy

Markus Fuchs was born in the late 1980s in a beautiful German town beside Lake Bodensee. His father was a Mercedes G-Class, Unimog, and VW T-3 Vanagon enthusiast, and teenage Markus wasted no time getting started on his own projects. His first car was a 1990 T3 Syncro Vanagon, which he bought for a song and soon restored. This experience cemented his love for vehicles and, by extension, vehicle-based travel. Markus’ practical ability eventually led him to a career as a master builder in his family’s tradition—technical skills which would serve him well when building his dream Land Cruiser Troopy overlander.

In 2013, Markus and his best friend embarked on a trip to New Zealand, where they roamed for 12 months and where Markus met Rebecca, the woman who was later to become his wife and mother to two healthy, happy boys. Rebecca and Markus decided to travel to Australia in 2015 and 2016, where they originally purchased the Toyota Land Cruiser Troop Carrier to circumnavigate and cross the Australian continent. The Troopy was then shipped to Southeast Asia and driven from Singapore to Thailand before shipping it to Germany.

Initially, the couple had looked at a variety of possibilities, but were sold on the Toyota legend of practical reliability. They also were inspired by 4XOverland’s Andrew St. Pierre White, who was building a touring Troopy in South Africa with a 4.2-liter 1HZ diesel engine, a pop-up roof, and a well-designed interior—the gold standard as far the Fuchs were concerned.

Markus’ vision was to build a capable and enduring go-anywhere adventure vehicle. When the couple bought the Land Cruiser in Australia, it was already fitted out as a camper with a fiberglass high-top roof; it was competent but not exactly perfect. And even though it was legally imported to Europe and worth a fair chunk of change, the couple were emotionally attached to the Troopy. In early 2018, the decision was made to convert it into the truck they had always dreamed of, the ultimate tourer equipped to carry a young family (their second son was born in 2019). The rebuild of the Troopy began in 2018 after it was made roadworthy to European standards. I had the good luck to meet the couple and their firstborn at the Abenteuer and Allrad overland event in Germany and visited their home near the Bodensee where the Troopy was under construction.There was a lot of work to be done; Markus was not a fan of the raised roof, the color was not quite right, the electrics were not reliable, it needed mechanical maintenance, and there were only sleeping and seating arrangements for two. To top it off, the water supply and plumbing were not up to standard. This was going to be a comprehensive rebuild.

Markus dismantled the Troopy from top to bottom. He removed all the accessories, panels, windows, doors, and the high top, and eventually, the basic skeleton of the structure stood bare, ready for assessment. Luckily there was little rust except for a few small holes in the left-hand footwell, while the body and frame were found to be in mint condition. And so the endless sanding and paint preparation began. Labor is expensive in Germany, and a complete respray would have been prohibitively costly. The Fuchs decided that they would take on that task themselves once they had settled on a color. The paintwork would have to complement natural surroundings, and it was decided to apply a shade of green used widely in the USA on Land Cruisers and Tacomas.

Markus was confident, based on his previous small-scale painting experience restoring old VW vans, he would be able to complete the respray competently. He bought a spray gun, high-quality automotive paint, and a compressor and got stuck in. It took 3 patient days to spray a filler, base coat, and two top layers, followed by 12 more days for the paint to set before polishing. The process was very satisfying, and they were happy with the result.

All the while, the interior layout options kept rolling through their minds, and what initially seemed like an ample and easy-to-design space became something entirely different—a real challenge. Hours, weeks, and days of searching online yielded a concept sketched out on a drawing board, and every joint, latch, hinge, drawer, cupboard, and internal structure was meticulously planned by the master builder. It all started coming together, at least on paper.

The Troopy needed two additional seats and sleeping for four. A lot of research went into finding the perfect seats for the kids. They found the solution in a friend’s Defender TD5, as the seat base could be removed, the backrest folded all the way forward, it had adjustable seat rails, and a very compact, yet comfortable design. Once installed, Markus could create space for the planned electrical installation and the diesel interior heater.

For the manufacture of the furniture, the Fuchs chose not to use the typical MDF material and instead decided on the “flightcase maker” option, which is widely used in Europe for outfitting camping and touring vehicles. It is a compound material which is made of plywood laminated with a plastic layer which makes it remarkably strong. The furniture system is affixed by aluminum profiles which Markus riveted to the compound material.

As the paint set over those long 12 days, the couple finally settled on the South African Alu-Cab pop top. There was a waiting time of eight weeks for the pop top, but before they took delivery of the interior building materials, it had arrived at the supplier’s warehouse. During the whole process of fitting the roof, Markus’ brother was highly involved. An engineer by trade and a gifted metal worker, this was a fortunate thing, as issues arose when the Alu-Cab would not rest on the gutters and fit snugly. Changes were made to the body, including welding further braces on the freshly painted vehicle. After a lot of trial and error, adding the braces, reinforcement plates, and panels, the roof matched nicely to the body and was finally installed. The Troopy looked magnificent with the Alu-Cab pop top-mounted, and the Fuchs collectively breathed a sigh of relief.

It was a freezing winter back in 2018, but Markus took time off from the construction business to build most of the interior. The materials had arrived, the tools were lined up, and Markus was pumped to get working. With limited knowledge of vehicle electrics, Markus leaned on a friend who runs a 4WD workshop specializing in the build of expedition Land Rover Defenders. This friend generously helped plan the setup, ordered components, and allowed Markus to work in his workshop. Markus installed the entirety of the electrical system before the seats and the internal furniture went in the Troopy. This was a very long learning process, and, as we all do, Markus underestimated the time, effort, and money that would go into this stage of the build. Still, the team finished the electrical installation in just two months.

For the living space, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of measurements to be taken and many cardboard templates to be made for pre-fitting. The process went smoothly with some trial and error, but the case maker system proved to be the right choice for the job, as the medium easily allowed for changes and adaptations to the on-paper design. All of the water plumbing also had to be planned and installed at this stage.

A gullwing hatch replaced the rear side window to allow outside access to tools and appliances. To accomplish this, the small team designed and built a cavity in the backside of the kitchen storage unit inside the Troopy. Patiently, Markus aligned and bolted in the individual components of the interior. They mounted the seats, fixed all furniture onto walls and floors, and everything was secured correctly through the panel floor with additional reinforcements for the seats, kitchen, storage unit, and the sleeping compartment. This reinforcement was necessary for safety reasons, as the engineering and build required official registration, which is the norm under German law.

Back at the drawing board, Markus and his brother used a CAD design program to design a sturdy and cost-effective rear bumper. The idea was to build one arm on the rear bar that would hold the spare tire, while on the other side of the swingaway would be a platform and a medium-sized aluminum box. Once welded up, the bumper was powder coated in a satin black, which complemented the new color of the Troopy. This project alone took many hours of design and measurement.

In the summer of 2021, Markus and Rebecca brought the Land Cruiser for registration inspection, and the inspecting engineer was content with the Fuchs’ work. The Troopy passed with flying colors. A shakedown trip to Italy proved that the build was nearly flawless. Upon return to Germany, an upgraded suspension was installed to give the vehicle a 2-inch lift and the necessary load rating for the fully loaded weight. Handling improved drastically, to say the least.

The following months were littered with a lot of small tasks, such as changing wheel bearings, giving the engine a proper tune-up, having the driveshafts overhauled and balanced, and fitting a decent audio and GPS System, as well as new front seats. The old but overhauled winch and a good set of spotlights topped off the build. From a mechanical perspective, the Troopy is stock, as the frame, engine, and driveline are standard. Before shipping the vehicle out of Australia, the couple had the gearbox and differentials overhauled, so the drivetrain was not a concern.

This Troopy is quite unique as it is a compact and capable overland platform that can be used quite comfortably by a young family of four in many climates. The Fuchs family is currently traveling Europe, the Balkan states along the Adriatic Sea, and Turkey. They have yet to decide what the future will hold, but they would love to take the Troopy to Central Asia, the Americas, or even across Africa one day. This vehicle is more than just that to the Fuchs. Markus proposed to Rebecca on a warm day in Asia, the Troopy the sole witness to the moment the couple became a family.


1998 Toyota Land Cruiser Troop carrier HZJ 75


1HZ 4.2-liter diesel, natural aspirated

Two 80-liter fuel tanks

Wheels and Tires

Steel rims with an offset of -22 and 285/75/16 mud-terrain tires

Suspension and Drive

Part-time four-wheel drive, 5-speed manual gearbox with high and low range

Big bore gas shock absorbers with 2-inch lift kit and four leaf spring rated for 600-kilogram constant load

Vehicle Modifications

  • Bull bar with winch cradle and 7-inch spotlights
  • 11,000-pound electric recovery winch
  • Dual swing-away carrier on steel rear bumper
  • 150-watt solar power system paired with lithium battery
  • Fully custom wiring with monitoring system
  • Alu-Cab pop-up roof with integrated bed
  • Custom interior fit-out, second-row seats, kitchen, storage unit, and additional bed
  • Top-loading 35-liter fridge
  • Additional roof storage systems with airline rails and aluminum boxes
  • Gullwing window cavity featuring a water filtering system and an outdoor shower

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Graeme Bell is an author and explorer who has dedicated his life to traveling the planet by land, seeking adventure and unique experiences. Together with his wife and two children, Graeme has spent the last decade living permanently on the road in a self-built Land Rover based camper. They have explored 27 African countries (including West Africa), circumnavigated South America, and driven from Argentina to Alaska, which was followed by an exploration of Europe and Western Asia before returning to explore the Americas. Graeme is the Senior Editor 4WD for Expedition Portal, a member of the Explorers Club, the author of six books, and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015. You can follow Graeme's adventures across the globe on Instagram at graeme.r.bell