As some of you might know, about six months ago I traded in the sunny shores of California's Central Coast for the red dirt and beaches of Australia. This meant that I now had access to some of the world's best overland vehicles. So, I indulged myself in the local fare and purchased a well-loved Troop Carrier. It's a 1997 with a 1HZ naturally-aspirated diesel engine, relatively low kilometres (260K) and an excellent service history thanks to it's previous life as a bush ambulance where it saw little action in a sleepy town.
Being an ex-ambulance meant it had a few things going for it, it was registered as a 3-seater, came with supportive Paradrive seats, and was fitted with dual batteries, a winch, and a bull bar. As with most 70-Series in Australia, it came factory fitted with a two-piece raised air intake (not a snorkel, more on that later). The problem is that since the vehicle saw little use as originally intended, the winch is completely rusted into one useless block of metal, and the bull bar is about as ugly as they come. None-the-less, it was in my price range (I purchased it for $11,000 — an absolute steal) and it was in good shape with zero rust and no mechanical issues.
If you've followed my exploits on the forum, you'll know that I've owned quite a few four-wheel drives. This is my third Land Cruiser. So far, it's pretty great and surprisingly easy to drive for how big it is, and how little power it has.
The first step for me is to mechanically baseline the vehicle. Luckily it's in pretty good shape, and being a Toyota, most everything works. So this only includes doing a few small things like replacing a window crank, having the diesel injection system tuned-up by a well-reguarded local outfit, and changing all of the fluids. I also need to find a clock and a slightly-less-terrible sound system, as the unit the previous owner put in was a bit of an afterthought.
The second step will be to get rid of the terrible ambulance bull bar on the front and replace it with something a bit more ... visually pleasing. It also sits quite low which isn't great for my approach angle. I've already found it acting as a shovel on more technical tracks. Along with this I'll outfit it with a newer winch and rebuild the old Superwinch that's on there for another day. A roof rack is also in order, and right now I'm looking at doing a Front Runner Slimline II. It's lightweight and has a bunch of interesting accessories that can be taken on and off when needed. During this 'stage' it'll also receive a 50mm suspension lift with a set of adjustable shocks — which admittedly will be a bit extravagenet for the low-tech leaf suspension.
The third step is building an interior system that allows for storage and sleeping. My design is inspired by what Scott Brady did with the Expeditions 7 vehicles, but the sleeping system will not be built at fridge height, rather it will be lower and allow for more mobility once inside. The fridge will be mounted on top of the drawers towards the rear. The current plans call for two one-metre long drawers on in the back, with the front half being a large hatch that can be removed to allow for seating and a small table.
If you were curious what I'm doing in Australia, thanks to all of the four-wheel drive knowledge passed on by members of this forum since I joined in 2008; and the mentoring I received from folks like Scott Brady while working for Overland International, I was hired to run Unsealed 4X4. It's currently Australia's most-read 4X4 magazine, and if you're ever looking to get a bit of Aussie inspiration, give it a look. It's online and completely free.