Wally III – A.K.A. The Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ78 Camper

Driving the Lippincott Mine Road in Death Valley National Park

It gets quite a bit of attention in the States because unfortunately, 70 series Land Cruisers were never imported here. The base truck is a 2000, left hand drive Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ78 two door troop carrier, or Troopie as many people refer to them, with a few options from Toyota- air conditioning, an air intake snorkel, and electronic differential locks front and rear.  Besides this, from the factory it’s a stripped down bush taxi with roll up windows, no carpet and minimal gauges.

Road to Laguna San Ignacio

The engine is a stock 1HZ 4.2 liter 12 valve naturally aspirated diesel with 129 horse power and just over 400,000 kilometers. That may seem like a lot of k’s, but these engines are amazingly well built, reliable as they come and easy to work on. It’s mated to a 5 speed manual transmission from an 80 series Land Cruiser. The axles have electronic differential locks, with the front being a heavy duty closed knuckle Birfield joint style and the rear a heavy duty full floating design. For tires, it’s shod with the now discontinued 255-85-16 BF Goodrich Mud Terrains.

Heading to San Luis Gonzaga

Now on to the good stuff; the  most obvious from the outside is the roof, which is a pop-up roof, made by Desert-Tec.

Punta Blanca Camping

This roof is amazingly well built, I can walk around on the top and there is no flex whatsoever. The slant opening roof, while limiting in space, is preferred by us over the straight pop-up style for its strength and reduced noise in high winds.

The Upstairs

On top of the roof is a 100 watt solar panel that charges a 105 amp hour auxiliary battery behind the passenger seat. This battery is hooked to an inverter for charging our various electronics. There’s also an isolator that also allows the battery to be charged by the alternator while the truck is running and the solar panel also charges the main truck batteries when the auxiliary battery is fully charged.

Inside, the stock rear bench seats have been replaced with custom storage cabinets with three compartments on the driver’s side and six on the passengers.

The Downstairs

There is also a sink with a water purifying filter, a propane stove built into the passenger’s side cabinet and a single mattress, for sitting or solo sleeping, on top of the driver’s side cabinet. We use removable water containers, stored inside one of the compartments, for ease of filling and to prevent the water from freezing in cold temperatures.

The Sink

Behind the driver’s seat, which has been replaced with a Recaro (the passenger suffers with the stock Toyota seat), is an Engel refrigerator/freezer. For heating with the engine off, there is a Webasto heater that runs on diesel.

We try to balance the tools and spare parts we carry with the probability of need and ease of acquiring. In addition to the duct tape, zip ties extra fluids and miscellaneous nuts and bolts, we carry extra filters, belts, bulbs, seals and even a replacement Birfield joint. Obviously, there’s also a compressor, hardwired to the auxiliary battery behind the passenger seat, as well as a wide range of tools tailored to this truck to fix most anything. For the how to fix anything information, I have the factory engine repair manual, as well an online electronic parts catalog on my laptop.

Fixing the Land Cruiser

Underneath, the 70 Series Land Cruisers don’t really need a lot of work to make them ready for just about anything, but with the weight of this truck (almost 7,500 pounds fully loaded) a suspension upgrade was in order. Old Man Emu 2.5 inch heavy duty springs were added front and rear to boost the GVW to over 8,000 pounds. Old Man Emu shocks and polyurethane bushings round things out and really improve the ride quality.

Crossing the Mojave River

A 120 liter auxiliary fuel tank compliments the stock 80 liter tank and rides underneath where the spare tire once sat. With 200 liters of diesel available, our range is stretched to about 1,200 kilometers between fill-ups.

For recovery gear, most people notice and remark on the sand plates we carry, which is a piece of military surplus PAP (Perforated Aluminum Planking) cut in half with the locking tabs ground off.

Sand Plates

Mounted on hinged brackets over the side windows to protect the glass, not to keep out bears or protect us from bullets, as a few tourists up in Alaska thought, they also flip down to serve double duty as tables. The front bumper is winch free, but has a Hi-Lift Jack mounted to it for lifting duty and with the necessary recovery straps, chain and connecting links we carry, pulling duty as well. Of course there’s also a saw and shovel for campfires and nature calls.

Suspension Testing on the Mojave Road

This truck isn’t a weekend adventure vehicle; it’s been a full time home for almost two years and counting. There are many great vehicles that can be made into travel vehicles, but in my opinion, few vehicles match the legendary reliability, global popularity and go anywhere off-road performance of Toyota Land Cruisers.

More photos of the Land Cruiser and the places it’s been can be seen on my Flickr site and on Claudia’s website Wildjourney.de. For those who own one of these amazing trucks, I have the Toyota factory 1hd, 1hz, 1pz-t engine repair manual available for download here.

8 thoughts on “

  1. Thanks for sharing your rig. Fantastic fitted vehicle. Wish I could chop the top off my LR3 and do the same thing!

  2. Striking that balance between built and over-built seems to be the challenge. Off road LED lighting does seem to be dropping in price, so I am adding it to my vehicle. A couple small LED pods can now be had with 10W LEDs for about $80 per pod. Older LEDs used 3W or 5W, this will give more light at lower cost, especially when compared to the “second mortgage” expense of some of the 40″ light bars. The company I bought my lights from is called Aurora. Search for “Aurora off road LED” and they should be the first or second entry.

  3. Thank you for the tour of your ‘Cruiser. When you posed on /r/overlanding I was really interested in seeing how you built your rig. What really is interesting is what you don’t have, how you have kept your build rather lean without lots of the things I’ve come to expect on overland rigs – such as upgraded LED lighting and a winch.

    I’m curious which sand ladders you picked? I’m planning a trip to Baja later this year and will need to self-recover if I get stuck.

    1. Thanks for checking out the build. When it comes to building travel vehicles, I definitely have a few opinions and have considered writing a post on this, but for now I’ll keep it brief.

      There seems to be a very blurry line between 4-Wheeling and Overlanding. Over the miles I’ve seen so many kitted out high dollar (or Euro) vehicles traveling the same beaten path, mostly on pavement, because they are worried about damaging their vehicles. On the other hand, I’ve also seen vehicles that border on rock crawlers, traveling routes that have a higher chance of vehicle damage than success, just for the fun of traveling it. For my partner and I, we try to balance between the two groups. Most foreign travel vehicles only have liability insurance, if that, so when the vehicle gets destroyed, it comes out of the vehicle owners pocket. Also, the cost of seldom used accessories really adds up and the extra thousands of dollars spent takes away from the funds for extra months of traveling. We rarely travel at night, but when we do we are reminded of how bad the stock truck lighting is. We’ve considered adding LED lighting, but the $600+ cost isn’t justified by the two nights a month we would need them. The winch is the same, for how much we would use a winch, compared to the weight and cost, we don’t find it necessary. The Hi-Lift, while not as fast or east to employ, has worked fine for the rare occasion when the lockers, sand plates, shovel, and lowering the tire pressure failed to get us out. Also, we’re on a multiple year trip and while we drive a ton off-road and have the vehicle damage to show for it, we generally try to avoid the really risky 4-wheeling.

      As for the sand ladders, they are military surplus PAP (Perforated Aluminum Planking) that were originally used as landing ramps. They come in 10 foot sections that are sized perfectly when cut in half and the locking tabs removed. I’m pretty sure these are what the Camel Trophy trucks used as well. Aluminum PAP is much harder to find than the steel PSP (Perforated Steel Planking) in the States (these came from Germany), but there are a few States companies who make equivalent ramps.

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