Words and photos by Gregory Isaac
Toyota Land Cruiser Pickups are not readily available to American Citizens. This is mainly because they're simple, reliable design could never meet the emissions requirements of vehicles sold in the United States. New Land Cruiser pickups are harder to acquire still. However, after years in foreign nations around the world witnessing first-hand what these vehicles are capable of, I knew I had to have one. The model I wanted was built in Argentina and sold in South and Central America. Upon further investigation, I discovered Guatemala had two new 2017 double cab Toyota Land Cruiser 79 series pickups in the country available for sale. Perfect.
The engine in this truck has been in production for over 25 years and is nothing less than a legend. Quite possibly the most reliable engine ever placed in a pickup truck, the straight six, 12 valve, 4.2-liter indirect injection diesel, Toyota 1HZ: Approximately 129 HP at 3800 RPM’s, and 210 foot pounds of torque at @2200 RPM’s. This may sound a little underpowered, but a well-designed engine that’s built to perform below its potential is the best way to ensure long-term reliability. The low range gearing and off-road “crawling” capabilities of this truck also provide a nice offset for the relatively low amount of horsepower. It’s also the only new truck still produced without a computer that I know of. That means this truck, with approximately 200 km on an engine, should last at least 600,000 km and has no overly-complicated, sensitive, computerized parts that I have to worry about failing me in the meantime.
Lockers, or locking differentials, are the secret weapon of off-road vehicles. If a 4x4 truck is twice as good off-road as a two wheel drive vehicle, then lockers double the off-road performance of that truck yet again. There are many types of locking differentials that all work in slightly different ways, but whats important is the ability to lock in traction on both axles. This truck comes with that ability from factory, it works exceedingly well, and is easy to use. Next we addressed the suspension.
We started with a 40mm body lift. A body lift isn’t always the best option, especially on most newer vehicles with lots of moving parts and complicated systems. Luckily with such a small body lift on such a rugged truck the only modification that needed to be done was some slight notching of the shifter housing that allowed for smooth shifting after the cab was raised another 40mm higher than the transmission. Following the body lift with 40mm extended ARB Old Man Emu coils allowed us to use almost all stock components on the front end while fitting 35” tires and maintaining proper factory angles. As you’ll read in the next section 35-inch tires were the perfect size for our intended purpose. The only other modification to the front end that we felt was necessary was an Old Man Emu steering stabilizer. This gave us the peace of mind that our front end wouldn’t have any problem controlling our new monster wheels and tires.
The rear suspension of the truck is where we really created something new and incredible by managing to drastically increase ground clearance and flex as well as load capability while only leveling the truck and again keeping all proper factory angles. We did this by designing and fabricating our own U-bolt flip kit with integral free-floating air ride suspension that’s at least twice as strong as the factory components.
Flipping the U-bolts and raising the shock mounts even with the leaf springs gave us 3+ inches extra ground clearance (the equivalent to running 37-40” tires). Of course, we used much heavier duty U-bolts and much heavier duty components as a whole in the fabrication process because as we say, there’s no such thing as overkill. The bottom plate below the leaf springs is now a smooth 1” solid steel plate that instead of getting caught on things like it does on stock land cruisers, acts as armor. The extra flex comes from 2” extended, heavier, anti-inversion, grease-able shackles.
We added new extra heavy duty leaf spring packs from Old Man Emu properly tuned for all the extra weight of the exoskeleton and the gear we carry. Atop the leaf springs we added two Firestone air-bags so we can adjust ride height and the handling characteristics to fit the load being carried at the time. The amount of air in the air-bags is easily controlled by the onboard compressor. The air-bags are fully free-floated and drop down out of the Daystar air bag cradles, when necessary, to allow for full flex of the suspension system. The air bag cradles are bolted to the chassis in our custom mounts and take the place of the factory bump stops.
I chose 35x12.50r17 as the size for the Super Swamper Radial TSL’s. To me, a 35” tire is the perfect size for an overland truck. Very small trucks like the Hilux you can see on our YouTube channel and IG, can do well with 33’s. Very large trucks like our full-size Ram usually require 37’s or bigger to have the desired off-road performance. I’m also running two full-size spares (Interco Radial TSL 35x10.50), you should always have at least one full-size spare securely mounted on your vehicle (preferably as low as possible and over an axle). I run two because if I blow one of the heavy duty tires I run, there’s a chance I hit something that could blow both tires on that axle. Running a spare smaller than the rest of your tires can damage your drivetrain or even be useless if you’re off-road when you blow a tire.
We've built the custom bed of this truck around two 4'x6' aluminum locking storage boxes. These boxes are concealed beneath the plate steel platform of the bed, and they pull out from behind our fabricated tailgate. We've posted a full video to YouTube detailing the initial load-out of these boxes, and all the contents therein (which you can also view below). The roof rack is a fully functional, load bearing storage system in and of itself as is the bed of the truck.
The custom center console we designed and built adds a bit more storage inside the vehicle for quickly accessible items. Built into the bedsides and roll cage roof rack system are the "Jerry Can" holders (2 fuel, 2 water), and both full size spare tire mounts. The 35 inch spares ride above the rear axle to maintain good vehicle handling through proper weight displacement. It's important to mount large spares as low and as close to the axle's as possible. What we've done with the Bone Tactical Overland Land Cruiser represents the perfect balance of ability to carry essential gear for extended trips in harsh terrain while maintaining prime off-road handling.
You can learn more about this build by visiting: