The market for 4x4s in the United States in awash in highly capable trucks and SUVs – in many shapes, sizes, and price ranges for every taste. From the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, to the Toyota Tacoma, and even the Lexus GX and Range Rover (for those who can write the big check), there is no shortage of choice for the off-road oriented consumer today. Many of these vehicles possess a stunning range of technology and rough-terrain capabilities that most of their owners will never begin to challenge.
Of course, we all long for what we can’t have. And there is one unicorn among all the 4x4s on the planet that taunts and tempts American off-road enthusiasts like no other: The Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series. We are lucky enough to pilot one of these legendary trucks through many remote parts of southern Africa over the next three weeks.
Now, Toyota sells the Land Cruiser model in the US. It has since the 1960s, when the first FJ40 models started trundling along tracks State-side, progressed through FJ55s, FJ60s, 80 and 100 Series models, and today it sells the huge and luxurious (and expensive!) 200 Series Land Cruiser down at your local dealer. But Toyota skipped a generation in the American market.
The 70 Series is something of an odd duck, in that it has been in continuous production since 1984, alongside all the other Land Cruiser models that have evolved in size, shape, and standard equipment. Long considered the ne plus ultra of the mark, the 70 Series still boasts the longevity, reliability, and off-road capability that all Land Cruisers possess, but it has retained the bare-bones, no-nonsense character of the earlier models.
Prized by working people, militaries around the world, and expedition travelers, Toyota designed this particular generation of Land Cruiser specifically to endure in the world’s harshest environments. The legend is that every component of the Land Cruiser is engineered to last 25 years from the plastic door clips to the piston rings. In fact, the 70 Series Land Cruiser has become something of a niche vehicle, as the trucks are only sold new in countries in Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand – places with remote and rugged landscapes where the Land Cruiser thrives.
The 70 Series Land Cruiser comes in four flavors: the rare “Troop Carrier” two-door station wagon, the four door station wagon, and short and long-bed pickups. Our particular truck – generously on loan from Hi-Range Safari City and Wild Wheels in Gaborone, Botswana – is a long-bed pickup, outfitted and modified with a range of high-quality components, expedition equipment, and upgrades.
This truck is a member of the Wild Wheels safari rental fleet (you can rent this very truck for your own adventure in southern Africa!), and it is a 2009 Land Cruiser 79 long-bed pickup, 2-door, Australian-spec vehicle.
- 1VD-FTV turbo diesel, 32-valve V8 engine with Safari Snorkel
- 5-speed manual transmission
- Four-wheel drive, full-floating live axles, manual locking hubs
- Front and rear locking differentials
- BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires
It is built for overland and expedition travel by Hi-Range. I’ll have a lot more to say about the upgrades and expedition camping equipment later on, but here’s a quick run-down to start:
- Opposite Lock bull bar with integrated fog lamps; Opposite Lock skid plates, and rock-sliders
- VRS winch
- Lightforce LED spot/driving lights
- Intervolt battery charge management system with two auxiliary batteries and National Luna battery monitor
- Tough Dog suspension lift and upgrade, including shocks and springs
- ONCA rear bumper with dual spare tire carrier and hitch
- RSi Smartcanopy truck-bed cap with LED lighting and integrated table
- Frontrunner two-piece aluminum roof rack and integrated accessory table, truck-bed drawer storage system, and roof-mount water storage and fuel cans. Frontrunner mounts for Hi-Lift jack, axe, shovel, and propane cylinder
- Custom-built 130L (!) auxiliary fuel tank
- Custom-built 50L on-board water system with electric pump
- Custom on-board air compressor
- Two 30L Engel fridge/freezers
- Howling Moon 1.4 soft-side roof top tent
The Land Cruiser also comes equipped with a full passel of vehicle recovery and camping equipment – it’s a turn-key expedition vehicle, and a truly comprehensive overland build.
I’ll have much more to say about this amazing truck the more we live with it.