From June 1999 till early November 2017 we had a Toyota LandCruiser Prado Snowy (90 series). In November 2017 we purchased a 2016 LandCruiser 200 Sahara which had only 14,000 kilometres on the clock. The following details how we have set it up for towing our dive boat and for off-road expeditions.
The Sahara has a V8 diesel engine of 4.5 litres. This has 200 kw and an enormous 650 Nm of torque. The fuel economy is stated to be 9.5 litres/100 kilometres, but everyone says it is nowhere near that. After almost 6,000 kilometres, a mixture of country driving, hard 4WD tracks, city driving and towing our large boat around town, the average is 14.1 litres per hundred kilometres. On a trip to Victorian High Country with a good deal of hard off road driving, it was 14.6 for the whole trip, with a best of 11.7 for the run along the Hume Highway from Sydney to Myrtleford. I will continue to update this figure.
The only gearbox available (apart from the "poverty pack" GX) is a 6 speed automatic with permanent four wheel drive. This is far from perfect as I will detail later. It also has some amazing features, traction control, stability control, crawl control, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, active (radar) cruise control and much more. There are even four cameras giving views forward, to the rear and on both sides (I reckon there are five, but the manual says four). This is amazing for parking and off-road work in tight sections of tracks.
The car inside is also brilliant, with leather seats (heated), climate control air conditioning, a fantastic sound system, electric seats, heated seats, cooled seats and so much more I cannot list it all. Lots of its features are not even mentioned on the Toyota website or brochure.
Wheels and Tyres
The standard Sahara comes with 18 inch alloy wheels (285 60/18) but only road tyres (Dunlops). We will leave these on for the time being but later will replace with either BF Goodrich All Terrains or Toyo Open Country AT/IIs.
See the first paragraph above. We will update that figure more as we do more trips. We have driven from Sydney to the Gold Coast and return with our rooftop tent on without refuelling. We averaged 12.4 l/100km heading north and 13.5 l/100 km heading south, both sitting on the maximum of 110 or 100 km/h.
As mentioned above, the Sahara has Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. This apparently gives more movement to the suspension in off-road situations. More about this once I have used it a bit more.
We installed an MMC Falcon Premium bull bar with an Ironman 9500lb winch with synthetic rope. This seems to be a very well made and rugged bull bar.
|The bull bar, winch and snorkel|
As part of the bull bar install, we purchased the underbody protection option.
We had an Ironman snorkel put on at the same time as the bull bar and winch. This was done by Fastfit Bullbars at Leichhardt. A very nice job and at a very good price compared to other brands and places.
Rear Storage System
We had a Drifta rear drawer system built. This has a slide for the fridge on the left side at floor level and two large drawers on the right side. The fridge is totally enclosed so we can put things on the top and sides. It was made to order as we had it customised to fit the water tank (see below). As we ordered at the end of the year, it took about two months to get it.
|The Drifta drawers with the fridge slide out||All closed up|
I installed it in a few hours one morning. The hardest part was working out where to drill the holes in the sides and pulling it in and out to drill the holes. The method proposed by Drifta did not seem to work. Anyway, it looks really great. We will need to do a few minor modifications to fit out electrical panels and also add a couple more tie-down points to the top of the system.
On our first trip the drawers proved much more space inside and on top than our system in the Prado.
We purchased a 50 litre water tank sits behind the rear seat and in front of the Drifta drawers. We also have a small electric pressure water pump which we put under the right side wing section of the drawers. The water is plumbed to the rear under the right hand side wing section. I had to modify the pump to work at a lower pressure as it was too strong. This involved cutting the spring in the head to about half its length. It now works perfectly.
I also installed a second battery (98 Ah deep cycle) together with a new solar panel (110 watt folding blanket by Kings). This was all connected through a battery isolator (Kings), a solar regulator and an electric panel which has outlets for two cigarette lighters and a Hella (also called Merit) connector and a voltage meter and also a separate solar regulator. These are mounted on the right rear side of the drawers. We also have a separate Anderson outlet to the rear (from the main battery) for running our boat trailer's winch.
The second battery is in the space provided for the second battery but a modification had to be made. The only battery tray you can get that fits properly is for a smaller battery than 95 ah. I cut the weld join on the inside lip of the tray and straightened out. This permits the larger battery to fit (there is room).
He put the isolator on the top of the lid of a plastic box which is to the rear of the fuses box. Some other people have put theirs on top of the fuse box. However, we did not know that the LandCruiser's alternator is a smart one, so we had to buy a different isolator as the second battery was not being fully charged. We got a Thunder DC/DC charger. This is larger than the original one, so I made a base plate from some plywood and mounted this on top of the box and the Thunder on top of it. This is now charging the battery to 13.7 volts.
|The second battery, also showing hot|
water shower hoses and pump
|The battery isolator at rear|
We also have LED strip lights in the tent, the rear compartment and side awning. These connect through the new panels at the rear. We also have some extra LED strip lights on a roll. We will be installing an LED module in the top section of the rear door that will shine onto the drawers and fridge. I will post photos once I have done it.
We have VMS Touring 700HDX GPS which has on-road and off-road applications. I moved our maps from our tablet to a new micro SD card and activated OziExplorer (which comes on the VMS). We will use this for trips. It did not work properly on our first trip, this appears to have been because the map files were not properly indexed. It now seems to work perfectly.
We have an Oricom UHF 380 two way radio. This has the controls all on the hand piece. The head unit is located on the left side of the passenger footwell and the aerial is mounted on the bullbar. We also have three portable UHF radios for use near the campsite.
Standard Vehicle Electronic Settings
We purchased a OBDII to USB cable so that we could modify some of the settings of the car's electronic settings. This requires a piece of software called Techstream which is the software used by Toyota service centres to modify the cars. You can buy the cables on Ebay and find the software on-line (or it may come with the cable, mine did). See this link to a forum where the exact process to install on Windows 10 is given. Follow exactly and it will work.
Using the setup, I modified some of the warning beeps (eg car seat belt for passenger so it does not go off if something is on the seat), how doors and windows open and close. Total cost under $17.
Hot Water Shower
We had a Twine hot water shower on the Prado and this was the most used feature of the car. We used it whenever we went diving and almost every day on 4WD trips. These are no longer made, so we purchased a Glind hot water system.
Like the Twine, it has a heat exchanger and uses the water from the heater/radiator to warm water. I installed it, taking about five hours all up. I had to put the heat exchanger unit on a bracket for the bull bar (right side near headlights) as there is no room in the engine bay. He put the pump on the back side of the air filter lid and the switch inside the front driver wheel arch.
|The Glind heat exchanger in place on the bull bar bracket||The hose set up at the front|
Like our Prado install, I made up a system of hoses so we can heat the water in a container to the right temperature and then turn off the engine. This means that the water does not keep getting hot. We have an invalid shower temperature module that shows the water temperature as it passes through. From experience we know that once this is showing 45° it is hot enough. Unlike the Prado, you cannot use the heater to control the water temperature, so this is really the only way it can work.
As mentioned above, the auto transmission fitted to the car has a few "quirks" that make it less than perfect. The main one is that when in D, it will not change into 6th gear until it the car is doing well over 110 km/h. Of course, as the maximum speed limit in most of Australia is 110, this means it will not use that gear. Even 5th gear is not selected till you are doing at least 95 km/k. In addition, the gearbox drops down far too early when you get to a little hill. It could easily pull up such hills in 5th or 6th without any stress at all.
There are a number of ways to overcome some or all of these problems. The first is to move the gear selector over into the S (Sport) gate and select 6th. When you do this, the gearbox will use 5th and 6th gear at speeds under 100 km/h. However, it will still drop gears once you encounter the tiniest of hills and the torque converter will unlock meaning the engine revs much higher than needed.
The more expensive ways are to do one or both of the following. The first is to get a transmission "remap". Basically this involves getting a new computer chip added to the existing engine/transmission computer (CPU - one for both operations unlike most cars which have separate ones) which changes the characteristics of the gearbox. Of course, this costs heaps to do, as it is not as simple as some sellers seem to imply (putting new software on the CPU), they need to solder a new chip into the motherboard.
The second is to buy a torque converter lockup kit. These cause the torque converter to lockup so that there is no slip in higher gears. It does not really help in changing the speed at which the transmission selects 5th and 6th gears (so you still need to drive in S6), but it makes the gearbox stay in the selected gear for much longer and means less hunting and changing of gears. It also lowers the transmission fluid temperature when towing large boats/caravans.
As far as I can see, there are three available for the 200 series in Australia. The first is called Stocklock, it has a good reputation but it is made by one person who does not have a web site and he only has a Facebook page. This has no information at all about it. The second is the GENII Torque Converter Lockup Kit from Wholesale Automatic Transmissions. I did not find as many people endorsing this one, although it seems to be the cheapest. I also saw nothing that said you could install yourself or how hard this was.
The third one is the Transmission Lock Up Controller from Richards Auto Electrics (Google the last two and you will find their web sites). This cost $715 delivered to Sydney. There is also an excellent Youtube video which shows how to install it (not exactly correct as the kit is a tiny bit different from the one used in the video) and also the benefits of using it.
We purchased the Richards one and on 10 January 2018 I installed it. It was pretty easy, taking me three hours from start to finish. There are very good instructions that come with it, although I had a couple of minor problems (not been able to work out how to remove the lower CPU connector fully - I had to temporarily move the electrical box in front while I did) and it not been clear that the extra item in the kit that was not mentioned in the list was to piggyback into a 12 volt ignition connection via the fuse box.
The day after I installed the kit I towed our 2 tonne boat to the ramp and back. For this I used the low speed mode. This kicks in at 35 km/h, so it really only becomes obvious once you are doing 60 or so. It gave good engine breaking coming towards red lights and down the hill towards the ramp and our place. I used it again the next day and it was also quite good.
That afternoon after I put the boat away, I drove from home to Helensburgh. This involves a section of 70, 80, 100 and 110 km/h roadway. For the 70 section, nothing happened as the high speed mode kicks in at 78 and out at 72. Even at 80 it does not work all that well (I may change the settings to 75 and 72 - easily done it seems).
On the 100 and 110 sections it worked brilliantly. Small and even larger hills which were previously only climbed with the transmission kicking down from 6 to 5 or 4 (or 5 to 4) were climbed without any gear change. There was no appreciable change in how the transmission changed gears. As far as I could see on this short one hour test, the fuel economy was less than the last time I did this section of road.
A few days later I drove on the M5 out past Liverpool. This is 100 km/h mostly but some 110 km/h and I was able to sit on the maximum the whole way. As this road is quite flat, the transmission stayed in 6th for virtually the whole way. Fantastic. Again, the fuel economy appeared for this part to be much better than other similar bits we have driven before.
On the trip to the Victorian High Country over Australia Day 2018, it was used for both low speeds when off road and for high speeds on the highways. It worked perfectly. I will update this page further as we get more experience with it, including a trip towing our boat from Sydney Jervis Bay in early February 2108.
We purchased a second hand Scanguage II off eBay for $175. Primarily, we got this so we could monitor the transmission temperature. Easy to install, although the X-code for the transmission was a bit hard to figure out. I finally found that on the Australian web site for the gauge the code for the later models which is in Celcius rather than Fahrenheit as on the US web site.
This certainly shows that when using the Richards lockup, the temperature stays much lower.
Camping Gear - Tent
We used to use a touring tent (the pyramid type C.O.I. Leisure Lightning) but we purchased a ShippShape roof top tent in December 2006. This was after many trips since 1997 with friends who had one and after a trip to Western NSW where we used a borrowed one. The one we purchased was second hand from ShippShape. It is an old tent but with brand new base, mattress and frame and almost new cover. It is the top of the range model with all side curtains.
|Our Sahara and ShippShape at Beveridge Station in Buckland Valley||A rear shot showing the Sahara's drawer system|
The tent consists of a sleeping section which is over the car. This is a full sized double bed and has heaps of room. I have slept in many smaller beds in hotels and resorts! We use normal double bed sheets (cotton in summer and flannelette when cooler) with a wool blanket. In colder climates we also put a sleeping bag (open out) over the blanket.
You get up and down via a very easy to climb ladder. Our one has windows on the driver's side as well as windows on the passenger's side that open into the covered awning area. Newer versions have windows at the front and back as well.
Kelly made up a small trampoline out of a stretchy material and cord. This hangs from one side to the other under the roof near our feet. We put our day clothes in here after we change into our sleeping clothes. There is also a small space between the mattress and base section near our head where we put things like water, battery, torch, radio etc. The battery powers a small fluorescent light which we hang from the roof so we can see and read.
|Stopped coming out from Talbotville|
in the Crooked River Valley
|A photo taken at the Strzelecki Crossing|
from inside the ShippShape
Upon arriving at a camp site you park as flat as you can. We have two plastic wedges that we can use to balance the car correctly. Once flat, you unclip a bungy cord on each side from a number of knobs, put the ladder on the passenger side, climb the ladder and pull on the roof. It opens up very easily. You then take two cords from the outer edge of the awning section and attached them to suitable points on your car and tighten. These hold the awning rigid and stops the tent closing up.
The next thing to do is to secure the awning. If it is unlikely to rain, we normally just hammer some tent pegs into the ground and attach an ocky strap to each. If it is likely to rain, we put the awning out horizontal to the ground and use two poles on the far corners to make a larger protected area. We then attach the sides to provide more protection from driving rain. We also have a medium sized tarp which attaches to the back of the tent and using four poles, provides cover over the rear door of the car (which is of course where all our food, beer and gear is located). The four tent poles are carried in a section of PVC pipe under the right side of the ShippShape.
The basic tent can be erected in about two minutes and it takes about four minutes to put away. We can be sitting having a beer before others have even pulled their tent out of the bag.
In mid-2007 I waterproofed the canvas as when we used it over Easter, water seeped through a small section. It did not wet us, but it made the inside damp. We used Thomsons Water Seal which is primarily for waterproofing concrete. It is also suitable for canvas and cotton. It is available from Bunnings Warehouse and costs about A$25 for one litre. I was originally only going to do the small section that was affected, but I used all the container and purchased another litre. I ended up doing all the front and rear as well as the driver side and the top part immediately over the bed.
Over the Xmas/New Year period of 2009 we struck a lot of rain. The awning leaked a lot after it had rained for a few days. I then waterproofed all this with Thomsons.
We now have a second Shippshape which is of the same vintage as our first one. It has better canvas but the cover is in poorer condition. As of December 2013 I am repairing the cover (and waterproofing it). This one will be used by Kelly's Dad, Tomas, as he has purchased a Toyota LandCruiser 80 series.
To move to the Sahara, we had to buy new mounts and feet for the roof racks.
Camping Gear - Cooking
The majority of our cooking is done on a collapsible barbecue plate. This is shaped like a plough disc and has legs and a handle that folds away. In 2009 we purchased a fold up wok that is made by the same company. This replaced our frying pan. For heating water and cooking things like pasta, toast etc, we have a cheap gas stove that uses disposable canisters. These are relatively economical and much better than a LPG gas system. I used to use petrol-powered Coleman burners but they end up being unreliable.
We have a camp oven for roasts, damper and desserts. As well as a pot and a whistling kettle we have a bowl for mixing and salads etc. We normally only have enough plates for two people with plastic wine glasses, beer coolers, barbecue and cooking utensils as well as knives and forks etc but we can carry more.
Camping Gear - Other
We carry two collapsible chairs and a collapsible table which fit on one side of the storage system. On the other we have a barbecue plate, a shower tent, and other bits. I also carry a small chainsaw (needed many times in remote locations to clear tracks as well as to cut firewood). We also have a wedge, small axe and a spare chain as well as extra chainsaw fuel and tools to repair and sharpen the saw. We also sometimes carry a small 12 volt generator to supply emergency power.
Spares carried include new hoses and belts as well as tyre repair kit and if needed, a small compressor. If we are diving we do not take the compressor as we can fill tyres from our dive cylinders.
Carrying Clothes etc
Kelly and I each have a plastic bin with a lid in which we put our clothes. These are very handy as the clothes are easily visible through the sides and the construction means we can put lighter things on top if needed. We put these bins on the back seat.
For the Prado I also created a trampoline out of a dog bed (using bungy cords and rope) which hung under the roof over the rear station wagon section. On this we put things like hats, raincoats and jumpers. It made them easily accessible as well as using up space that is normally not doing anything. We may implement something like this in the new car.
We also carry two bags Kelly sewed up in which we put our dirty clothes so that they are separate from our clean clothes.
Recovery and Emergency Gear
Under the seats we carry two ramps for levelling the car when we camp, first aid kit, jumper leads and an extensive socket set. There are also spanners and screw-drivers under the passenger seat and a full car manual for repairs. We carry a tyre repair kit as well as a full recovery pack of winch extensions, tree protector, snatch straps, snatch block and more.
On the ladder for the ShippShape tent, we carry a large shovel for recovery and fire purposes.
How does the Cruiser Perform?
Well, we have not yet really used it in proper 4WD conditions, only some easy dirt roads. We have used it to tow our boat and can say that its towing ability is awesome. Without a doubt, it is the best 4WD we have ever driven. More later.