HOME-BUILT HERO

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”This tough as nails West Australian 105 Series Cruiser is proof you can build your dream truck at home!”[/blockquote]

One look at this monster 105 Series Cruiser and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was the product of a couple of months’ worth of big-buck work at a 4WD workshop. After all, this ain’t no twenty-year old Triton with a home-made bullbar (not that we wouldn’t love one owning one of those though). In fact, it’s the kind of rig that most of us dream about owning – a big touring wagon with all the fruit that could take off for a trip across the country at a moment’s notice.

What if we told you that owning this kinda truck didn’t automatically mean leaving the buildup to a workshop? That you could build something like this at home in your shed, garage or driveway? Cause that’s exactly how this Cruiser came to be, and the end result is an absolute cracker.

For Perth-based rigger Ian Markham, the Cruiser has been an ongoing labour of love for the past eight years. Purchased back in 2008 with just 100,000km on the clock and completely bone stock, the big 105 was an upgrade to a family-friendly 4WD that replaced a wild-sounding 400hp Chev-V8’d 75 Series ute.
“I chose the Cruiser because it was a live axle, and it was big and comfy,” explains Ian. “I had to sell my ute because we had kids, and I needed a family wagon for touring. We use the 105 for everything – everyday use, dropping the kids off at school, weekend 4WDing, touring around Australia and towing our caravan. I built the entire thing at home – I’m no mechanic but I like to give things a go. It helps having mates who are good on the spanners but absolutely everything on the truck I’ve fitted myself at home.”

Home-built, and just as capable and reliable as any 4WD you’ll find out on the tracks. Let’s take a look at what’s gone into making the big 105 the weapon it is today, plus a look at the next massive mod that’s about to be done!

TOURING GEAR
  • 4inch lift with Tough Dog shocks and coils
  • Powerful 4×4 barwork
  • 315/75R16 Mickey Thompson ATZ P3s on CSA Monster alloys

Whatever side of the 4WD fence you sit on, it’s hard to argue that this Cruiser doesn’t look like a deadest beast thanks to the way Ian’s set it up. Right around the vehicle is a full set of Powerful 4×4 barwork, which doesn’t carry the hefty price-tag of some other barwork options but works just as well. We like the fact that Ian’s fitted up everything you’d want to the 105 without going overboard – a set of ARB Intensity LED lights here, a lightbar on the roofrack, a Tigerz11 winch up the front. It works, it looks slick and it gets the job done – no two ways about it.

Giving the Cruiser a boost in the ride-height stakes is a Tough Dog 4inch lift. Easily one of the best parts about owning a common vehicle like a Cruiser or Patrol is how simple they are to lift, and Ian’s bus is no exception. 4inch coils and nine-stage adjustable shocks keep the vehicle sitting high, and the whole thing is made to work nicely with a set of Superior Engineering dropped radius arms, swaybar extensions front and rear and a set of airbags in the back for when the caravan’s hooked up.

“The suspension handles the big Cruiser well,” says Ian. “Plus, it didn’t empty my wallet setting it all up! It’s been on the vehicle for two years now, without any dramas.” There’s no point giving the truck an extra 4inch under the guards if you aren’t going to fill it though, and that’s exactly what the 315/75R16 Mickey Thompson ATZ P3s do. They’re wrapped around a set of CSA Monster 16x8in alloys, and the whole setup is the perfect combination of long-distance touring manners and low-range abilities. A mandrel-bent 2.5inch exhaust and an alloy radiator handle the job of keeping the big Cruiser running cool even when it’s fully loaded in hot water.

INTERIOR UPGRADES
  • Custom Installations rear drawers
  • Endless Air setup with 9L air tank in drawers

Built as an all-rounder family wagon and tourer, the interior of the 105 has been setup selectively to maximize its effectiveness without compromising on space. To that end, a set of super heavy-duty drawers from Custom Installations 4×4 Storage Solutions with one large draw and a slick fridge slide for the 40L Engel fridge have been installed in the rear. What’s even cooler is a 9L on-board air tank hidden in behind the drawers, which is filled by an Endless Air belt-driven under-bonnet air compressor. It makes airing up a seriously quick job, and even allows the option of running air tools. How good is that!
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”Absolutely everything on the truck I’ve fitted myself at home”[/blockquote]

DRIVETRAIN

The 105 Series Cruiser drivetrains are generally fairly bulletproof, but there are a couple of things you can do to make them deadly reliable. The main culprit here are collapsible diff pinion bearing spacers which can and do fail. When they let go, they destroy the crownwheel and pinion gearsets, which aren’t a cheap prospect to replace. Ian found this one out the hard way, destroying a front diff the first time we met him. Rather than fix it on the cheap and get it running again, he used it as a reason to upgrade so it would never happen again.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”Absolutely everything on the truck I’ve fitted myself at home”[/blockquote]

That meant rebuilding the diffs with Nitro Gear crownwheel and pinion gearsets, and solid pinion spacers to take that failure out of the question. While the diffs were apart a set of the cracking Harrop Engineering E-Lockers were installed at the same time for some serious traction.

“The E-Lockers are simple – no air lines to setup,” says Ian. “The Nitro diff gears are one of the toughest on the market too. I stayed with the factory 4.11:1 gear ratios – with the 35s the gearing is spot on. Because I do a lot of touring at highway speeds I didn’t want to fit lower ratios and then have it rev too hard on the highway, especially as the turbo motor is about to go in. I turn overdrive off when I’m towing and it’s just about perfect – rather than revving at 3000rpm, it sits nicely at 2700rpm.”

The A442F four-speed gearbox is a strong bit of gear, but there’s one particular upgrade that makes it drive like it should have from the factory. Ian’s installed a Wholesale Automatics Nomad Valve body, which replaces the factory valvebody inside the gearbox and makes for firmer, stronger gear changes and a much more direct feel from the gearbox.

“The valve body makes the vehicle drive 10 times better!” says Ian. “There’s no more flaring between 2nd and 3rd, it’s a good firm shift now and it tows heaps better too. It’s a piece of cake to fit at home – there’s about 20 bolts holding it in, all I did was get a piece of cardboard and poke them through in the same order they came off the gearbox. Just be prepared for an auto fluid bath is all!”

The final driveline upgrade came in the form of a part-time conversion from Mark’s 4WD Adapters. This allows the Cruiser to run in rear wheel drive like any part-time 4WD, with the ability to lock in the AVM hubs. On the ABS-equipped 105 Series it means the need to run Marks Adapters relocated ABS sensors to ensure the ABS works even while the front diff isn’t turning. The result is better fuel economy and less wear on the front end when 4WD isn’t required, like for daily driver duties.

Fuel economy figures? Glad you asked. About 400km from the 90L unleaded tank, and another 400km from the 90L injected gas setup. That’s a decent fuel range from a vehicle you’d expect to be way thirstier.

THE NEXT STEP

“I’ve got a 300kW/1000Nm 1FZ-FE turbo motor going in, in the next two months,” says Ian. “I have it sitting there on the stand, built with all forged internals. It’s just finding the time to fit it, working FIFO, that is proving tricky. These motors are great reliable bits of gear and they take really well to a turbo. I’ve got mates who have turbo’d 1FZ-FEs and they’re great trucks with heaps of power.” We can’t wait to see it in action. To see how the install goes or hear from owners who’ve turbo’d their 4.5L petrol Cruisers.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]Home-built, and just as capable as any 4WD![/blockquote]

 

RUNDOWN

VEHICLE: 2002 FZJ105R 105 Series LandCruiser
ENGINE: 4.5L 1FZ-FE straight-six petrol
GEARBOX: A442F four-speed auto
4WD ACTIVATION: Part time conversion, manual locking hubs
SUSPENSION: 4inch lift, Tough Dog springs and 9-stage adjustable shocks front and rear
WHEELS AND TYRES: 315/75R16 Mickey Thompson ATZ P3s on 16×8 CSA Monster alloys
OTHER TOUGH GEAR: Injected gas dual-fuel setup – 2.5inch mandrel-bent exhaust – Wholesale Autos Nomad valve body – Marks Adapters part-time kit with ABS relocation – fully upgraded diffs with solid spacers, Nitro diff gears and E-lockers – Powerful 4×4 barwork – triple battery setup – Endless air setup with 9L on-board airtank

THANKS TO

“I want to thank a few people for their help with the buildup,” says Ian. “Chris from Custom Installations/4×4 Storage Solutions, Michael from Auto One Joondalup, the team at Lancelin Mechanical and most importantly my wife Catherine for letting me build my passion for 4WDs!”

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