[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]How to get a fatso ready for a round-Oz trip – and we’re not talking about Brenno![/blockquote]

In the grand scheme of things, towing a tonne and a half of camper trailer and gear around Australia in a dirty old petrol/auto Cruiser rates up there with ‘teasing crocs with steaks’ and ‘telling the misso that dress does make her bum look fat’ as good ideas. After all, petrols suck more juice than diesels (especially loaded), are nowhere near as good in the water crossings across the Cape and the Kimberley, and generally aren’t as ‘bushproof’ as their oiler counterparts. So if you were planning a trip around Australia, you wouldn’t even think about taking one, right?

Okay, so here’s the deal. I’ve somehow convinced the rest of the blokes at 4WD Action HQ (a rusty old shed with more broken 4WD parts than good ones) that it’s in everyone’s best interest if I shoot off for a year and find some stories from out around the country. Surprisingly they all agreed, which I can only assume has a lot to do with the fact that I’d just wandered in from a week out bush, stunk worse than Shauno’s fridge in the Dirty 30 and the Cruiser was already leaking diff oil all over
the driveway.

So with the leave pass to end all leave passes sorted out, we just had a few things to get through. Get the misso to quit her job (check), sell the house (check), put everything in storage (check), and go, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. The old 80 is nearing 330,000km and while it’s been a reliable old bus, I had a bit of thinking to do.
We’d just placed an order for a Black Series Dominator camper trailer, and the next step was to figure out how to tow it.

The 80’s slow, thirsty, old, and setup much more for tough weekends away than trips to the Kimberley. We weighed up selling it and buying something newer, theoretically more reliable and definitely more economical, but facts and dollars are only one part of the equation. I love my old 80, it’s been my dream to own one since forever, and it’d be like selling the dog to buy a cat because it’s just more practical on paper. Yeah, right! Plus, in the back of my mind I want to prove this trip can be done in a 330,000km petrol 4WD.So I’ve lobbed in, invested a whole heap of coin and turned the Cruiser into a true-blue around-Oz weapon. Let me run you through what’s been done to get it up to spec.

  • Dual-fuel setup with 240L of unleaded and 90L of gas
  • Lots of WD40

Okay, so there’s no getting around the fact that even with the improved fuel economy, the 80 still loves a drink. Sitting at 95km/h on the highway where it’s most comfortable with the trailer, it’ll slurp about 20L/100km. Yes, that’s a bucketload compared to dual-cab yoots that sip less than half that, but it’s the price of loving old 4WDs. To sort it out, I’ve made a few modifications to fuel storage.

When I first bought the 80 it had a dual-fuel setup, and while I wasn’t looking for something on LPG, it ran so well on both that I bought it. One of the first mods was to ditch the under-slung LPG tank and put it up in the back of the cargo area, like they do with taxis. That then let the boys at Superior Offroad 4WD put a 160L long range tank up underneath it, which combines with the factory 90L main tank for a painful-to-fill-up 240L of unleaded. That gets me about 1000km fully loaded, plus about another 250L out of the LPG. Ironically, the LPG rather than being a pain has actually saved me when the in-tank unleaded fuel pump died and all I had to do was switch over to LPG to get home. Stoked again!

And yes, you’re right, there’s no getting around the fact that petrols suck when it comes to water. I’ve sorted it a bit, sealing up the dizzy and running a breather into the airbox. It’s heaps better now, but it’s still somewhat suspectible to water, mainly of the festy, muddy variety. The only solution there, is heaps of WD40 on hand at all times. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest one.

  • Wholesale Automatics gearbox upgrades
  • PWR radiator
  • Tyre downsize

Ever punch your credit card numbers into the computer to buy something and immediately think “Uh-oh, what have I done?” That was kinda me when I ordered the camper trailer. Nothing to do with the trailer itself – they’re insane bits of kit – but I just realised I was going to have to tow the camper right around the country. In a 330,000km petrol 4WD, on 35s, with an auto gearbox and a habit of using water every now and then. There’s only one thing to do in this situation, and that’s order more 4WD parts!

First on the list was the using water issue. Turns out the head had a crack between cylinders five and six (pretty common on the 1FZ motors, especially if they’ve been running LPG). A new head and whole new stainless steel valveset to suit the dual fuel fixed that, even if I had to halve the baked beans I was eating for a while.

Next was the gearbox. A quick call to Rocket Rod at Wholesale Autos and I had one of their Nomad valve bodies and torque converter lockup kits on the way. Now I don’t mind giving most mechanical things a go, but I didn’t want to stuff up the install so I gave my mate Ben at BCP Automotive a bell, and got him to fit it along with a major service and a thorough check-over. And what a difference the transmission mods made! Straight away I got an extra 50km out of each tank, and the difference in drivability is incredible. You can watch the transmission temps just drop almost as soon as you hit the lockup switch. A great bit of gear!

Next up was to address the fact it was getting a little warm on hills. That was easily solved with a massive PWR alloy radiator. This thing is a monster, must be double the size of the old copper radiator I pulled out. The mounts needed a little tweaking for it to fit, which my mate Marcus at Great White Fabrications handled without much drama.

Finally, in order to get a little bit of power back I’ve downsized the 35inch tyres to a set of 33inch BFGoodrich KO2s. I was blown away by how good these tyres were when I spent a week testing them last year, so on went a set of five. At the same time I replaced the camper trailer’s muddies with the all terrains – no point wasting good muddies on a trip around Australia when a set of all terrains will handle the job beautifully.

Between the downsize to 33s and the gearbox mods, I’ve now got the 4WD and camper trailer back to the kind of fuel economy it had before the camper trailer. These two mods netted me 25% better fuel economy, stoked!

  • Five Batteries across the 4WD and trailer
  • DC/DC and 240V charging capabilities
  • Hard-mounted 200w solar

I’ll admit it – I’m kind of a sucker for gadgets. 12v used to infuriate me but now I get a bit of a kick out of the stuff you can do, like wiring up a wireless remote control to turn your air compressor on and off. Across the Cruiser and the camper trailer I’m actually running three fridges – there’s a centre-console fridge for the bottles of water and the occasional (four times daily) choccy bars, plus a fridge in the back seat of the Cruiser that runs as a freezer. Finally, there’s a Waeco 80L fridge in the camper trailer that all the food’s stored in. Shauno put me onto the idea of running a fridge as a freezer a couple of years back, and I’m deadset hooked, to the point where if I only had one fridge, I’d use it as a freezer and transfer stuff to an esky for day-to-day use.

All those fridges need some serious 12v power to run em, even if I am not really planning on staying anywhere for more than a couple of days at a time. I’ve deliberately kept only a single crank battery in the engine bay, having learnt from the old V8 4Runner that the simpler things are under the bonnet, the easier life gets when something goes wrong. In amongst the storage setup in the rear, I’ve got a pair of 120Ah deep cycle marine-grade batteries sitting on a shelf I built on top of the rear left wheel wheel. The camper trailer came with an additional pair of heavy-duty 97Ah deep-cycle batteries, for a total of four. I’ve set the system up with three different ways of getting charge into the batteries, and they all revolve around CTEK gear.

At the core is a CTEK 100A charging system, which uses what I can only assume is a combination of science and magic to turn my old alternator’s wheezy little output into enough power to keep all four batteries topped up. It’s also got a solar panel controller in it, which is lucky cause I’ve had this no-name 200w solar panel sitting in the shed for ages with a dead controller. I ditched the inbuilt controller, bolted it to the roofrack and ran some power down into the solar input on the CTEK, and it handles it all automatically.

Finally, cause I know there’ll be some stage where I need to wash my undies or at least dispose of em permanently, I’ve got a CTEK M300 240v charger wired into the camper trailer and ready to plug into a powered site. It’s marine-grade and waterproof, and it hammers a massive 25A into the batteries. By connecting or disconnecting the Anderson plug I can either have the the M300 or the solar panel charge all four aux batteries or just two, and I can choose to isolate the front two fridges and batteries from the camper’s fridge and batteries.

Yeah, you’re right. I don’t want to even think about what I’ve invested in it. No wonder I’ve been eating baked beans for the last two years straight, but I still can’t figure out how I packed on 15kg at the same time?


VEHICLE:  1995 Toyota Landcruiser 80 Series
ENGINE: 4.5l straight-six petrol
4WD ACTIVATION: Part time, auto locking hubs
SUSPENSION: Two inch lift, heavy duty shocks and coils, airbags in the rear
WHEELS AND TYRES: 33inch BF-Goodrich KO2s on 16x8in -44 steel wheels
Black Series Dominator camper trailer
CTEK 100A Charging system with four auxiliary batteries
Wholesale Automatics Nomad valve body and torque converter lockup
200w solar panel
PWR radiator

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