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Double trouble with Cruiser 70

2011-04-05 12:14

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Converting his trusty Land Cruiser bakkie into a double-cab overlander was not as easy as it would seem for Francois Beyers.

Francois Beyers

Nothing comes close to a double-cab Land Cruiser pickup, says Francois Beyers. As far as he is concerned, it is the ultimate.

He is not overly fond of a station wagon or an SUV.

The thought of all his baggage and gadgets rattling and tumbling around in the cabin while he is trying to concentrate on the road leaves him cold.

His idea of a perfect trip is to stow everything in the back and forget about it, leaving the children enough space to enjoy the drive.

Yes, there are various other double cabs on the market, but then Francois admits that he is a tad fussy about things like this. He wanted a double-cab Land Cruiser, and that was that!

But his little dream was born with one big problem: the vehicle does not exist – Land Cruisers are not being manufactured the way he wanted it.

And there was no way he was going to buy a brand new Cruiser pickup just to cut it to pieces in the hope of building a double cab. So he had to find a second-hand Cruiser.

He searched everywhere – even in Zambia. What he eventually found in Mokopane (Pietersburg) was a 1995 Land Cruiser 75-series 4.5-litre EFI petrol model for R145 000.

And the seller even gave him a six month guarantee on the engine, gearbox and diffs.

Who did the conversion?

A well-known conversion specialist in Krugersdorp did it.

I had to leave my Cruiser with him for eight weeks. Ouch!

In the process they also fitted an additional 170-litre fuel tank, a dust snorkel, running boards and a back bumper with a spare-wheel mounting.

FOUR-DOOR CRUISER: Cut and burn. Aftermarket double-cab conversions offer Cruiser owners something Toyota can’t…

Did everything work out fine?

No! I was as excited as a kindergarten kid to fetch my “new” pickup in Krugersdorp and drive it all the way home. But just outside of Krugersdorp I heard a weird “whoop-whoop” sound from underneath the vehicle.

After the fourth stop I realised the wheel nuts on the left rear wheel were loose.

On trying to fasten them, I discovered three of the six were stripped. It was almost dark, so I decided to push on and stop every 100 km to check if the other three nuts were still fastened.

The long-distance fuel tank is fitted with a switch on the dashboard to pump petrol from the rear to the front tank. While the front tank started emptying, I tried in vain to activate the petrol pump to fill it.

I assumed the pump was faulty and barely made it to Bloemfontein to fill up.
At home, I had the wheel nuts and fuel pump replaced. Two weeks later we hit the road to explore the Northern Cape, southern Namibia and the Richtersveld. It was there where more things went wrong…

    * The support frame clamp for the additional fuel tank snapped completely.
    * The right rear wheel was loose because the wheel nut holes on the rim were worn.
    * The long-distance fuel tank continued giving trouble. I eventually found a blockage in the fuel line was causing the trouble - I had unnecessarily bought a new pump.
    * The battery cable became dislodged from one of the battery terminals.
    * The filter in the fuel line malfunctioned, and I had a temporary filter fitted.
    * The water pipe for the cabin heater burst.

Later, back at home, the main fuel pump had to be replaced because of a leaky seal. The fuel consumption then improved from 4.3 km/litre to 5.7 km/litre.

Cabin seals below the back seat and at the safety belt mountings where dust is getting in still have to be resealed.

Some doors also need to be adjusted to kill off a few rattles.

Were the rims a special challenge?

I did not want to retain the standard 15 inch rims or use the alternative 16 inch rims. What I wanted was 16 inch alloy rims with tubeless tyres.

I phoned around and eventually found a set of alloy rims at a Johannesburg retailer who assured me it was exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t, and to add insult to injury, the retailer refused to refund me because he claimed all the rims had been damaged. R2 000 down the drain …

My search continued and not even the big names in the business could help me. They all wanted to sell me 15-inch rims. All I could find was a locally manufactured steel rim that was 7 inches wide. I needed rims that were 8 inches wide to fit my 275/70R16 tyres.

A retailer in Pretoria promised he could widen the rims by an inch, but he literally only did half the work.

In the end I managed to fit my tyres on these 7½ inch rims.

Back at home after our first big tour, I searched the internet and found a 16 inch alloy rim that is manufactured in Taiwan.

The manufacturer referred me to a Johannesburg company and, hallelujah! – I had alloy rims for my pickup.

BORN TO EXPLORE: If you want an all-round live axle double-cab Toyota 4x4, this is your only option…

The canopy was a challenge too?

The people that did the conversion could have fitted my pickup with a steel canopy, but as I wanted something lighter, I opted for fibreglass.

I asked around, but no one had a mould for a double-cab Cruiser pickup.

While phoning around, I stumbled on a company who specialises in converting glass fibre canopies. They took a Hilux double-cab canopy and made it wider and higher to fit the Cruiser. They also fitted doors, instead of windows, on the sides.

They promised to have it ready within two weeks, but their procrastination almost wrecked our first long-distance trip with the Cruiser.

On top of that, both side doors were skew and there were gaps between the doors and the canopy. The back door’s rubber strips were thicker than a kilo of butter.

I can go on …

After our trip, I returned it. Until this day, I have received no refund, because they said they would only pay me if they sold it.

I then replaced the fibreglass canopy with a steel canopy I bought from a well-known body shop in Pretoria. But this one also had its snags.

A canopy should form a unit with the cabin, like most other canopies on double-cabs. The problem with my Land Cruiser is that the rim of the cargo bay is wider than the cabin.

If you work according to the size of the rim, the canopy does not form a unit with the cabin.

So I will be selling the steel canopy and starting my third big search soon.

Is your “new” Cruiser what you have hoped for?

Despite the things that have gone wrong, I am happy with my dream machine.

My wife however, remains negative. She maintains a lot will still have to happen, and many short trips will have to be done, to prove it was the right buy.

Biggest lessons learnt?

    * Never tackle a long tour before sorting out the small hassles on short trips.      
    * Have your vehicle serviced properly well before your trip – not only a week before leaving.      
    * You can never pack too many spare parts.      
    * Always take someone along who has a solid knowledge of vehicles and engines.

Drive Out: 1961 Unimog 411

2011-04-18 13:59

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