Join me on my mission to repair, restore and upgrade our ageing 80 Series Landcruiser over the next few months into the ultimate low budget family touring 4WD with a total budget of around $20,000 . . . including the value of the car.
Last September our beloved Toyota 80 Series Landcruiser celebrated it’s 25th birthday!
It rolled off the production line in September 1991 which, coincidentally, is the same month that my wife Jen and I met - although it didn’t join our family until 7 years later in 1998 when we upgraded from our old dual cab Hilux.
It had 90,000km under it’s belt when we bought it and it's now done just over 370,000 so it’s fair to say that it’s been a big part of our lives and shared plenty of adventures.
But nothing lasts forever and I’ve been thinking for a while now about upgrading to something new(er).
A dual cab 79 Series Landcruiser is currently the only newer vehicle on the market that I would consider a viable upgrade (5 seater, live axles, diesel, manual, workhorse!)
And while I have no doubt that a 79 will be my next 4WD, there's still plenty of life in our 80 Series so I’ve decided to hang onto it for a couple more years and a few more road trip adventures.
I’ll also admit that when I raised the idea of selling the 80 there were actual genuine tears from our girls!!
It’s been in our family for their entire lives and the only real constant in an ever changing landscape.
It was their home for 16 months when we did The Big Lap trip and the idea of selling it had about the same response as if I’d suggested we get rid of the family dog!
So with the decision made to keep it, there is now a long and growing list of repairs and improvements that I need to get to work on to make sure it is in great shape to take us on some of the upcoming trips we have planned to the far corners of the country.
Our next big adventure is scheduled for mid this year so it's time to get busy.
This is a perfect opportunity for me to share this restoration journey with you guys through a series of articles and videos and to demonstrate that you don’t need big money to put together a perfect long range touring 4WD that will take you on your own Big Lap around Australia.
Follow the #Project80 hashtag for all Project80 blog posts
To prove this I’m going to set a total budget for the project of around $20,000 which includes the current market value of the car.
I’ve done some homework and I reckon that as it stands right now in my garage, our 80 Series is worth about $12,000 give or take.
This leaves me a budget of about $8,000 for repairs and upgrades to get it back up to ‘big lap ready’.
Plenty of people believe that to do a big road trip like 'The Big Lap’ you need a shiny new $100,000+ 4WD and a caravan worth at least that . . . or more!
This simply isn’t the case and I’m going to prove it.
For a total budget of around $20,000, you can buy one of the best family/touring 4WD’s ever built (that's the 80 Series Landcruiser of course) and with some carefully invested dollars and quite a bit of DIY and elbow grease have yourself an awesome road trip machine.
Best of all you can then spend a year or two driving it around the country and when you’re finished you can sell it and get most off that money back.
So let's get on with it . . .
Here’s the current specs of our Landcruiser:
Model: 1991 HDJ80 80 Series Landcruiser
Motor: 1HD-T (4.2 ltr Turbo Diesel)
Approximate market value: $12,000
Extras it already has:
- Front & rear ARB Air Lockers
- ROH alloy wheels - 16 x 8
- Tradesman Roof Rack
- ARB bull bar, side rails and steps
- 12,000lb Warn Winch
- Old Man Emu springs & shocks (2 inch lift)
- 100ah second battery with isolator
- Kaymar rear bar - wheel carrier and jerry can holder
- Long Ranger fuel tank
- UHF radio
- IPF Spotlights
- Side awning
So as you can see it is already pretty well setup for big road trips which it had to be for our Big Lap trip but it's done a lot of work and a lot of hard trips and there are quite a few issues that need attention.
Plus, since our Big Lap trip where we started with waaaay too much ‘stuff’ we’ve had almost a complete 180 degree turnaround in our approach and now it’s all about travelling as light as possible.
As you’ll see, part of my plan is to set the vehicle up so that we can be completely independent and able to bush camp with very quick set ups and pack ups and not need to take our camper trailer or tow anything else.
This will give us the most amount of freedom to go anywhere and not be reliant on caravan parks.
We’ll need power, water, kitchen, sleeping and storage all on board and easily accessible.
Let’s start by looking at the repairs and maintenance issues that need attention:
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Like any car of this age, things are wearing out so I’ve done an end to end review of all of the areas that need attention to get it up to ‘road trip spec’.
Steering, suspension & underbody
- Shock absorber bushes worn
- Stabiliser bar bushes worn
- Panhard rod bushes, radius arm bushes and tie rod ends probably worn
- Steering box leaking
- Cracks around radiator mounts
- Various oil leaks
For a while now the front end has been a bit wobbly which, given its age is not too surprising. Once I get over 60km/h it comes and goes and varies depending on whether I'm accelerating or decelerating, going up or down a hill and turning.
The tyres have travelled 70,000 km, there are a few steering and suspension bushes that are worn and the steering damper has been there since we replaced it in 1998.
Plus the shockers have done over 170,000km and the ride is very harsh even just driving around the streets.
Any or all of these could be contributors and will be replaced as part of #project80.
My goal is to replace pretty much everything that wears in the undercarriage so that we get back to that nice tight 'new car off the production line' feeling, or as close to that as possible.
The steering box was replaced about 120,000km ago so I’m hoping it only needs a seal kit otherwise I'll be up for around $500 for a replacement box.
There are a couple of other oil leaks which will need new seals but hopefully nothing too expensive.
We replaced all of the wheel bearings about 10,000km ago so they have plenty of life left and at the time we checked the brake pads and discs which looked fine. I’ll check these again before the end of the project and replace/service them if needed.
Under the bonnet
- Rocker cover gasket leaking
- Fuel filter mount broken
- Radiator leaking around top filler
- Replace belts & hoses
Mechanically she’s in pretty good shape. I change the engine oil and filter every 10,000km so it’s not due for another 8,000km and I’ve recently replaced the gearbox, transfer case and diff oils.
I’ll give the under bonnet a general clean and tidy up though as it’s looking pretty grubby.
To save money I’ll do as much of the work as I can myself but I’m no mechanic so I’ll be calling on my mate Terry De Vries of Mr Mods to help me out along the way.
- Paint work is fading and cracked
- Rust around drivers side windscreen pillar
- Rear window leaks
- Faded lights and trims
- Tailgate not staying shut tight
- Wipers faded
Given the amount of work the car has done it’s not surprising the paint and bodywork are showing their age.
The car looks every bit of it’s 25 years old and it’s time for an ‘extreme makeover’.
Taking her to a body shop for a respray would be a prohibitively expensive exercise as there is so much labour involved, but back in the 1980’s when I was just a teenager I rebuilt a couple of cars which involved fixing a lot of rust and giving them a complete respray.
So rather than do a big patch up job on the 80, I’m going to give her a complete respray and hopefully in the process show you that it’s not as hard as you might think.
To make life easier I won’t be changing the colour - this means that I don’t need to paint inside the engine bay and all those other hard to reach places which don’t need repainting.
But what I am going to do is go for a matte or satin finish to give her a bit more of a stealthy ‘ready for action’ look.
My aim is to get a finish something like on my motorbike helmet (see below)
The basic process will be:
- Fix all of the body work - cracked paint, dents, scratches, rust
- Rub back all the remaining paint areas and prime
- Respray with new topcoat paint
- Finish with several coats of clear that will dry to a matte/satin finish
I can do most of the fixing and prep work in my garage at home over a few weekends but I’ll need to find a clean environment for the respray. A spray booth will be ideal but if I can’t find one of them then I’ll probably drive over to Adelaide and use the garage at my Mum’s place which is big enough and can be sealed to keep the wind & dust out.
I’ll also need to respray the bar work and roof rack so it all looks 100%.
It will take me a few weekends to do all of the prep work but the final paint and clear coats will need to be done all at once.
I’ll replace or respray as many of the lights and trims as I can so there are no more old and faded bits letting it down.
You can buy some aftermarket LED tail lights and indicator lights off eBay for not too much money so I’ll be sourcing some of these.
The IPF spotlights on the front have been there since 1998 and are looking their age. One also has a blown globe which needs to be replaced.
A new globe and some matte enamel paint should bring them back to life and save me the cost of a replacement set.
These are set up as ‘spot’ lights, not flood and even though halogen is not as trendy as HID or LED, they still do the job and some would say are still the better light source.
I think with the addition of a $100 LED light bar I’ll have plenty of lighting power on the road ahead.
The high beam lights on the car are also IPF which are better than the originals they replaced.
Wheels & Tyres
I’m currently running ROH 16 x 8 alloy rims which are part of a set of 8 we put on the Landcruiser and camper trailer for our Big Lap trip.
These wheels are great but it’s time for a change.
In line with the new ‘stealthy’ matte paint finish on the car, I’m going to swap the silver alloys for black steel rims.
I was thinking about painting the ROH alloys black but frankly for the work involved to do it well and the cost of paint etc. it’s just as easy to go for new wheels which are black from the factory.
I’m not hung up on alloy wheels VRS steel as both will do the job just fine. There are some nice black alloy rims on the market but the steel rims are much cheaper and this project is all about coming in around the $20,000 budget, so steel wheels it is.
My plan is to sell the complete set of 8 ROH alloy wheels once it’s all done which will help put some dollars back into the budget.
The tyres on the car now are Cooper ST MAXX 265/75R16 which have travelled about 70,000km and are due for replacement.
I’ve been running on Coopers since the 1990’s and have had great experience with them – long life, great performance and no blowouts.
But they come at a price being one of the most expensive tyres on the market.
So for this project I’m going to try something new and give a more cost effective brand a run and see how they compare.
This will save some significant dollars in the budget and also give me a chance to road test a cheaper brand and see how they stack up.
Having said that, they still need to be good. I’m not going to put crappy Chinese tyres on the car to save a few bucks and risk our safety in the process.
I’ve done some homework and I’m going for a set of 5 x Nitto Trail Grappler LT285/75 R16.
These are a quality Japanese made mud terrain light truck tyre which has had some pretty solid reviews.
They're also slightly larger than my current tyres which will ad a couple more centimetres of ground clearance.
As you’ll see in my budget at the end of this article, I’ve been given a quote from Bob Jane T-Marts for $1875 for 5 tyres PLUS 5 black steel rims. At $375 per wheel including the rims, that’s a pretty good price.
I could have opted for the Nitto Terra Grappler All Terrains and saved $400 (for the set of 5) and to be honest I’ve thought seriously about doing this.
The reality is that the all terrains will be quieter and last longer given that most of their life will be on sealed roads.
BUT . . . when we get into the rough stuff the Trail Grapplers will perform better, be stronger and less susceptible to punctures and damage and in my mind, that is more important.
We chose Cooper STT’s (muddies) for our Big Lap trip for the same reason and I’m sticking with that logic.
I’ll be sure to let you know how they go once they are fitted.
- Fix crack in dash
- Fix/replace right back door skin
- New drivers seatbelt
- New front seats
- New door lock barrels and keys
Not surprisingly the interior is showing its age but considering the work it’s done and how much harsh sun it’s had, it’s in pretty good shape.
The carpet is still like new and the floor mats are doing ok even though they are 10 years old.
The drivers seat is crumbling on the right edge of the bottom section as 80 Series are prone to do and I’ve been running canvas seat covers for a few years to slow down the decline.
But now it’s time to replace them for something more comfortable and ergonomic with better lumbar support.
The word is that Ford XR6 or XR8 seats are a good replacement so I’m looking into these.
I also have a few additional things to add but I’ll cover these in the ‘Improvements & Additions’ next.
Improvements & Additions
About half of my budget is going towards adding and improving, not just fixing.
My goal is that we have ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’, we are independent and not reliant on powered sites or caravan parks and that camp setups and pickups are fast and easy.
I’ll be adding a rooftop tent onto the existing roof rack which I’ll modify to make it fit.
This will be where Jen and I will sleep and the girls will have swags which will be stored on the front 1/3 of the roof rack not being used by the roof top tent.
On recent trips we’ve been using an Oztent RV5 which we carried on the roofrack but this won’t fit on the roof with the rooftop tent, hence the move to swags for the kids.
This keeps all of our bulky but not heavy sleeping gear on the roof out of the dust and not using valuable space inside the car.
My current choice for a rooftop tent is the Darche Intrepidor which at 55kg is not as heavy as some but looks to be well designed and made.
We already have a rollout awning on the drivers side which the girls can sleep under in their swags if need be and I’ll probably include a lightweight 3 man tent in the kit as a backup for them if the weather gets really nasty.
I'll also include a MeshMat for each of them which will be a good ground cover under their swags.
I’ll install a pair of roller drawers in the back with one side being setup as a rollout kitchen (stove, cooking equipment and food) and the other side for tools, recovery gear, spares and other bits and pieces.
The roller drawers also have side wings so there will be quite a lot of storage along the sides as well. All of it down low reducing the centre of gravity.
You can spend some big dollars on drawers but this is an area of decided to save some bucks.
I've ordered a pair of Titan Drawers from 4WD Supacentre which are due for delivery later this month - at $465 delivered they are very cheap and while I don't have unrealistic expectations, I'm hoping the quality is good enough for what we need. We'll soon find out once we hit the road.
It’s all going to be about finding clever places to store things in the many nooks and crannies around the vehicle.
I’ve even seen a kit you can get to create a storage compartment in the lower tailgate but this is outside the budget unfortunately.
I might see if I can work out a way to convert it myself as it would be a good place to store lightweight things that need to be easily accessible like first aid kit, snatch strap and emergency supplies.
Our Waeco CF80 fridge will live on a slide out on one side of the drawers and the other side will be devoted mainly to our personal gear bags which will be limited to about a 40 litre kit bag each (yes, Jen’s bag too). We always take way too many clothes on road trips and end up wearing the same few things all the time so this will be our chance to finally cut it down.
I’ll also need to find room for about 60 – 80 litres of water either in a bladder, 10 ltr casks or some other way – will wait and see what room I have when I’ve installed the drawers. We have a 20 ltr jerry on the rear bar but will need much more to be fully independent.
I have a cargo barrier already which I’ll cut and weld to shorten it to fit with the rear drawers in place.
I’d also like to install a sheet of mesh of some sort just below the back roofline to give us room to stuff lightweight items like jackets in an otherwise unused space.
I’ll also add some USB sockets in the back seat area for the girls to charge their phones and iPads. We have two outlets in the front already.
Performance wise the car does okay and will cruise on 90 to 100 km/h fairly economically but any faster than that and the fuel consumption goes through the roof.
Being able to sit on 110km/h economically would be a big improvement and a bit more pick up when it’s loaded up would be a bonus.
I’m looking at upgrading to a high flow exhaust and getting the engine dyno tuned which will hopefully make enough of a difference.
Being an older mechanical diesel, the 1HD-T has no chips or electronics that can be upgraded.
An intercooler and new bigger turbo are other options to extract some more horses from the old girl but they would add around $6000 to the budget so it will have to stay on the ‘one day’ list at this stage.
Some new LED lights inside the back and around the edges of the roof rack will be a great addition to light up our cooking and camping areas.
Finally when it’s all done I’ll get some new snazzy Expedition Australia sign writing but I haven’t included this in the budget as you wouldn’t normally need it.
I’m keeping track of everything in a spreadsheet which you can see below.
It shows what I expect things to cost (Budget) and then what they actually cost (Actual) once I’ve bought them.
I’ll keep this up to date and include the latest version in each article I publish.
|Steering & suspension||Stabiliser bar links - rear||$40|
|Stabiliser bar bushes - rear||$22|
|Shock Absorber bushes lower - rear||$20|
|Stabiliser bar links - front||$49|
|Stabiliser bar bushes - front||$65|
|New shock absorbers||$800|
|Suspension Arm Bush Kit - Front||$200|
|Cracks around radiator mounts||Weld it up||$100|
|Fuel filter mount broken||Weld mount||$-|
|Steering box leaking||Find source of leak & fix||$100|
|Oil seals||Rear tailshaft and speedo cable leaks||$200|
|Rocker cover leaking||replace gasket||$20|
|Rear windscreen leaking||Remove and reseal||$15|
|New Tyres & wheels x 5||Nitto Trail Grappler LT285/75R16 x 5 + rims - Due mid Feb||$1,875||$1,875|
|Body work||Fix rust around drivers windscreen pillar||$50|
|Paint work||Prep body for new paint job||$100|
|Spray gun buy/rent||$100|
|Flare seals||New rubber seals around flares||$150|
|Wipers||Paint front wipers matt black||$15|
|Door locks||New barrels & keys||$100|
|Spotlights||Service & replace globes & covers, paint housings||$50|
|Drivers seatbelt||Replace due to fraying||$50|
|New front seats||Good second hand eg. XR8||$800|
|Tailgate||Doesn't stay shut tight||$-|
IMPROVEMENTS & ADDITIONS
|Rooftop tent||Darche Rooftop Tent||$1,100|
|Roofrack modification||Remove side rail for tent & paint||$20|
|High Flow Exhaust||$800|
|Rear Drawers||Ordered 23/1/2017 - Due mid feb||$500||$465|
|Front LED light bar||Mount on bullbar or roofrack||$80|
|Side & rear LED flood lights & switches||$100|
|New radio aerial||$20|
|New UHF aerial||$60|
|Brake & indicator light housings||Replace with new LED||$200|
|Modify rear cage||Cut, weld & paint to fit with rear drawers||$-|
|Rear roof storage shelf||Build from steel mesh & mount on rear cage mounting points||$20|
|USB charge points||Double USB charge sockets for back seat pasengers||$40|
|LED Lights in rear||LED lights on back tailgate to light rear work & kitchen area||$35|
|Battery link cable||Built in jumper cable from battery 1 to 2||$40|
|Dyneema rope in winch||Replace wire rope to save weight||$189|
PLUS Original Value of Car
TOTAL PROJECT BUDGET
What have I missed?
I’d love your feedback in the comments below or email me and feel free to suggest different options or things I haven’t thought of.
I expect the plan to change and evolve as we go along so your input and ideas are very much appreciated.