4WD Action Custom Ute Magazine interviewed Boss Hog 'Grant' for this one-on-one look at his 79 Series Camper
Love ’em or hate ’em, Toyota makes bloody good 4WD’s and there’s no denying it. Even the most one-eyed Nissan fan has to admit that the 79 Series is an absolute pearler – that 1HD-FTE booster oiler is easily one of the sweetest engines ever to make its way under a 4WD. South Oz-based mechanic and owner of Cross Country 4x4 Grant Kean is one bloke who needs no convincing. In the past he’s owned a 75 Series diesel and a tough old diesel 80 Series that was featured in a previous issue of our sister publication Australian 4WD Action.
Sure to be the envy of just about every 4WDer in Australia, Grant now has a turbo-diesel Sahara-spec 100 Series currently in his shed, as well as this truck – a phenomenally capable 79 Series Ute. “It’s got the best engine and gearbox!” says Grant. “The combination of coils and leaves for load carrying and comfort are great. It’s got plenty of leg room for long days in the ‘office’, and its Toyota tough! The 80 Series has just clocked up 700,000km and I wanted to build a tourer that could double as a daily driver and work Ute.” Yep, you heard it correctly – 700,000km! And while it wasn’t all trouble-free motoring, you’d be hard pressed to get anywhere near that in plenty of other 4WD’s. So it’s no wonder that Grant looked within the Toyota line up for the replacement.
There was, of course, a brief excursion to the dark side – the side that starts with ‘N’ – back when Grant was first cutting his 4WD teeth. It didn’t take long, however, for him to see the light in the form of his first 75 Series. Having built the current 79 up to a standard where Grant and his partner Johanna are able to tour comfortably in it, he’s now keen to get out there and use it. “My favourite place to head is the Gulf of Carpentaria – it’s got everything” Grant says. Not bad when you consider that’s roughly a 6000km round trip!
Vehicle: 2005 Toyota 79 Series ‘Cruiser’
Engine: 1HD-FTE Inline-six Turbo-Diesel
Gearbox: Five Speed Manual
Transfer: Factory Toyota
Suspension: Front: Solid axle, coil sprung, 50mm raised EFS coils, Rancho RS9000XL shocks
Rear: Solid axle, leaf sprung, 50mm raised leaf springs, Rancho RS9000XL shocks, Helper airbags.
Tyres: 285/75R16 Mickey Thompson MTZ’s
Wheels: CSA 16x18in Alloys
4WD Activation: Part-time, Lever-activated, manual locking hubs
There’s not exactly a whole lot of interior in a single cab Ute, but Grant’s managed to pack a fair bit of kit in there anyway! A pioneer sound system complete with TV tuner and LCD screen provides the mobile entertainment, and there’s a 600W amp powering the speakers. One seriously cool addition is the dual Firestone paddles which Grant uses to control the inflation level of the helper airbags in the rear. It allows for on-the-fly adjustments to the ride. A GME TX3400 UHF radio gets used for comms duties, and there’s a VMS Touring 500 GPS to keep the big girl’s nose pointed in the right direction. We’re assuming Grant has a fear of being lost, because supplementing the VMS is a Garmin GPS receiver that powers a Dell laptop running OziExplorer software.
ARB bar work got the nod as protection equipment for Grant’s 79, with a colour-coded deluxe winch bar and side rails/steps guarding against vehicle damage in remote situations. That front bar also scored a Tigerz11 9000lb winch complete with 40m of Dynamica 9mm synthetic winch rope as cheap insurance against being stranded outback of Bourke. There’s also a total of three Hella HID Predator spotlights burning a hole through the darkness – a pencil beam in the middle, and a big spread beam on either side. There was no chance Grant was going to leave the engine’s fate to a deep creek crossing, so he ticked the box for the factory snorkel to be installed before he picked up the keys. It’s got a Safari snorkel head on top.
No stranger to the end of a welder or an angle grinder, grant built the entire removable camper setup that graces the 79’s tray. It uses drop-down legs that means the camper can be entirely detached easily, allowing the ute to be driven on day-trips while the camp is still setup. It’s completely decked out with a full kitchen, including slide-out three burner gas stove, and a full queen size bed with canvas tent section, which Grant had done by Universal Canvas in Adelaide. It includes a 70L Explorer fridge, and a 60 Second tent that encloses the kitchen area completely.
Knowing just how far he was planning on wandering, Grant opted to permanently install a second spare wheel/tyre combination on the rear of the canopy. They’re mounted on four giant gas struts which lets the tailgate open to gain access to the second Explorer fridge. All six wheels are 16x8in CSA alloys, which are shod with 285/75R16 Mickey Thompson MTZs.
On the day of the photo shoot, Grant put the 79 through some pretty serious tracks, proof that the MTZs are definitely a good thing off-road!
Like the old saying goes, you can always make a good thing better. To that end, Grant fitted a Safari Dtronic engine management system, as well as a large front-mount intercooler. The dyno figures don’t lie – it’s got a proven 440Nm of torque at just 2150rpm, and a total of 130kW being produced by 3200rpm. That makes for serious hauling power whichever way look at it! Off the end of the factory turbo dump pipe is a custom 3in stainless, mandrel-bent exhaust to get the exhaust gases flowing quicker. Complete with a high-flow custom muffler it can produce a diesel rumble more at home in a freight depot than on the roads!“ The power upgrades are my favourite modification,” Grant mentions. “They’ve increased fuel economy and made the vehicle a pleasure to drive.” Down the drivetrain, a 4-Terrain heavy duty clutch kit was installed to produce a more affirmative feel under Grant’s left foot, as well as to cope with the added power the big ute now produces. The rest of the transmission and transfer are standard, which isn’t surprising, given Toyota’s tendency to over-engineer these components. Grant did get Cross Country to pluck the standard diff internals and replace them with ARB Air Lockers, which he gives one simple reason for.’ They’re the best!’ Grant says. ‘They’re strong and easy to use.’ Can’t ask for much more than that, hey?’
When it comes to keeping the Cruiser suspended, Grant installed a custom setup that’s been tailored to his needs. The front end scored a set of EFS 2in raised coil springs, along with Rancho RS9000XL adjustable shock absorbers. Down the back, a set of 50mm raised leaves couple with more of those adjustable Ranchos, but the difference this time is they’re backed up by a set of helper airbags. Plumbed in off twin ARB Air Compressors, Grant can adjust the load-carrying capacity at the flick of a switch by inflating up the airbags“All the components work well together,” Grant comments. “When the truck is unladen, it weighs about 2700kg, and with the camper, 350L of fuel and 50L water the laden weight is about 3800kg. Without the adjustability of the system, the truck would either ride like a brick when empty or like a wet sponge when full!”
When it comes to fuel storage, Grant’s one step off being contracted by fuel companies for remote drop-offs. There’s two Brown Davis 175L tanks shoe-horned in-between those chassis rails, giving the big ‘Cruiser a phenomenal 350L of diesel capacity. Regardless of terrain, it’s good for at least 2000km between fuel stops. Underneath there’s also a 50L stainless steel water tank, which is plumbed into a 13L/min electric pump and custom heat exchange.
The electrical setup in Grants ute is so comprehensive that it deserves its own mention. At the heart of the electrics is a Redarc dual battery controller that charges the 720CCA crank battery and the 100AH deep cycle battery when the ute’s on the move. Come camp time, and Grant pulls out a 250w solar panel that runs through a regulator to put a healthy 12V back into the additional four 100Ah Powersonic batteries mounted under the canopy. Just in case the sun doesn’t shine for....well, four weeks or so, there’s a Honda eu20i generator and a 1000W power inverter to keep the accessories running. All up, as long as Grant’s got enough unleaded to keep the genie running and enough sunlight for the solar panels, it’s just about means he can stay out bush permanently!