1996 Toyota LandCruiser Prado
3L intercooled turbo diesel (1KZ-TE)
40mm suspension lift
265/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler Duratac tyres on 16x8 steel wheels
(Sold July 2018)
We purchased our Prado in mid-2017 with the intention of turning it into a camper. We had a few requirements - it had to be turbo diesel, it had to have a low-range box and it had to be big enough to sleep in the back of. We also really wanted an automatic gearbox this time, our last truck was manual and it just wasn't required for the stuff we do.
Daniel knows way too much about Toyota's 1KZ diesel engine, which when wanting to travel far into the unknown can come in handy, so we decided to stick with Toyota. We chose an 8 seater Prado over the more common (in New Zealand) Hilux Surf for two reasons - the whole back folds into a double bed and you can sit up on the bed comfortably.
Having built up a basic camping truck previously, we hunted down a vehicle that had already had some of the basics done - the truck we bought had a 40mm suspension lift, snorkel and steel wheels, saving us a bit of cash and setup time.
The Toyota 1KZ-TE diesel engine is known for its reliability and grunt, so we avoided doing too much modification-wise. The intercooler helps alleviate some of the head-cracking issues that this motor is known for.
Maintenance is a different story though! Buying any old, super high mileage truck has its downsides. Daniel spent many hours labouring away in the garage shortly after purchase to bring a few service items up to scratch. Think diesel pump seals, gaskets, oil leaks and oversized radiators and you're on the right path.
The 40mm unknown brand shock & spring lift came installed on the truck by the previous owner.
Overall it worked pretty well, increased the ground clearance and let us run bigger tyres.
Fully laden with water, diesel and tools on longer trips it sat a little nose high and we hit the bump stops more than once. New rear springs and shocks were high on the wish list.
The Prado came with proper mud tyres which drove us both mad on longer trips with the noise. Given that we do big kms, we needed a tyre that offered a better compromise.
We ran Goodyear Wrangler ATs on our old Surf and found them awesome, so Daniel's first choice was to go back to a Wrangler tyre, which has been updated to the new Duratrac model.
We put around 15,000kms on them and they're amazing - they offer a perfect balance between onroad and offroad performance without being noisy. We switched them over to the new Hilux and haven't looked back.
Thankfully the Japanese import Prado comes with roof rails which meant getting a roof rack was as simple as popping into our local Repco store and grabbing the correct mounting kit.
We used a 320L roof box which holds all the random stuff you don't want to keep in the back of the car while you're travelling. We also had a makeshift "roof cage" - which was actually just a $40 wardrobe shelf from Bunnings - where we mounted the spade and anything else dirty that we didn't want in with the food.
Living out of it
Once the seats are folded into "bed mode", we added an extra layer of foam to increase comfort and some duvets - it's almost as comfy as being at home.
Chloe bought some thermal backed curtains and, using a bit of Kiwi ingenuity, rigged them up with a picture frame kit - perfect way to keep the light out and give us privacy.
We treated ourselves to a 'truck backpack' from the guys at NZ Offroader where we stored our rubbish on longer trips.
We added two additional gauges to keep an eye on what was happening - an EGT gauge and a water temperature gauge, both from Auberins.
A basic Oricom UHF radio helped make communication easier when we were out and about with other overlanders.
And of course, the vital USB head unit for music, and countless USB chargers spread throughout the front to keep everything powered up.