When we moved to Townsville, my husband bought a second-hand Prado. We needed it to tow the boat (as my little RAV was having a hard time), and we wanted something we could do more adventurous trips in.
The Prado was already set up with a long-range fuel tank, so we did not need to worry about that, but it did need some other extras. My husband went about getting all the mods done to it to make it capable of going off road. That included a 2-inch lift with old man emu suspension, snorkel, bull bar, winch, roof rack, side awning, drop slide fridge, road shower, a set of Drifta drawers for the back and the list went on and on. The car morphed from a comfortable dirt road only 4wd into something that could cope with a bit of rough track and we could happily take camping on our adventures.
Our first real trip was to Fraser Island. It coped well, and we did not really have any problems with it. The set up was fantastic and the convenience of having everything out of the back of the car was great. A whole new experience for us Pozzie adventurers! The Drifta drawers were amazing, I could keep all my food and cooking stuff in them and they gave easy access without having to dig through plastic storage boxes. The fridge was also amazing and was just at the right height for me with the drop slide.
Yes we do eat a lot!
The Prado performed well on the sand, once we had mastered the tyre pressures and because it was relatively light had no problems getting places. We did have a couple of hiccups that I will elaborate on in a future blog, so you will have to wait.
After taking the parents to Fraser (our second time) we decided we were ready for a bigger trip, so we started planning our trip to the Cape. We ensured that the Prado had its full check over and added a cargo barrier (just in case we had a mishap), breathers and a bra to cope with water crossings and the all-important UHF radio and spare before we set off. We also made sure we took a Drabble with us in case of mechanical emergencies, (see Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch). The trip up was good. The Prado did the hard yards, rescuing the BT-50 numerous times on the Tele Track and we thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck, getting out and generally running amok. The Prado did everything we asked of it, but we wanted more.
Campfire discussions were had with the other two couples we made the trip with. We began discussing and weighing up the pros and cons of a new 4wd vehicle, 79 series Landcruiser or 200 series Cruiser or another type altogether. Many a robust discussion was held around the campfire fueled by XXXX Gold tinnies and our own biases. Do we get a 200 series (for comfort) and chop it, or do we get a 79 series for practicality? Do the 200 series have too many electrical gadgets to go wrong? Are the 79 series cruisers too utility like (and uncomfortable)? These were answers we needed so we decided we would do our research once back home.
Well anyway it seems like the Prado got a whiff of us wanting to trade her in. She must have overheard our campfire talk and got a bit upset, so she thought “I will show them!” On the way to Chilli Beach her alternator packed in (I think she did it on purpose!). Well that put us in a bit of a situation. After many discussions of what to do – put the generator on the roof (yes that was a real suggestion!), use solar panels, strip the car down etc. my husband strapped the solar panels to the roof, duck taped the wires down the side of the car and onto the battery and off we set for Cooktown. Luckily it was near the end of our holiday, so drove from Chilli Beach to Cooktown without aircon, windows open, red dust covered and nonstop, with me singing because we had no music!
Definately a technical modification
Research, Research and More Research
So back home (with the alternator fixed) it was time for some of the famous Holmes research. My husband and I did our homework, spoke to heaps of people, took test drives and went to see our local (friendly) engineer (Mick at AEV) about the pros and cons of modifications to both the 200 series and the 79. It was decided that the 79 series Cruisers were the better option for our requirements (and minimal mechanical knowledge), spares would also be easy to come by as they are the most used vehicle in outback Australia. We also agreed that the 200 series Cruisers were too computer reliant which would not be a good thing if we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a failure.
So, after taking the 79 series for a test drive, we agreed this was the way to go, but only if we could change the manual gearbox out for an auto (getting on in life and like the easier option). Our local dealer was a little vague about when they were getting a graphite one in stock and could not tell us until we had paid for it, so we ended up getting one from John Coles at Atherton. Service was amazing, and we got a discount! We made the trip up to Atherton and picked up our stubby little dual cab.
What a cutie! (and the car, heehee!)
The Cruiser (aka my husband’s truck)
Now the real fun began. We wanted the chassis extended so we went back to see Mick at AEV in Townsville and had long chats and discussions with him over the best set up for the new vehicle. He did try to convince us to go to a six-wheel option (with a fully working 3rd axle) but we decided that was probably a bit overkill for us. He informed us we could get the chassis extended by 300mm and change out the manual gearbox for an auto. So, we dropped the vehicle into him and he started work on it. While in the shop we got him to put a 3-inch lift on, JMACX coil conversion (which rectified the rear tracking alignment), a brake booster, GVM upgrade and all our accessories including; snorkel (standard Toyota one is rubbish apparently), bull bar, winch, batteries, long range fuel tank, steel rims and new tyres and the list went on and on! (again!).
Although extremely happy with the service it is slightly disconcerting to see your brand new hardly been used vehicle chopped in two before they reattach with the extension!
Just to give a big plug here, the service and quality of work we have received from Michael and the team at Australian Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has been outstanding. Nothing has been too much bother for them and they are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and good at dealing with clueless Pozzies.
Then it was time to work out the canopy. The guys at Allytech built this for us and arranged to have the Redarc Battery Management and inverter installed. Of course, it had to have a rack for the tinnie (with and ATV winch because I am getting on a bit and like the easy life!), lithium battery, a potable water tank and the tray for when we did not want the canopy on.
Then we ordered the drawers from Drifta and when they arrived my husband and I had to install them. That was fun! Just getting the canopy off the back was an art in itself, on our sloping block we had to find genius ways of stopping it from falling over! Drawers installed, along with a 90ltr fridge slide and generator slide, we soon realised that the pull-out table was a bit too high for me to do anything on! So, I had to source some steps otherwise I would not be able to see what I was cooking.
After buying solar panels, hot water system, gas canister rack, and umpteen bits and pieces we finally had a car (took about 6 months form purchase). Must say though the husband is very happy and informs me that it will only need a few extra bits before our big Kimberley trip next year!
You know what they say; “Happy husband (and truck), happy life!”