We bought Rodders as a factory standard Landcruiser and Brett has since been busy getting him in top physical and mental shape for the road ahead. We have tried to focus on getting the basics right to ensure we’ll have a reasonably trouble-free trip however it was hard to decide on what we do and do not need to spend money on. It’s a bit of a daunting thought considering that your vehicle basically becomes your lifeline on a trip like this so it’s easy to get carried away trying to ensure everything is in good shape.
Rodders has had some work done up in Matlock by Matt Savage, over at Overland Cruisers with Julian Voelcker and a last minute overhaul by Paul Marsh at Footloose 4×4. We haven’t done anything out of the ordinary, just the usual overland prep stuff, services, recon / replacing key parts etc. Both Matt and Julian let Brett come up and help them out with the work, so he learnt a great deal about the truck by pulling it apart!. Cheers guys!
Below is a list of the main bits and pieces we’ve bought, replaced or upgraded for the trip:
Safari snorkel – this raises the air intake to keep dust and water out of the engine and is fairly easy to fit yourself provided you have the right size hole saw. We have also raised the diff breathers which is another simple job and worth doing as ours were blocked anyway.
We replaced our suspension and shock absorbers with an OME suspension system. This increases our load capacity which was an essential for us but it caused an absolute nightmare with vehicle insurance as we discovered that insuring a vehicle with modified suspension wasn’t a favorable idea in the eyes of most insurance companies.
Rodders is ftted out with 5 new BF Goodrich all terrain tyres, and the old aluminium rims have been replaced with steel ones, which are a bit sturdier (but much heavier). The spare wheel is located under the rear of the vehicle in its original position which reduces our ground clearance slightly but hasn’t caused us any problems so far. We decided to only take one spare due to weight, and cost. We didn’t want to put anything else on the roof, which meant a second spare tyre would have to go on a swing-away wheel carrier on the back, and the robust designs of these are expensive.
We have had the gearbox reconditioned and the clutch changed as both of these are going to take a bit of a hammering and the clutch and 1st and 2nd gear were in particular need of attention (or so we thought). Changing the clutch was definitely worth the expense but we haven’t noticed a huge improvement in the ability to change between 1st and 2nd after the gearbox recon.
The front and rear drive trains have been stripped and rebuilt with new seals and bearings where required. This is a fairly simple job that is well documented on most 4×4 Landcruiser forums, the main thing to ensure is that genuine Toyota parts are used for any seals that get replaced.
We tried to do as much of the work ourselves but having Rodders parked on the street outside our London flat proved a bit limiting. Jobs like raising the suspension and changing the clutch were all a bit much to manage without the use of a decent garage. I can only imagine the looks we would have got from our neighbours if I’d stripped the CV’s and spread grease and diff oil everywhere!
Finding a suitable solution to provide adequate vehicle security was one of the main areas we struggled with as we’re hoping to leave Rodders parked up for short periods while we head off and explore the countryside / mountains on foot.
We reviewed a number of options for changing out the locks, isolating the boot from the front of the vehicle, installing steel mesh screens over the windows along with a number of other ideas. In the end we’ve opted for a fairly simple vehicle security configuration which is proving to be functional and practical on the road and will hopefully provide us with enough protection to prevent any petty theft. At the end of the day, we figure that if people have the time or inclination, they’ll take whatever they want so we’re planning to focus on spending more time on choosing our parking locations and who is watching the vehicle for us instead.
In saying that, we have divided the boot from the rest of the vehicle using a cargo net to protect us from any flying debris should we be involved in a car accident, and covered this with a NZ flag so that you can’t see into the boot from the back seat. We have also blacked out the rear windows with a black vinyl adhered to the outside of the windows to prevent passer bys from looking in (and they also provide a great contrast for our kiwi prints!)
We have tinted some of the side windows whilst on the road to keep us entertained in the evenings. We’re hoping the tinting will limit visibility to the opportunist thief as well as blocking some light to prevent the truck from heating up too much. It also makes it more difficult to break the windows so provides a bit of extra security. We bought the tinting film and equipment from Vision Window Films. It is quite tricky to do yourself, but very cheap, and we are hoping the power sprayer we use for applying the tint film will come in handy to keep us cool in the deserts of Sudan!
We do have the functionality to immobilise Rodders when we leave him parked up which gives us a bit of peace of mind, and we also use a Metro Stoplock Pro steering wheel lock (Thatcham Category 3) which we bought especially to ensure our camera insurance policy is valid.
Auxiliary Power System
We have installed an auxiliary battery in the boot of Rodders to power our fridge / freezer, inverter, lights and some additional 12V power points. This whole set-up ended up being a lot more expensive than we had planned but is proving to be incredibly useful on the road.
We have installed a Ctek 250S dual charging unit to manage the charging of our auxiliary battery and ensure that the main starter batteries are isolated from the rest of the system. This unit was recommended to us by Phil at Barden and seems to be doing a great job of keeping the battery charged.
Our auxiliary battery is a Rolls 12V, 115 AH deep-cycle gel acid battery. I’ll be surprised if the battery survives the entire trip but we’re hoping it will keep us going for a while. I was a bit unsure about installing a battery in the back of Rodders from a safety point of view but we’ve strapped it down well and figure that it should be OK given that it’s a fully sealed unit.
Wiring all this in proved to be a bit of a learning experience but so far we haven’t had any meltdowns or electrical fires so must have got something right. Finding suppliers for all the connectors, fuse systems and other bits and pieces we needed proved to be the most challenging part of the whole set-up but wiring everything in was one job that we could manage from the confines of our London flat so we saved ourselves a bit of cash on that front.
One very useful component that I’d recommend for anyone following down this route is to include a battery monitor in the system. It’s great to have the peace of mind that you can check the battery charge levels in the morning and leave the truck for the day with the knowledge that the freezer isn’t going to shut down and defrost all our precious supplies.
From the battery we’re running a 250W Invertor (when required for charging camera batteries etc), three LED lights, our fridge / freezer and a strip fluorescent light that we use in the roof tent and downstairs room. So far we have found that the battery lasts for a couple of days when the freezer is set to -18°C and the lights have been on for a couple of hours each night. Not sure how this will hold up through the hotter climates but we’ll soon see.
Storage seems to be an ever-evolving system with different packing configurations trialed depending on what we’re up to. We haven’t quite got it sorted yet but we’re getting there. The main focus for us is to try and ensure we’ve got all our heavy items as low as possible (as well as being properly strapped down) for the rough roads ahead.
Brett has designed a rear drawer system for Rodders which was manufactured by Stuart at DMS Laser Profiles. Our mate Gary provided 15mm plywood for the top and front of the drawers. Big ups to Gary and Stuart for your help, legends! The drawers form a flat platform over the wheel arches, with two long drawers on rollers. The drawers are lockable, so provide a secure area where we can lock some stuff, as well as making the gear inside much more accessible as you don’t have to unpack the entire boot to get something out!
We have now nine Wolf boxes, 5 of which we got from APB Trading at the Landrover Max Show and the remainder second hand off the HUBB. Wolf boxes are great for dividing up gear and they fit together in a tight unit when stacked making them a pretty solid and efficient way of storing gear. Accessing them on a daily basis does become a bit of a chore as the one you want is always at the bottom of the heap!
The 9 wolf boxes contain:
Food 1 – carbohydrates etc
Food 2 – tins, sauces etc
Lunch box – spreads, snacks, drinks
Consumables – mainly stuff for the car
Documents, books and maps
First aid, drugs and toiletries
Spare parts for the car
We bought some railing from Footloose 4×4 which we installed in various spots to provide adjustable lashing points for strapping down all our gear while we’re driving. It’s very handy being able to adjust where the lasing points sit, mainly because we’re changing our packing configuration so much.
We got a couple of second-hand pelicases on eBay as they are supposedly indestructible, fully dust, water and shock proof. We’ve been warned of the dust we’ll encounter along the way so hopefully these keep our valuables safe and dust free on the road ahead. One houses electrical gear and the other is our first aid kit.
We have some netting that we’re planning on slinging up above the rear seats and also have a fairly sizable aluminum lockable box on the roof where we store light items such as tents, bedrolls, snorkeling gear and the side panels for our downstairs room.
We opted to leave the electric winch off our shopping list and instead have set ourselves up to winch Rodders using our Hi-Lift jack should we ever need to. We are hoping to get off the beaten track wherever possible so hopefully this decision doesn’t come back to bite us.
Paul up at Footloose attached some jacking points at the ends of our chassis rails so we can use the Hi-Lift jack to lift Rodders from the front and rear bumper. We’ve also got a fairly chunky tow jaw on the rear bumper so hopefully we’ve got the basics covered.
Not wanting to add any more weight to the roof, we have secured the hi-lift jack across the floor of the back seat. This keeps the weight nice and low, and will hopefully be accessible enough should we ever need to use it.
We’ve both spent a bit of time digging buses and 4×4’s out of bogs and sand traps in past travels and feel that we’re far better equipped than any of those vehicles were so at least we won’t be repeating any of those experiences!
We have an aluminum APB big country roofrack which we bought secondhand off ebay. At the rear we have an EziAwn roof tent which opens over the back of the vehicle. At the front we have four 20L jerry cans secured in two frontrunner jerrycan holders which each hold two cans, and our massive aluminum box for light stuff and tents. A shovel is mounted on the side and everything is locked with padlocks which have the same key. We have also bought some spare feet for the roofrack in case they break as the rack is all Aluminium so hard to get repaired on the road.