Photos: Craig Seckerson and Andrew Carpenter
I was born in Papa New Guinea and moved to Australia when I was five weeks old, but I’ve mainly lived in the Adelaide area ever since. I’m a pilot working for Rex, flying short-haul around Australia. I’ve always been into camping and off-roading, camped when I was young and always liked off-road vehicles and UTVs. My wife camped a lot when she was growing up, mainly off-grid, so when we got together, we continued our adventures and now take our two young girls.
I have a Toyota Landcruiser 100 Series HDJ 100 Turbo Diesel, which I have done a lot of upgrades to. But I like the fact that it is a competent off-roader, but it doesn’t look out of place running down to the local Woolies (Supermarket).
This isn’t my first venture into off-road vehicles. I previously owned a petrol/LPG HDJ solid axel 100 series Landcruiser, which was pretty good, and before that, I had a Petrol/LPG Landcruiser 80 Series. As you can see I like my Landcruisers. For my current car, I went for the diesel option as I found niggly issues with the LPG conversion. I am happy that this 100 Series is rock solid and hasn’t missed a beat.
I enjoy tinkering with my car, however, upgrading your car is expensive. So, a few years back while I was working away from home, I was getting some extra funds that I put towards purchasing quite a few parts. I got them shipped home ready for my return. Once back home I had fun installing them.
It’s taken me seven years of developing my current Landcruiser, although most of the major upgrades were completed in the first two years. I remember the first upgrade on it. The first upgrade on my current car was the stereo, I like a crisp sound.
Time has been the biggest challenge while upgrading. The rear shocks were a pain as access was incredibly tight which made replacing extremely tricky, but we got there in the end. The exhaust replacement was also a bit of a chore., I had to drop the transmission by about 2” to get the old one out and squeeze the new one in. I also find electrics very time-consuming, this is mainly due to how I want them to look once the job is complete. I ensure the new wire is tracked back through to the original grommet and then taped to look like an OEM install. I know it’s a little bit trivial, but it is how I like my car to look when the installation is complete and makes me happy to see it done right.
I have fabricated a couple of parts on my Landcruiser – the winch control box mounting is a custom part, and this is mounted behind the grille. I have also made a mount for aftermarket relays, for upgrades such as the spotlights, CB radio and other auxiliary electrical items.
I don’t have a particular part that’s my favorite. I just like how the car looks, it is a competent off-road vehicle but looks quite at home in the local supermarket carpark. I’m not done yet with customizing it. I want to upgrade the turbo, it should take it from 130 kilowatts to 200 kilowatts and from 450 to 600 newton-meters, this will also mean an ECU upgrade. Not sure when I will get around to doing it, but I have started my research.
If I had to start from scratch again, I’d probably go with a Toyota Landcruiser 200 or a 300 Series. The 300 is a great car, but I would be worried about damaging it going off-roading.
As you can see from my previous answer, I like the Toyota brand, especially the Landcruiser model (apart from how much they initially cost), having owned a couple before my current vehicle. From my research and speaking to friends, the 100 Series diesel was a reputable engine that was rumored to do more than 500,000km (311,000 miles), which is ideal for Australian distances. I found a car for sale that ticked all the boxes, but it was in Queensland. So I flew over 5000km (3110 miles), as I was living in Perth then, to see and purchase this vehicle, then drove it 2000km (1,243 miles) to get the car back to Adelaide. Thankfully, by the time I got home, I knew it was the perfect car for me.
I mainly talk to friends for upgrade inspiration or look at other vehicles while out and about. One particular friend who is highly passionate about all types of cars, has given me lots of advice. In addition another friend who is a diesel mechanic sees things from a different perspective. Both are very open to discussing the upgrades and will give me an open and honest answer if it will be worth the time, money, and effort invested in the enhancement.
But I also do lots and lots of research (to be honest probably too much). Mainly reading online reports and then making an informed decision. As an example, I investigated the Radflo shocks in great detail a while back, there was limited information on use in Australia as they were new in country. However, the worldwide reputation and credibility showed they were highly recommended, so after discussing with my friends I took the plunge and happy to say they are great.
The Camper Life
I also have a Lifestyle Campers Reconn R2 Hypercamper, an off-road pop top camper. It can pretty much go anywhere, and with it being a pop top, the center of gravity is lower so helps when driving off-road. It sleeps four, has an external kitchen and external shower, two fridges, hot water and 270 liters of water storage. It also has 200 amp-hour lithium batteries and solar on the roof. In addition to this, we also have a small Honda generator from which we can run the air conditioning.
Our first trailer was a Kimberly and we loved it. The smell from the canvas when camping brought back memories and made me feel instantly like I was on holiday (and young again). It was a good trailer, which has been reinforced as we did the 12,500 km (7,770 miles) Cape York trip in it. We felt we needed an upgrade at some point mainly due to the time it took us to set up when we reached our destination, it was approximately 45 minutes to an hour every time we stopped and camped.
While this doesn’t seem much, it adds up on an extended road trip and I am sure you can understand it can be very tedious after a long drive. Funny enough, we were not in a rush or seriously looking at replacing the Kimberly camper, nor really in the market for one at the time, but this Reconn one came up. After researching it and speaking to a few friends, we felt it was perfect for what we wanted and pretty much would go anywhere we wanted to. It is probably getting a little small for us now as the kids are getting a little older and bigger, so you never know we might be on the lookout for an upgrade soon.
The primary item I installed was the Airconditioning unit, I took the roof apart, installed a new Aluminium H-Frame to take the air conditioning unit, and then putting the roof back together. It does get pretty hot in Australia so it’s nice to have it there if needed. But the main reason for installing it was when I took the family to Renmark, my wife was 36 weeks pregnant and it was a little on the warm side at 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit). I have also upgraded the batteries to Lithium, increased the solar panels, uprated the fridge cabling, and added a shower tent.
The camper works pretty well, the only thing I might add would be an awning on the rear for additional sleeping space. However, this addition will take longer to set up so gives me the same issue as my original camper trailer. The Reconn in its current format is so quick and easy to set up I wouldn’t really want to change it. I have thought about installing a Stone Stomper, but haven’t gone around to it yet, that will probably be the following item to add.
I just love the fact that you can pretty much go anywhere we want to go and camp, one of my favorite experiences would be camping on top of the hill at Horseshoe Range within the Flinders Ranges, this was amazing, views to die for, no-one around for miles, just nature for company.
The longest I’ve ever camped off the grid was three weeks straight in the Victoria High Country around Craig’s Hut, a structure used in the movie “The Man from Snowy River.” We thoroughly enjoyed being off-grid and away from everything. Power was from our solar and the generator, and water was sourced from the stream and filtered, I think it tasted better than the water back home. Our 7-week trip to Cape York would have had more than three weeks of off-grid camping, but these would have been interspersed with the odd night in a campsite.
I have other favorite locations to visit, too. Number 1 would be Robe, this is a block of land that our family owns, I feel so relaxed when I am down there (probably class this as my happy place). Number 2 would be Point Turton in the Yorke Peninsula beause I have very fond memories of this place as I used to camp here as a child. It is a beautiful part of South Australia. Lastly would be the Flinders Ranges, the scenery is magnificent, the hiking is unbelievable, and the mountain biking isn’t bad either. It is just an amazing place to explore creeks, and gorges or just look at the fantastic mountains from a vantage point, miles from anyone.
But my favorite place in Australia is Victorian High Country National Park, and probably camping in Eaglevale. We set up camp and space for a bit of Footie (Aussie Rules). It rained overnight, so I took full advantage and white water rafted in the creek on blow-up mattresses. It was a fantastic experience, added to the fact there wasn’t a soul within 100km of us. I still have so much to see of Australia, however, putting a little thought into it, I would say possibly Northern Canada, maybe parts of Africa, Central America and the Middle East would be pretty interesting as well.
Toyota Landcruiser 100 series HDJ 100.
1HD FTE 4.2 straight six direct inject turbo diesel.engine
A750 5-speed transmission with modified valve body
Fuel Storage: 135 liters.
EFS Springs plus 200k on rear and airbags, front EFS torsion bars with aftermarket Blackhawk upper control arms
Sway bar end links were replaced with extended sway bars
Aftermarket fit Airbags by Airbag Man. I installed them and put 20psi when the camper is on, this way it doesn’t feel like there is anything on the back.
Stock Toyota wheels
Toyo Open Country RTs 285×70 R17
ARB Deluxe steel front bar, running 4mm bash plates covering from the bull bar to the end of the transmission.
Headlights upgraded to Stedi, I also have upgraded the driving lights.
Dual batteries and upgraded relays
Screens for the children on long journeys
Extra gauges for engine monitoring, upgrading the stereo system, and installing tweeter pods in the doors.
Doors Lined with sound-deadening material to improve road noise
GME XRS UHF plus a 6.8db gain aerial.
Rhino Pioneer Rack with backbone mounts
12,000lb winch, Maxtrax recovery boards, winching strap, snatch strap and tree protector. Couple of snatching blocks and a Monkey fist soft shackle which I like to use.
Lifestyle Reconn R2 Camper Trailer
Dimensions: 5800 x 1980 (includes awning) x 2150mm (LxWxH)
150mm galvanized steel chassis frame
Drawbar with anti-chip coating
2 X HD Recovery Points and a DO35 Off Road Hitch with Tow Pin – 3.5T Rating.
ARK extreme XO swing-up jockey wheel – height adjustable.
Black – 4 drop-down stabilizer legs – with handle.
Weight: 1520kg unloaded, max weight 2.6 tons.
12″ electric brakes – 2.8 Ton capacity.
Cruisemaster ATX coil spring trailing arm suspension with extra heavy-duty remote canister shock absorbers.
16” Mud Terrain Tyres and Alloy Wheels