Camping in the 70s

Meet four 70-series Land Cruiser owners who have modified their vehicles for self-sustaining comfort in remote locations

GAVIN BROMLEY

Perhaps it’s because Gavin has jet engines, landing gear and ailerons to play with in his “daily driver” that he’s fitted such a comprehensive list of accessories to his LC79 V8 turbodiesel.

“I started with an Old Man Emu suspension kit, which raised the vehicle by 50mm,” he says. “Then I went to Alu-Cab in Cape Town to remove the load bin and fit an Ossewa (discontinued) camping unit. It sleeps four people on a large double bed on the top level and a smaller double bed on the lower level. It has an 80-litre water tank and a gas/electric water heater, a gas stove and a well-equipped kitchen.”

To keep the food supplies fresh and the beer cold, Gavin uses a 90-litre fridge-freezer from National Luna. A Front Runner roof rack (with that all-important bottle opener) sits on top of the Cruiser’s cabin. The rack has room for three jerrycans, some filled with water and some with fuel, the combination dependent on the destination.

Under the nose sits a 12  000lbs Smittybilt winch with a Marlow Dyneema rope. “It’s safer than a steel cable, and very light,” the pilot says. He replaced all the incandescent bulbs with LEDs, inside and out, and fitted spotlights. Escape Gear seat covers protect the upholstery, while dashboard and transmission covers provide useful storage pockets.

Gavin tries to put all of this to use at least once a month, on one- or two-night trips. “Last year, a three-week trip took us through the Kgalagadi and Botswana, and later this year, we’ll be going on a tour of Namibia and the central Kalahari,” he says. “When I go on a tour, I keep to gravel roads as far as possible.”

He probably wouldn’t even notice if all tar roads in South Africa turned to gravel overnight…

Name Gavin Bromley

Profession Pilot

Vehicle 2015 LC79 4.5 Diesel V8 DC

I chose a Land Cruiser because… of its dependability.

 

JASPER EALES

Much like Jasper and his partner’s products – the fashionable bags and luggage made from upcycled and recycled waste materials – his Toyota overlander also had a previous life: the 2012 LC78 “Troopie” used to be an ambulance. These days, retired and resprayed, it takes its owner on surf-inspired adventures, so it’s more attuned to its occupants’ mental wellbeing. When someone does have a lie-down inside, it’s mostly for sleep – Jasper definitely prefers sleeping in the Cruiser to counting sheep in a tent.

“I like the fact that Troopies are a bit of a rarity,” he says. The vehicle is fitted with some off-the-shelf accessories, but the surfboard hammock is Jasper’s handiwork. Made from recycled sail canvas, it allows him to transport the boards inside the Cruiser, almost flush with the ceiling.

The storage space above the sun visors – another DIY solution – houses plug points for charging laptops, cameras and other devices from a 2  000W inverter and dual-battery system.

An ARB air compressor mounted inside the engine bay is always at the ready to inflate tyres that had been deflated for sand roads.

A 55-litre tank supplies water, while the roof rack hides a fold-up table and stores Front Runner camping chairs – “The best I’ve come across,” Jasper says.

When he cuts loose from the daily grind, Jasper often goes in search of the West Coast’s most remote surfing spots, camping in secluded places where stars seem to be his closest neighbours. “There’s nobody else around – just me, my wife and our dog,” he says.

The mouth of the Groen River in the Namaqua National Park (about 550km north of Cape Town) fits the bill. “The distance from ocean to plate is less than 100m – and the waves are intense.”

Waveless destinations also draw the Eales family, with the Cederberg area being a firm favourite.

Jasper can’t recall the last time he’s taken a proper holiday, but he does have a three-week tour planned. “We’ll drive up the West Coast to the Fish River Canyon via the Richtersveld,” he says. “Then we’ll spend some time in the Kgalagadi, before returning to the Cape via the Tankwa Karoo.”

Name Jasper Eales

Profession Co-founder of Sealand Gear

Vehicle 2012 LC78 4.2 “Troopie”

I chose a Land Cruiser because… it’s the best – and only – option if you want to be sure you’ll reach your final destination.

 
PIETER BOOYENS

While it’s easy to throw money at a problem (if you happen to have money to throw), a bit of sober head-scratching can also lead to very satisfactory solutions. It certainly did for Pieter.

To customise his 2014 petrol LC79, he removed the load bin and fitted a Bush Lapa Bosluis in its place, complete with a solar battery system and gas boiler. Then he added front and rear Onca bumpers (with recovery points), a 9  000lbs winch, a sump guard and a snorkel. A roof rack with an aluminium box at the front (for storage of occasionally used items) crowns the Cruiser.

With all the accessories, the rear suspension dropped by about 8mm. “I sought advice from the accessories shops, and was offered solutions for between R40  000 and R60  000,” Pieter says. “Then I found a business called Pretoria Springs. They re-tensioned the rear springs and fitted an additional leaf to each (rear) spring. The job took 45 minutes – and cost me R250!”

Like the other LC owners featured here, Pieter has kept the engine stock-standard, only fitting a stainless-steel exhaust. “Anyone who says he can improve a Cruiser’s petrol consumption with ‘chips’ or software upgrades is probably lying,” he says.

Pieter’s LC has a mere 44  000km on the clock, and he’s almost apologetic about it. “I only use it for holidays and camping,” he says, adding that many of those 44  000km were piled on in Namibia, along with unforgettable memories. September next year will see Pieter and his wife depart on a journey to Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique.

Name Pieter Booyens

Profession Internal accountant

Vehicle 2014 LC79 4.0 Petrol SC

I chose a Land Cruiser because… it’s the most suitable vehicle for what I want to do.

 
JOHAN KLOPPER

Johan and his 1991 LC79 are about to join an exclusive club: soon the odometer will click over to 500  000km – without any of the engine components ever having been replaced. “It hasn’t given me a day’s trouble. I only had a suspension arm repaired,” he says.

Johan worked for Nature Conservation until the mid-1990s; thereafter he started leading off-road tours in the Soutpansberg area of Limpopo. He’s come to depend on his Cruiser as a foundation of his business. “A Land Cruiser can be repaired with the proverbial tang en bloudraad (pliers and galvanised wire), anywhere in Africa,” says Johan, adding that he prefers to steer clear of turbos and complicated “technology”.

Compared to the average overlander, this 79 is modestly accessorised: it has an ostrich wing awning and a Front Runner roof rack. Steel bars dressed in canvas form a sturdy canopy over the load bin.

“I’ve been to the Soutpansberg so many times, it’s difficult to single out a particular trip as the best of all,” Johan says. “I’m at my happiest when I can switch to low range and patiently drive along forest paths, spotting birds and animals. I live for these moments. My vehicle takes me to the places I’d most like to be.”

Johan often leads a nine-day tour in the Soutpansberg area, known as the “Tour of Legends”. “I learnt to speak basic Venda, so I could negotiate with the local chiefs to gain access to places that very few people get to see,” he says.

Name Johan Klopper

Profession Tour operator, Kungwini Trails

Vehicle 1991 LC79 4.2 Diesel SC

I chose a Land Cruiser because… it’s reliable and strong as hell.

 

LAND CRUISER TIMELINE

Since the launch of the first-generation Toyota Jeep BJ in 1951, more than 10 million Land Cruisers have been sold in 170 countries.