Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

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If you are like me, you don’t have $50-$80k to spend on a new vehicle to take into the backcountry. I don’t have that kind of money for a vehicle—period. For many of us, we have a certain aging truck or SUV (preferably Toyota) that we use to explore the wilds for a day, weekend, or an extended period of time. We buy this or that modification to improve the vehicle and the overlanding experience. However, the key is to not go broke doing so. There are SO many things you can purchase for your vehicle in today’s market that if you’re not careful, you’ll spend excess money and possibly have unnecessary modifications. So, what to buy? What to avoid?

I love to explore the deserts of Utah and Arizona. During the summer months, I travel to mountainous states like Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho; usually with my wife and daughter. Our trips consist of many weekend jaunts and a few multi-week trips each year. We roughly spend 50-60 nights camping and exploring. The roads we take are generally dirt/gravel with limited slow, rock crawling type of driving. My vehicle of choice is a 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser. I purchased it with 130k miles, and it recently just passed 180k miles. So, what does my vehicle need? What would help us enjoy overlanding even more and want to continue to do it?

I placed a call to my friend and owner of Cruiser Outfitters, Kurt Williams. Kurt is very knowledgeable on overlanding and was willing to share his thoughts and advice on what my truck might need and how to get it installed. I asked Kurt, What are two things every overlander should buy? Without much of a pause, Kurt replied, First, suspension upgrade...the vehicle will be carrying more weight. Second, a refrigerator... to keep food fresh and ready. He has traveled on five continents through different environments and has first-hand knowledge of what works on vehicles and what doesn’t. His exploits have been seen as part of the Expeditions 7 (, and he is the reality star in the Youtube series, Expedition Overland ( Kurt states: The biggest mistake I have seen is owners not taking trips or adventures because their vehicle doesn’t have all of the latest modifications. The other mistake is that people modify their vehicles with substandard parts. The whole goal of an overland vehicle is to take people to remote places and adventures and to bring them back! Make the vehicle the most reliable it can be."

Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

What makes the overlanding community so unique and fun is that everyone’s ride has a rhyme or a reason. Why did I choose Toyota? What made me install rock sliders? What made me choose a ground tent versus a RTT? All of us have our reasons; and below I share mine. Agree? Disagree? No worries. My hope is to make you think and ponder future decisions before dropping some coin. Here is my rationale on purchases and some examples of those.

Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

Functional:Add something to the vehicle that will help it function better. Three prime examples of this are the ARB Outback Drawers, the multifunctional electrical outlet, and the Slee rock sliders. My drawers serve to organize food, gear, and tools. I also added two USB ports and a 12v socket. Sure, this modification isn’t flashy or glamorous; but with today’s technology, I am always recharging something. I needed some rock sliders but wanted something that I could stand on as well to access my roof rack. Slee Offroad from Golden, CO, is a Land Cruiser outfitter; and the step rock sliders they make are perfect. The sliders do the job, in terms of protecting the body with solid functionality as a step to access my items on my roof rack.

Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul
Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

Atheistic: Yep, I said it. It’s my vehicle. Does it look good and cool to me? I am the one driving it. It would be crazy for me not to be happy with my ride. I remembered that when I was shopping for a rear bumper and shopped the usual suspects such as Slee, ARB, etc. However, I really didn’t like the looks of them. Just a personal thing. I did like the looks of the rear bumper by Bump It Off Road. I called Mike Smith, the owner, to discuss some custom options I wanted. Within a month, it was shipped to Cruiser Outfitters. Kurt and I installed it, and I couldn’t be happier. It just looked better in my opinion. Personalize your vehicle, whatever your definition, and you will be happy with the end product.

Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

Reliable:  Things will get damaged and break, which might jeopardize an entire trip. When I get stuck in a tough spot and all I need is a simple winch extraction, it would be a bummer if my winch didn’t work. The money I would have saved buying the Chinese winch becomes meaningless. If something does break from one of the big companies, they are usually more than willing to warranty an item or make the situation right. Kurt mentioned, One advantage to the big companies is that they do a great deal of product testing before hitting the market. Granted, we all want to save some money, but do yourself a favor and buy products from reliable companies.

One product that comes to mind is an ARB air front locker. There are many lockers out there, but I needed one that I could count on without worry. It’s not something I use every day or even every trip. But, when I need’s ready to go.

Practical: This refers to my vehicle’s needs for what I’m asking it to do. For example, I followed Kurt’s advice and had Cruiser Outfitters install an ARB Old Man Emu suspension to my Land Cruiser. ARB makes different spring weight rates, and I went with the heavy springs. I always think about what modifications I foresee in the future. The ARB suspension improved my vehicle’s ride greatly and handled the weight without issue. My vehicle needs certain things depending on what I’m asking it to do.

The other modification that falls into this category is the 12-volt refrigerator. Simple, practical modifications are just that—simple. But, they make such a difference overlanding. I had heard all the hype on these for a year or two before I took the plunge. Wow, how did I travel without one before? I purchased an ARB 50 Quart fridge from Cruiser Outfitters, and they installed it within an hour. The fridge is a game changer for me. I’m not concerned about buying ice at the next stop; and more importantly, I can carry tasty, healthy, fresh food. I think it should be your first or second purchase!

Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

I recently got back from four weeks of traveling. Throughout my time, I got stopped many times by people asking questions about my vehicle and the modifications. There might be no right or wrong answers. However, here are a few cautions from Kurt. Don’t let waiting to modify your vehicle stop you from going on your next adventure. Also, always consider the weight you are adding to your vehicle because handling and braking will be affected.

Land Cruiser Overland Overhaul

My decisions and purchases span a four-year period. This gave me time to process decisions on expenses, listen to and read about other people’s experiences, and save the necessary money. Give the guys at Cruiser Outfitters a call. They would be happy to answer your questions and overhaul your ride for your next overland adventure. See you out there...

Contacts and Information

Cruiser Outfitters

A Salt Lake City, Utah company since 1992. One of the largest ARB dealers in the US. Direct importer of parts from Japan and Australia. Specializing in the Toyota Land Cruiser platform. Over 3,000 parts in stock and shipped daily.

Bump It Off Road
Located in Colorado. Mike specializes in custom steel fabrication. Bumpers, sliders, etc. Got an idea, give him a shout!

Slee Offroad
888 4X4-Slee (US Only)
888 494-7533 303 278-8287
Located in Golden, Colorado. Slee Offroad specializes in all things Land Cruiser. They make some of their own custom parts for the 80, 100, and 200 series.

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