Toyota 79 Series Dual Cab Build (Part I) – The Purchase Decision and the Canopy
The decision to buy a new 4WD and then heavily invest in it to get it to how I wanted was not a light one, nor was it an inexpensive exercise, as many others who have trodden this path would know. The GU Patrol I had been running (with a 6.5 Intercooled Chev Turbo Diesel engine) had been a great vehicle. However, being a wagon, it wasn’t ideal for camping, and packing everything into it quickly became a chore, even with a set of drawers and a cargo barrier.
After a fair bit of work by the boys at Fulcrum, the suspension setup was great and its ability in the bush was superb. It fairly floated along the Cape’s Peninsular Development Road as the big Koni shocks worked their magic with King Springs. Wheel articulation (flex) is also a Patrol hallmark and the torque from that big donk would just keep on giving when in the slow stuff or towing the boat. It was no speed demon, but it was old school and I loved that it was simple enough for me to do all my own servicing and not require a computer degree.
My wife hated it, as it was loud and I was always tinkering, but I learned a lot from that vehicle build. Still, there is no perfect vehicle and I decided that my next vehicle needed to be a good base platform and easily modified to handle the vast majority of what I do: remote one or two vehicle touring with the odd fishing trip in between. This setup needed to be self-sufficient for decent periods of time, but also be a vehicle for which I could find parts anywhere around the country without the dramas and major delays of having to get something shipped in.
With kids at home, I had to have four seats, and wanting a canopy for lockable storage meant it needed to be a dual cab. Wanting a full-size vehicle with a decent size payload and engine narrowed my choices down to one vehicle.
Yes, I did very briefly consider the Defender 130, but it was brief. There’s an almost non-existent choice when it comes to full-size dual cabs and if Nissan had its finger on the pulse, they would have the market stitched up. Imagine a dual cab Patrol with coils all around, solid axles and that Cummins 5.0 litre Turbo Diesel V8 under the bonnet! Those things would sell themselves and Nissan wouldn’t have to lift a finger.
There’s a bloody good reason why companies chopping and modifying 4WD wagons into dual cabs these days are doing so well. Australian consumers aren’t getting what they want and are doing it themselves, with some very impressive results.
Toyota could have done something similar as well, but why would they? There was no competition for what they are already putting out. In fact, when I think about it, this rather large gap in the market probably inadvertently contributed in part to the development of some of the most effective aluminium and steel canopy systems in Australia. So, with some reluctance, I sold the big Patrol and consigned myself back to the Dark Ages with a Toyota 79 Series dual cab.
I figured that if the Hema Maps guys could make these things work for them as they travelled all over Australia, maybe I could too. No cruise control, no electric mirrors, no decent audio system and definitely not quiet. When I said I was going back to the Dark Ages, I meant it. The 79 also wasn’t efficient on the highway and didn’t have a modern automatic gearbox, decent wheel articulation, a good turning circle or good internal storage. It was pretty hopeless actually. Big solid drivetrain? Nope, Nissan wins that one too. And only one cup holder! Bloody hell, lucky I bought the GXL version!
But that is all part of the compromise, I guess, because what these trucks do have is a big heart and a proven pedigree and that Diesel V8 is the best thing on the Australian market at the moment in my books. Blokes with customised 4.2TD Patrols, 80 Series Cruisers or 1HDFTE 4.2-litre Cruisers might also be right up there or even considered better, but there ain’t that much else getting around and those three have all started showing their grey whiskers.
Of course, the 200 Series is included when I say ‘that V8”, but for me, the 200 is just outside the boundaries of what I need and I didn’t really want to chop one up to make a dual cab, despite the comfort factor almost getting me over the line. The idea in my mind was to learn what I could from others who had already been there and done that, then design and work with a fabricator to make what I wanted.
When I finally bought the truck, I had been working on designs with Shane from Decked Out Fabrications in Gordonvale, just south of Cairns, for a couple of months. The choice of who to build your truck canopy is an essay in itself, but I’ll limit it to just say that his work was exceptional and nothing was ever too hard. Everything was custom made and it was a sound decision that I haven’t regretted. I also noticed as the build progressed that Shane was a bit of a perfectionist who wouldn’t let a job leave his shed if he wasn’t 100-percent satisfied with it.
When the truck turned up as a blank cab/chassis from Toyota, it went straight to Shane. While it was sitting in his shed, I got busy with a few essential mods. A three-inch exhaust, secondary diesel pre-filter and water separator kit, Safari Armax four-inch snorkel and new wheels with my 30-percent worn BFG KM2 33-inch tyres that I had left over from the Patrol. The purchase also included a GVM upgrade, which was done prior to registration.
The canopy design was everything. It had to be simple, but functional. It had to provide shelter, refrigeration, water, showers (when needed) and efficient storage for spares and clothes.
The design was also centred on being able to easily store everything yet enable me to pull it all out and into camp whenever I wanted. I didn’t want to have drawers anymore because they meant I had to leave everything in the truck and constantly return over and over to take something out, put it back, take something else out and, well, you get the idea. If the truck was off doing something else, there was no camp kitchen or gear or even a food box!
With the new design, I also wanted to set up the camp table and be able to plonk my boxes of food and kitchen stuff either under it or near it for ease of access. But that wasn’t all. Click on the link below to find out what happened next with my Toyota 79 Series dual cab build.