Exp 134 79 series Open Sky Touring

Is there a need for major change?

Following on from Part VI, where I discussed all the little things that had needed fixing and gave a rundown on what maintenance has been required over the last four years, the plan now is to look at a couple of potential major projects. These might take a bit of time before I can get to them, but the tinkering bug has had me for a while now and it’s pretty difficult to not think about how to make my 79 Series dual cab that little bit better. One day, possibly, I’ll wake up and decide that it’s done, but today isn’t it. I might never find the coin for this either, so it’s far from a done deal. In fact, it might not be realistic at all

Installing an automatic transmission

Auto Console 79 series Open Sky Touring

My first bit of thinking is to get rid of the long-throw manual box and install a six-speed automatic transmission. I happen to know that there is a GM 6L90Etransmission currently sitting on the floor in a mate’s garage looking for a home, so the opportunity is there. The problem is that Marks 4WD Adapters no longer makes the kit for this conversion, so I need to decide whether using this box is a good idea or not. Much debate has ensued about whether the 6L90E is superior to the Toyota 200 series transmission, too.

Courtesy of 4X4 Australia Mag

Advice from my local auto bloke is that the 6L90E has a lower first gear and is just about spot on with the current Toyota low range first gear manual box. This is something that I really like and would potentially be better for towing heavy loads. He also advises that the 6L90E will sit on about 1,800 RPM when doing 100 kilometres per hour, whereas the Toyota auto transmission is down around 1,600 RPM for the same speed. It’s honestly not a big deal to me. Both transmissions have much better rev ranges than the five-speed manual.

Extending the chassis

300mm Extension 76 series Open Sky Touring

The other major project I’d love to do is a 300-millimetre chassis extension. Everything I read and everyone I’ve spoken to who has done this says that it’s one of the best mods that can be done with the Toyota 79 Series dual cab.

However, my drama is that I have a fully wired up canopy all set up pretty much how I want it and I’m loath to muck with it. The benefits though, when combined with the JMACX rear end and the King Shocks, would be having an improved ride, balance and load-carrying ability.

Hindsight is 20/20, but not always realistic

So, if I were to do it all over again, starting from scratch, would I do the same things? Good question. The answer is yes and no. A lot has changed and nothing has changed when it comes to my thoughts on gearing up a touring 4WD for what I have done and intend to do. There’s still compromise in everything, but now more than ever there are far more examples out there to inspire my own modifications.

What would I do differently? To start, I can say that I now have some reasonable experience of camping and touring with this vehicle. I have made some mistakes and hopefully learned from them. However, what I want from this vehicle hasn’t really changed, so I think the mistakes I’ve made are based on the order in which I did things, which comes back to what I have learned from doing it. Ultimately, without doing the build first, I’d have no idea what I would do differently. That’s the beauty and betrayal of hindsight.

So, here is what I would do differently:

I would do a 300-millimetre chassis extension right from the start, while simultaneously implementing the coil conversion and sorting out the suspension. Next, I would bite the bullet and fork out for an auxiliary fuel tank mounted down low underneath the vehicle and have the exhaust re-done to fit around everything.

That right there is a hefty investment, but it sets up the vehicle for stability and a smoother ride and completes the platform for anything to come. Just quietly, it would also open it up for a larger GVM, although I just want to get the balance and handling to be as they should and coils seem to be only part of that equation. Keeping the weight low and distributed evenly over the wheels and axles is the other key part.

Lastly, whilst I’m still a believer in the full and lockable canopy for many reasons, it is a compromise. Protecting my gear from dust and inclement weather is super important and a canopy is also necessary for security when parked in towns or van parks. It’s all fine and dandy to just throw some boxes in the back of the ute with the Engel fridge if you’re just cruising non-stop around the countryside and camping remotely with your vehicle every night, but that isn’t what most of us do.

Exp 134 79 series Open Sky Touring

I still want to be able to pull up in a shopping centre carpark in Mt Isa, out the back of the pub in Weipa or in the van park in Lightning Ridge and have a better than fair chance that my gear will still be there when I get back. Now, with all that said, I also want to be able to use the vehicle to take a load of rubbish to the dump. Removing the internal framework has enabled me to do this, but sometimes I would still love to have a proper open ute. A ute configuration with a slide on canopy would also be awesome, but has its own compromises, particularly with overall weight.

Hopefully, this series might have helped you make up your mind if you were considering the Toyota 79 dual cab as an option. Getting the base vehicle sorted out right from the start is probably the key. Making major changes later on comes with some potential real headaches and further expense. But hey, if you are unable to make those or any of the other expensive improvements, it is still a pretty good platform to use as a tourer.

Previous Part: The 79 Series Dual Cab Build – Part VI

Welcome to Expedition 134

We’re excited to introduce the new Expedition 134 website, the new home for Open Sky Touring.

This change is another step in our journey to consolidate our branding and name in the marketplace.

While things might look different, the passion to make the toughest and most functional gear possible hasn’t.