79 Series Build - Part VI Open Sky Touring

Four Years Down the Track

So, after four years of use, I figured it was time for another update on my 79 Series dual cab build and to provide some more commentary on this vehicle as a platform for touring and camping. In this instalment, I’ll cover off the good and the bad as I have experienced them and I’ll take a little look forward to what I’d still like to do with the vehicle in the future to make it more driver-friendly.

I have no doubt that some of you may be critical of the Toyota platform and what it costs to develop them, but for me, the Toyota 79 Series dual cab and canopy configuration is still one of the best compromise packages available right now.

The big American-style dual cabs have their place and are super comfortable and starting to make inroads into the market, but they are simply too huge. The mid-sized dual cabs also have value, but nothing has changed my mind about the them yet either, despite what some people in the media circles are managing to do with them. Unsafe overloading is still the reality and breakages are never shown on TV due to the power of those advertising dollars.

Maintenance on the 79 Series dual cab build

First off, let’s touch on some of the overall maintenance and issues that I’ve attended to with this 79 Series dual cab build. The vehicle has done about 65,000 kilometres, which is much less than I’d anticipated mostly due to life getting in the way of the best laid travel plans, but that is the way it goes I guess.

There have been no major issues and everything really has either been routine or a rectified teething issue after the major surgery on the suspension. I experienced some panel damage from a tree branch falling on the bonnet and two kangaroo strikes, but nothing major.

Although the rear wheel bearings were replaced at the scheduled 40,000-kilometre mark, they were in good nick with only some minor wear marks. The advice I’d been given was to keep an eye on the rear bearings, as vehicle modifications like mine can end up carrying a lot of weight that puts extra strain on the bearings. Not that much more as it turns out. I have a spare set in my touring kit as a precaution, but I’m not expecting any trouble if I stay on top of this.

The TaipanXP Billet Catch Can continues to allow oil fumes through and I am now certain that the design, whilst it looks great, is not on par with the Mann-Hummel ProVent 200 that I intend to replace it with. I will likely buy a kit that mounts the ProVent down low on the chassis where it is accessible via the passenger-side wheel arch.

ARB twin compressor

After installing a brand-new compressor and using it quite extensively over the last four years, I have several gripes and recommendations.

Firstly, the orange hose itself is cheap and nasty stuff. Within 12 months it was showing hundreds of small cracks and burst soon after. I replaced it with 11 metres of commercial-grade air hose, which allows me to do all four tyres, plus any trailer tyres with ease. It’s a little bulky compared to the standard hose, but it’s a lot better quality. When I was replacing the house, I realised that all of the fittings were American fittings and not Australian-standard fittings, so I had to replace all of the fittings as well – frustrating.

Secondly, I find that the hose fittings (where it connects to the compressor) get so hot that the hose itself becomes soft and pliable enough to pop off. I have replaced the crimp with double hose clamps to stop this happening, but even that isn’t enough from time to time.

Lastly, the compressor failed on me just before we took off on a big trip. I was doing pre-trip inspections and testing everything when it just stopped. I made a mad dash over to see Aaron, the auto electrician at DC Tourers, on a Sunday afternoon. He identified the problem as a badly corroded pressure switch.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t source another one on a Sunday, so Aaron did something completely unexpected. He unbolted his own compressor from inside his new Iveco Daily and fitted it in my vehicle. I later replaced his with a new one.

I now also carry a spare pressure switch. Examining the old compressor revealed a lot of internal corrosion, which I was a little surprised about. This is a bit of an indicator of poor quality, but I will replace the pressure switch and will have two twin ARB compressors. I guess I could mount the old one to the wall in the shed…

FYRLYT 9000 driving lights

I replaced my Britax LED driving lights with FYRLYT 9000 driving lights. In some ways, I’ve been happy with this choice, but in other ways I’ve been pretty disappointed. I have written and updated a separate blog covering this subject in more detail, which you can read here.

At the end of the day, the light output and colour for the FYRLYT 9000 is great, but they’ve had a few niggling issues along the way. The original lenses had a habit of cracking, apparently due to the heat of the lights.

FYRLYT 9000 driving lights Open Sky Touring

The replacement Pyrex glass lenses I was sent have both leaked and were fogging up when driving in the rain. When I noticed this, I again contacted FYRLYT and received the following response:

Hi Ben. About the time you got your new lenses we had a bonding issue where some of the lenses came away from the base ring. Now fixed. Can you take out the lens and try to push the glass away from the black mounting ring. Try all the way around, it may only be 20mm or so of delamination.
Let me know and I will send you’re a new pair.
Tried ringing you!

Cheers David

I have persisted with these lights as I really love the colour, so, with a bit of luck, I’ll have this resolved shortly.

I’m also very impressed with the build quality of the Ultra Vision light bar and note that they also do some reportedly awesome driving lights, so that is another possibility if I do eventually decide to replace them. I must say that the customer service from FYRLYT has been first-class, so it’s a real shame they have had these few teething issues. Still, I’m all about supporting small Aussie businesses giving it a go, so I will continue the dialogue and see if they come good.

Negative battery terminal issue with the 79 Series dual cab build

Now, this issue was self-inflicted, but also had a quick fix so I thought I’d include it. If you start getting quite a few cables connected to the negative terminal on the crank battery, then the terminal itself can soon start rubbing on the bonnet lining. Closing the bonnet will put a lot of downward pressure on the terminal, which will crack the battery case around the terminal.

The fix is a super easy one that involves fitting an insulated negative terminal lug nearby with a cable back to the negative terminal. Then you simply transfer some of the negative cabling over to the lug and you’re sorted. Jamie Hazelden from JTS knocked one up for me in five minutes when I dropped by for a coffee and he saw it.


JMACX Suspension

Overall, I remain really happy with the coil conversion kit from JMACX and the service from Jason and his team. There have, however, been a couple of niggly things that are now all fixed and everything is working as it should.

The radius arm bushes were replaced at around 20,000 kilometres. Interestingly, they were badly flogged out. This was put down to the JMACX radius arm design. I added the radius arms when I installed the two-inch suspension lift and coil conversion, mistakenly believing that the radius arms were specifically for a two-inch lift. However, they actually cater to lifts between two and five inches, so at the lower end there’s a lot of pressure on the bushes, which is something I will need to keep an eye on.

The rear sway bar bushes that were part of the JMACX coil conversion kit were also replaced because they were squeaking badly. It took me ages to work out where the noise was coming from and had been driving me nuts for about 20,000 kilometres before it was identified properly. The poly bushes were binding on the sway bar and sounding like a newly-wed couple on an old spring mattress every time I went over bumps slowly. However, the problem was solved once I replaced them with rubber bushes. Thank God for that.

I also had one of the sway bar links break at the bolt for no apparent reason. This was easy to replace, but I don’t really know why it broke in the first place. The bolts on the early model linkages were slightly too short as well, which has since been rectified.

broken sway bar link

King Shocks

Now for some comments on the King Shocks, their settings and handling. Things were going great initially. The vehicle handled the winding roads really nicely and the damping was spot on. After about a year though, this started to change and feel a bit sloppy. I put it down to the shocks wearing in and adjusted the rebound up on several occasions. Then, all of a sudden, I found I had maxed them out and there weren’t any more adjustments to be made.

The vehicle was now handling like an overloaded ship in a swell and I made a call to Mike’s Shock Shop (the agents for King Shocks Australia), where I spoke with Brad Cannon. As it happened, my set of King Shocks were the first set installed in a JMACX coil conversion. He said that since that time – more than three years ago – they had refined the valving a few times to what it is now.

Brad said he needed the shocks back and he would sort out the valving for me and give them a full service at the same time. A few calls later, I met him on a Sunday on the Sunshine Coast while I was down from Cairns. I swapped vehicles with him so he could sort my shocks out. Two days later I was back in my 79 and driving what felt like a completely different vehicle. No wallow, just a firm and controlled ride again.

Brad had done what he said he would and Pinnacle 4X4 had also re-mounted the rear remote reservoirs with some good solid rubber mounts, added protective sleeves to the hydraulic hoses and made everything look like new. First-rate service for sure and everything is good with the world again.

Changes to the canopy

Not a lot has occurred in this department with the 79 Series dual cab built, but two things are worth noting. First up, I made some changes to the horizontal shelf that goes across the vehicle. I raised it 50 millimetres so I could fit in four of our new Expedition134 heavy-duty plastic storage boxes, which stack slightly higher than the previous Nally bins.

After raising the shelf height, I took the opportunity to turn the frame into a removable table and added in some folding legs so it could have a dual purpose and be used in camp. Although good in theory, it needs a bit more bracing for stabilisation. Still, having anything that has a dual purpose and saves on weight is a good thing, right?

As mentioned earlier in these write-ups, I was looking to add a ladder and roof rack. Both have now been completed. The ladder design is simple and made of alloy tube. It’s something that Decked Out Fabrications does quite often. The only difference was I asked Shane to make the ladder a bolt-on job instead of welding it on. Adding the ladder means that I have had to drop one of the two spare tyres, or relocate it to the roof rack if I really need it. Yes, the ladder can be removed, but so far I have used it far more often than I have used the second spare tyre, so the arrangement works in my books.

rear of landcruiser

The roof rack is a flat deck arrangement. I wrote about it in more detail in another blog that you can read here. Once again, I went with a custom-made job for multiple reasons that I explain in the blog and I’m super happy with the result.

Power to the roof rack is provided via a cable gland and waterproof plug from the canopy, so I can easily unplug and remove the rack if I ever feel the need. The rack includes welded tabs for additional aerials and a sand flag, plus a large light bar on the front. It’s also super solid with welded full-length channel mounts.

Looking forward

So, with all that out of the way, there are a few things that I will slowly get around to as I find the time and the money (mostly the money). These are mostly creature comforts, one or two small improvement projects and two major changes to my 79 Series dual cab build.

The first item that I have been searching for a solution on for a long time now, is a better integration of the navigation system into the stereo head unit.  As previously mentioned, for the last 6 or 8 years, I have used an iPad mini loaded with the Hema App as my main navigator, and a Garmin handheld GPS for anything away from the vehicle.  The problem with the iPad is just how much real estate it takes up when mounted with a suction cup to the dash.  Yes, I am aware of the floor-mounted options but they too have detractions and I have, to date, stuck with the windscreen mount.

In addition to this, the integration of mobile phone apps and communication ability into the vehicle now should be seamless as the laws surrounding mobile phone use tighten up.  Now, I am a bit old school with this and still don’t have Apple Car Play or Android Auto anywhere to be seen, but…if I could locate a replacement head unit for the car stereo that did this AND handled the Hema and my navigation needs, AND had a better Bluetooth calling capability than my current one does, then I’d be very tempted.  This might end up being my next change.

Second, is the plan to do something once and for all with the centre console and cup holders. Toyota should be slapped for this, amongst other things. What I really want is some decent storage options that keep things easy to get at when you want them. A better console and a simple overhead shelf is on the cards to start this off. I will then move the UHF to live up there away from potential water crossing damage. It’s a bit risky where it is at the moment (under the driver’s seat).

Thirdly, the position of the driver’s seat seems to be about 25 millimetres too far to the left.  By that, I mean in comparison to where the pedals are. After four or more hours of driving, I start to get aches and feel slightly twisted. There isn’t any ability to move it sideways in the current arrangement, but there does appear to be room if I can somehow modify the seat base. This needs a bit more thought and although I see plenty of people complaining about this same issue, there’s no aftermarket fix that I have found, and any DIY fix will require engineering approval.

Fourthly, a small tank for the compressor. I think that this is the answer to the overheating fittings and the air hose popping off. I am currently looking to install a smallish air tank and run a stainless braided air line to it from the compressor.

Lastly, I am playing with the fridge and how I could possibly lose the 40 kilograms of weight that the current Clearview drop slide adds. There has to be a better way, and no, I don’t believe that the stand-up fridge or the current crop of drawer fridges are the answer either. Shane from Decked Out Fabrications and I have been playing with some ideas of building our own fridge. Something with proper insulation, solid construction, and a remotely mounted compressor. I’ll post some updates on that when we get to it.

In the next part of this series, I’ll take a look at how I go with these and some other thoughts I’ve been having on the more major changes with the 79 Series dual cab build. In between, I need to do a bit more research. Until then, happy 4WDing.

Previous Part:  A year with the 79 Dual Cab Build (Part V)

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.