OutdoorX4 Magazine 100 Series Family Overlander Build | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

OutdoorX4 Magazine 100 Series Family Overlander Build

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Back in September 2014, after some unfortunate issues en route to Overland Expo EAST, we decided to start the search for a vehicle platform to base a family overlander build on. The criteria included:

- Plenty of space for a family of five
- Four-wheel drive with selectable low-range
- No older than 2000 model year
- Less than 100k miles on the odometer
- Parts availability in the event of a part(s) failure
- Aftermarket parts availability to upgrade based on our use of the vehicle
- Comfort both on- and off-pavement
- Reliability
- Cost less than $20k
- V8 powertrain to accommodate hauling the family, gear, and a trailer

After three months of researching and taking input from a LOT of people within the community, we opted on a 100 Series Cruiser (hence posting in this section). We finally found the vehicle in early January: a 2003 model with 95k on the speedo with the 90k service having been performed a month earlier. The previous owner had taken pretty good care of her and the truck had NEVER been off-pavement and was still in stock form.

Since making the purchase, I ensured all fluids (with the exception of repacking the bearings which will be done when we start Phase Two of the build) had been replaced and afterwards, our first item for consideration was to make maximize suspension capability, on a budget, without sacrificing on-road characteristics since the vehicle will be driven daily. We opted for an Old Man Emu setup with 2860 rear springs (medium rate) to allow for a "stiffer" ride but not so stiff that it becomes uncomfortable. This setup is very similar to the one we had on our diesel Grand Cherokee so we knew it would serve us well. Plus, we plan to do a trailer build as part of our family overlander package and the medium rate springs will accommodate this. The suspension installation was done by our Editor, Frank Ledwell, and a good friend in Houston, Sam Craven, on Sam's driveway on a brisk January morning. Here are a few photos of the truck prior to the install as well as during/after:

The Land Cruiser one day after bringing her home:
 

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A friend, Sam Craven, helping to install the Old Man Emu suspension:
 

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Old Man Emu Nitrocharger shocks and springs in the rear:
 

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Here's the truck right after the suspension was installed. This was before installing new, larger tires.
 

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Another shot of the stance of the truck after suspension install and before new tires:
 

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So far, I've been very pleased with the Old Man Emu suspension. Sure, we could have spent a lot more money on a more sophisticated setup but our point was to enhance the on/off-pavement characteristics while still using this as a daily driver and not breaking the bank.

Now that the suspension was on the truck, it was time to install new tires as the factory Michelin's just aren't up to the task of overland-style travel. Last September, I had the chance to attend BFG's new KO2 tire launch in Baja and after several days of fun and sun, testing out the tires, I was very impressed. However, I didn't feel three days was enough to truly review those tires so I decided this build would be the perfect platform to do an install with the new KO2 and then do a much more thorough review of the tires in early 2016. So, we chose 275/70/18 BFG KO2 tires and had them mounted/installed onto the truck. Here are a few photos of the tires. One is right after they arrived and the others are of the truck once they were installed.
 

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The BFG KO2 275/70/18 Tires installed on the truck (close-up):
 

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The BFG KO2 275/70/18 Tires installed on the truck (side-view of truck):
 

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Once the tires were installed, the geometry of the front end had been compromised with the CV Joints at an awkward angle due to the differential being at a higher location than it was prior to install. So, we sourced a Slee Offroad Diff Drop Bracket Kit to level out the differential and bring the angle of the CV Joints closer to spec. We'll never meet spec completely as the suspension/tires have changed that. However, the CV Joints were leaking fluid when the suspension was installed and now that the differential has been dropped, the angle isn't significant enough. Here are a few photos of the Slee Offroad Diff Drop Bracket Kit being installed. Notice there are spacers between the frame and front skid plate which came with the kit and were necessary to compensate for the lowering of the differential.
 

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Sam Craven helping to place the Slee Diff Drop Bracket:
 

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Close-up of the spacers provided with the Slee kit to compensate for realignment of the diff as it relates to the skid plate:
 

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Now that the suspension was completely done, we noticed the front end was significantly lower than the rear end so we cranked the torsion bars and left 1" rake so the ride would be a little more leveled out. Here's a close-up photo of the front/rear with the tires installed after the torsion bars were cranked.
 

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The rest of Phase One of the build included small upgrades such as swapping out all the interior lighting (which is quite poor on the Land Cruiser) with new LED lights from PFranLEDs. Unfortunately, we didn't think to take photos of the lighting before the install or took photos of the product before installing it. However, here's a photo of the middle dome light after installing the new PFranLEDs. Believe us when we say the interior lighting is 100x better than it was before.
 

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The rest of the Phase One items included a Ram Mount Pod I Universal No-Drill Vehicle Mount to support our navigational needs from a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 loaded with Gaia GPS and mated to a Dual XGPS160 Satellite Receiver (which we featured in Issue 1 of OutdoorX4 Magazine). Additionally, there were no floor mats in the truck when we purchased it from the dealer so we installed a set of WeatherTech All-Terrain Floor Mats in the front and Digital Fit floor mat in the rear. This will assuredly protect the carpet from the mess that kids inherently attract to the vehicle plus protect it from the mud/etc we get on our shoes while on our adventures. Here are a few shots of those items in the truck.
 

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WeatherTech All-Terrain Front Floor Mats:
 

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WeatherTech Digital Fit Second Row Floor Mat:
 

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Phase One has been completed and the build sheet for Phase One is listed here. Phase Two will be starting in about one week and will feature upgraded front/rear bumpers, sliders, a custom Gamiviti roof rack, fridge/freezer and storage bags/pouches from Blue Ridge Overland Gear, plus a lot more. All of those items are an essential part of our Family Overlander project and while this truck may/may not be for everyone, everything selected for the build was chosen for a reason based on the criteria noted above.

Phase One Build Sheet:
<b>Vehicle Platform</b>:
2003 Toyota Land Cruiser

<b>Suspension</b>:
Old Man Emu 2860 Springs
Nitrocharger Shocks
Slee Off-Road Differential Drop Kit

<b>Tires:</b>
BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 275/70/18

<b>Navigation</b>:
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 loaded with Gaia GPS
Ram Mount Pod I Universal No-Drill Vehicle Mount
Dual XGPS160 Satellite Receiver

<b>Miscellaneous</b>:
PFran LEDs CV Clamp Kit
PFran LEDs 100 Series Interior Light Kit w/License Plate Lights and Back-up Lights
WeatherTech All-Terrain Front Floor Mats
WeatherTech Digital Fit Rear Floor Mat

<b>Resources:</b>
www.bfgoodrichtires.com
www.arbusa.com
www.sleeoffroad.com
www.amazon.com
www.dasmule.com
gsp.dualav.com
www.pfranleds.com
www.weathertech.com