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Slee Off Road Combines the Best Toyota Parts in One Land Cruiser

Posted in Features on January 27, 2016
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What makes something vintage? Does it have to be old or just look old? This is the question we asked when we saw Christo Slee’s 79 Series Toyota pickup.

The 70 Series was introduced in 1984, back when Jeep was building CJ-7s and Grand Wagoneers. Those definitely feel vintage compared to a modern JK or Grand Cherokee. The 70 Series was designed as a replacement for the FJ40, and they are still used as a workhorse around the world today by everyone from mining companies to the Taliban.

Slee now runs a successful Toyota off-road shop in Colorado, but he grew up in South Africa, where 70 Series trucks and wagons are as common as biltong and braais. He has made his living modifying 80 Series and 100 Series Land Cruiser wagons that are available stateside, but he still had a soft spot for the old utilitarian 70 Series pickups. So he imported a 79 Series Toyota cab and bed and combined it with an 80 Series chassis and a 100 Series engine to make the ultimate Land Cruiser.

70 Series Numbering
70-74: Short-wheelbase, two-door wagon
75: Long-wheelbase, two-door wagon
76: Four-door wagon
78: Troop carrier
79: Pickup

The engine bay is so clean you would swear that this is a factory-built vehicle, but in fact nothing in the engine bay is original. An ARB twin air compressor is mounted on the passenger-side firewall, and dual DieHard Platinum batteries flank the engine on the driver side. The master cylinder and brake booster from an 80 Series Land Cruiser bolted right in place.

The 4.7L 2UZ V-8 engine is from a 100 Series Land Cruiser. These engines were also used in 4Runners and Tundras, and owner Christo Slee has retrofited them into several 80 Series as well. Fitment is relatively easy, but the wiring can be a challenge since there is no commercially available harness similar to what is available for LS engines. This 2UZ makes 230 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque.

The dual batteries are isolated to ensure that there is always starting power, even when running accessories like a freezer fridge with the engine off. The DieHard Platinum batteries use Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) and can be mounted in any orientation. This came in handy since the second battery had to be mounted on its side in order to clear the hood.

The huge factory canister-style air cleaner is a nice touch under the hood. It is a perfect example of the abuse that Toyota expected the 70 Series Land Cruisers to see around the world. Joe Risavi at Slee’s company, Slee Off Road, built the custom ducting to connect the air cleaner to the engine.

Custom details abound, like this stock-appearing engine plate. It refers to the truck as a UZJ89. Using Toyota naming conventions, UZ is the engine, J denotes a Land Cruiser, the 8 is for an 80 Series chassis, and the 9 designates a truck. Bakkie is slang for pickup in South Africa.

This factory-offered snorkel adds a utilitarian look to the Cruiser. Snorkels are for more than just water crossings. They are also useful in dusty environments because they pull air from higher off the ground and use pre-filter in the top of the snorkel.

Slee’s bolt on Slider Steps for 80 Series Land Cruisers are one of their most popular products. Joe Risavi shortened a set of sliders to fit the cab of the pickup before having them powdercoated.

The cab came with no interior, so Christo purchased new interior parts from Toyota. The 70 Series went through several interior revisions in the last 30 years, and this is the most current. Joe Risavi did an excellent job of integrating the shifter from the 100 Series Land Cruiser that donated the transmission and an 80 Series center console.

Since interior space is at a premium in a regular cab pickup, an Outback 4WD Interiors overhead console was imported from Australia. It has LED lighting and holds a Yaesu HAM radio where they are out of the way but easy to access.

A fullsize spare 255/85R16 Toyo Open Country M/T was placed upright in the bed to minimize the space that is taken up and keep the spare easy to reach. A 45-gallon fuel tank sits under the rear of the frame where the stock spare would normally reside

The 79 Series is a far cry from the Tacomas that we have in the States. Instead of a plastic bed, the 79 has a steel bed that maximizes ground clearance and has generous tie-down points everywhere you might need them.

The tailgate on the Cruiser uses rugged latches and the taillights are mounted under the bed instead of in the corners, where they are less likely to be damaged. The rear bumper is a factory 79 Series piece that was modified to fit the 80 Series chassis.

The pizza cutter look is popular in South Africa, and Christo continued the theme here. The 255/85R16 Toyo Open Country M/Ts are 33 inches tall but only 9.8 inches wide. Mounted on stock Tacoma rims, they provide excellent ground clearance without protruding past the sheetmetal.

The front axle is an 80 Series unit that came from the factory with a high-pinion centersection and electronically selectable locker. It was rebuilt and fitted with 4.56 gears and Aisin manual locking hubs. The hubs required a part time conversion kit for the transfer case.

Slee Off Road has its own line of shocks that are valved specifically for heavy Land Cruisers. These 2 1/2-inch-diameter shocks bolt right in to the factory mounts and have reservoirs to ensure that they never fade with hard use.

Both 80 Series and 100 Series Land Cruisers use the 2FHA transfer case. This gear driven case uses an aluminum housing and an offset rear output, so a corresponding offset rear axle is necessary.

You can see where 13 inches were added to the frame to match the wheel base of the 80 Series chassis to the 79 Series body. Joe Risavi at Slee Off Road built custom control arms to match the four-link mounts on the axle to the lengthened frame. Another set of OME coils and Slee remote reservoir shocks are also found out back.

The rear axle was sourced from the same 80 Series Land Cruiser that donated the chassis and front axle. It is a factory full-floater with disc brakes, so the only addition necessary was 4.56 gears to account for the 33-inch-tall Toyo tires.

Tech Specs
2010 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 Series Pickup
Drivetrain
Engine: 4.7L 2UZ V-8
Transmission: A343F 4-speed automatic
Transfer Case: FJ80 offset case
Front Axle: Toyota 8-inch with high-pinion third member, 4.56 gears, and ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Toyota 9 1/2-inch with full floating hubs, 4.56 gears, and ARB Air Locker
Suspension
Springs & Such: Old Man Emu coils, Slee Off Road remote reservoir shocks (front and rear)
Tires & Wheels: 255/85R16 Toyo Open Country M/Ts on 16x7 factory Tacoma wheels
Steering: Factory 80 Series box with Slee Off Road HD tie rod and OME steering stabilizer
Other Stuff: 45-gallon fuel tank, dual DieHard Platinum batteries, ARB twin air compressor, custom mandrel-bent stainless exhaust, frame stretched 13 inches, Yaesu ham radio, Kenwood touchscreen stereo

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