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1994 Toyota Land Cruiser - Peter Meets Marlin

And other bash wagon upgrades

Fred WilliamsPhotographer, Writer

A few months ago we told you about adding Air Lockers and a suspension to our 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser affectionately known as Peter the Beater. Peter is alumnus of our 2013 Cheap Truck Challenge (Oct. ’13) and is slowly becoming part of our 4-wheelin’ fleet and getting some upgrades to make it more capable along the way. We lifted and added lockers to the Toyota Land Cruiser (which has now earned the moniker Bash Wagon due to its station wagon looks and our disregard for body panel wellbeing) and ran into a few issues.

“We’re ready to go scratch it up on the trail”

This month we go over what went wrong, how we fixed it, and a few other upgrades to prep the big wagon for more trail cruising ability. It’s not perfect, but it’s actually perfect for an all-around wheeling rig with room to haul junk.

Sometimes in the name of deadlines it’s required to throw in the towel and call the experts. In the Toyota crowd those experts are at Marlin Crawler. We had swapped in a pair of differentials with Air Lockers prior (“Cruiser Highway,” May ’14), but both were leaking air out of the vent hoses. Somewhere between compressor and locker was a leak, and rather than pull them all apart we needed them fixed fast. Peter met Marlin in the middle of Fresno.

The problem was minor but required a lot of work to get to. It seems the small air line had slipped off the internal copper air line, so all the air pressure was escaping. Head Toyota tech Rocky Gleason pulled the axles apart and had them back together with the lines fixed in a day.

Another issue we had was the Toyota land Cruiser didn’t seem to sit quite level with the new Old Man Emu coils. We learned that there are coils for the left and right marked A and B on a small white tag on the spring, a note we had missed when we lifted the truck. The coils marked B will be about 1⁄2 inch taller than the A springs. Typically the taller coil will go on the front driver corner, then the rear passenger side, but every vehicle is different once accessories have been added. We switched the coils around and added more weight to the bed with a spare tire, cooler, tools, and camping gear. The Cruiser settled to a pretty level stance.

After we had lifted Peter with the Old Man Emu suspension and added 35-inch Maxxis tires, the Toyota Land Cruiser drove terrible. It was darty and all over the road. Our first guess was the bias-ply tires. We played with air pressures to see if that would fix it, but nothing worked. Then a fellow Cruiser owner asked us if we had installed the caster bushings in the front radius arms. It turned out that they had been misplaced from our order, and because of the lift, the front axle was way out of proper caster. Again Rocky at Marlin saved the day when he swapped in the new Old Man Emu bushings. Proper caster restored the vehicle’s drivability and safety.

Lockers fixed, sitting level, and driving straight made Peter a new Beater, but there was still an issue with the bumpers. The tube bumper we had built back during the Cheap Truck Challenge needed more tubes. We first added two braces from the top to the frame. These gussets will help keep the bumper from collapsing backwards into the grille if you happen to hit an obstacle with the bumper, or should you be nerfing or pushing another vehicle while on the trail.

Behind the main tube we welded two small light tabs. These tabs are available through many fabrication supply houses.

To those two tabs we bolted Vision X Lighting’s 9-inch Xmitter low-profile LED light bar. The bar was mounted offset to the driver’s side to clear the winch controller. It multiplies the light output for those nights when 4-wheeling is more important than sleeping.

Originally we only had a single tube running out to the ends of the bumper, but we opted to add another angled gusset to help protect the turn signal lights. Many great bumper options for Land Cruisers can bolt onto our truck, but since the Bash Wagon isn’t really a high-dollar wheeler (it’s a rusty battle-axe trail tool) we feel fine welding tubes straight to the frame to protect it.

Out back we also added a new bumper, but first we cut off the last few inches of framerail because they stuck out too far for our taste. The frame was chopped just shy of the body mounts with our Miller Plasma cutter.

We cut a piece of 2x4x0.188-wall rectangular tubing down to length as our rear bumper. Then we put an angled cut on the ends and wrapped a piece of 2-inch-wide steel strap to the cap the ends.

The end caps are welded and ground smooth. Large clamps are used to secure the tubing to the framerail ends after the framerails are ground smooth for a flat surface to mount to.

The bumper was welded solid, and the old crossmember gussets were reused to add support. Then a coat of paint was added to ward off rust—and yet something seemed missing.

Our first thought was we needed a swing-out tire carrier, but the 35-inch Maxxis spare fit perfect in the back. Also, the factory bed-mounted tie-down hooks were ideal for looping a big trailer ratchet strap from Mac’s Custom Tie Downs to secure the tire.

A recovery point would be ideal on this bumper, not that we ever plan on getting stuck, but you know how things go. We cut and drilled some simple 1⁄4-inch-thick shackle points and welded them straight to the bumper.

Recovery points see a lot of abuse, so if you’re welding them on your truck you better know how to weld. To add some beef to ours, we started by wrapping a piece of 1-inch-wide and 1⁄4-inch-thick strap from the framerail, around the bumper, around the recovery point, and back to the framerail on top.

Once welded in place, the strap attaches to the framerail, the bumper, and the recovery point. The bumper is welded to the frame as well. This gives the recovery point a massive amount of weld to support it.

The 1-inch hole was perfect for our common recovery shackles. And now we have a clean simple rear bumper that didn’t require many special tools other than something to cut, grind, drill, and weld metal. After a coat of paint we were ready to go scratch it up on the trail.

The final upgrades we added were some quick Sway bar pucks that the guys at Marlin fabbed up for us from a piece of aluminum. This keeps the sway bar from making contact with the driveshaft or link arms under articulation.