Wilbur is our 2001 Toyota Land Cruiser. He is our method of conveyance, home, protector and adventuring buddy for the next few years. Read below to learn more about what we've done to him, what we plan on doing to him and how we're using him during our journey.
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Last update: Thursday, 13th of June, 2017.
I'm going to divide this post in to a few different areas about the modifications we have performed or plan to perform;
- Body, chassis and external
- Interior and electrical
- Accessories, add-ons and miscellaneous.
Please note that I am excluding from this many of the various things that Clo and I are bringing along on our journey that will be contained within Wilbur. Such as computer equipment, cameras, kitchen accessories, sleeping bags, clothing, toiletries and a number of other personal items. I am focusing on things that are specific to Wilbur and the way we decided to design our mobile residence, so please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions about the items listed or not listed.
Body, chassis and external. Clo and I discussed this at great length, and the focus two-fold; be as unobtrusive (i.e. "normal") as possible, and not to make Wilbur an off-road monster. The goal is safety, capability and flexibility. We didn't want to stand out (too much - obviously to some extent it can't be avoided), we wanted to be able to comfortable about the safety of driving in a variety of terrain/conditions and lastly to give ourselves the ability to go as many places as possible with the least amount of inconvenience.
- Old Man Emu Heavy Load 1.5" suspension. Complete. The stock LC suspension is rather decent, but tends towards being a might bit loose during turns under load and frankly, our plans include a fair amount of non-highway driving. We are also planning to add a fair amount of weight in various ways, and the suspension is one of the core items for the vehicle so we wanted to make sure we had a good base. We still don't intend on going over 90% of GVW at full load, but this seemed like a very solid investment. After the suspension change the vehicle feels noticeably more firm during cornering and far less bouncy during poor terrain (and even bumps on the highway).
- Toyo Open Country 265/75R16 tires. Complete. These were brand new (less than 1k miles) on the truck when we bought it, so this saved us well over $1000. Many folks who do a lot of off-road suggest upgrading to 33" (these are 31") as soon as possible, but personally I don't really see the need. We are definitely not focusing on off-road, and why replace an already highly rated and very capable tire? We have had excellent traction and road performance from the tire so far. We'll see how it goes, but I am quite satisfied so far.
- Slee steel belly skid plate. Complete. Sort of a no-brainer, and rather cheap too. It is a bit of weight (95lbs), but for a rather low cost it saves a lot of worry about driving on rough roads or over crappy terrain. It doesn't mean we can be careless drivers, but it can prevent a break down in the middle of nowhere and save a lot of headaches. We considered the additional plates, but decided the additional weight & cost wasn't worth it for how we planned to travel.
- Rocky Road supersliders. Complete. This was actually an accidental upgrade. After being t-boned by a guy running a red light, the drivers side running board had to be replaced. The factory running board replacements are not being made anymore and no replacements were available, so our repair shop was able to work it out with our insurance and get us these sliders as a replacement instead. Awesome! I had initially decided not to go with the sliders because of cost, but the added protection from smaller (or perhaps not so small) accidents will be welcome.
- ARB Sahara front bumper. Complete. Ugh. It really hurt to spend so much on front and rear bumpers. However, we finally decided to go this route because of the safety reasons. I certainly expect we will get into a (hopefully small!) collision once or twice, and it's not out of the question that we run into the ditch at least once. I certainly hope none of these happen, but having a good set of bumpers can make the difference between driving away and having the vehicle out of commission for a time (or perhaps even totaled and ending our trip). The bumpers are both pretty great though, no question about the quality.
- ARB Modular rear bumper. Complete. See above. We have the two jerrycan holders, as our spare tire is still in the stock mounting underneath the vehicle.
- Solar panels mounted on roof. Complete. The solar panels are dual Renogy 100w 12v Monocrystalline panels. They fit side-by-side on the existing 3/4 length factory rack outline. The panels themselves are each mounted to custom T-shaped aluminum frames that are bolted to the cross-members of the factory rack on Wilbur. The rack was made by the welding department at the Walla Walla Community College as part of their class projects. Much cheaper than buying one straight out, and it's nice to contribute to the local community. It wasn't fast but the guys there did an excellent job (as most things on our vehicle, rather over-engineered).
- Slee second battery tray. Complete. For the second battery, to charge with solar and let us power our various electrical accessories (PC, lights, fans, fridge, etc) without depleting the main battery.
- VIAIR 85P air compressor. Complete. Initially intending to mount this (another model, meant for internal mounting) under the hood, after receiving it and trying to make it fit I decided to go with an external unit. The size simply wasn't going to work, due to the extra battery and connections from solar and dual-battery setup, but the external unit was priced well and works just as well. I've already used it a few times for tire inflation and am very happy with speed and quality.
- Rear canopy & mosquito netting. On hold. As a short term solution we have a large mosquito net we can drape over the rear of the vehicle that will give us the ability to open the rear and stay safe from mosquitoes. However, a rear awning was put on hold until we have a better idea of how we'll use it. We may still make one ourselves, as the closest commercial unit to what we want is close to $1000. Seems a bit too much and we aren't sure how it would fit with the solar panel mounts.
Interior and electrical. Our focus for the interior follows the overall theme for the trip; enough to be mostly self sufficient, but we don't want to pack the back of the truck with a bunch of stuff. We are planning on sleeping in the back of Wilbur a reasonable portion of the time, so this drove a lot of the decisions we made out different items.
- ARB Outback drawers. Complete. Initially we wanted the Drifta drawers, but unfortunately this didn't work out due to international shipping issues (on Drifta's side). They refunded our money and I went with our second choice, the ARB Outback drawers. However, they only fit between the 2nd row of seating and the rear of the vehicle so we needed to build an extension to cover the spot where the 2nd row of seating would normally be. This I built with my best friend and my dad over the course of a weekend in the middle of January (it was cold as *()#$ and working with metal was... not fun). The end result is amazing, an aluminum frame (probably stronger than the vehicle frame, it's stupidly over-engineered) with removable modular carpet-covered Russian birch "lids". This extends the single surface so we can sleep on it as planned.
- PFRAN interior LED's. Complete. Probably the best value modification in the entire vehicle. For ~$50, the interior lights are far, far brighter and draw somewhere between 10-20% of the power of the stock lights. Very awesome!
- Electrical system. Complete. Our setup is not too complicated. It is a two-battery system where the second battery is completely isolated via a 500Amp isolator, managed by a racing style switch mounted on the 2nd battery tray by the isolator. The second battery can be joined to the primary electrical circuit for charging or starting as needed, but by default it is isolated. The two solar panels are paired and are wired through the hood into the charge controller under the glove box. Then the controller is hooked into our main battery, an X2 AGM deep cycle model (which is actually a re-branded Northstar model) that has enough CCA to also serve as our starting battery. The concept is the second battery is there in case something happens to the first one, but otherwise everything (including fridge, inverter, our laptops, etc) runs off the standard vehicle electrical system, supported by a high-performance battery and our way-too-big solar charging setup. The last item is a small wiring modification to the fuse box which allows the 12v outlets in the truck to be active without requiring the key to be in the ignition (i.e. always on).
Accessories, add-ons and miscellaneous. The rest of the items to make sure we are safe, comfortable and can have a comfortable life while we're traveling.
- Engel 34 quart fridge/freezer. Complete. The drawers have a flush mounting bracket where this is secured in the back while we are driving. When we sleep in the back, the fridge is small enough to store in the driver or passenger seat (plugged in, as well). This fridge draws a very small amount of power, so even if we don't have sunlight AND don't run the engine for a few days the second battery should be able to power this for nearly a week.
- Various tools. Complete. ~200 piece metric/standard kit, as well as a few screwdrivers, wrenches, etc. Enough to do most of the basic work on and around Wilbur without taking up too much space.
- Vehicle recovery straps. Complete. Not too big or expensive, but may save our butts or let us help others.
- Vehicle safety items. Complete. Fire extinguisher, safety vests, warning triangles and emergency lights. Better safe than sorry. None of these are expensive or take up a lot of space.
- AC inverter. Complete. We chose a small 300w inverter for our use. It is enough for both our laptops (our slow cooker runs directly from 12v), USB charging, battery charging, etc. We don't have any high-wattage requirements for power so we wanted something reliable and small.
That is all for now. As we spend the first few months traveling I expect we will adjust a few things, but I don't think the main loadout will change significantly. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions!
Thanks for reading!