Land Cruisers have had one of the best reputations for decades across all their different models. One of the most sought after and rarely seen Land Cruisers on our roads in Aotearoa is the Troop Carrier. They’re incredibly common in Australia, built for their vehicle market actually, and can often be seen doing laps of the red dust continent. There have been a few different variations over the years as technology has changed, and feedback from customers has helped turn it into the modern version you can order today from Toyota. It’s basically a 4WD van, to put it in simple terms – two doors in the front, two barn-style doors at the back, and a massive amount of space in the rear. I’ve owned one other Land Cruiser in the past two years and feel as though this is a make and model that I’ll probably own for years to come, even if it costs me an arm and a leg. Once I had sold my previous Land Cruiser, I continued to scroll through Trade Me listings pretty much every day until I came across my Troopy. I saw it pop up for a price that was much lower than what they’re generally listed for and thought it was probably too good to be true. But, after a couple of re-lists, I thought, “What the hell, I may as well take a drive out to it!” I inspected the vehicle very thoroughly for any damage or structural rust and then took it for a spin. I ended up driving around for almost two hours in this thing and was so baffled as to why it hadn’t sold – it was incredible given its age, and the price was so good. So, I drove back to his place and purchased it from him on the spot.

I felt like there was a glitch in the universe for me to find this vehicle, and I couldn’t believe my luck. It is one of my dream vehicles, and I can’t wait to share what it will be like in a few months’ time! This Troop Carrier is a 1989 FJ75. Now, I won’t give you a massive history lesson on the different variations of the 70 Series Land Cruiser vehicles, but to quickly explain, Toyota categorised their popular SUVs as follows. F is for the model of motor that was released with this particular model; J is for Jeep (yes, that is correct – Toyota labelled the Land Cruiser as a Jeep in the beginning!), and 75 is the chassis and body shape of the vehicle. The day I brought it home, I got stuck into making a plan and building a list of things I wanted to do to it before I would start taking it on any adventures.

It began with taking off things like the roof platform and the front bull bar – both of which were not to my taste. From there, it went to my friend’s place where we replaced the old fluids; got all new gaskets for the exhaust manifold, the intake manifold, and the rocker cover; installed a new timing belt and changed the water pump. Something that makes this Troopy a very special one is that this specific model was released with a petrol engine. At some point in time, this vehicle had an engine swap to a Diesel engine known as the 1HZ, which is an engine that was also released in the early model Troop Carriers. It’s a 6-cylinder engine that is well known for being one of the strongest and most reliable examples on the market and is also known for doing over a million kilometres with regular servicing. The 1HZ engine that was put in my wagon is a pretty straight and tidy example, but not one that I plan on keeping in the engine bay. I have a large list of things in mind to make this my dream adventuring and touring vehicle, and the biggest challenge on the list is repainting the entire vehicle inside and out (including the engine bay).

The first step was to clean the vehicle from head to toe (it was a forestry vehicle prior, so there was a lot of dirt everywhere!). Then we moved on to dismantling the front section: taking the bonnet off, the guards around the engine, the doors (front and back) and lots of other little pieces. We began organising screws and other small items in labelled ziplock sandwich bags. Sanding was the next big task, and as I write this there are still one or two smaller sections that need doing before painting. We went over small dents and stone chips with body filler to smoothen it out and make sure it looks near new. When it came to the first base coat of primer, this was an exciting milestone. We’re just about to add the second coat of primer, before doing two coats of 2k topcoat in the classic Land Cruiser white, which will look very sleek with all the black accents.

The rear sliding windows in the Troop Carriers are notorious for rusting out around the base of the sills, and, although mine were in excellent condition, I decided to change it up and ordered new windows from a company in the Netherlands, which are made from aluminum and high-quality fittings. I also have an ARB Deluxe bullbar going on, which will sit up front with a nice big winch (to save me when I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere by myself). I also purchased a very basic homemade rear-bar off Facebook, which I will trim down on the ends to make a swingaway tire carrier to go on the back, with some lights from Stedi (plus spotlights and LED headlights on the front). Inside the vehicle, I aim to create a living space which can also double as a bed for two. It will be a U-shaped cabinet setup, which will have the opening end at the back of the vehicle to walk down an aisle on the inside, and a bench seat behind the driver and passenger seats. It will be a basic drawer system that extends out the back with a camp stove and cooking equipment, plus all the other essentials and our clothing storage. Up front will feature all kinds of brand-new parts from Toyota, plus some new(ish) seats from a Ford Falcon XR6. Yes, you read that right! There’s a company in Australia that creates seat adapters to swap out the not-so-comfortable factory Troopy seats for either Ford Falcon or Holden Commodore seats – I went with a very comfy fabric bucket seat option for both the driver and passenger sides.

Moving onto some exciting electrical gear, the front will also feature a center-console fridge, perfect for keeping the beers cold while parked up at the beach, or for snacks when driving long distances. There will also be a secondary fridge in the rear – a Dometic CFX35 – which will be our main storage for veggies and anything dairy-related while camping (a very necessary accessory!). In a couple of places, I will also add a few USB charging ports and solar panel inputs
to charge everything when parked up for a couple of days at a campsite. All the electrical goodies will be powered by a 120Ah auxiliary battery, hooked up to the main crank battery with the help of a DC charger, from none other than the legends at REDARC – a company whose equipment I’ve wanted to use for a while! When the build is complete, I also aim to add one of their solar blankets to the mix, which will keep me off-grid as long as I want! On top of the Troopy, I have a Rhino-Rack Pioneer platform going down first, before our main sleeping space – a Hawk’s Nest from my mates at Feldon Shelter. These guys are making the best rooftop tents in the world! Definitely worth the investment. I’ll also be adding a surfboard (or two) up there, which mount to the tent, and will be great for summer trips.

To finish it all off, I’ve gone for a two-inch lift from the amazing Terrain Tamer gang over in Aussie. They have 500kg constant load, front and rear, which is perfect for the Troop – it’ll be a heavy beast when it’s all done! I’ve also got a brake rebuild kit ready to go in, with rotors, brake pads, brake shoes, and drums, to make sure I can stop quickly when I need to. I’ve already installed a nice new set of 33-inch tires on 6-inch rims – fit for all kinds of terrains and conditions. As I mentioned, I don’t plan on keeping the 1HZ engine that’s currently in the vehicle. I will be swapping it out for its sibling engine, the 1HDT – a factory turbo 6-cylinder diesel motor, which will give it more than enough power to travel around New Zealand. There will be a nice big turbo being bolted to it, as well as a custom airbox, a front-mount intercooler, new injectors, a Safari Armax performance snorkel, and a bunch of stainless steel piping work to make sure it’s breathing properly. This build is the one I’ve dreamed about for years now, and I cannot wait to travel the entire country in it for years to come! We are planning to spend some time this summer up north, and then maybe next year we’ll do a full lap of the country… but first, we need to finish the project. Follow along on the journey through my Instagram page: @jakebmatthewpearsscown, as I create a one-of-a-kind rig!