Marks 4WD takes this LC79 to dizzy­ing heights.

Marks 4WD is tak­ing the ven­er­a­ble Land Cruiser 70 to new heights, and this 79 show­cases all its ma­jor of­fer­ings.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS PHO­TOS MICHAEL HURREN

THERE’S no deny­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of Toy­ota’s Land Cruiser 70 range among 4x4 en­thu­si­asts. The re­cent demise of Land Rover’s De­fender and Nis­san’s GU Pa­trol makes the 70’s po­si­tion in the mar­ket even more unique; it’s now one of the few re­main­ing real 4x4s you can still by, and is cer­tainly the tough­est. Its do-it-all abil­ity, along with its bel­low­ing V8 diesel en­gine, has won it many fans over its long his­tory.

Yet the LC70 is far from per­fect, and there are many points that keep it off the shop­ping list of some po­ten­tial buy­ers. It’s a 35-year-old ve­hi­cle de­sign, and with that age comes not only its rugged and bush-wor­thy un­der­pin­nings, but also de­sign com­pro­mises in cabin er­gonomics, fea­tures, safety and com­fort. Then there’s the fact that Toy­ota doesn’t of­fer the 70 with an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and hasn’t since the 1980s, which leaves it off the radar of many older buy­ers and those who tow stuff.

The track width dif­fer­en­tial, which has the rear tyres fol­low­ing the fronts on a dif­fer­ent line thanks to the nar­rower rear diff hous­ing, causes all sorts of dra­mas with han­dling and abil­ity. And while the 4.5-litre V8 is pretty good, it’s softly tuned and quite un­der­pow­ered for its size and de­sign, so tuners are hav­ing a field day with it.

In fact, tuners, engi­neer­ing shops and ac­ces­sories man­u­fac­tur­ers are all go­ing to town on the 70 Se­ries, sup­ply­ing just about ev­ery­thing you could want for it, and many of th­ese mods go some way to rec­ti­fy­ing the fac­tory short­com­ings. But what if there was a one-stop shop that could trans­form your 70, a work­shop that could ad­dress some of the fac­tory short­com­ings and take your 70 Se­ries to a whole new level? We’re happy to say there is such a place: Marks 4WD in Mel­bourne.

Marks 4WD has a his­tory as long as the 70 it­self, a his­tory of con­vert­ing and trans­form­ing 4x4 ve­hi­cles into the more pow­er­ful and ca­pa­ble ve­hi­cles off-road en­thu­si­asts want. Prob­a­bly best-known for its V8 and V6 en­gine con­ver­sions in pop­u­lar 4x4s, Marks has gone on to de­velop por­tal axles for Pa­trols and Land Cruis­ers, auto trans con­ver­sions for 70s, and a host of other prod­ucts to im­prove a swag of dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles.

This LC79 dou­ble-cab is a show­case of the up­grades and prod­ucts that Marks 4WD can do for the 70 Se­ries ute, be it the dou­ble-cab like this one or the farm­ers’ favourite sin­gle­cab. It was built so the com­pany could get Com­mon­wealth cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for the por­tal axle con­ver­sions – that in­cludes run­ning on 35-inch tyres. With this ap­proval, you can now legally run the por­tals and 35s un­der your 79 in any Aus­tralian state.

What if there was a work­shop that could ad­dress some of the fac­tory short­com­ings and take your 70 Se­ries to a whole new level? There is: Marks 4WD in Mel­bourne

STEP BY STEP

LEIGH Hard­man of Marks 4WD started with a brand new LC79 for this ve­hi­cle. To be el­i­gi­ble for sec­ond-stage man­u­fac­turer ‘type’ ap­proval, mod­i­fi­ca­tions need to be com­pleted be­fore a ve­hi­cle is reg­is­tered for the road. The same goes for GVM up­grades, chas­sis stretches and other ma­jor mod­i­fi­ca­tions, oth­er­wise the ve­hi­cle needs to be in­di­vid­u­ally in­spected and ap­proved by an en­gi­neer. Type ap­proval cer­ti­fies that the mod­i­fi­ca­tion has been tested and ap­proved, and if fit­ted cor­rectly meets all the na­tional con­sid­er­a­tions for road­wor­thi­ness.

The por­tal axles ef­fec­tively give you a 150mm lift in ride height un­der the axles (as op­posed to over the axles, as would be the case with an equiv­a­lent sus­pen­sion or sus­pen­sion and body lift). This means you don’t have the prob­lems of al­tered sus­pen­sion ge­om­e­try and han­dling is­sues that come with big sus­pen­sion lifts – not to men­tion the le­gal­i­ties of such lifts.

The rear axle has been widened 50mm to match the front end track width and then the por­tal boxes at ei­ther end of the axle hous­ings add an­other 100mm to the track width. LC200 style wheels with a +60 off­set are used to bring the width back in a bit to a to­tal of 80mm over stock.

The mod­i­fied front axle also fea­tures heavy-duty, one-piece

swivel hubs and air-op­er­ated free-wheel­ing hubs. Th­ese are ac­ti­vated at the push of a but­ton in-cabin, and al­low quick and easy shift­ing to 4WD with­out hav­ing to get out and man­u­ally lock in the hubs.

Up­graded brakes are part of the pack­age and in­clude slot­ted ro­tors, high-per­for­mance pads and braided stain­less-steel brake lines. This truck also fea­tures the Marks 4WD hy­draulic brake booster con­ver­sion, which trans­forms the ve­hi­cle’s stop­ping abil­ity. Any­one who has driven a 70 will know how poor the standard brakes can be, but the stop­pers on this truck are pow­er­ful and as­sur­ing, both on- and off-road. They pro­vide a pos­i­tive pedal feel, where the OE ones would get very spongy. A wor­thy mod­i­fi­ca­tion for any 70 Se­ries Cruiser.

Speak­ing of stop­pers, an­other 70 Se­ries weak­ness is the OE park brake’s in­abil­ity to hold the ve­hi­cle on a hill. Marks 4WD fixed this, too, fit­ting a drum-style brake on the back of the trans­fer case (Nis­san-style), for sure-footed hill-hold­ing. We con­fi­dently propped the 79 on a steep rocky track near Mel­bourne while we pho­tographed it, some­thing you would never en­trust to the standard park brake.

The por­tal axle con­ver­sion also gives the 79 a GVM up­grade to 3780kg, so you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the bet­ter brakes with the heav­ier loads on board.

PER­FECT MATCH

THE next big change to this 79 is the six-speed auto con­ver­sion. Marks has fit­ted dozens of th­ese con­ver­sions since they de­buted more than a year ago, and they make liv­ing with a 70 Se­ries eas­ier.

The trans­mis­sion is a 6L90 unit from Gen­eral Mo­tors. It has been mated to the Toy­ota V8 en­gine block at one end and fac­tory

This LC79 dou­ble-cab is a show­case of the up­grades and prod­ucts that Marks 4WD can do for the 70 Se­ries ute

trans­fer case at the other with adapters de­signed and made at Marks 4WD – along with all the hard­ware and gear needed to make it work. This in­cludes a shifter and cus­tom-made con­sole that looks fac­tory in the Toy­ota cabin. The trans­mis­sion is cal­i­brated to suit the en­gine tune, be it standard or mod­i­fied, for more grunt. And, in the case of this tuned 1VD, it’s a per­fect match.

The 1VD-FTV en­gine ben­e­fits from a host of up­grades to im­prove its breath­ing and ef­fi­ciency, start­ing with a flash tune to make the most of the added hard­ware. That hard­ware in­cludes a Sa­fari Ar­max four-inch snorkel that draws air into an air­box mod­i­fied with larger open­ings. A fab­ri­cated four­inch in­take tube then leads to the fac­tory tur­bocharger. The pres­surised charge is pushed through an Aus­tralian-made HPD in­ter­cooler that, with its bil­let tanks, is pure parts porn and im­proves the ef­fi­ciency over the standard top-mount cooler. Com­bus­tion gases exit through a Red­back three-inch ex­haust, ac­com­pa­nied by a V8 sound that bel­lows through the bush.

The en­gine up­grades have been de­signed to make the most of the fac­tory tur­bocharger and in­jec­tors, and they de­liver a 70 per cent in­crease over fac­tory per­for­mance.

DRIVE TIME

RE­GARD­LESS of its hulk­ing height, the Marks 4WD 79 has an OE feel about it. Climb in­side – and you do have to climb to get in it – and the auto shifter and be­spoke con­sole have fac­tory feel, but turn the key and the V8 grum­ble lets you know there’s more on of­fer. The first squeeze of the brake pedal is the next in­di­ca­tor that things are not as Toy­ota en­gi­neered, as the pedal is firm and pos­i­tive with none of the fac­tory spongi­ness.

Slip into sub­ur­ban traf­fic and the auto feels at home. It’s sweetly matched to the en­gine and gives smooth yet firm shifts through its six ra­tios. A tow­ing mode holds gears longer for haul­ing, while a full man­ual mode lets you choose the shift points when you want them.

On-road curves and bends pose an odd mix of 70 Se­ries fa­mil­iar­ity and new-found prow­ess. On the one hand this 79 doesn’t pitch and roll like a stock 70, or any other six-inch-lifted 4x4, yet mid­way through the bend you’re re­minded of the Toy­ota’s slow steer­ing, as you’re pro­voked to dial in more lock. Leigh is still play­ing with the sus­pen­sion on the car and at the mo­ment it rides on stock front coils, Tough Dog shocks and rear leaves lifted just enough to level the stance.

The ride is a bit firm, but we know Leigh likes to load up his utes with fire­wood at this time of year, so the car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity is re­tained. Lift­ing logs into the high tray could be an is­sue, though.

The ex­tra height of the Cruiser comes into its own when you get off-road, so we threw it at a steep, rocky track to test its met­tle. Like the free­wheel­ing hubs, the fac­tory front and rear lock­ers have been con­verted to air-ac­tu­a­tion, so it’s sim­ply a mat­ter of prim­ing the ARB air com­pres­sor and hit­ting the Hubs but­ton on the Switch-pro panel to put it in 4x4. It’s then a mat­ter of ac­tu­at­ing the trans­fer lever and fac­tory locker dial to get ev­ery­thing locked and loaded – you can leave the trans­fer in 4Wd-high when on-road and just dis­con­nect the front hubs via the but­ton.

We ex­pect any well-set-up 4x4 with front and rear lock­ers and 35s to take on this track with­out rais­ing a sweat, but few would do it with the poise and ease of the Marks 79. There’s no lurch­ing and pitch­ing around on tall springs, and you’re never wor­ried about touch­ing down on any of the many rocks and boul­ders on the track. In fact, the diff hous­ings and MCC side­steps went un­touched on the few passes up and down the hill for pho­tog­ra­phy.

On for­est tracks the Cruiser climbs, de­scends, turns and

On for­est tracks the Cruiser climbs, de­scends, turns and drives with a con­fi­dence that is un­heard of in a standard ve­hi­cle

The Marks LC79 is the to­tal pack­age, de­liv­er­ing onand off-road re­gard­less of the ter­rain

drives with a con­fi­dence that is un­heard of in a standard ve­hi­cle, yet it still feels to have the qual­ity of a fac­tory 4x4. The car is the to­tal pack­age, de­liv­er­ing on- and off-road re­gard­less of the ter­rain. With the auto trans­mis­sion, bet­ter brakes and im­proved en­gine per­for­mance, it does it all with an ease that the standard LC79 never could.

Marks 4WD has fixed many of the prob­lems of the standard 70 Se­ries, but the one is­sue it can’t ad­dress is price. Many con­sider the dealer price of a 70 to be too high, and this con­ver­sion adds up­wards of $55K to that pur­chase price, so it’s not cheap. How­ever, you don’t have to take one with the lot (like this Cruiser).

At the end of the day the mods work, and if you have the money they are worth it. Ir­re­spec­tive of price, there are few, if any, new 4x4s that de­liver the same abil­ity as the Marks 79 – per­haps a heav­ily mod­i­fied Jeep Wran­gler would match it of­froad, but it wouldn’t have the drive­abil­ity or the load-car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity of the Land Cruiser.

The car is a show­case of Aussie engi­neer­ing and in­ge­nu­ity and the re­sults speak vol­umes on the rough tracks the 79 was made to con­quer. Leigh’s plan for this car in­cludes a metal canopy/camper box on the back and a long road trip to show it to as many cus­tomers and shops as pos­si­ble.

The por­tal axles give a 150mm ride height lift, sans han­dling is­sues.

Uneek 4x4 bull­bar and FYRLYT spot­ties are more Oz-made parts.

Up­grades to 1VD-FTV donk im­prove breath­ing and ef­fi­ciency by about 70 per cent.

The park brake drum mounts to the trans­fer case. Air-ac­tu­ated front and rear lock­ers ac­ti­vated via in-cabin Switch-pro panel.

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