Toy­ota’s 79 Se­ries Cruiser 6x6 is built for bat­tle.

Toy­ota’s mighty 79 Se­ries can do lots of things, but it rarely comes more spe­cialised than this.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS FRASER STRONACH PHO­TOS FRASER STRONACH & BRAD MCCARTHY

MICHAEL Mcmil­lan is a man with wide-rang­ing ideas. Not only has he built a ve­hi­cle that can travel un­sup­ported over all sorts of ter­rain, he aims to sell it world­wide. To this end he has founded a Townsville-based com­pany called Aus­tralian Pa­trol Ve­hi­cles (APV).

The ve­hi­cle in ques­tion is what’s known as a Long Range Pa­trol Ve­hi­cle, or LRPV. It’s the sort of ve­hi­cle Aus­tralian SAS Special Forces troops used to good ef­fect in re­cent con­flicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But there’s a key dif­fer­ence here: where those SAS ve­hi­cles were Land Rover-based, Michael has de­cided to base his on a 79 Se­ries Toy­ota Land­cruiser.

Michael comes at this from a po­si­tion of con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence. He’s been an Aus­tralian Army en­gi­neer for 20 years, reach­ing the rank of ma­jor. Before that he had 15 years in­fantry ex­pe­ri­ence. Michael’s en­gi­neer­ing ex­pe­ri­ence ex­tends to be­ing heav­ily in­volved in the army’s re­cent adop­tion of Mercedes-benz G-wa­gens in place of its long-serv­ing Land Rover Per­en­tie Pro­ject that orig­i­nated in the early 1980s. In what the army calls Land 121 Phase 3A (ef­fec­tively the G-wa­gen pro­gram) Michael was a se­nior sys­tems en­gi­neer who worked di­rectly with Mercedesbenz en­gi­neers to help adapt the G-wa­gen to Aus­tralian Army re­quire­ments and stan­dards.

In de­sign­ing his LRPV, Michael has been as­sisted by a serv­ing Aus­tralian Special Forces war­rant of­fi­cer with 37 years of special forces ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing a con­sid­er­able amount of time spent in the Aus­tralian SAS, widely re­garded to be as good, if not bet­ter, than any special forces on the planet. His name is David.

David’s hands-on SAS ex­pe­ri­ence with the army’s LRPV was in­stru­men­tal in de­sign­ing the rear com­part­ment – the eat­ing, liv­ing, ser­vice, stowage and fight­ing part of APV’S ve­hi­cle.

APV’S LRPV took more than two years to de­velop us­ing two 79 sin­gle-cabs as pro­to­types – a 2011 and a 2012. That was fol­lowed by ex­ten­sive test­ing in­clud­ing month-long desert tests. A key part of the de­sign is that it has to be fully self-sup­port­ing in terms of fuel, food and water for three men for up to 21 days and/or 2500km at a time.

WALK AROUND

THE thing that first strikes you about the APV is how big it is – it dwarfs a stock 79 Se­ries (or a 76 or 78 for that mat­ter) largely due to its length. The most forward of the two rear axles is 300mm rear­ward of the stock’s 79 rear axle, and then you have second axle be­hind that. The over­all length (in­clud­ing the four rear-mounted spare tyres) is some 6.7 me­tres.

The rear axles use a walk­ing beam ar­range­ment and are cur­rently on leaf springs, but a coil-sprung ar­range­ment with Ikon dampers is un­der devel­op­ment in con­junc­tion with Jmacx Off Road So­lu­tions. The ve­hi­cle we drove was fit­ted with limited-slip diffs, but lock­ers are an op­tion. Up front the LRPV runs heavy-duty coils and Nitro dampers, while 285/75 R16 LTS are fit­ted all ’round.

The chas­sis ex­ten­sion is aug­mented and fur­ther strength­ened by a second chas­sis that car­ries the spe­cially de­signed body com­po­nents. This com­prises the gun­ner’s com­part­ment and the sep­a­rate cargo mod­ule, which has a kitchen and var­i­ous stowage ar­eas.

Down the left side, be­hind the ac­cess door to the gun­ner’s com­part­ment, is stowage for am­mu­ni­tion, weapons, spares, tools and the like. Be­hind that in a sep­a­rate com­part­ment is stowage for three reg­u­lar jer­rycans and three half jer­ries for fuel and oil. Mounted across the rear of the ve­hi­cle are four spare tyres.

The fuel- and oil-car­ry­ing ar­range­ment on the left-hand side is mir­rored at the rear of the right-hand side of the ve­hi­cle. Forward of that on the right-hand side is the kitchen com­pris­ing slide-out fridge, fold-down bench, pantry and 100litre water tank. Forward of the kitchen is par­ti­tioned stowage for three full back­packs and three day packs for the three-man crew, with ad­di­tional stowage for the cam­ou­flage nets. This ‘liv­ing’ side of the ve­hi­cle also has a fold-out awning.

In­side the gun­ner’s com­part­ment is a side-fac­ing seat with a cut-out, so that the gun­ner can com­mu­ni­cate eas­ily with the driver and ve­hi­cle com­man­der up front. Im­me­di­ately be­hind the gun­ner’s seat is the stand-up fir­ing po­si­tion with its roof­mounted 360-de­gree weapons ring.

The 360-de­gree mount can be used for a va­ri­ety of weapons, most com­monly a heavy (.50 cal­i­bre) ma­chine gun but also a mini-gun (an au­to­mated multi-bar­rel mod­ern Gatling gun) or an au­to­matic 40mm grenade launcher. There’s also ad­di­tional stowage space in the gun­ner’s com­part­ment.

Be­hind the gun­ner’s com­part­ment you can walk through to the cen­tral stowage area, which among other things has three fold-jump seats for trans­port­ing ex­tra per­son­nel in an emer­gency. This area can also be used to carry ex­tra jer­rycans for fuel and water, plus it has a re­mov­able can­vas top.

While the rear of the LRPV is a work of won­der, the front is even more un­usual. Given, as Michael said, “you can’t fire out of the wind­screen”, the front of the ve­hi­cle can be stripped down when in pa­trol mode.

In a sys­tem Michael calls “sol­dier proof”, the roof, wind­screen, win­dows and doors can be eas­ily re­moved. First the can­vas roof comes off then the roof chan­nels that con­nect the A and B pil­lars clip out. Once that’s done the wind­screen can be lifted out. All this can be done in a mat­ter of min­utes by one per­son if need be. Sep­a­rately, the side win­dows can be re­moved from the doors (or the doors re­moved al­to­gether) to make it eas­ier to get out of the ve­hi­cle quickly in an emer­gency. The fact that the roof, wind­screen and doors can be quickly re­fit­ted also means com­fort­able weather pro­tec­tion for the crew when not in pa­trol mode.

To strengthen the cab, mine-spec­i­fi­ca­tion roll­bars are fit­ted front and rear, which are fur­ther braced by a ‘wire cut­ter’ that runs from the front roll­bar to the rear roll­bar. As Michael said: “You don’t want to de­cap­i­tate your­self when you are forced to drive through a fence at speed.” On that sub­ject, the bull­bar made by Townsville’s O’con­nor Body Fab­ri­ca­tions is de­signed to with­stand hit­ting a 10cm tree at 30km/h. The bar mounts a 5500kg Runva winch and re­cov­ery and air­porta­bil­ity points so the ve­hi­cle can be car­ried un­der a heavylift he­li­copter.

For the ve­hi­cle com­man­der, who sits be­side the driver, there’s a weapon mount on the roll­bar that typ­i­cally car­ries a medium-cal­i­bre ma­chine gun.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

THERE were no weapons fit­ted when we drove the LRPV, but it nev­er­the­less has an im­pos­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing pres­ence driv­ing along the road.

It feels heavy and, given its kerb weight of 4700kg, that’s not sur­pris­ing. Still, the 4.5-litre V8 has no trou­ble mov­ing the LRPV. Since we drove the LRPV Michael has fit­ted a three-inch ex­haust to fur­ther im­prove the en­gine’s per­for­mance. It’s well known that this en­gine has plenty of po­ten­tial, as the stan­dard state of tune is very soft in the typ­i­cally con­ser­va­tive Toy­ota way.

The stan­dard gear­ing with the five-speed man­ual, which al­ways feels way too short in a stock 79, feels tai­lor-made for the LRPV given all the ex­tra weight. If re­quired the LRPV can be fit­ted with an au­to­matic gear­box, such as the six-speed from the LC200.

What did im­press was the gen­eral ride qual­ity and sta­bil­ity of the LRPV, as well as the noth­ing-is-go­ing-to-stop-me feel.

END GAME

MICHAEL has based his LRPV on the 79, as it’s a well-proven, durable plat­form that’s sup­ported right around the world with ser­vice and com­mer­cially avail­able off-the-shelf parts. Be­ing a Toy­ota the LRPV also has what’s called in mil­i­tary terms a low sig­na­ture, which means it doesn’t read­ily stand out – a vi­tal part of covert pa­trolling.

Po­ten­tial cus­tomers for APV’S LRPV start with the US mil­i­tary but ex­tend to Euro­pean, North African, South Amer­i­can and Mid­dle East mil­i­taries. It re­ally ex­tends to any gov­ern­ment, non­govern­ment or para­mil­i­tary/se­cu­rity or­gan­i­sa­tion that needs a self-sup­port­ing long-range ve­hi­cle with or with­out weapons or strip-down ca­pa­bil­ity. The mod­u­lar de­sign also means mul­ti­ple con­fig­u­ra­tions can be achieved off the one plat­form, so ve­hi­cles can be tai­lor-made to in­di­vid­ual cus­tomer re­quire­ments (called mis­sion con­fig­urable).

The four rear-mounted spare tyres push the length out to 6.7m.

Bull­bar mounts a 5500kg Runva winch.

Most of APV’S test­ing has been done in Aus­tralia’s cen­tral deserts. Imag­ine see­ing this beast com­ing at you as you crest Big Red!

The LRPV’S low sig­na­ture means it can sneak past en­e­mies dur­ing covert mis­sions.

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