UZJ100 STYLE

Words and photos: Scott Brady

Despite the luxurious trappings of the newest Land Cruiser, there is no question of the Toyota’s heritage and capability. Having traveled thousands of off-highway miles with Doron Strassman and his 1999 UZJ100 on some of the most remote and rugged tracks in North America, the Land Cruiser has proven itself to be the most durable and reliable SUV currently available to the expedition traveler.

THE FIRST STEPS

In 1999, Doron began evaluating options for an exploration vehicle. Requirements for the build included the ability to transport four passengers and all of their gear comfortably across nearly any road in the Americas. After considering many options, he ordered a new Land Cruiser. One small, early snag: the requested leather seats were not included, and the dealer had to retro-fit them from the cloth. From this solid foundation, Doron began researching and testing modification solutions for this new platform, which at the time had little aftermarket support. The enhancements began with a Long Ranger auxiliary fuel tank, bringing the total fuel capacity to over 70 gallons, and allowing a 900-mile range on improved surfaces. Installing the fuel tank required moving the spare tire to the rear bumper, which was accomplished with a TJM steel unit with tire carrier. With those modifications in place, Doron and family began exploring the Southwest, starting with the 100-plus mile El Camino Del Diablo trail in Arizona. This first trek and a few more challenging trails in the Tucson area identified the need for several trail specific enhancements.

CLEARED TO WHEEL

Gaining additional ground clearance became the next goal, which was met by installing 315/75 R16 BFG All-Terrain KO tires and a small lift. The lift is a combination of off-the-shelf parts and a differential drop, engineered and fabricated by Doron. Slee Off-Road supplied the Old Man Emu 863 springs (stuffed with Air Lift Bags) and Ironman HD torsion bars. The result is a suspension height of 1.5” over stock when fully loaded. Doron also removed the factory sway bar to allow full suspension articulation. Those changes, combined with the factory rear electric locker, allow the Cruiser to cross technical obstacles if required. With the trail requirements addressed, it was time to evaluate safety and recovery. Doron and I were planning an expedition into the Sierra Madre of Mexico, which would include the possibility of deep water crossings and hundreds of miles of remote trails. An animal strike, trail repair or vehicle recovery on remote mountain roads is a real possibility, so this prompted Doron to fit the truck with an ARB bull bar, complete with a Warn HS9500 winch and SDB-210 dual beam auxiliary lights. With the electric winching requirement and accessory load, Doron installed a Sure Power dual battery system consisting of an Optima yellow-top and Odyssey deep cycle. Communications are also critical while on extended, unsupported travels, so a 2-meter radio and CB were mounted on the transmission tunnel, within easy reach of both the driver and passenger.

COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE

While all of the trail modifications prove valuable, it is Doron’s attention to passenger comfort and camp convenience that keeps his family excited about the next trip. Toyota did much of the work already, with wide, supportive seats, front and rear climate control and effective sound deadening.

In addition to these factory solutions, Doron installed a 15-gallon fresh water system, fed under pressure to the rear of the Land Cruiser using a Flojet on-demand pump. An ARB 45-quart freezer/fridge is also installed on the split load platform in the back to keep perishables cool for the length of a trip. With Doron’s wife Cindy and his children Abby and Ethan on board (in addition to the family cat, Bisbee), an ARB full-length roof rack was installed to carry bedding, chairs and personal gear. Having traveled with the Strassman’s on many adventures, their Land Cruiser never ceases to impress me. While the width and curb weight of the vehicle create some challenges in technical terrain, those same attributes also contribute to enhanced passenger comfort, safety and storage. After wrapping up a recent trail run, I asked Doron if he had any regrets during the build process. He paused for a moment, and then said “I want those cloth seats back!”

SPECS

owner/driver name: Doron Strassman
age: 40’s
occupation: Rocket Scientist (yes, really)
Toyota: (year, make, model): 1999
Toyota UZJ100 Land Cruiser
engine and drivetrain
engine make: Toyota
type: V8
displacement: 4.7L
output: 245 hp
transmission: 4-Speed Automatic
other mods:
Sure-Power Dual Battery System with Optima and Odyssey
Batteries.
ARB Safari Snorkel
interior/safety equipment
Yaesu 2m
Cobra 75 WX STII CB
Custom 15-gallon water system
Custom load platform with drawers
ARB 45 Freezer/Fridge
Garmin StreetPilot GPS
suspension
type, f/r: Independent Front, Coil
Sprung, Solid Axle Rear
anti-roll bars, f/r: Owner Removed
shock absorbers, f/r: Old Man Emu
springs, f/r: Front Ironman and Rear
Old Man Emu (from Slee Off-Road)
Custom differential drop by owner
wheels and tires
tire brand/size, f/r: BFGoodrich AT/
KO 315/75 R16 (35×12.5 Equivalent)
weight: approx. 6,800 lbs dry

The Land Cruiser conforms to the terrain well, but the front IFS does exhibit some lift. The 100-series employs massive lower control arms and torsion bars, in addition to the largest CV axles in its class.

The Land Cruiser conforms to the terrain well, but the front IFS does exhibit some lift. The 100-series employs massive lower control arms and torsion bars, in addition to the largest CV axles in its class.

With plenty of on-board fuel and water, this UZJ100 Land Cruiser excels in remote, harsh environs. The 35” BFG All- Terrain KO’s grip the terrain well, and help distribute the truck’s mass over softer surfaces.

Visible from the rear is the paint-matched TJM bumper and Long Ranger auxiliary fuel tank. The stout swing-out carrier mounts the full size spare. High GVW means brakes must be kept in top condition.

The Land Cruiser is a comfortable place to spend time, with three-zone climate control and heated leather seats. This area also houses most of the communication and navigation equipment, and controls for the auxiliary fuel tank, battery system and locking differential.

The 315/75 tires, long wheelbase and factory electronic locker provides an excellent foundation for a trail vehicle, as well as an expedition platform. The additional ground clearance of the tires and mild lift allow Doron to traverse many of the 3.5 rated trails in Arizona.

The rear of the Cruiser holds most of the cooking and camping supplies. The split-load fl oor keeps the interior organized on long trips, and allows easy access to food and support equipment. Critical extra water supplies are also kept here.

The engine bay houses a 4.7L V8 with a dual battery system. An Odyssey is used for the starting circuit, and an Optima Yellow-top is used for accessory loads. The system is managed by a Sure-power relay, with some logic adjustments made by Doron.