Come on, admit it. There’s been more than one idle night or procrastination session when you’ve been scrolling through the online classifieds and come across an older vehicle that “needs some TLC” and you’ve thought to yourself, “Yeah, I could totally build that into something cool.”
Well let me tell you friend, when reality kicked in and you followed up that thought with, “Dammit, I really can’t afford a project right now,” it was probably the smartest decision you ever made. You know why? Because building an older 4WD is way harder than everyone thinks it is. Take it from me. I’m several years deep into a 45 Series
Landcruiser body on a stretched 80 Series frame project that I initially thought would take a few months max… sigh.
Let me run you through why I’m an idiot, and why if I ever build another 4WD, I’ll almost
certainly start with something newer.
Rust is one of the biggest concerns when undertaking a resto on an older vehicle, and
the 45-80 was no different. I ended up cutting out a bunch of the floor, the bottoms of
the doors and a fair portion of the cab turrets and bending up new sheet metal to weld
back in. This would have cost several thousand at a panel beaters. It cost me several
weeks of shaping metal, blowing holes in the body with the MIG and a mild case of
carpal tunnel from all the grinding, sanding and filling.
End result: most of the body looks like a drunken chimpanzee took to it with a hammer,
but I no longer care.
Ever wondered what a thirty-five-year-old wiring harness looks like after countless
owners have added their twist-n-tape abortions to it? Like a multi-coloured version of
Bob Marley’s hair and way less cool.
I gutted every wire and bought an aftermarket E-Z Wiring harness to replace the tangle.
In hindsight, a huge mistake. These things are designed for old hot-rodders putting a
350 Chev into a T-bucket, not for a simpleton wiring a 1HZ into a fourby.
End result: Countless discarded half-assed wiring diagrams drawn in chalk on my garage
wall. It works, but I would just make up my own harness in the future. Quicker, easier
Because I’m clearly the poster child for dumb ideas, somewhere along the way I decided
I would apply a fresh coat of paint. Not exactly a hard job but so time consuming. I used
Raptor Liner on the underside of the body, the firewall and interior. That part was
actually fairly straightforward. The rest was not. Well, it was, except for the whole
cleaning, rubbing back, re-cleaning, finding more filth and worn paint, cleaning again,
priming, finding new rust, fixing that, more cleaning and eventually 20 minutes to
actually paint any given panel thing.
"I hope you have limitless free time, hate your elbow and wrist joints and enjoy coughing up what looks suspiciously like cancer."
End result: Pretty average looking spray job really, but f*ck it, I’m not going through that
again so it’ll have to wait until I can afford to pay a pro to do it.
I consider myself an okay grinder/welder/metal shaper, but I cannot in good faith
recommend stretching a frame, moving engine mounts, re-working crossmembers and
trying not to break down in tears to just anyone. For example, the frame stretch took
three goes to get right. I eventually ended up making up a jig to keep things straight. It
was a PITA and the reason I now have an eye tic.
End result: I got the wheelbase I wanted and am okay with it. But yeah, I’d still do it
differently if I was starting over.
THE LITTLE HEADACHES
Oh, that brake-line bracket won’t work? Better make up a new one, eh? Oh, the steering
column needs a custom firewall support and the dash needs to be recessed to make it
sorta fit? Spend a couple weeks of free time working that shit out then pal. Oh, all those bolt holes you painted over need re-tapping? I hope you like sweating and inventing
new swear words at the same time my old China, ’cos you’ll be doing a lot of both.
Yep, the little jobs list is essentially endless.
End result: I guarantee this thing will never, ever, be truly ‘finished’.