Ali, the 2008 HZJ76 (2 Viewers)

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Jun 16, 2020
Calgary, AB
It all started with yet another Emirates Auction link sent by my UAE friends. The surprising array of vehicles sold through this auction amazes and shocks, sometimes it makes me a little bit sad or else burst into laughter. I’m always glad to receive them, see a piece of automotive history for sale or perhaps that beater 80 series with a million clicks…

This link, however, was to two nearly-identical 2008 HZJ76’s, one with 11km and the other with 12km on the odo. Plastic wrapping from the factory was still on the various controls, an extra set of MT tyres rammed into the back, VIN sticker on the drivers-side rear door window. Factory roof-rack, modified steel bumpers front and rear, sand ladders mounted above, a hi-lift jack attached to the floor in the rear. Basic trim (but surprisingly with cloth seats), air conditioning, AM/FM cassette radio, jerry can on the back. The VIN numbers indicated 08/2008, which means an August 2023 import date into Canada - absolutely palatable! A lot of dust, perhaps some sun damage...

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I had already been entertaining the thought of a 76 for a daily driver: the 78 is fantastic as an adventure vehicle, but it just doesn’t work for daily driving. With 2008 coming up quickly, the possibility was real… However, the Australian 76 market is quite different than the pickups or Troopy’s. The former are predominantly in private hands, while the latter can sometimes be found as an ex-government vehicle with low mileage and relatively little abuse. Not to mention the prices the VDJ76’s go for, which border on the insane. For 76’s that’s basically it, they were not sold extensively anywhere else, and African or Colombian provenance is obviously out of the question. Not to mention that for a daily driver I’d prefer left-hand drive, even though I have found nearly no difficulties with my Australian-import Troopy (mainly parking garages!).

All this to say - my curiosity was piqued, and I made some inquiries with the Supreme Leader, who - surprisingly - acquiesced to my request to pursue this further.

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With a lot of assistance from three people in the UAE, (Z, S, and @John Young), whom I have to thank immensely for their continued support in making this possible, we came up with a plan.

Firstly, Z went up from Abu Dhabi to inspect the two vehicles in the Dubai lot (no small feat in the September midday heat), and take pictures for us. The conclusion was - definitely a 11/12km vehicle, surface rust from standing in a warehouse or outdoors - possibly flooded at some point (when rain comes in Dubai, it has a tendency to flood) and a definite requirement to replace all rubber components. From the stickers it became apparent this was a vehicle destined for the UN, broadly to the UNDP and specifically to the WFP.

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A few days later, @John Young arrived back in Dubai and also went to have a look.

A bit of surface rust in the corners of the door (definitely a weak point of these J7's, apparently even to be found on newly bought ones from Toyota Gibraltar).

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The very nice seats:

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Glovebox with all manuals and a can of touchup paint!

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Then, the auction kept on getting pushed back. Firstly by a few days, then again by 24 hours. Some algorithmic mechanism was in action, but we were left to speculate the reasons - was there exceptional interest? No interest whatsoever? Were they expecting significantly higher bids? S had set up an account for me to bid from - a non-resident foreigner cannot own a vehicle in Dubai - with all the prerequisite documents and information. I made the bidding deposit by credit card, but with all the delays, it expired shortly before the bidding truly started. @John Young was interested in one for his daily driving in the UAE, so we established that I would bid on the 11km example and he would bid on the 12km one. The bids started pouring in in earnest, with some big jumps. @John Young decided to pull out (25 years to import into the USA is a long way away…) so I now had two angles to play. I made a slightly higher jump and the timing ticked down to 0. I refreshed, and blinked. Won!

Not so quickly, however. Now the winning price needed to be approved by the seller… which took another few days. Then I had 48 hours to complete payment, a typical example of the “hurry up and wait” mentality prevalent in the Middle East. Of course my payment took longer to arrive than 48 hours, coming from Canada, and was hit with a processing fee, which I got sorted out thanks to @John Young.

Then we started waiting for the documents. Waited, and waited, and waited. The auction terms & conditions specified 30 days, but those came and went so I started pestering the auction house (customer service is certainly lacking). Finally somebody was woken, and they wanted to deliver the car the same day when they realized it was for local registration and not export. Hold on, not so quick, nobody is ready to pick it up yet!!

A few days later, the vehicle arrived to @John Young & Z's warehouse, where Z kindly washed Ali and prepared it to be sent to our chosen mechanic for an overhaul.








I was slightly concerned the headlights would be faded, but actually they aren't too bad:

The fabric on the seats is actually a seat cover, which fits very well.



M/T tires cleared out, probably never to be used (Dubai has a 5-year rule for tires):


Glovebox contents:


Very dusty but looking good!

On November 13, Ali was delivered to the mechanic. I had asked for an honest opinion, but knew already that I would like to replace all fluids, belts, soft lines, likely the engine and transmission mounts, and whatever else might need attention.

During this time, @OGBeno was in Dubai and swung by the mechanics' to take a look (thank you!).


In the meantime, @John Young picked up five new tire/rim combinations from Sharjah (non-split steelies and new tires).


Then the waiting game began... A week later, I received the suggested replacement list of parts (very much in line with my expectations), I only decided to leave out body mounts with input from @OGBeno. Then the parts were ordered, but delayed due to the UAE national holiday (first week of December).

Then things progressed slowly, and the final blow was getting a message a few days before I was supposed to leave for Dubai that some of the parts in the order were wrong and it would be delayed another week... :-(

Upon arrival in Dubai, we headed to the shop to see Ali for the first time and assess first-hand the current state of affairs - the remaining parts were supposed to arrive at any moment.

Seeing Ali on jack stands was not too encouraging...


The list of progress didn't inspire too much confidence either:


But the work done did bring a smile:

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So that was Wednesday. Needless to say, no parts were delivered that day, and the clock was ticking. Thursday morning, I spoke with the mechanic and he informed me he had decided to put together the vehicle for me with the existing parts (basically all that hadn't been replaced was coolant hoses and heater hoses, plus a few bushings). Thursday afternoon we were back at the shop and took Ali to get tested - apparently, a test was required to get the registration transferred from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Even though it was still on an "import certificate" something was related to Abu Dhabi and had to be done there. One of those things.

Removed transmission mount (the cracking was some outer layer, but I still feel better having it replaced):

A bunch of removed parts:


A non-standard panel I found behind the rear bench seats:


At the testing center (needless to say, it passed):


Unfortunately that was it for the week (Friday/Saturday being the weekend) and so Ali had to go back to the warehouse.

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Well, that brings me to the next stage, which was getting it registered. As I alluded to above, it was somehow papered in Abu Dhabi - despite never being physically registered - and the UN WFP PRO (PRO: Public Relations Officer) had to go physically to Abu Dhabi, apparently with the passing test result and the VCC (import certificate), to get an "export certificate" for Dubai from the Abu Dhabi General Police Headquarters. I had spoken with him on Wednesday, and like most locals he was supremely friendly but not especially efficient... Thursday was too late already for him. Friday/Saturday was the weekend. Sunday "he does not work". Inshallah Monday. (God willing).

We kept ourselves entertained in the meantime. EXPO Dubai, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Liwa Dunes, beach walks. But honestly this weight was very unpleasant, especially since we had other plans...

All our hopes came crashing down on Monday with a text that his colleague had tested positive for Covid-19 and he himself was waiting for a result.

Luckily in Dubai results come back in a matter of hours, and even better he was negative, but then it turned out he was in Ajman today... He promised to go on Tuesday.

Monday evening we were back in Dubai and headed up to the warehouse to install the head unit and remove the roof rack.




Finally on Tuesday at noon we get the paperwork. The next step is to go to the RTA/Tasjeel and get the car registered. But first it has to be insured, which turns out to be yet another obstacle - the car, being a HZJ76 (generally not sold in the UAE), is not in any insurers' system, so they have to go to the underwriters to check. Finally around 13:00 we get to the Tasjeel centre, and find out we need to upload all the documents to their website, and then get a number. Number in hand, 6 people in front in line. But the vehicle registration line is the slowest... after a good 45 minutes we get to the desk, and everything is going smoothly until they realize that S's RTA profile has a picture of a random woman on it (system error). They confer, send us to supervisor, and then decide we need to go to the RTA offices next door.
Walking over to the RTA, already 15:00 at this point. We explain the situation, get a number, get called up immediately, the image is fixed in two seconds, and it turns out we can do the registration there without any line-up too. Five minutes and done. Why everybody waits at Tasjeel is beyond us, probably the same reason we did: we didn't know we could do it at RTA. RTA = government, Tasjeel = third-party agency.

Plates in hand, we drive up to the warehouse to get Ali out. In the meantime, the mechanics/auto wash service adjacent to the warehouse had washed and vacuumed Ali (very, very welcome) and we enlisted the help of one of the guys to get the plates mounted (with double-sided tape for the time being). But... in the meantime we noticed a leak pooling under Ali. Ugh!! Coolant. A quick visual inspection indicated a loose fitting hose, so I once again enlisted the help of one of the guys to tighten it, which indeed stopped the slow leak. Didn't get any pictures of any of this because we were in quite a rush by this point... we still had a ~5 hour drive to Oman ahead of us.

Drove quickly to the Hertz location (fun fact, the Hertz franchise is owned by the same company which owns the Toyota dealership license in UAE), dropped of the car, and headed towards Oman.

First picture with a Dubai plate:


On the road:

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Stopped before the border for a liquid refill - both for us and Ali.


The border crossing was quite interesting and painless (as an aside, does this mean we were overlanding? 🙈 ) and we arrived in Muscat shortly before midnight. The fantastic hotel had everything prepared for us, including beers in an ice bucket - life was good.



The next morning, we set out early for Nizwa and the "Grand Canyon", Jebel Shams.


At the top of the canyon, 2000m above sea level.

This was my second visit to the Wadi Bani Awf road, the last being two years ago in a rented Fortuner where I actually chanced on the road, simply following the directions to Bald Sayt, the famous oasis town. Of course knowing what to expect takes away the surprise, the absolute shock, in fact, of what this road entails. It's a stunning route. Taking it from Nizwa, you follow a paved road to 2000 meters, snaking your way up and exposing the limits of the 1HZ :)

As soon as you crest the top, the pavement ends, and the true adventure begins.


Ali found some friends (more pictures will be posted in the 70 series thread).


At a point where the water of the wadi is pooled in a canyon:


The views are spectacular throughout:


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Wow. Great writeup.
Reads like a tale from thousand and one night. Maybe that's the dream of every Landcruiser enthusiast to find that one lifetime opportunity and have the ability to grab it.
Also a prime example of comradeship within the LC community to help making a dream happen.
Enjoy your new vehicle. We are looking forward to more stories and pics from Ali.
Happy New Year
Here is Bald Sayt, the picture does not do justice to the enormity of the canyon and the lush greenery that is truly eye-catching:



We arrived back in Muscat slightly after sunset - a perfect day, worth every effort made.

The next day, we drove back to Dubai via Sofar, visiting the fort along the way. Ali started to have a slipping air conditioning belt which was somewhat annoying. The only other "issue" we encountered is a intermittently sticking emergency brake or emergency brake indicator/warning light.

Border crossing on the return was again very smooth, and we made it to Dubai rather early - before 15:00. Unfortunately this meant we couldn't make it to Sharjah as the yards were still closed at this time, and we went to get our third PCR test of the Arabian visit so we could go back home to Canada.

Instead of driving Ali 60 minutes through Dubai traffic to the mechanic and then driving back, I ordered a flatbed. FWIW a flatbed for this distance costs 55 USD, so all-in-all a better choice, I think.

Post-trip mileage:



Wow Jan,

I am not sure this counts as the ultimate "barn find" but it is in the same wheelhouse. This is just awesome. A brand new 13 year old 76... what are the odds??? Way to go!

I am thankful to say that I am a little bit more excited and happy for you than I am jealous! lol. 🤣 It must have been awesome to drive it on that inaugural trip! :bounce:
Dude! So good to hear this story again but with all the details filled in and pics too! I'm so glad it all worked out. And even happier that you got to drive it over the last little while.

2023 can't come fast enough eh?
I was sorely tempted to keep bidding--how cool it would have been for us both to get one. But, as Jan mentioned, it is just too long to wait for me to bring to the US. I'm really happy Jan got this great truck in such amazing condition--and he can bring it home before too long.

I'm going to continue to look for my dream car, a diesel 105, early enough to hang onto and import to the US.
What an interesting rear bumper. Is it homebrew or branded?

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