OutdoorX4 Family Overlander Build

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Mar 30, 2014
Back in September 2014, after some unfortunate issues en route to Overland Expo EAST, we decided to start the search for a vehicle platform to base a family overlander build on. The criteria included:

- Plenty of space for a family of five
- 4WD (obviously)
- No older than 2000 model year
- Parts availability in the event something breaks in a remote destination
- Aftermarket parts availability for modifications
- Comfort for the wife and kids
- Reliability
- Cost <=$25k
- V6 or V8 powertrain (V8 preferred)

After three months of researching and taking input from a LOT of people within the community, we opted on a 100 Series Cruiser (hence posting in this section). We finally found the vehicle in early January: a 2003 model with 95k on the speedo with the 90k service having been performed a month earlier. The previous owner had taken pretty good care of her and the truck had NEVER been off-pavement and was still in stock form.

Since making the purchase, our first item for consideration was to make maximize suspension capability, on a budget, without sacrificing on-road characteristics since the vehicle will be driven daily. We opted for an Old Man Emu setup with 2860 rear springs (medium rate) to allow for a "stiffer" ride but not so stiff that it becomes uncomfortable. Plus, we plan to do a trailer build as part of our family overlander package and the medium rate springs will accommodate this.

After the suspension install, we opted for the new BFG KO2 tires (275/70/18) as they're new to market and we not only believe they have a lot of potential but also wanted to provide a long-term evaluation as to how they compare to the original KO, particularly since our last vehicle was outfitted with the KO. So, a long-term review specifically on the tires will be featured in early 2016.

As it is right now, our truck has begun its transformation and we not only plan to feature it in the next few issues of OutdoorX4 Magazine but wanted to start the official build thread here on Mud. Let the build begin!

Looking forward to the transformation! Mine is also being built as a family camping / overlanding vehicle so I will be watching this thread for ideas.
Nice looking LC! Anxious to see how your build goes!
Great looking truck. Yours are the first KO2s I've seen in that size. Please keep us posted with your impressions.
We'll definitely keep everyone posted as we continue this build. Please note that we are very much aware there are a TON of options out there. While a lot of what we will put on this truck is a "bolt-on", our focus is to make sure that what we use works for OUR purpose. It may/may not be what everyone will agree with but will meet our needs and the full editorial in the magazine will explain WHY we chose what we chose.

Regarding the KO2s, yes definitely stay tuned for a long-term review on these. It'll probably come around this time in 2016. :)
Do you get the minor rub on the inside front fenders with the KO in that size?
Right now we're not getting rub on the inside front fender but it also hasn't been off-pavement yet since mounting the tires late last week. We need to level out the front end and get the diff drop bracket installed. After that, we'll evaluate what else needs to be done to maximize wheel travel in off-pavement conditions. As it is right now, there would definitely be wheel rub inside the fender. Stay tuned.
Nice! Look forward to watching the transformation.
This will be a fun build and something I'm really excited to be a part of. You can bet this 100 and OutdoorX4 Magazine will be at HIH5! Those new BFG's will get a workout...... oh, and you better believe we're taking this thing on Poughkeepsie Gulch!

This has almost convinced me to start my own build thread....
So, we recently finished Phase One of the build and it's being featured in the new issue of OutdoorX4 Magazine which you can view digitally at issue8.outdoorx4.com.

With that said, we thought we'd take a step back and feature more details of the Phase One build (some of which are noted above via the suspension/tire install). Here it is!

Since making the purchase, I ensured all fluids (with the exception of repacking the bearings which will be done when we start Phase Two of the build) had been replaced and afterwards, our first item for consideration was to make maximize suspension capability, on a budget, without sacrificing on-road characteristics since the vehicle will be driven daily. We opted for an Old Man Emu setup with 2860 rear springs (medium rate) to allow for a "stiffer" ride but not so stiff that it becomes uncomfortable. This setup is very similar to the one we had on our diesel Grand Cherokee so we knew it would serve us well. Plus, we plan to do a trailer build as part of our family overlander package and the medium rate springs will accommodate this. The suspension installation was done by our Editor, Frank Ledwell, and a good friend in Houston, Sam Craven, on Sam's driveway on a brisk January morning. Here are a few photos of the truck prior to the install as well as during/after:

The Land Cruiser one day after bringing her home:


So far, I've been very pleased with the Old Man Emu suspension. Sure, we could have spent a lot more money on a more sophisticated setup but our point was to enhance the on/off-pavement characteristics while still using this as a daily driver and not breaking the bank.

Now that the suspension was on the truck, it was time to install new tires as the factory Michelin's just aren't up to the task of overland-style travel. Last September, I had the chance to attend BFG's new KO2 tire launch in Baja and after several days of fun and sun, testing out the tires, I was very impressed. However, I didn't feel three days was enough to truly review those tires so I decided this build would be the perfect platform to do an install with the new KO2 and then do a much more thorough review of the tires in early 2016. So, we chose 275/70/18 BFG KO2 tires and had them mounted/installed onto the truck. Here are a few photos of the tires. One is right after they arrived and the others are of the truck once they were installed.


Once the tires were installed, the geometry of the front end had been compromised with the CV Joints at an awkward angle due to the differential being at a higher location than it was prior to install. So, we sourced a Slee Offroad Diff Drop Bracket Kit to level out the differential and bring the angle of the CV Joints closer to spec. We'll never meet spec completely as the suspension/tires have changed that. However, the CV Joints were leaking fluid when the suspension was installed and now that the differential has been dropped, the angle isn't significant enough. Here are a few photos of the Slee Offroad Diff Drop Bracket Kit being installed. Notice there are spacers between the frame and front skid plate which came with the kit and were necessary to compensate for the lowering of the differential.




Now that the suspension was completely done, we noticed the front end was significantly lower than the rear end so we cranked the torsion bars and left 1" rake so the ride would be a little more leveled out. Here's a close-up photo of the front/rear with the tires installed after the torsion bars were cranked.

The rest of Phase One of the build included small upgrades such as swapping out all the interior lighting (which is quite poor on the Land Cruiser) with new LED lights from PFranLEDs. Unfortunately, we didn't think to take photos of the lighting before the install or took photos of the product before installing it. However, here's a photo of the middle dome light after installing the new PFranLEDs. Believe us when we say the interior lighting is 100x better than it was before.

The rest of the Phase One items included a Ram Mount Pod I Universal No-Drill Vehicle Mount to support our navigational needs from a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 loaded with Gaia GPS and mated to a Dual XGPS160 Satellite Receiver (which we featured in Issue 1 of OutdoorX4 Magazine). Additionally, there were no floor mats in the truck when we purchased it from the dealer so we installed a set of WeatherTech All-Terrain Floor Mats in the front and Digital Fit floor mat in the rear. This will assuredly protect the carpet from the mess that kids inherently attract to the vehicle plus protect it from the mud/etc we get on our shoes while on our adventures. Here are a few shots of those items in the truck.





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