The new Land Cruiser 79 double cab

Land cruising along

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In 1973 I was seconded to a road survey of the planned 311km road from Nata to Kasane in Northern Botswana. The only condition was that I had to find a 4x4 vehicle to complete the trip as there was no road at all - not even a track. It was a journey straight through the bush with large areas of black cotton soil. This would bog down any vehicle for days when wet.

In the 70’s there were not many 4x4 variants available.

I can only recall Land Rover and the Ford F250 at the time. It was suggested that I contact the Toyota dealer in Johannesburg to see if they had anything suitable. Luckily for me they had just imported one of the first Toyota Land Cruisers and agreed to lend me a vehicle for the trip.

Leaving Johannesburg early on a Sunday morning I drove the 904km to Nata, where I met the rest of the survey team. The Land Cruiser had no air conditioning, and no power steering - in fact nothing “power” at all. It was purely a 4x4 workhorse bakkie.

On arrival at Nata the group were very interested in the Cruiser, but did not seem to give it much chance in the tough conditions we were about to encounter. They were all “Land Rover” people and had been provided with vehicles by the British government to complete the trip.

At the end of the journey, where we encountered extremely harsh conditions, many of the vehicles had problems of one sort or another, but the Cruiser just carried on and completed the journey with no problems at all. After reaching Kasane we returned to Johannesburg via Victoria Falls and the then Rhodesia. The road is now excellent and makes the journey from Nata to Kasane a pleasure.

The new retro designed Land Cruiser 79 double cab I’ve been driving recently is a very different vehicle to the one I drove through Botswana, with one outstanding exception: toughness. The new model is every bit as tough and indestructible as its predecessor from 40 years ago.

Powered by a 4.5 litre 32 valve V8 turbo diesel with 151kw of power at 3400rmp, and 430Nm of torque at 1200rpm, driving though a 5 speed manual transmission with a two speed transfer case and part time 4wd system with manual free-wheeling front hubs. This makes the Land Cruiser the ultimate 4 x 4 system. A go-anywhere workhorse that is comfortable to boot.

Besides the addition of the two doors at the rear the double cab also features an on-board Satnav, a stereo system and USB port. Fuel consumption is pegged at 11.55l/100km.

John Elford

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