The first Toyota commercial vehicles were imported into Australia in 1958 by Thiess Brothers. Sales of the FJ25s were very brisk, especially to the mining industry. I am not sure when I drove my first FJ25, but it would have been about 1963 when I worked at Mount Isa Mines. In 1967, my brother in law, Calver Wilson, an apprentice diesel fitter, bought a spent-out ex-prospecting trayback and we spend many hours rebuilding it. I remember that copious stubbies of VB were consumed during the project. When completed, we took many trips into the Gulf country where we met Wally Brummell in 1968, a station mechanic and a Toyota Trayback user.
We had some wonderful tours in those 4WD traybacks. They carted very heavy loads of fuel on our long weekend and holiday trips. I had a Falcon ute and traded it on a new Leyland Series 3 Land Rover in 1974 — my first 4WD. In 1980, I traded it on a brand new Toyota Landcruiser F60 wagon after striking a deal with Darwin’s then Bridge Autos. It was the first of six Landcruiser wagons I have owned to date and all but the first were used extensively for a tour operation I used to own. I currently drive a 1998 100 Series wagon and have had no problems with it. It is an amazingly reliable 4WD.
But I have always had a soft spot for the old trayback — as we love to call these light 4WD trucks. They can carry a good payload and are utterly reliable in the bush where they are a living legend. Arguably, they are used in more mines, farms, stations and as a tradie vehicle than all other brands combined, while thousands are used for recreational pursuits — fishing, hunting, camping, fossicking and bush outings. The original legend, the 1958 FJ25, has been superseded by many models since and has undergone many evolutionary engineering designs enroute.
The Series 70 The current model, the Series 70, was released last year and is so popular that there is a waiting list for delivery. My fishing mates, Ian and Ann Leighton, are farmers, but they also love their fishing and hunting, as do their lovely daughters, Claire and Jenny. The Leightons recently purchased a new Landcruiser S70 for farm work and bush trips. It’s a powerful bit of gear when compared to the old six cylinder models; the new S70 now has a V8 turbo diesel which, at 4.5litres — and a huge power output of 151kW — is over 20% more powerful than the old — what was once the class-leading — 6 cylinder engine. This unit has grunt, probably the reason that so many are used by pig hunters to carry their dogs.
We recently headed bush in the new trayback to the Coleman/Mitchell River delta, a round trip of 1300km. Ian was towing his 5.3m plate boat, Beermundi, and that powerful truck was hard to slow down in the sandy and boggy country encountered enroute. There is real muscle power in this unit and, with some 430nm of roaring bush-scattering rumble, the S70 made towing the boat (both it and tray carrying big loads) a relatively simple exercise. This is made possible not only by the turbo-charged engine but also by the 5-speed manual gear box, fitted with both high and low range selection, and the right ratios for climbing the steep sections of the Great Dividing Range when we turned west at Musgrave Roadhouse, halfway up the Cape York Peninsula.
The new model S70 has improved road suspension in its wide front track, with a durable stabiliser system and lateral control rod, making it a very stable 4WD truck, even with heavy loads. Fuel efficiency is remarkable for a 4WD this size and, even when towing the big boat, it used slightly more fuel than my old 100S, towing my 420 Quintrex Dory. Toyota lists a fuel use of 11.5litres/100km, but that of course depends on the terrain, speed and load carried; thus it is a guide only.
There is plenty of interior comfort also, especially for those planning long hours driving enroute to the fishing hole. Air conditioning is optional and highly recommended when driving in the tropics. It not only helps to keep you cool, but also stops the bulldust from getting into the cabin. Standard are an MP3-compatible CD player with AM/FM radio, USB input with iPod control and Bluetooth capability. Audio streaming is standard, thus you are free to let the music flow on long trips.
The driving seat is inbuilt with deep, comfortable cushioning and generous lumbar support that soaks up the bumps and corrugations better than in previous models. The passenger seat has always been uncomfortable and Ann replaced it with an aftermarket bucket seat. And the S70 has a nice choice of colours as a bonus.
The gear box has five forward gears — coupled to high and low range — and one reverse gear. 4WD is engaged after manually locking the front-wheel hubs into position. Under the bonnet is the big V8 super donk, partly hidden by a humungous air cleaner, while two heavy-duty batteries provide the electronics and accessories with all the power needed.
Accessories There is a good range of aftermarket accessories available for the S70 model, ranging from genuine Toyota products to many others from specialist providers like ARB, Black Widow and TJM. Bullbars are mandatory when driving in the bush to thwart kangaroo and bird strikes, sticks and branches. The S70 series has air-bag-compatible bullbars, and different models are available for fitting other accessories — driving and fog lights, communication aerials, or a winch. Body front and side bars are optional. Front weather-shields, sun visor (a tropical must), GPS navigation, UHF radio, tyre pressure monitoring system and more can be fitted to the body tray. The Leightons have tool boxes and water tanks fitted under it for bush use. The tray was made by Atherton’s Deepman’s Sheetmetal works.
The towing capacity S70 trayback is rated at 3500kg (braked) and 760kg (un-braked), with tow ball and light harness an optional extra.
Summary The Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series trayback handles well both on the black top and on bush roads. It has real muscle power for rugged bush tracks, backed by speed on the open road that gives that legendary indestructible Toyota feeling. Steering is positive and effective at all speeds with the tyres (Dunlop GrandTrek) fitted and, with heavy loads and pulling the large boat, it proved to be an ideal towing vehicle.
It beats me why the Grey Nomads buy wagons for dragging vans and campers instead of a smart load system like the S70 in their travels about OZ. This thing looks as good on the road as any wagon and is better suited for the job because the tray cab can be loaded up with gear. It can be made theft-proof by fitting a canopy and, with an optional boat rack, the fishing tinnie has a secure place to travel. If comfort is the only reason, then there are plenty of aftermarket options — such as upgraded suspension and seat replacements — to fix that.
Personally I would love one, but the cost is out of my range. But if you are in the market for the ultimate fishing wagon, or intend hitting the road and doing the grey nomad thing, you and your partner could do worse than checking out one of these outstanding 4WDs at your local dealer.