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GoSeeAustralia finds a mummy and raises a king as we restore a 1985 Toyota Sahara diesel 4wd

May 28, 2006
GoSeeAustralia finds a mummy and raises a king as we restore a 1985 Toyota Sahara diesel 4wd

When we restored GoSeeAustralias 1985 Toyota HJ60 series manual diesel Sahara Landcruiser we did an Egyptian - found a mummy and raised a king.

GoSeeAustralia now enjoys a practical diesel education which started in late December 2005 and is on a continuing learning curve.

GoSeeAustralia found CNN580 parked on a nature strip in Ringwood East, Victoria and despite months of standing about the naturally aspired diesel fired first shot.

As the gold bronze Sahara's 2HJ 3980 cu. in (4litre).OHV 6 cylinder motor rumbled into throbbing life we knew we had found a potentially reliable towing, camping, touring and off-road friend.

Grout and work damage
Grout and work damage

The Sahara is the high roof version of the Toyota GX model and makes a roomy camper with space for two full length inflatable mattresses with the rear seats folded down.

Or used one-up the rear seat on the drivers side folds full down and an inflatable mattress goes in. with pillows and sleeping bags. Four sleeping bags are part of the GoSeeAustralia Saharas kit. They are two summer and two snow weight bags that zip together to make a double bag when required.

With GoSeeAustralias editorial touring gear, camping kit, cooking pans, Spinifex single-burner gas stove with gas cans, food, water, Engel 12/240 volt compressor fridge, tent, tools and the 90 litre fuel tank topped up the Sahara weighs in at just under 3 tonnes on a local weighbridge.

Grout damage passenger  left rear door
Grout damage passenger left rear door

Despite its weight it is economical by any standards. With no special effort we see 9 litres a 100km in daily use in city or country. When we try, the best fuel figure so far is 7.2 litres a 100km with thoughtful use of the rev range and fourth and fifth gear. 

Editor's Note: These standard trim fuel figures no longer apply as GoSee  has fitted a turbo and in normal use the Sahara returns between 11.5litres and 13  litres per 100km at best

Towing and off-road work sends the fuel consumption out to 16litres a 100km with anything up to 2500kg behind on the road, but of course consumption can go higher into the 20s depending on the grades track conditions off-road demands and windy weather.

Electric window control damaged
Electric window control damaged

GoSeeAustralia wonders why with diesel so obviously efficient it is not better supported by government at the bowser as a responsible choice for a fuel resource challenged Australia.

Off-road the Sahara is impressive with its clever ARB modified suspension soaking up shocks and working well with the Toyota Limit Slip Diff to distribute grunt to the rear wheel with most grip.

In 4WD high or low range there is so much torque available it is possible to jump the Sahara out of a bog. Off-road entry and exit angles are outstanding. But it pays to keep thumbs out of the steering wheel spokes if you don't want them bruised or broken as the tyres catch deep ruts.

Guard damaged, bald left front
Guard damaged, bald left front

A big reason for adding the Sahara to GoSeeAustralias towing vehicles was to recapture the love of driving again with a remarkable 21-year-old truck from the middle 80s. The other objective was to get practical experience with a basic, manual diesel which can be easily owner serviced from the ground up.

There is a note in the Sahara's excellent owners manual which says in part - This vehicle will handle and manoeuvre differently from an ordinary passenger car, failure to operate it correctly may result in loss of control or an accident.

The wise words from more than two decades ago are right on the money. Driving any big 4WD is a learning experience best approached after being un-Australian and reading the manual. Advice from 4WD people like the Toyota 4WD Club who know what they are talking about is also obviously invaluable. The motoring organisations are a great source of information and 4WD professionals like Vic Widman (read the GoSeeAustralia 4WD features) offer real experience.

Hard life with dogs involved  leaves carpet stains
Hard life with dogs involved
leaves carpet stains

Driving a 4WD safely goes much further than just getting behind the wheel. If you want a sports car don't buy a serious 4WD. Higher centre of gravity, braking distances, cornering, response to wet and dry going, road surfaces, cross-winds, tyre pressures and profiles, slopes, approach angles, gears and transmission ranges require full understanding if the best is to be had in safe operation from a 4WD.

Add a five-speed manual gearbox to the diesel experience and Sahara touring becomes an almost forgotten world of motoring pleasure which completely involves the driver. Road feel is up close and personal with heaps of feedback. A new and deep respect is quickly learned for the skills of professional truck drivers.

Rear left tailgate damaged
Rear left tailgate damaged

Using diesel torque takes on a new dimension as its massive pulling power is fully appreciated. Diesel torque profile is flat. The sweet-spot in each gear rapidly becomes a reflex driving response as the sound and feel of the motor becomes second nature.

The gears and their use are also a major part of slowing any heavy vehicle and controlling long, steep downgrades, particularly when towing. The gears are best used in concert with the electric trailer brake controller.

If you do not have an electric brake controller and the right gear to go with it then don't tow. You have no right to put yourself and others at needless risk.

Rear right guard damaged
Rear right guard damaged

Over time the speedometer becomes secondary in using a commercial diesel properly. Revolutions rule. The Sahara sings from 2100 rpm right through to 3000rpm. Don't be shy diesels love revs, they love to work hot, and just roll on and on all day and into the night. It takes some really stupid or unlucky mishandling to break one.

Let diesels lug and they run like a slug. But work the Sahara's gearbox and the diesel canters easily at highway speeds between 90 to 110kmh in fifth overdrive between 2100 rpm and 2500rpm, with plenty in reserve if required.

To prevent transmission damage and overheating, particularly when towing, overdrive should never be allowed to lug in any diesel. With the Sahara that is anything below 2000rpm or about 80kmh. Change to fourth, get the revs into the sweet spot and let the diesel do its best work when the load comes on. Third and fourth gears will pull easily to 3000rpm. That is over 110kmh in the Sahara in fourth. When towing these are the gears for the job once you get a roll on.

Rear trade damage, grout stains and gouges
Rear trade damage,
grout stains and gouges

Manual or auto box it is worth keeping the weight off the overdrive when towing. A reconditioned 4WD gearbox will cost thousands of dollars and make attempts at fuel saving by lugging in overdrive look ridiculous. It is a high price for being lazy.

Lock the overdrive out in an auto gearbox in any situation where the load comes on the transmission. This is standard procedure in GoSeeAustralias other Sahara, our massively powerful current 4.2 litre turbo diesel auto Landcruiser which is used to pull GoSeeAustralia's Out There Jayco Heritage 23 72.1 2005 model caravan.

Time spent recently by GoSeeAustralia with the current Fiat 2.8 JTD turbo diesel manual in both the Jayco Ducato campervan and the Conquest motorhome versions only underlines for GoSeeAustralia the importance of working the gearbox and keeping the revs up to keep a good diesel happy.
Editor's note: Please see Conquest conquers with value and comfort

Right passenger door distorted
Right passenger door distorted

With a little experimenting with a diesel significant fuel can be saved by easing back slightly on the throttle to achieve maximum torque point while pulling uphill. Ramming the throttle to the floor will produce fuel waste and black smoke from the exhaust and no real pulling gains as the motors torque characteristics are not being used efficiently.

The GoSeeAustralia1985 Sahara was ahead of its time and is a determined attempt by Toyota to give the man on the land a rural working mount with family touring abilities and high levels of comfort. We think it was the first serious step by Toyota towards the luxury of the current Sahara models. But 1985 or 2006, when it comes down to hard work and bullet-proof reliability the Sahara is a truck.

Trade damage
Trade damage

The two front wheel free-wheel hubs have manual locks for 4WD but there is an electric switch for H2 and H4 on the dash once the hub locks are on. H4 is limited to 80kmh. L4 to 40kmh. The switch from H2 to H4 can be made at any speed without depressing the clutch with the drive control in the H2 position. The Limit Slip Diff, electric tinted windows and sunroof, cruise control, impressively effective heating and air-conditioning plus better than an average interior fit-out is standard 1985 Toyota Sahara.

The GoSeeAustralia Sahara has an ARB modified suspension too.

The 1985 Toyota Sahara extras also include personal map reading lights and a vanity mirror. The electric sunroof has a safety feature built in which stops it just before closing allowing a second chance for misplaced hands.

Armorall Protectant Original used  on  on seats
Armorall Protectant Original used on on seats

There are also quirky clinometers among the dashboard instruments. They adjust for the vehicles correct horizontal and longitudinal level read out when the Sahara is stationary but it is fun to watch them rock and roll as you drive too, particularly in off-road work.

The front seat passenger gets a Jesus bar. Those of you who have been off-road in 4WDs of the Saharas ability will know what we mean and there are plenty of grab handles in the right places for all passengers plus strong running boards for the initial step up.

After 21 years Toyotas better than average also extends to the rust free body. After two decades some minor panel and paint work was all that was needed. Decal trims were redone and the sunroof panel replaced. It had been distorted when it was crunched, probably on a garage roof and the leak the crunch created rusted. While the sunroof was out it got new slide rails.

GoSeeAustralias restored 1985 Sahara climbs fresh heightsin the Snowy Mts.
GoSeeAustralia's restored 1985
Sahara climbs fresh heights in the Snowy Mts.

We shimmed the left hand front passenger door hinges to realign it and replaced and remolded two fibreglass mudguard trims. Then the retro gold bronze paintwork got a wash, clean and polish and the Sahara shone. No cut and polish needed after more than two decades.

Remolding the fibreglass guard trims through Hullabaloo Boats, Bayswater and John Pennant Accident Repair Centre, Croydon saved a bomb. Toyotas quote on new replacement was $700 for the front left hand side $500 for the rear right. Prices from a wrecker were not much better. Remolding with a two-pot finish cost less than a third that.

In credit at that stage on the Sahara budget we replaced the tired electric window and door lock control panel with a new Toyota part at $467 fitted and set the tinted windows dancing.

GSA lunch stop at Cooma, bound for Tumut and Lake Hume on the Snowy Mts. Hwy
GSA lunch stop at Cooma,
bound for Tumut and Lake Hume
on the Snowy Mts. Hwy

GoSeeAustralia got down and dirty from the ground up. We replaced the Saharas sad Desert Dueler tyres with light truck radial Kuhmo Road Venture 31.10 R15 109S ($676 for four). We kept the best of the Desert Dueler originals as a spare as it is in reasonable condition.

The Kuhmo ride is comfortable. The tread profile it not too aggressive and they run fairly quietly at highway speed while retaining acceptable ability off road.

After trial and error and excellent service and advice from Tyrepower, Blackburn, Victoria, we settled on 30psi all round for everyday work. The rear tyres go to 40 to 45psi for towing. A high pressure hand pump with an accurate pressure read-out is used to check the tyres each week. Tyrepower will rotate and balance the Kumhos free when CNN580 completes 10,000km as part of their standard deal.

On and up towards 1410m, Snowy Mts Hwy
On and up towards 1410m,
Snowy Mts Hwy

GoSeeAustralia took the Sahara over with 312,764km on the clock. We are now at 318,000 with about 5000km of getting to know you under our belt.

The Sahara had been in a Ringwood East family since new and serviced by the same Bayswater mechanic, George Tschuma of GWT Autos. This is a huge advantage as full printout details are available on its service history from George's computer up to the period when it went into retirement on the Ringwood East nature strip.

From new it was regularly serviced about every 7000km by the initial proud owner Trevor La Roche who bought it new as Toyota's top of the range for about $36,000 with everything.

But as the Sahara had been standing about a long time we replaced oil, fuel and air filters, motor and transmission fluids and used quality lubricants without compromise on price. The brake fluid had been changed recently so we checked and left it.

Quality result with Meguiars
Quality result with Meguiars

A miscue with removing the oil filter gave practical experience in how hot engine oil can be on the right arm and turned your correspondent a deep shade of black.

Never over-tighten an oil filter, firm hand pressure will set the seal and allow regular easy replacement. Smear a little oil on the rubber gasket of the new filter. Use a rag to clean the mounting surface and check that no old bits of the previous gasket are stuck to the surface. Tighten until the gasket contacts the seat and then give it another turn. To keep track of service intervals we key all vehicle details into our computers Outlook Tasks and set an alarm. The specifics of lubricants used go into the notes.

The Saharas sedimenter water filter has a warning light on the dash and is best bled with the fuel tank full. By just cracking the bottom seal it drains better and the breather plug does not need to be loosened which means air does not get into the fuel system thus saving a fuel bleeding performance.

The seating cloth comes up retro
The seating cloth comes up retro

Crawling about under the Sahara looking for problems reinforced practical diesel experience with grease gun, socket wrenches and spanners. It also allowed selective adjustment to lighten our on-board toolkit to contain only spanners and sockets which fit the Sahara.

Squeaks in the leaf springs were silenced with a good dose of soap and water from a spray bottle.

The cooling system was flushed squeaky clean, twice. The second shot followed an initial overheating setback on a test run from Lake Hume via Seymour on a sizzling summer day. We found to our amazement that the thermostat was the original. Deciding it had more than paid its way a replacement went in. All fan and drive belts were re-checked and re-tightened and the thermo radiator fan auto coupling checked. The brakes also got the check and upgrade treatment.

We ran into dangerous trouble on the Monaro Hwy and again on the Snowy Mountains Hwy with fifth gear jumping out at bad moments on a trailing throttle. So we bit the bullet and took the Sahara to George at GWT Auto to recondition the gearbox.

GSAs towing team, Ford Territory auto, GX 1985 Sahara manual Land Cruiser  and auto Sahara 4.2 TD
GSA's towing team,
Ford Territory auto,
GX 1985 Sahara manual Land
Cruiser and auto Sahara 4.2 TD

The reconditioned gearbox came with a Toyota fix for the known wear problem with fifth gear in the HJ60 Series and we took our biggest budget hit of more than $2000.While the gearbox was out the clutch was checked and came up fine.

We learned the hard way when we replaced the fuel filter. It should have been filled before refitting. We expected to have to bleed the fuel line, but we made hard going of it as my mate Handy Andy hung A side up in the deep engine bay laboring at the manual priming pump beside the engine block while I turned the engine over.

We flattened the main battery and had switched to the auxiliary before the Sahara fired.
The auxiliary battery is a great fall back. It is used to run fridges and charge mobile phones, cameras, torches and other editorial and camping gear through a dedicated plug and remote switch in the back of the Sahara fitted by our resident GoSeeAustralia Managing Director electrical engineer Graham Wallace.

Using the finger in the filler hole method we checked and filled the obviously forgotten, near dry, front diff using a kerosene stirrup pump and flexible tube and learned that the rear Limit Slip Diff must be run on a different, stickier, LS90 lubricant. Toyota provided the insight on that with a sticker still easily readable on the rear diff and notes in the Owners Manual.

Lubricating the steering knuckle joints at the front of the Sahara nearly beat us until Andy Anderson, who gave GoSeeAustralia the word about the availability of the Sahara through family connections, attached grease nipples to suitably threaded connections and fitted them in placed of the plugs in the top of the joint housings.

Andy pumped half a lithium cartridge into both sides before telltale trace of grease emerged at the edges of the joints. It had been a long time between drinks for the Sahara on that score.

The interiors ability to take punishment is beyond dispute. The Sahara had been used as a tradies truck just before we found it. Tiles, grout, sand, hardware, rubbish and layers of dirt took days to remove from carpets, walls, roof and tailgate. But what a result! Rubba, dubba, scrub with some excellent cleaning products did the job.

The retro colours and patterns of the big, comfortable seats and the door trims responded well to carefully applied professional carpet cleaning fluid, water and plenty of elbow grease. We don't have as new but the tough materials used by Toyota recovered to damn good!

The Sahara is now at standard trim. We will upgrade the old technology headlights to a halogen removable QH globe modern Hella version for safety reasons. But as we got the twin Hella 181 QH driving lights which came with CNN580 working, and added a Hella remote on-off switch to the dashboard, that is on the to do list.

What did it cost?

  • $11,515 for the total project.
  • $5,000 bought the vehicle.
  • $6,515 was the cost of getting the Sahara right.
  • $2,100 for a reconditioned gearbox was the biggest restoration cost - plus fitting.

What do we know works?

  • Castrol LMM lithium grease for steering knuckles and general lubrication of the running gear.
  • Castrol LS90 hypoid oil (4 litres) for the Limit Slip Diff
  • If 90 is not used the diff will chatter. Lachlan Strauss, Service Manager at ARB, Brighton, says it can be used in the front diff too.
  • Or Castrol 80W/90 hypoid gear oil (4 litres) will be fine for the front diff job.
  • Chemtech diesel power fuel additive. It cleans injectors and fuel lines and kills algae and bacteria. We find it is good for the Sahara. (Minimum 25ml to 100litres of fuel). Bursons suggest an upgrade for the BP diesel we prefer which we will try.
  • Don't forget to use anti-freeze in the radiator and alpine diesel in the High Country in the cold months. Don't park with the handbrake on for long periods in freezing conditions and lift your wipers off the glass front and rear.
  • Ryco oil, air and fuel filters. Competitive price and quality.
  • Penrite HPR diesel engine oil 20W/60 (10litre pack).
  • Bursons long life radiator coolant. Quality, effective company mix at a good price. Lowers engine temperature in the toughest conditions.
  • Khumo 31.10 R15 truck radials. Competitive price from Tyrepower, Blackburn. Tread is not too aggressive. Good compromise for use touring, towing and limited off-road.
  • Meguiars Gold Class clear coat liquid car wax and three polishing pads. This is the best product of it kind we have used.
  • Meguiars Scratch X fine scratch and swirl remover.
  • Plenty of lint free cloth.
  • Fabric Magic, professional quality textile cleaner.
  • Armorall Protectant Original. We prefer this to the low shine formula.
  • Armorall Multi-Purpose cleaner. Useful all-rounder. We sprayed it in the engine bay. Let it work for five minutes and finished off with a pressure hose.
  • Kenco chamois made of poly vinyl. It is lintless, machine washable, lasts and is gentle on any surface.
  • Mothers professional strength glass cleaner. It is OK on tinted windows, headlights and cleans chrome too.
  • Fibreglass guards, caravans and boats respond well to KH Gel coat restorer acid based cleaner to remove stains and its companion fibreglass polish wax if a light cut is needed. For gloss surfaces the Glaze or Fine Paste products are effective. Use rubber gloves, safety glasses and protective clothing when using the cleaner.
  • Wire brush and Vaseline the battery terminal posts.

RACV Insurance values the restored GoSeeAustralia 1985 Sahara at $11,200 which after 21 years supports claims that Toyota 4WD vehicles hold their value. According to Carpoint Australia a top class example of the 1985 manual Sahara commands about $12,000 (private sale) and between $14,000 and $15,000 through a dealer.

GoSeeAustralia put together figures on the torque evolution of the Toyota diesel Landcruiser 60, 80 and 100 Series engines over the last two and a half decades.

GoSeeAustralia asked the Toyota 4WD Landcruiser Club of Australia (Vic) for information on the HJ60 Series. The Toyota 4WD Club of Victoria was incorporated in 1995. It started with a small group of like minded enthusiasts and has steadily grown into a medium sized club. The club is affiliated with 4WD Victoria (previously the Victorian Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs) and follows the Tread Lightly code of ethics.

President Garry Cooper says: “I owned two 60 Series Landcruisers at one time or another, both petrol and later a diesel variant.

“The only spec I can't lay my hands on at the moment is the rated towing capacity but I will keep on trying. I think in those days this did not rate as an important spec as it does today and given the low power of the engine could have been an embarrassment to Toyota.

“I got this info from a publication brought out by Toyota entitled 25 years of Landcruiser in Australia and it traces the history from the first units brought into the country up to the model that you are enquiring about.

Specifications HJ60 Series
Engine type – Diesel.
Engine capacity (cc) – 3980.
Engine description – 6cyl in line pushrod D6.
Fuel delivery – injected.
Method of delivery – mechanical.
Induction – aspirated.
Power - 72 kW at 3500 rpm.
Max. Torque - 229 Nm at 1800 rpm
Suspension Front and rear - leaf springs
General L x W x H 4750 mm x 1800 mm x 1945 mm
Kerb mass - 2055 kg
Wheelbase - 2730 mm
Price - $21,123.00

80 Series Turbo (rated towing capacity 2500KG)
Fuel type diesel.
Fuel delivery direct injection.
Method of delivery electronic.
Induction turbo.
Power 118kW at 3600rpm.
Torque 357Nm at 1800rpm.

80 Series Aspirated (rated towing capacity 2500KG)
Fuel type diesel
Fuel delivery Multi-point injection.
Method of delivery mechanical.
Induction Aspired.
Power 96kW at 4000rpm.
Torque 271 Nm at 2000rpm.

100 series Turbo diesel engine specification (rated towing capacity 3500KG)
Engine type Diesel
Engine capacity (cc) 4164
Engine description 6cyl/SOHC/4V
Forced induction system Turbo
Maximum Power 150kW @ 3400rpm
Maximum Torque 430Nm @ 1400rpm

100 Series Aspirated (rated towing capacity 3500KG)
Engine Code 1HZ
Fuel Type diesel
Fuel delivery multi-point injection.
Method of delivery mechanical.
Induction aspired.
Power 96kW at 3800rpm
Torque 285nM at 2200rpm. 

Editors' Note,also see:

New Conquest conquers with value and comfort

4WD Driving


Ducato makes home any place at all

Go for the anchors with confidence