Name: Patrick Bol
Occupation: Owner of Desert Max (Operational Oct 1st)
Vehicle: 2015/06 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup LC79 DC 4L VXR
Patrick’s LC79 is the ultimate camping car for those wishing to explore the vast deserts of the UAE. Bought in Abu Dhabi and modified here, it’s the perfect vehicle for sailing over tough dunes and relaxing after a hard day of navigating.
Tell us the background story of the car…
We have enjoyed off-road expeditions for the last two decades with a group of friends, riding mostly enduro bikes and buggies through the desert far away from tarmac roads.
I vividly remember last year a 1400km offroad Oman enduro expedition. We were in the South of the soft Wahiba sands and two of our motorbikes without sand scoops started to struggle in the soft dunes. The nearest asphalt road was at least another 50km away, but we were closely observed by a local camel herder who effortlessly moved around and gently parked his Toyota LC79 on top of the dune. About an hour later the conditions improved as we drove a “soft desert piste”, with speeds over 90 km an hour. The herder overtook us with his Land Cruiser pickup, this time with a full grown camel in the back as he cheerfully opened the window to wave at us shouting, “That’s the one car I want!”
Whenever we travelled in the UAE or Oman, we always noticed these indestructible vehicles favoured by the locals, with an impressive one ton load capacity in the tray and a 130L fuel tank as standard. On top of that, you can get Toyota parts everywhere.
When I started my own self-drive expedition company with operations in the UAE, Oman and East Africa, I thought, “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. The choice of the lead vehicle was easy and I selected the extremely reliableLC79 DC 4L VXR. In the desert the extra grunt of the 228hp engine is most welcome and I even considered more horse power.
When you drive this manual car in town you realise it’s old fashioned in design. It’s not fully adapted to modern traffic or shopping malls, nor does it have fast breaking or sharp U-turn ability. This machine is designed for the outback and to function on a farm for the next 25 years. So I told my five year old son that I had bought him a car that he will drive once he gets his licence.
What modifications have been made, performance and cosmetic wise?
After buying the car from a trader in Abu Dhabi we took it for a spin, and then headed to Liwa to test its capability. Here we tested suspension, tire width and size, and vehicle balance when fully loaded.
Since I don’t know enough about cars it was time to turn to the professionals. I asked the Dakar veteran Sebastian Husseini, owner of SEBSPORTS, to orchestrate the rebuild.
We basically turned the LC79 into an overland camping car. For that purpose the Toyota is a great platform as the chassis is really heavily built. In the pictures you can see the most obvious upgrades. By far the best modification for money is the suspension of Old Man EMU shocks with enhanced spring packages. This really improved the ride both on and offroad. We added wheel spacers on the rear axel as Toyota had previously re-designed the engine bay with a wider front axel to accommodate the mighty V8 4.5l twin turbo diesel without bothering about the rear track width.
Thunder 4×4 designed and built the aluminium canopy to great precision and strength, including preserving the rear camera. The canopy ended up weighing the same as the steel pickup tray. For safety, we added an exoskeleton roll cage integrated with a roof rack, and improved the brakes. By the time we finished, the car had doubled in value.
Do you have something that you consider to be a ‘special feature’ of the car?
There are several special features such as a 67 litre Engel refrigerator powered by a Dual battery system, a tire pressure and temperature system that’s integrated with the standard NSV central control panel, and last but not least two under seat compressors to speed up tire inflation.
What were your other options before you bought this car?
I have always been in love with the legendary Land Rover Defender; however, when I tried one at the dealer my 6’7’’ (2m) tall body did not fit in as anticipated, as I could not see out.
We also looked at the LC 200 automatic GXR 4.5L twin turbo diesel. Desert Max is building up two of those vehicles which will serve well in our luxury tours.
How often do you use your car, and what activities do you take part in?
In the winters we drive in the UAE and Oman and in the summer Desert Max organises trips where the cars get shipped from Dubai to Djibouti for60 day self-drive expeditions from Addis Ababa to Cape town.
Are you planning any future modifications?
This car only misses a proper stereo. My wife votes for a shower but Desert Max Man 6×6 already provides us with shower and toilet modules.
What 4×4 do you dream of owning?
If money was not a problem, the choice would be a Mercedes AMG G 6×6.Just watch Top Gear; now that is a machine.
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