As Americans, we take great pride in our unique national treasures. The Bill of Rights, National Parks, baseball, barbecue, rock and roll — the list goes on. In addition, our cultural melting pot has given us access to a huge variety of iconic creations from foreign shores; we didn’t invent pizza or tacos, but we’ve certainly embraced them. So, it’s always surprising to come across an item that’s essentially unobtainable in America. Such has been the case for the 70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

Photo of a Toyota in the middle of a muddy water crossing.

Produced from 1984 through the present (yes, it’s still in production), the 70-Series is an immensely popular vehicle for militaries, government organizations, and off-road adventurers around the world. However, it was never sold in the United States — we got the rounder and more luxurious 80-Series, sold here from 1990 to 1997. Although it’s possible to bring over some foreign-market 70-Series Land Cruisers under the 25-year-old vehicle import law, making one street-legal comes with a long list of additional headaches and costs, especially if you live in a state with strict emissions regulations.

Photo of a 70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser driving through the desert.

Above: The truck also includes a deployable awning and shower enclosure with hot and cold running water.

70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser

Tim McGrath, founder and lead designer for overland apparel company Sackwear, fell in love with the 70-Series Land Cruiser, especially its 79-Series pickup truck submodel. “The people that know about the 79 wish they sold them here in the States,” he says. Knowing the difficulties of legalizing an imported 79-Series, he began looking for alternative ways to achieve the appearance and rugged functionality of one of these trucks. This led him to Maltec, a company in Germany that builds custom Land Cruisers that — despite their appearance — are actually based on the easily importable 80-Series chassis. They agreed to build him a North American-spec truck that features a modified 70-Series cab and carbon-fiber camper on top of an 80-Series frame.

Photo of a Toyota with the canopy of a bed camper extended.

Above: It only takes a few seconds to deploy the pop-up roof and set up camp.

The build began with a 1993 80-Series Land Cruiser. After removing the original body, its frame was stretched to match the desired wheelbase for the camper conversion. A four-door cab from a 79-Series donor vehicle was mounted onto the 80-Series frame, and the back of that cab was cut out to create a pass-through into the carbon-fiber camper shell that was added next. Normally, having a custom vehicle built halfway across the globe would be rather nerve-wracking, but Tim says the builders listened to his needs and were extremely communicative. “Maltec did a great job keeping me connected with the progress, and sent me lots of emails with photos. I trusted their expertise and craftsmanship since they build really awesome rigs.”

Photo of a 70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser driving through the fog.

Above: The Front Runner roof rack holds two Alu-Boxes and a large dry bag for gear storage. Additional rails atop the camper can be used to retain a kayak or paddleboards.

Modifications and Upgrades

In addition to the body modifications, Maltec installed a 4.2-liter 1HD-T turbo-diesel engine and five-speed manual transmission, a configuration that was also unavailable in U.S.-spec Land Cruisers. The truck’s underbody is armored with a variety of Maltec skid plates to fend off rocks on the trail; it rides on OME 3-inch-lift springs and OME shocks, 17-inch Braid beadlock wheels, and 37-inch Cooper tires.

Photo of a Toyota driving down a forested road.

Above: Despite its many creature comforts, this Land Cruiser is no pavement princess. It can still go just about anywhere and take Tim’s whole family with it.

Tim says this combination balances a spacious interior and compact exterior, with “enough room to travel and sleep four while still remaining small and capable.” He explains, “There’s not a lot of room, but it’s doable — I guess that’s the trade-off. I can wheel this thing to places where most campers can’t go. I love that we can set up someplace crazy and stay comfortable, warm, and dry at night. We can even cook inside and watch a movie.” It wasn’t an easy or inexpensive process, taking a year to complete and costing north of $200,000, but he doesn’t regret it for a second.

Photo of a 70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser driving next to an alpine lake.

Over the course of the last year, Tim has taken his Land Cruiser out on family expeditions at least once a month. In one of his most memorable experiences, he and his daughter drove to Colorado, arriving late in the evening to a dark and narrow trailhead. They continued onward, winding up a steep mountain road to a lake just above the tree line at 12,000 feet. He recalls, “The truck tackled the obstacles without any issues and delivered us safely. We were the only ones there under a star-filled sky, and had paddle boards to keep us entertained the next day.”

Photo of the interior of a Toyota Overlanding rig.

1993 Toyota Land Cruiser

  • Drive Train: 4.2L 1HD-T turbo-diesel inline-6, 5-speed manual transmission, 4×4 with 2-speed transfer case
  • Suspension: Old Man Emu springs and shocks
  • Wheels & Tires: 17-inch Braid Dakar Beadlock A wheels, 37×12.5R17 Cooper Discoverer STT Pro tires
  • Body Modifications: 79-Series Land Cruiser cab with rear cutout; Maltec aluminum front bumper, skid plates, fender flares, and carbon-fiber camper; Front Runner roof rack, awning, and camper roof rails; Alu-Cab exterior hot/cold shower, two 42L Alu-Boxes and Halite dry bags for storage
  • Interior Modifications: Maltec cabinets, gray and black leather door panels, suede headliner, and teak wood camper flooring; four Recaro Sportster CS leather seats, Webasto heater, 15-gallon fresh filtered water tank, water boiler, hot/cold sink, three-burner stove, espresso machine, upper and lower beds (sleeps four)
  • Lighting & Electronics: Dual AGM house batteries, two 100W SunWare solar panels, Victron Energy 2,000W power inverter, Alpine Halo 11-inch head unit/navigation, Simarine PICO touchscreen information panel, two Dometic refrigerators, LED camper lighting with charge ports, Warn Zeon 10-S Platinum winch with Factor 55 fairlead and FlatLink E, Baja Designs S1 bumper lights and LP9 Pro driving lights, KC Hilites Cyclone rock lights
  • Built By: Maltec – Menden, Germany –

Photo of the kitchen in a 70-Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

Above: A triple-burner stove and espresso machine allow Tim and his family to enjoy a hot breakfast without leaving the comfort of the camper.

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Editors Note: This article has been modified from its original print version for the web.

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