Onca Off-Road’s latest Land Cruiser 79 bakkie is a pretty special creation. Those massive tyres attract a lot of initial attention, but what’s going on underneath is even more interesting.
“We want to take the vehicle to the Atlantis dunes to see how it performs, but rock crawling is really what this vehicle is about,” says Onca Off-Road owner Len Nel of the company’s latest Cruiser creation. “It’s incredibly competent off-road. We completed a tough trail with it the other day and it managed to keep up with the Jeep Wranglers. Not a lot of Cruiser bakkies can do that.”
Indeed, for all its toughness and practicality, a Land Cruiser 79 bakkie has some limitations when it comes to rock crawling. It’s long, of course, and it has a big turning circle. Approach and departure angles can be problematic, too, and despite good ground clearance in general, the mounting points on the rear shocks make them prone to off-road damage.
So, how do you turn a standard Land Cruiser bakkie into one that can tackle a hardcore 4×4 trail? Onca started by giving it some seriously big tyres. The standard rims and tyres were removed, and 20-inch Fuel rims shod with 37-inch Cooper tyres were fitted. Len wasn’t completely happy with the look of the 20-inch rims, though, so a set of plates was specially machined to create that beadlock look. The tyres aren’t actually beadlock, but they have that hardcore appearance.
Now, large tyres can create all sorts of issues, but Len and his team were determined to create a vehicle that works perfectly, which was why so much was done underneath the Cruiser.
“Getting the suspension setup we wanted has been a two-year research and development process. We asked Icon Vehicle Dynamics in the United States to create shocks specifically for the 79 Cruiser. It was a long process of trial and error, and of fine-tuning, but we eventually landed on a great shock. We also teamed with EFS to create leaf springs for the Cruiser. It’s a heavy-duty setup. The leaf-springs on their own result in 100mm of lift.”
According to Len, the suspension has provided the Cruiser with excellent wheel articulation, as well as some serious ground clearance. “There’s no body lift on this vehicle,” says Len. “It’s all suspension lift. However, we’ve made sure that there are no problems because of it. There are no shafts running at odd angles. The toughness and reliability of the Cruiser hasn’t been affected at all.”
With the new suspension, Onca has also moved the mounting points of those rear shocks. They’ve been fitted on a set of tough plates that protect them from damage, and the bolts underneath are recessed, so there’s nothing that can get caught on an off-road trail. Similarly, the vehicle diffs and axles are protected from damage by tough plates, and there’s also a bash plate at the front, should the improved approach angle (thanks to a Onca replacement bumper) prove insufficient.
Other additions include a set of Rigid Industries LED lights, a robust Smittybilt winch, a rear replacement bumper, various storage boxes, a roof rack, roll bar with spare 37-inch wheel, leather seats and new cabin consoles.
What’s striking about Onca’s creations, including this latest Cruiser, is the attention to detail. “We want to make a vehicle better, not worse,” says Len. “That’s why we make sure that gear ratios are correct and big wheels and suspension lifts don’t impact reliability. Developing a vehicle like this takes time, but it’s worth it. By the time we take it to market, we know that it’s a solid conversion.”
The Cruiser made its first public appearance at HuntEx, and according to Len, it attracted a lot of interest. “Hunters are some of our biggest clients. They need things like replacement bumpers, winches and rails to do their work,” says Len.
And what about the price? “For the exact build, you’re probably looking at around R500 000,” says Len. The suspension is about R140 000.”
That’s a lot of money, sure, but with Onca you know that you’re only getting the best. When Len and his team build a vehicle, they build it properly.