Custom 4x4: Panel van-converted 80 Series LandCruiser

Could this be the first V8-powered panel van-converted 80 Series LandCruiser in the country?

Custom 80 Series

Mark Boxer, the owner and builder of this unique 80 Series LandCruiser, is a car guy through and through.

Not only does he love spending time getting his hands dirty building everything from his Ford Falcon drag ute to this V8-powered panel van-converted 80 Series, he also documents these builds through his company Hoon TV (we thoroughly recommend you check out his content).

Mark has had a few four-wheel drives over the years, including a highly modified Land Rover Discovery and a SWB Pajero, but decided he wanted to build an 80 Series LandCruiser this time around, after always being a fan of the 80 Series shape, overall ruggedness and reliability offered by the platform.

“Eighties have always been known for their reliability, and I always liked the shape right back to when my mate’s parents bought one brand new in 1994,” Mark tells us.

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“I picked this one up, with typical 80 Series faded green paint and a few battle scars, from a retired couple who did lots of laps of Australia towing a caravan.

“It was pretty much stock, except for an alloy bullbar and LPG conversion, and had 450,000km on the clock when I decided to pull it all apart and begin the conversion. Not that you could tell that now, as everything is new or rebuilt – there wasn’t even a speck of rust in it,” he says.

Sounds like the perfect candidate for a full custom one-of-a-kind build. Let’s take a closer look at Mark’s 80 Series, he’s affectionately named Frank The Tank.

Engine and driveline

There was no way Mark was going to leave the stock 4.5-litre petrol-fuelled 1FZ-FE motor in this project, even though plenty of people have had good luck turbo-charging them for big power. No, Mark had his eyes (and ears) set on V8 power, and set about converting his 80 Series to a 6.0-litre L77 V8 engine from a VF Commodore W310 Walkinshaw.

Mark enlisted the help from the team at Marks 4WD Adaptors to supply the conversion kit, as well as the help of Jason from Tuff Mounts – apparently the whole conversion process was smooth sailing. Most of the work was carried out by Mark and his mates, with help from Mark’s contacts at Burson Auto Parts when he needed any new or upgraded parts. And the result? On the dyno, Frank The Tank now makes a very healthy 211kW at the wheels.

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Advance Headers in Adelaide created and fitted the exhaust system for Mark’s 80 Series, to extract the most power and a nice note out of the big L77. This exhaust was fabricated from 3.5-inch mandrel-bent stainless steel, with extractors bolted to the heads. Advance Headers also ceramic-coated the exhaust, and added two mufflers to the system including an adjustable Varex muffler that allows Mark to determine how loud or quiet the system will operate.

The standard 80 Series transfer case has been retained and has proven to be up to task, as has the factory tailshaft – albeit beefed up by Hardy Spicer Adelaide. Cooling, on the other hand, needed a bit more work, with Mark enlisting the help of APM Radiators to rebuild an Adrad radiator to spec as well as include Davies Craig thermo fans, transmission and power-steering coolers.

Mark decided to go with a six-speed GM6L80E automatic unit, which was strengthened by MV Automatics in South Australia

Transmission wise, Mark decided to go with a six-speed GM6L80E automatic unit, which was strengthened by MV Automatics in South Australia. This is to be further enhanced in the future, as well as adding a Dominator 2500rpm stall converter, due to Mark’s other future plans which consist of installing a Harrop supercharger. Not that Mark thinks it needs more power, he just reckons they sound cool – and who are we to disagree.

Suspension, steering and brakes

With much more power on tap compared to the factory offering, Mark wasted no time improving vital steering, suspension and braking components for a reliable package. New Bendix rotors and pads, as well as new stock calipers from Burson, help the big 80 stop on a dime, especially when combined with a Marks 4WD Adaptors upgraded hydraulic brake booster, which applies double the line pressure to the system over stock.

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Pedders Keswick landed the job of upgrading the factory suspension, with Mark saying the team was a real help. The vehicle has been raised two inches overall using Pedders TrakRyder shocks and springs. SuperPro front radius arms were also fitted for castor correction, and longer lower trailing arms in the rear help with correcting the pinion angle while adding strength.

Pedders also fitted a new replacement steering box and Pedders drag link, then Mark added a Tough Dog adjustable steering damper, rounding out a neat yet nice and simple suspension package.

Body mods

As the factory green paint job had seen better days, Mark saw this as an opportunity to do something different and converted his 80 Series into a two-door panel van.

“We fully welded up the doors and windows on the 80 Series to turn it into a panel van,” says Mark. “Everything is properly braced, with all gaps filled correctly and no corners cut. As well as the panel van conversion, we went one step further and removed all side trims, welded the holes, deleted all chrome off the vehicle, as well as deleting the rear wiper, washer and lock.”

With the body work out of the way, the 80 was desperate for fresh paint, and Mark took the opportunity to apply a few coats of black Raptor Liner to the exterior. He also had a mate with CAD experience design a custom grille, and also fitted a Blits bonnet, a fully ADR-approved aftermarket bonnet that Mark says helps to improve airflow and cooling.

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Inside the 80 Series, an internal four-point roll cage was fabricated and installed, and is used mainly as a place to mount a spare tyre as well as Mark’s high-lift jack. Seats were also upgraded to a set of FG Falcon items, bolted in place with a conversion kit from Huracan Fabrication, and they’re far more comfortable than the factory offerings. New seat belts were fitted at the same time, as well as a PVS steering wheel with full working audio controls and paddle shifting.

Mark also designed and built a custom centre console, which he had trimmed by Tony at Southland Trim, and the entire interior has been lined with Car Builders sound insulation and heat shielding to make the most of the Axis audio system complete with subwoofer. The 80 Series sounds good on the outside, so it may as well sound good on the inside too.

Touring mods

On the front of Frank, Mark and his mate Tore custom-built a steel-tube front bar which really suits the look of the vehicle. This was powder-coated instead of painted, and provides the perfect mounting platform for a Roadvision Stealth LED light bar which works well in conjunction with a set of upgraded projector-style headlights.

As this is Mark’s touring and cruising machine, he decided to upgrade the tyres to 35-inch Yokohama units, but stayed with an all-terrain pattern for the best of both worlds handling-wise. These are mounted to 16-inch Dynamic steel wheels, which are practical yet suit the blacked-out exterior to a tee.

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Lockers rule off-road, and Mark is a smart dude, so while he had the diffs out to fit 4.1 ratio Terrain Tamer crown wheel and pinions, he had a rear Harrop ELocker installed at the same time. So far this is enough for his needs, and he has no plans to fit a front locker.

Special chromoly crush tubes were installed while the diffs were rebuilt, as were a set of heavy-duty billet floater axles from Road Runner Offroad to help add even more strength to the rear end – when you are turning 35s with a big V8, you need all the help you can get.

With thanks

While Mark was very hands on in the build of Frank The Tank, he says there is an army of people and companies that helped him throughout the build process, with special thanks going to:

  • Anthony Hughes from Burson Auto Parts (plus the teams from Burson
  • Edwardstown and Lonsdale)
  • Sean Ryan from Automotive Content
  • Melissa from Ryco Filters
  • Ian from Bendix Brakes
  • Leigh, Elliot and the team from Marks 4WD
  • Ryan from Advance Headers
  • Adrian and Brendan from Car Builders
  • Tats from Yokohama Tyres
  • Jamie from Raceworks
  • Daniel and the team from Weldclass
  • Sot from Speed Garage and MVE for the vehicle engineering
  • Tore and the crew from Autostyle Warehouse
  • Jason, Amanda, Perry and the team from Tuff Mounts
  • Adam and Kevin from Pedders Suspension
  • Simon from Tough Dog Suspension
  • Chris from SA Installations
  • Jamie from PVS Automotive
  • Wendy from Blits Bonnets
  • Mike from MV Automatics
  • Brett and Damien from Graham West Dyno
  • John and Milko from Davies Craig
  • Craig from Mad Fab for the roll bar
  • Darran from River Murray Auto Wreckers for sourcing such a great engine
  • Oriental 4WD Wreckers for help with bits and pieces
  • U-POL Australia - Raptor Liner suppliers
  • Richard from Vehikool for helping set up the A/C system
  • Cam from Solid Engineering
  • Tony from Southland Trim
  • Huracan Fab
  • 3 Footed Monster mounts for capturing all build angles

Accessories list


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