The Rambler 200 dual cab is packed with way more than 200 reasons why it is the ultimate touring vehicle for Australia.
Sergio Larousa is not the sort of bloke who likes to compromise. One glance at his Rambler Vehicles 200 Series dual cab should tell you that! No, it’s pretty obvious that Sergio does not like to do things by halves!
Sergio, as you can imagine, did a lot of research before settling on the Rambler Vehicles team to build his incredible rig you see before you here, and when you are parting with vast sums of cash, it makes sense to do your homework. Sergio tells us he was won over and had total confidence in Kris and the team straight after their initial meeting.
“Kris set my mind at ease right off the bat. He obviously has a great deal of experience and has spent lots of time on both sides of the fence as both an off-road touring enthusiast, and as a builder – he knows what works and he doesn’t cut corners” Sergio told us. As a panel beater and vehicle repairer who has been in the game for a long time, Sergio doesn’t like to cut corners either, so he appreciated the Rambler Vehicles approach. “do it once, and do it properly” Sergio told us!
A detailed look at the Rambler Vehicles 200 Series dual cab will tell you that the “do it once, do it properly” box has been well and truly ticked!
Like all 200 Series Land Cruisers, this one started life as a wagon, but you’d never know it, the quality of the dual cab conversion is that good. The finished result of the conversion gives Sergio and his family the very best of both worlds – the space and comfort inside of a top-spec wagon, and the practicality and gear capacity of a full-sized dual cab ute – talk about having your cake and eating it too!
The conversion was a big one, literally, with a whopping 750mm chassis extension added to ensure that there would be room for everything when Sergio hits up his favourite off-road destination, Cape York Peninsula.
Of course you don’t just head off up the cape without a few other essential mods, and top-notch barwork was right near the top of the list. Anyone who has spent time in remote regions of Australia will tell you about the suicidal skippys that are out to ruin your day, and up the Cape you also have wild brumbies, pigs and others out to get you! Ensuring that if the worst were to happen, the 200 Series would come out on top is a TJM T13 Outback bar, coupled with matching side rails and side steps, which were lengthened to suit the chassis extension. The TJM gear is plenty tough enough to offer the ultimate in protection, and it looks great to go with it, another win/win! The Rambler Vehicles boys took things a step further by applying a protective Raptor coating to the sidesteps tread plates, ensuring that no matter where Sergio goes, they’ll look great for years to come.
The aforementioned TJM bullbar is home to a reliable TJM 12,000lb winch, just for a little insurance when the tracks get a bit wild, and also calling the bar home is a set of Lightforce HTX driving lights as well as a pair of handy Lightforce 10in LED Lightbars for additional spread lighting on those dark Cape tracks.
Speaking of essential mods, particularly when you are talking about Cape York, is a snorkel. It is a must for the multitude of water crossings, and it also comes in handy in dusty conditions keeping the Legendex airbox fed with cold, clean air.
When the Rambler Vehicles team sat down to discuss the build with Sergio, they learned he planned to be towing in the future, so a set of awesome Clearview towing mirrors got the nod. The mirrors are a plug and play job that can be adjusted with the factory Toyota switches, so it’s another “no compromise” addition that Sergio loves.
Moving up top you will find a high-quality Rhino Rack backbone platform that has been modified to suit the dual-cab conversion and it is home to some pretty handy accessories. Another Lightforce LED Lightbar, this time a massive 40in single-row unit lives up front, with a couple of handy TJM work lights mounted to the sides. A driver’s-side TJM pull-out awning was fitted, and on the opposite side a high-lift jack holder, shovel holder and a set of Maxtrax recovery boards were also fitted. Oh, the team also found space for a fold-down CelFi Go aerial bracket.
Of course all of the body work was finished off in that classy grey paint job, and the prestigious Rambler Vehicles livery was added, just to let you know that this rig means business!
ON THE INSIDE
Stepping aboard the Rambler Vehicles built 200 Series dual cab, the first thing you’ll notice is that beautiful driver’s Recaro seat that has been trimmed in the matching “TRD style” of the rest of the vehicle, complete with the Rambler logo! Should Sergio ever decide to remove the Recaro, the Rambler team also retrimmed the factory seat so it wouldn’t look out of place if it made its way back in. Talk about thinking ahead!
One of the big jobs that has to be undertaken when converting a wagon to a dual cab, is the removal of the interior – it all has to come out! So once the conversion was completed the Rambler team took advantage of the bare-bones interior and fitted a vast array of Dynamat insulation to the front and rear doors (double layered, no less) as well as the back wall. It really makes a noticeable difference to the noise levels inside, particularly on those endless cape corrugations!
Another addition that was made once everything was buttoned back up inside was to add a roof console from Department of the Interior. This is now home to the GME TX4500 UHF radio, as well as an additional speaker for the UHF, and a couple of double USB sockets. The standout feature here however, is the amazing Redarc Redvision screen! The Redarc Redvision is the “command module” for the extensive 12v upgrades and accessories, but more on that later.
Let’s be honest here, no one enjoys a long day behind the wheel without some tunes to keep you company, and Sergio has got this well and truly covered. A huge Alpine 9in multimedia head unit takes pride of place, front and centre in the dash of the 200, but it doesn’t just take care of the tunes, it also does double duty taking care of the navigation as well, thanks to the inbuilt Hema Maps. But as we’ve come to expect from Sergio and Rambler Vehicles, it doesn’t stop there. The massive head unit has been teamed up with an Alpine R-Spec amp, and a full complement of Alpine R-Spec speakers AND a Kicker powered sub! Let us tell you, Khe Sahn never sounded so good!
Other handy additions have been made in the way of a very handy Celfi Go unit that amplifies Sergio’s mobile signal meaning he has more range out of his mobile phone.
A set of 3D floor mats that do a great job of capturing and containing the goop off Sergio’s boots, and various switches and facias have been added to integrate into the 200’s interior, keeping everything looking factory.
We asked Sergio about his favourite feature of the Rambler Vehicles-built 200 Series dual cab conversion, and what advice he had for potential Rambler buyers, here’s what he had to say.
“I can’t go past the canopy build and fitout, it literally ticks every box for us. The quality of the components used, and the build quality is simply amazing! I totally love it.”
Sergio went on to say, “My advice is that if you are thinking about a Rambler, don’t hesitate, just do it! You will not be disappointed. I think I am an awkward and very picky customer, and the requests and changes I asked for a long the way were never a problem, Kris and the team were so great to deal with. The service before and after the purchase have been second-to-none, and I love the fact that I can pop into my local TJM store and they know what the Rambler is all about, and they know Kris personally. It’s like every TJM store is part of a nation-wide service centre for Rambler Vehicles. Do it, you won’t regret it!”
UNDER THE BONNET
If you thought Phar Lap had a big heart, wait till you cop a gander under the bonnet of this beast! Let’s face it, if you are going to add weight by way of additional accessories and storage, it just makes sense to offset that with a little additional power to keep things, balanced. And who doesn’t like a little more power?
Eagle eyed readers will immediately spot the huge, high-quality PRW alloy intercooler with the additional SPAL thermos fans to draw in all the available air to keep the intake temps cool. The next obvious thing to be seen is the aftermarket airbox by the team at Legendex, which allows for a greater volume of air to be fed into the 4.5L twin turbo diesel V8. Other changes include a catch can and a secondary fuel filter – just as a little insurance policy against potential contaminated fuel on Sergio’s travels.
To make the most of these changes the factory engine ECU has been remapped, and a more aggressive tune has been added to the factory automatic gearbox. A transmission cooler and lock-up torque converter switch were also added to ensure that no matter what the conditions, the 200 would be up to the task.
THE CANOPY & 12v FITOUT
The heart of any touring vehicle build is usually in its 12v fitout and the canopy arrangement, and this Rambler build is among the most comprehensive we’ve ever seen! Are you ready?
Under the bonnet there is a dual battery combination of the standard start battery, and an Optima hybrid battery, and the charging duties are handled perfectly by a TJM IBS DC/DC management system. However out the back in the custom Spinifex Manufacturing canopy, is another battery, a massive 200Ah Korr Lithium unit that is managed by a Redarc “Manager 30”, a 30 amp DC/DC charger and management system. The Manager 30 also has a handy built-in display giving Sergio all the vital info at a glance. The Manager 30 also controls the solar input from the 150w panel mounted to the roof of the canopy, meaning Sergio can go off-grid for days a t a time without the stress of the fridges running out of power.
All of this battery power has been put to good use too, with multiple accessory sockets mounted throughout the vehicle, as well as a couple of 50amp Anderson plugs, one up front, and one in the rear.
You may have noticed earlier we said fridges. Plural. Yep, the Rambler Vehicles team have fitted not one, but two fridges to the canopy of the 200 Series dual cab. An Engel on the driver’s side is fitted up to a Clearview drop slide and can be set as a freezer, and on the opposite side is a handy and spacious upright fridge freezer, perfect for keeping the cans cold for the end of the day.
When it comes time to knock up a feed, Sergio has got it made thanks to a slide-out Dometic kitchen that comes with plenty of prep space, a couple of great-quality burners, a chopping board and even the kitchen sink, which is plumbed up to the on-board water tank. If further prep space is needed, the rear pull-out trundle drawer has a handy bench top built right in.
Of course there are storage drawers aplenty, and a custom made one on the driver’s side for the on-board gas bottle. A great Bluetooth stereo has been fitted along with a couple of speakers for tunes around the camp, and there is even a Travel Buddy – perfect for getting a couple of pies or other treats ready for that important rest stop.
On the passenger’s side of the Spinifex Manufacturing custom canopy is a Rhino Racks batwing awning that wraps around the back for plenty of shade, and accommodation is taken care of with a top-spec James Baroud Grand Raid XXL Evolution roof top tent – fair dinkum 5-star luxury all the way for Sergio! Of course there is also a near endless array of LED lights inside and out to make life after dark that little bit easier.
Moving to the outside of the Spinifex Manufacturing canopy you’ll find a spare wheel and tyre, a jerry can and rear ladder. The whole shebang has been colour coded in that glorious Nardo Grey that looks a treat.
Powering the big 200 is the factory 4.5L twin turbo V8 with the few subtle mods we mentioned earlier, along with the tweaked auto transmission. The rear diff has come in for some heavy-duty bracing for a little added peace of mind – it’s beefy!
Keeping the beast pointed in the right direction is a terrific suspension arrangement that has been put together with years of experience thanks to the real-world testing that Rambler Vehicle carry out each year. It starts with a set of amazing TJM Pace remote reservoir, adjustable shock absorbers that wouldn’t look out of place in the Paris to Dakar Rally or Baja 1000! These are perfectly matched to a set of TJM coil springs with some airbags in the rear to lend a helping hand. Up front you’ll find a pair of Superior Engineering alloy adjustable upper control arms that are as functional as they are sexy.
Making the most of the ride the suspension offers is a set of Toyo RT tyres measuring up at 33×12.5r18, mounted to a set of ROH Invader alloy wheels.
The spent gasses are taken care of by a DPF-back Legendex exhaust system that sounds great, and giving Sergio the range to go almost anywhere is a replacement long-range fuel tank from the experts at Brown Davis.
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