Surrey Off-Road Specialists Limited

In 2005 Paul Graham-Clark, a Toyota 40/45 enthusiast (to put it mildly), purchased a rather tatty 45 LWB pickup that he had spotted down on the UK South coast. The number plate on it was from his home town in South Africa and it seemed a good idea to purchase it and restore it, with the aim to do an overland trip back to South Africa in it. The original plan was that he wanted to do as much work himself as possible, with us providing a safety net for the technical, safety and structural areas.

I mentioned to Mark Evans of Discovery Channels “A 4x4 is born” (one of loads of the “is born “ series) that we had this project coming in and he decided he would like to feature it in his new show “Wreck Rescue” (currently showing on Discovery Real-time).

We had a meeting with Paul and agreed to proceed. I appointed my good mate Les Dale (who also works with Mark Evans on his various projects) to run and oversee the project for us. We cleared out one of the workshops and Paul, Les and Mark started ripping it apart with the cameras rolling. Initially it didn’t look too bad, but as it came apart, more and more serious rust started to appear.

Over the next few weeks the vehicle was gradually, totally stripped down to its core components.

One of the drawbacks with restoring a vehicle of this type is that they have been worked hard and everything eventually wears out. Toyota has a good reputation for building tough reliable vehicles that keep going. In this ones case it was still hanging on and actually drove reasonably well. We were amazed when we stripped it. We really didn’t expect to find the level of wear of all the mechanical parts, everything was totally knackered! I suppose it was to be expected, with hindsight. This vehicle has spent its working life in the bush, poorly maintained by bush mechanics who just cobbled it together to keep it going.

Once the engine was stripped down, it was found to be in all sorts of trouble. The bores were badly worn and one had a chip in it! The main bearings were hammered (literally). There were loads of problems. The engine had been rebuilt badly at some point and that had caused even more problems. The engine needed a complete rebuild. When we stripped out the rear axle, the (semi floating) half shafts were in trouble where they run through the rear wheel bearings and more surprisingly the massive crown wheel was badly chewed up.

All of the brakes and drums were in poor condition. The costs were starting to spiral and it was obviously going to exceed Paul’s anticipated budget. Apart from the major items, there was an ever growing list of all the obscure odds and sods that needed replacing together with items such as radiator, heater matrix etc. All these things put more pressure on the budget and are difficult to predict until you strip it all out.

We started ordering parts. This wasn’t as easy as we had hoped for. It is a late 70’s model and is right on the changeover point with the later cab. Whilst there are lots of aftermarket parts for the earlier models, there are few for this model. As luck would have it, we landed on out feet with our local Toyota franchise. I contacted the parts manager (Nigel) at Tollhouse Toyota. He was extremely helpful and very enthusiastic. He spent hours going through the parts system and managed to source most mechanical parts. Surprisingly, a lot of the prices were not that much more than comparable pattern parts. Having reduced the vehicle to a huge pile of bits, Paul’s work situation changed giving him even less time to do the work. He had a goal to have this vehicle ready to go to Africa by the Summer 2007. It was obvious that he was not going to be able to dedicate the time needed to achieve that, so the vehicle was getting more and more of our time on it to keep it jollying along. Les got stuck in and we had all the main parts sand blasted. This revealed a very rusty front cross member that really was beyond repair. As luck would have it, we had a RHD 40 that we had scrapped earlier. The cross member was good, so that got grafted into the 45 chassis, some repairs were made here and there and then it was primered and topcoated awaiting arrival of the Old Man Emu suspension that we had ordered.

Whilst all this was going on, Paul had apparently spotted another pickup on E –Bay that was going cheap and could be useful for parts, so without looking too closely at it, he put a bid on it. He won the bid, only to discover it was in Australia! Not deterred by this, he got it shipped over. It duly arrived at our yard to be gone through. It is an older model and nothing much would crossover, it was scruffy, but had great character and wasn’t too bad mechanically, so the decision was made to get it on the road, it would be handy for lugging stuff around anyway. It was whilst Gabor (one of our mechanics) was dropping one of the rear brake drums off, that this spider fell out of the drum onto the floor and shot across the yard and hid under a pile of junk! Luckily Gabor got a good look at it, so we spent the next half hour trawling through Australian spider websites to try and identify it. It turned out to be a Common House spider luckily, rather than a Funnel Web or suchlike. This did however give us a wake up call, that the treatment that Paul had been forced to pay for before shipping that is supposed to kill these things off, obviously hadn’t worked. We decided we had better have a closer look and see what else was living on it. We lifted up the front carpets to find it crawling with ants and there were a mass of cobwebs under and behind the seats. The website had shown some examples of how you could identify the various spiders by the design of web. There were signs of there having been some Wolf spiders in there at some time and probably worse. The decision was made to fumigate the whole vehicle before anything else escaped into our yard. We got a company in who encased the whole vehicle inside a giant bubble of plastic and gassed it. This appeared to do the trick; nothing appeared to be moving afterwards.

We proceeded to crack on and get this little gem MOT’d. Paul registered it and that got it on the road. It proved to be very useful and was constantly trundling about with body parts for painting etc. Having finished that one, an HJ60 suddenly materialised in the yard on a trailer! It seems that Paul had found this and wanted the 6-cylinder diesel engine and 5-speed transmission to use in either the 45 or the other project ticking over in the background, a 40 short wheelbase. So we broke the 60 up for all the parts we wanted and scrapped the rest. Our yard was starting to look more and more like a Toyota scrap yard (there was another early 45 he had bought for parts at the bottom of the yard as well as another 40!) The Toyota enthusiast title doesn’t really do Paul justice, it is definitely an illness! Anyway, after that interruption to progress it was back to the original project.

The axles were painted and rebuilt with new bearings, seals and gaskets; a good second-hand diff was fitted in the rear. It had all new brakes on the rear. The front axle was rebuilt and we upgraded the hubs to HJ60 (from the breaker) and fitted the bigger stub axles, hubs and disc brakes. All the steering rods and joints were replaced. Once the suspension materialised we were able to turn it into a gleaming rolling chassis. Les meticulously worked his way though everything, replacing all the brake lines and hoses, using all the original clips etc. It was starting to really look nice. There were problems starting to surface though. The original budget had been long spent and Paul was getting upset at what the final costs were starting to look like. The distractions with the other vehicles had also been eating up cash and it was looking as though the project might stall. However, after a short break and some discussions the decision was made to push on and get it finished.

Paul would repair the bodywork himself at home, in an effort to economise, plus he wasn’t getting involved in the hands on side of the project, which was what he had really wanted to do from day one. So all the front panels and the cab were shipped off to his house where he really jumped in at the deep end and got stuck in cutting out the rust and welding and fabricating parts. Meanwhile we carried on with the mechanics. Les rebuilt the engine and replaced parts as necessary in the gearbox and transfer case. The completed units were then fitted into the rolling chassis; both prop shafts were rebuilt and duly fitted. The reconditioned radiator was installed and the day came to fire up the engine. It was started for the first time with the cameras rolling. It spun over and burst into life! After adjusting the timing it settled into a smooth idle and sounded great. We carried on doing what we could whilst we waited for Paul to finish the cab. Eventually he showed up with this eye burning Duck Egg Blue cab on the back of the other 45, ready to fit. First impressions were “ That is a very loud colour”! I wasn’t sure that I liked it much. I was expecting a Bugatti blue, which I was looking forward to seeing. Anyway we gave it a once over and I have to give Paul credit for his first attempts at repairing rusty bodywork. He had cut out the rust and fabricated new panels to replace the rusty parts, which often involved some quite awkward shapes and contours. He did an excellent job. We carefully mounted the cab on the chassis and proceeded to start bolting the remaining parts onto it. Within a week we had a driving chassis cab. With the cab in place, we could now work out how we were going to mount the Land Rover 110 Hi-Cap rear body on. We had decided to go this route after scrapping the incredibly heavy and very rotten original body. We had measured up a Hi-Cap earlier and it looked like a very acceptable alternative. Paul had sourced a very tidy body and had it painted in the same blue paint. We made up a simple sub frame that allowed the body to mount onto the Toyota chassis, using the original mount positions on both items. Having fitted the body, Roger Craythorne of Land Rovers fame, happened to be in yard one day and looked at the 45 with interest. Apparently he had been tasked to come up with a pick up body for the 109 series III in South America in the late 70’s. He had looked at the 45 to get some ideas and went on to come up with the Hi-Capacity body. He was amused to see that we had done the exact opposite.

The rear body was fitted on together with the remaining front panels and it really started to look something! As more bits and pieces got fitted, a lot of them black, the overall brightness of the blue started to ease and it started to look really good.

Eventually the day came to road test it on the way to the MOT. It passed with flying colours and we were able to get it taxed and give it a proper run round. It drove beautifully, a real joy! Final details were done and it was taken over for its last filming day. The excellent, custom made, Exmoor canvas arrived that morning, so it was fitted whilst they were setting up to film. The overall effect with the black hood on was great. The pale blue and black really compliment each other; it is a real eye catcher. With the filming finished and a shakedown, followed by a check over, the vehicle was then handed over to its owner and since then Paul has been using it as a regular car and is steadily clocking up the miles with a big grin on his face. Now all we need to do is to finish off the 40 series we have been building for him with an HJ60 6 cylinder diesel and 5-speed gearbox and he will be all set for Africa!

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