Craig Murcott’s 1990 LandCruiser is a hard-working outfit.
On the NSW mid-north coast there’s an old Toyota that’s dragging around an excavator, hauling building and landscaping materials and, every now and then, dragging less fortunate vehicles out of tricky situations. This 1990 Toyota LandCruiser 4.2 trayback is its owner’s pride and joy.
Craig Murcott is a panelbeater by trade, but these days cruises the northern regions of NSW as a handyman, taking on everything from putting wheels on dog cages to serious building, and the Toyota is a vital part of his business’ success.
Purchased in 1995 as a camper, the change back to the bare tray was unexpected.
“It used to have a big canopy all set up,” said the Coffs Harbour-based tradesman and motorcycle enthusiast. “It had bedding, all fluoro lighting, toolboxes and all that gear. It was really good.
“A guy came in when I was working at a smash repairer. He just saw the truck parked out the front and asked if I was interested in selling the canopy. At the time I was trying to buy a new bike and I was scratching all the money together, so I sold the canopy there on the spot to the guy. We just went and got the tools out, unbolted it, and he took it and put the money in my hand,” laughed Craig.
The sale of the canopy and fittings was convenient, but not ideal, because Craig loved the camping and versatility the Toyota offered. He also loved how the ’Cruiser would take him places he just couldn’t go without it.
“I’ve done some really good river crossings in it,” he remembered.
“My brother and I and my eldest son had camped for a week one Christmas and it started pouring rain. We got flooded in on Christmas Eve and there was no way out. We tried every trail we could find and there was this one crossing where the current was running pretty hard. I said we’d just have to stay, but my brother said, ‘No, no! I’m not gunna miss our presents’.”
“So I just pointed it upstream, and by the time the current pushed us a bit, we hit right on the right spot on the other side.
“That river was really going,” he smiled. “I don’t do crazy stuff like that anymore.”
And then there was the time the ’Cruiser hit a police car.
“Actually, he hit me,” explained Craig.
“I was in the fire brigade and we got a callout to a car on fire in the bush. It’d been stolen and they’d lit ’er up and the bush around it was going up.
“So I went out. This was, seven o’clock in the morning or something.
“Anyway, we went out in the fire truck, dealt with the fire, put the fire truck away and then I was going to work. I had my big box of tools in the back, and I was running late. I came around a corner and a cop was coming flat out the other way in a divvy van on his way out to the car on fire, which had all been dealt with. I was right up wedged against the bank on my side and he lost it in the gravel and collected me. My mirror tore the whole side right out of his canopy.
“When I looked at my truck the mirror was just folded around. That’s all. I just fixed that up and got to work.
“I didn’t look in the back, but my toolbox had come flying forward and was crushed, so it ended up costing me a new toolbox.”
For a 30-year-old work vehicle, this Toyota looks pretty damn good, and no doubt Craig’s trade helps a lot. He’d fitted high-lift Old Man Emu suspension when he first bought it, and about 10 years ago he stripped it down and resprayed it. As Craig tells it, it hasn’t needed a lot of maintenance.
“It almost repairs itself!” he said, apparently serious.
“The thing was making a horrible noise and I thought I was up for a new diff. I tightened it all up, and it just came good! It still made the noise for a while, but then the noise went away and I’m still driving it. That was years ago.
“You can’t kill ’em.”
After 25 years of very happy ownership – and a new HiLux doing service as the family car – what’s Craig’s intention for the ’Cruiser?
“Just keep running it,” he explained.
“I’d really like one of those new Land-Cruisers with a V8, but I don’t want to part with this one, and I’d have to do that to step up. It’s never given me any grief in all the years I’ve had it. All I’ve done is normal maintenance and put one new clutch in it. Nothing’s ever failed.”
There was one time his wife was driving and it cut out, but a new fuel filter had it going at the first touch of the key.
Not bad for a vehicle that’s been working hard for 25 years.
And Craig has lots of stories of pulling other vehicles out of tough situations.
“I’ve got a lot more people out of trouble with it than I’ve been in trouble with it myself,” he grinned.