June 28, 2022 4 min read
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Nickname: Duke (Diesel Duke)
Make & Model: Toyota Land Cruiser (HDJ80)
Year: 1993, Manual
HEST products: HEST Dually Long
Critical dimensions for your bed platform:
Length: 70in (80in with seats folded forward for sleeping) Width (at narrowest point): 55in Height: 10in
Is this your daily driver or getaway car?
Duke is my daily driver, my work truck, and our getaway vehicle. It really can do it all with ease. This is why we haven’t gone the full “overland build” route with a fridge and rooftop tent and everything. Keeping it simple, light, and broad in it’s and utility is key for me.
On your average weekend adventure, what is the gear set up you bring with you? How did you navigate gear storage needs into your rig set up?
The goal of the platform was to store everything we needed to leave for a weekend at the drop of a hat. One drawer holds our camping gear full time (chairs, hammocks, toiletries, shovel, headlamps, etc.), and the other is our kitchen (stove, utensils, pots, plates, etc.). I have two additional cubbies in the platform that store tools, truck spares, recovery gear, and other misc things. When we head out for a weekend, I load up the 4 items: the cooler, our hard aluminum case for dry goods/pantry, the dog crate, and the HEST Dually Long. The HEST stores perfectly in our Packasport roof box while traveling, keeping it dry, dust-free, and dog hair-free. When we arrive at camp, we unload the cooler, pantry, and the dog crate, throw in the HEST and presto: camp is ready.
Any cool custom details you’re proud of?
I'm proud of the recessed L-track that runs the full length of the platform. It was tricky to make sure the platform's top surface remained flush and flat for sleeping. We drive some pretty rough trails to get to a secluded camp, and the L-track makes sure everything stays in place at all times. The L-track's quick connect/release capability makes it super easy and flexible while loading and unloading our gear. This truck is also my daily/work vehicle, so I am constantly loading the platform with valuable film equipment. The L-track is an amazing way to keep anything and everything safe and secured.
Coolest place you’ve taken your rig to?
We just wrapped up a 2-week adventure from SoCal > Nevada > Idaho > Tetons > Colorado > Utah. 4 national parks, 10 epic camps, and no interstates… it doesn't get much better. I think Idaho was our favorite place we have been.
How long did this build take from start to finish?
The truck as a whole is never finished. I’ve been working on it every second I can for the last 3 years of owning it… whether it’s repairs, mods, or just maintenance. This latest platform build, however, took me 7 full days to build. I did a lot of planning in CAD the weeks before and had been modifying my old platform for 6 years before building this one, slowly figuring out what I wanted out of a platform. The biggest difference between the new build and the old one is that we have deleted the second row and committed to the 2 seat lifestyle.
What fun activities do you do from your rig?
Most of our fun time involves this truck. Everything from going on a scenic drive to kill some time to attending car shows. We cook for friends in the backyard using the kitchen in the platform and host game nights. But, of course, our favorite thing in the world is exploring and camping, which wouldn't be the same without Duke. He's part of the family and integral to most of our fun-filled memories.
Any projects in the pipeline to get the Cruiser even more adventure ready?
After our latest and longest trip, we agreed some sort of shower accessory would be a game changer, whether it’s a custom part of the rig, or just a camp shower from REI. What could be better than crawling into bed after rinsing off a day of dusty adventures?As far as the truck; Duke is insanely capable and will tackle more than I dare to try. An intercooler could make some big mountain passes a little easier, but realistically I plan to just stay ahead on maintenance and keep it healthy.
Biggest challenge in your build out?
If I’m honest, the entire build has been a challenge. I'm constantly battling between modifying and enhancing, while keeping things true to the original design and OEM. I try to keep things simple and light, but ‘overlanding’ seems to pull in the opposite direction.
Technically, the biggest challenge on the platform buildout was cutting the wood and getting everything square. I built the entire thing using hand power tools, no table saws or jigs, so getting straight accurate cuts was a challenge. I ended up building a DIY track saw with some particle board and insulation foam on the floor of my driveway. I'm really happy with how it turned out and it settled into the truck nicely.
Tips for others looking to do the same to their vehicle?
I cannot stress enough how unnecessary all of this ‘build-out’ stuff is in order to get out and have some fun. My first vehicle based adventures were in a VW Jetta. I would find a fire road, pull off, and fold the seats down and sleep in the trunk or on the ground outside with friends. The more you get out, the better you’ll find what you really need. Start simple and add over the years. All of these accessories and build outs just make things easier, but not impossible, so enjoy the process. When the time comes to start building, don’t let lack of experience stop you. Everything I have done to Duke has been my first time. It’s an amazing platform to learn new skills.