About - 'Bee-Bee'
I spotted a 1994 Toyota Hilux Surf SSRX 3.0 Ltd on Ebay and after reading the description thought it was too good to be true. The vehicle was described as “probably one of the best 3.0L Turbo Diesel Toyota Hilux Surfs in The UK” and reading the description I had no reason to doubt this. It also looked like it might sell for under our budget.
The oil, oil filter, air filter, fuel filter, transmission fluid, differential fluid, transfer box fluid and all grease points have been checked and changed every 3000 miles. The cooling system has been flushed every 2 years using Toyota Red Coolant, flushing right through to the rear heaters and at the start and end of every winter the underneath has been power washed and wax sealed. This was just the start, the service history on this vehicle had been impeccable with new dual batteries, alternator and thermostat fitted recently along with all new belts.
The 4x4 had never been taken off road and the current owner had it for 7 years; basically for the year we were unlikely to find a better example. It had racked up 144,000 miles but for a diesel Toyota this age with this service history that really isn’t much.
We checked over the car, it seemed it was as good as the listing stated. On top of all this the guy that owned it had seen our website and was fairly excited at the prospect of his car travelling the world.
The auction day arrived and after a bit more research and a look at our finances we decided on how much we were willing to spend on it and set up some sniper software to bid up to our maximum 2 seconds before the end of the auction. Unfortunately, as is always the way on Ebay someone else had more money. We lost the auction and slightly disappointed went to bed. At 4:45am a text message arrived from the owner (he was travelling to the U.S) stating that the woman that had won the auction could not afford to buy it and did we want it?
We were now the proud owners of a 1994 Toyota Hilux Surf SSRX 3.0 Ltd auto diesel, we promptly christened her ‘Bee-bee’ with a lovely bottle of Champagne, the cork of which now lovingly hangs from the rear view mirror. ‘Bee-bee’ is a shortened version of Roadrunners famous catch phrase and an abbreviation of sorts of ‘Black Betty’, a song by Ram Jam;
“She's so rock steady (bam-A-lam)
And she's always ready (bam-A-lam)”
It didn’t take long for the expensive process of prepping the car for the trip to begin. The first job was to strip out pretty much everything in the interior from behind the front seats to the tailgate, including the roof-lining. One problem with the 2nd Generation Surfs is the lack of roof gutters or roof rails that makes fitting a full-length roof rack a bit of a mission.
We went with a simple approach to fixing our roof tent to Bee-bee. We made up two simple roof bars that are fixed directly through the roof into the internal cross members of the vehicle. The roof bars are also joined together in the middle with one cross brace to offer rigidity and to stop any twisting that might happen. The base plates have a threaded bars that fit through the roof and are bolted up from underneath.
From the roof-bars we attached a camera mount and our Terrain side awning and extra room. Our most extravagant purchase was our Maggiolina airtop roof tent. Quick to set-up and pack away this really is the Rolls Royce of roof tents!
The Hilux Surf range are renowned for overheating, the 2.4 more so than our 3L model. To be on the safe side we decided to fit a Kenlowe extractor fan kit to the bonnet to increase the airflow through the radiator. As the car is black it also absorbs sunlight like crazy, when we are in sunny countries the car does get ridiculously hot. The fan kit helps drop the engine bay temperature by about 10°C which helps no end. The vent also faces the windscreen and in colder climates cunningly helps de-ice the windscreen.
We also fitted an auxiliary digital water temp gauge and sender just to check what temperature the engine is running at.
One of the major design flaws in the radiator on the automatic models is that the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) cooler is based in the lower half of the radiator. When under strain the gearbox oil can heat up excessively, the hot oil from the gearbox is then pumped through the bottom half of the rad. Instead of cooling, this can act like a heat exchanger and warm up what should be cool water in the radiator before pumping it back into the engine. Literally not cool! We stuck Mocal oil cooler in to help out the overworked radiator.
Whilst messing about with the cooling system we fitted a Bushranger heat exchange hot water shower system.
With the front end in bits we installed a new tubular winch bumper. The winch bumper obviously facilitates the option of fitting a winch, but also reinforces the front end should we every encounter deer, kangaroos or truck drivers. We stuck on two Wipac Spotlights to help in the dark.
After much internet hunting that generally led to dead ends we managed to hunt down a man fittingly named Monster Truck Man (or MTM to his Hilux Pick-Up Owners Club forum buddies). MTM custom made our bumper to our spec at a fraction of the price of an imported one from Australia or the U.S.
Bee-bee already had a 4” suspension lift fitted with Pro-Comp shocks, so we didn’t have to make any modifications to the suspension. We did however extend the diff-breathers to the height of the Safari Snorkel. The rather impractical alloys and oversized tyres were replaced with steel rims and BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres + 2 full size spares in a size that can be purchased worldwide. We ditched one spare wheel when we returned home.
In the load bed we fitted a 40L water tank to feed the hot water shower, an auxiliary battery box with an Odyssey PT-1500 deep cycle battery and a homemade draw system to fit our Wolfboxes. The drawer system was ditched in Russia in an attempt to save some weight.
The auxiliary battery powers all the camping LED house lights, camera/laptop battery chargers, Waeco fridge and our Viair tyre compressor.
Originally the auxiliary battery was isolated from the starter batteries via a rather expensive intelligent split charge solenoid battery system. The system died an annoying death leaving all the batteries flat after 10 months of use and was promptly replaced with a much simpler heavy-duty manual battery switch that works just fine. The switch allows all the battery circuits to be connected to charge and essentially letting us jump-start ourselves.
Originally we’d looked at getting a solar panel to help charge the auxiliary battery. We were put off the idea due to the price of the systems in the UK. Whilst in Morocco we purchased a solar panel and regulator for £65 compared to £350+ in the UK.
Also in Morocco we found a military scrapyard and purchased two Landrover Jerrycan holders and had a local welder fabricate a mount that bolts to our rear spare wheel carrier. This also allowed us to carry our sand ladders on the exterior of the car.
Inside the vehicle we tried our best to make use of every available space. We installed a roof cargo net, torch mounts and removed all the interior plastics in the rear cargo area. This opened up the spaces above the wheel arches, great for storing little used, but essential items. We utilized the inside of the rear doors for storing items too.
Rather then spending a fortune on phone, iPod and GPS mounts we stuck a Velcro panel to the dashboard and applied Velcro dots to everything from phones, iPods, dictaphone, cameras, digital thermometer and GPS unit. The system is adaptable, functional and everything is at hand.
The final touch we added was a graphic of a world map. £250 from a signwriter or £6.98 for two rolls of pin stripe tape off ebay. I got busy and did it myself by eye with the stripe tape. We mark our route with a thin red tape as we travel, this is great for explaining where we’ve been if we encounter language barriers.