Thomas the Troopy

A Stunning Land Cruiser BJ45 Build

Published on 11 Mar 2024

The Toyota Land Cruiser needs no introduction… really. Since 1951, over ten million have been sold worldwide. Sri Lanka has enjoyed her fair share of Land Cruisers as well. Thanks to the vehicular appetites of our politicians and the well-heeled, you see plenty of 200-series examples on the roads every day. If not for the auto import ban, there’d be a decent showing of the latest 300-series too.

What about classics? Just visit any Land Cruiser Club gathering or similar, and you’ll see how many classic Land Cruisers survive to this day. Thanks to the vehicle’s toughness and simplicity, it’s not that hard to keep them running. The versatility of the Land Cruiser also lends itself well to customization, and that’s what we’re looking at today.


You see, this stunning 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ45 Troop Carrier, fondly named Thomas the Troopy is a one-off custom job. Conceptualized by Pubudu Seneviratne and built by Kithwoods Engineering, this is a complete overlanding solution that offers true off-grid living. It’s got everything, from a roof-mounted tent to a side-mounted washroom that offers running water. Solar panels provide electricity, and as long as you have access to diesel and clean water, you could disappear off the grid for as long as you like.

Let’s hear in Pubudu’sown words - what he has to say about the build and features of Thomas the Troopy:

Thomas was born in 1982, Tokyo Japan. I grabbed her after 40 years yet in pristine condition in Sri Lanka with a view of building and converting this beast to a camper for my wife and myself to tour around the world. The build criteria was; keep to factory standards where possible and add-on, modify or convert to accommodate only the months-long overland touring requirements and trouble-free running - for the next 20 years. Further, to preserve and keep the removed original parts i.e. window frames and original slide shutters for possible future restoration to a museum standard by my grandchildren or whoever needs it.

Thomas was fully stripped to the last nut & bolt at Kithwoods Engineering in Sri Lanka. The ladder frame was sandblasted; removed old paintwork; primed and repainted with marine grade paints, finished with high gloss in and out of the chassis tubes. All nuts & bolts were replaced to high strength and stainless steel as required. The entire brake system, clutch system and new rewiring was done to factory standards. Parabolic springs were reshaped, torque and the suspension bushes, shock absorbers upgraded including wheel bearings to carry the extra load. The car runs on four 8-inch-wide rims and 31-inch x 10.50 R15 mud terrain tyres.

All body panels were removed realigned and painted with DeBeer colour code S4836 paint. Entire floorboards, firewall, side and door panels were lined with ‘Car Builders’ thermal and acoustic insulation system before any add-ons. New OEM instrument cluster is fixed to record new mileage after the full engine overall and drive train rebuild. The seating was stripped and replaced with two driver and passenger bucket seats and a bed for two at the back in addition to the Roof Top Tent (RTT) which my daughter sent from Quickpitch Australia.

Finally, the build comprises of a RTT with a viewing deck, 270-degree awning, en-suite for hot and cold-water shower assembly, 12-volt 10 litre water heater plumbed via an EGON Water Hub, fridge and a freezer, kitchenette with an oven and a cooker. The house electrics routed through an EGON Electric Hub where each component is wired with built-in fuses as a central unit. Storage cupboards and drawers for dry rations, personal belongings, spare parts and recovery gear which supports month’s long overland travel.

Every add-on is functional with this build and fulfills overland requirements - and nothing of a decorative only nature. The 150-watt 3 solar panels which is fixed on top of the RTT, charges a 12 volt 200-amp hour lithium battery (house battery) via a CTEC charger and a battery manager which manages and indicate the whole charging process via a digital screen fixed in the ‘cockpit console’ in addition to a mobile app.

The vehicle electrics and 12-volt battery (start battery) system run separately as stock standard with the alternator charge. However, once the start battery is charged fully and if the solar charge is not happening, say at night driving, then the alternator will support the house battery with charging, managed by the intelligent battery manager. In the most unlikely case of the start battery being flat, I do have a manual jumpstart switch to start from the house battery as a back-up

The interior lights, fridge, freezer, oven and hot/cold shower system runs on a 12 volt house battery including additional USB charging points for multipurpose use. A 3000-Watt KINGS remote-controlled inverter is wired to 5 wall sockets - each 13 ampere 240 volts - will facilitate a rice cooker, toaster, kettle and the induction cooker alike if and when required for roadside cooking or off-grid living.

This vehicle is equipped with a 160-litre food-grade stainless steel sectional water storage tank with a manual or motorized filling point using the EGON Water Hub. ARB twin air compressor with a 4-litre air tank 20 feet hose, Toyota electric winch with a rated capacity of 3600 kilograms. See photographs for additional lighting, ‘Maxtrax’ sand ladders and 42 inch high-lift farm jack visible.

We at Motor are all full of praise for this absolutely meticulous build; and look forward to following Pubudu’s and wife’s adventures with Thomas the Troopy.

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