Michael Ellem of Offroad Images may own this beautifully restored 60 series, but he assures us it’s not just his 4×4 – it belongs to the people
You should be living under a rock if you haven’t seen this awesome Sandy 60 online or on various social media accounts. This build is the brainchild of Offroad Images founder Michael Ellem, who also owns the Mighty 79, a highly modified 79-series LandCruiser on portal axles.
When Michael found this particular 60 series in a car park in Kalgoorlie it was a far cry from what it looks like today. The owners even had trouble starting it, the rust had well and truly crept into the bodywork, and the interior looked more like a breakfast dog than a place to sit comfortably. They agreed to sell it to Michael and the rest, as they say, is history, but only on the condition that he restore the 60 and they could drive it one last time when it was finished. It was a done deal, and Michael set to work building a team of expert off-road craftsmen and companies.
Starting with this well-used 1985 60-Series LandCruiser, Michael set out to bring in the expertise of the best of the best in the automotive trade to transform the spinster. When we say transform, we really mean it too…from rust repairs to engine swaps, there’s not a single nut or bolt that hasn’t been spared.
So what are the plans for Sandy 60? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for that as 4X4 Australia is running a full run on this wonderful vehicle. Mick wants the Sandy 60 to travel this country telling not only the story of the amazing places we are blessed to have, but also the stories of the amazing people behind the four wheel drive community.
This is going to be an epic series presented by 4X4 Australia, which we are more than excited to show you in the months to come.
Rust is the enemy of older all-wheel drives. While this Series 60 looked like a decent enough unit, it quickly became clear that it was going to need some serious surgery to make it look better than new.
“Part of the floor required a lot of work and had to be cut and made from scratch,” says Michael. “It was one of the most interesting parts of the process, watching these skilled fabricators create new custom parts and panels from raw materials.”
On Track Fabrication took care of the bodywork and also fabricated the impressive custom rear bar, which Michael said was to match the body lines of the ’60s rear. One of the most striking design elements of the Sandy 60 is the hood. It was a labor of love, grafting a 79-series scoop onto the 60-series hood—you have to agree, it’s a work of art. The paint job and this hood transplant were done by the color wizards at Distorted Paint & Restoration.
“Initially, I just wanted to do a basic painting in camera,” says Mick. “Once we had the vehicle stripped down and ready to be sprayed, Jayden of Distorted Paint said it would have been a crime not to do the vehicle justice…We are really pleased with how it turned out and happy to have gone the extra mile. the.”
The entire interior received a lot of attention, with the new darker colored custom headliner being the most obvious. Car Builders soundproofing was applied to the floor once all the rust was removed; and since the factory vinyl looked like it had been sitting in a swamp, it was thrown in the trash and replaced with new (much neater) carpet.
When Michael purchased the Series 60, the engine had already been replaced with a 6.2-liter Chevy V8 diesel. While it sounds great on paper, this particular engine was well past its sell-by date and simply wouldn’t do it justice.
It’s the last thing you want to face halfway through what is essentially grassroots rebuilding, both in time and money.
The ever optimistic Michael saw this as an opportunity to improve and improve the vehicle. In this capacity, he had the experts at Brunswick Diesels rebuild and equip a 6.5-litre Optimizer diesel V8 engine from a US military Humvee.
“What I like about this engine is that it doesn’t have a computer and is completely mechanically controlled,” Michael tells us. “Not only does it sound the part, but it essentially produces torque from idle, which comes in handy for steep technical off-road.”
This engine is mated to a completely rebuilt five-speed gearbox and transfer case, which the team at Marks 4WD Adapters have handled with great success. They also installed a set of transfer gearboxes, so you know this Series 60 is a serious mountain goat on steep trails.
springs and things
The ARB Old Man Emu suspension was given the go-ahead for the Sandy 60, with all suspension components replaced and upgraded. In addition to the Old Man Emu shocks and leaf springs, Michael opted for a pair of Airbag Man airbags in the rear, which can be easily adjusted via the ARB LINX system on the fly.
When it comes to tires, Michael is a big fan of his BFG KM3 mud terrain, and after racking up huge miles on his other ‘Cruiser, the Mighty 79, he saw no reason to change.
“In addition to the 285x75R17 BFG muds, I also selected a set of ROH Vapor alloy wheels,” says Mick. “I use the same wheels on my 79 Series and for me changing wheels is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to personalize your vehicle, making it your own.”
The wagons are cool, especially the restored and modified 60-series LandCruisers, but getting to the gear in the back can be a hassle. Mick opted for a clever set of butterfly windows from 3XM, allowing him to quickly and easily reach for a beer or his camera (never at the same time). Speaking of the rear of the Sandy 60, to keep all of its gear secure and organized, an Outback Touring Solutions drawer set was outfitted with custom side wings made by the team at ARB Wangara. A drawer is a lower half-height unit, so Mick can secure his ARB fridge and make it easier to access.
At the front of the drawer system, the team wired the Redarc Manager 30 system, Redarc 700W inverter, ARB LINX system, and a 100 amp/hr Revolution lithium battery to charge camera gear. and laptops on the go. There are also two batteries in the engine compartment, so there should be more than enough 12V power on tap.
Mick tells us that anything that could be rebuilt or replaced was. Most of the hard parts came from Terrain Tamer, which has pretty much everything you could need for an older Toyota 4×4. For example, during the installation of the ARB differential locks, all bearings and seals were refreshed with new equipment from Terrain Tamer. Mr. Ellem takes reliability and maintenance seriously; in case you haven’t noticed that.
On the roof, you’ll notice an ARB roof rack, which has been very cleverly upgraded with touring mods. There are a pair of Redarc solar panels to charge the batteries; and you can also see a Bushranger LED lightbar, which helps propagate on dark backcountry roads. A set of TRED sits behind the lightbar for scavenging tasks, and behind that is a large junk storage case with loot attached behind. There’s also an ARB canopy on the passenger side, making this a cool-as-ice yet extremely practical touring vehicle.
Seriously Suzi’s Alan Johnson Drives Sandy 60 and Shares His Thoughts
When the 60-series LandCruiser was born in August 1980, it came with a four-speed manual gearbox and a choice of the super-slow 2H diesel engine or the fuel-hungry 2F petrol engine.
Some 42 years later, Michael Ellem and his crew have brought this serious 60 back to life with a military-grade 6.5-liter Humvee V8 engine mated to a five-speed gearbox – and what a magnificent rebirth it is.
From underpowered to massive masses of torque with the V8, it’s a blast to drive, but don’t forget the excellent restoration work of Michael’s team. From the carefully crafted 79-series hybrid hood, aftermarket seats and modern electronics, this is no ordinary Cruiser. It’s a time machine that takes me back to the 1980s, leading to the Woods Point area where some things change, some things don’t. The Commercial Hotel and Main Street are virtually unchanged, the tracks change with each season but the fond memories of four wheeling are never forgotten.
My time in the driver’s seat will be a treasured memory; just point this beast, release the clutch and it’s a mountain goat on steroids. Thank you for a great journey in a superb recreation of one man’s vision of what a 60 series could and should be.
There’s just one huge problem with this car: there’s only one and it’s not mine. I own a 12HT 60, and it’s a great car that I love; but, seriously, the Sandy 60 is in a league of its own.
- Rust repairs, custom rear bar and seat modifications and project management assistance…Luke, Riss and the OTF team @ontrackfabrication_otf4x4
- Custom 79 Bonnet and all paint restoration by Jayden and the @distorted_paintandrestoration team
- Knowledge of the 60 series, construction project management assisted by @ 4x4sean
- Air Lockers, Linx, Suspension, rear drawers, fridge and protective equipment by @arb4x4
- UHF and Cellular Communications: @gme_au
- 6.5L V8 diesel conversion (6500 Optimizer) by @brunswickdiesel
- Custom exhaust by @mantaperformance
- Long range fuel tank @longrangerfueltanks
- Dual battery engine compartment @centuryyuasabatteries
- @revolutionpowersolution lithium battery cabin
- Battery management, Inverter and solar @redarc_electronics
- Replacing old school brakes, gears and parts @terraintamer4wd
- Wheels… ROH Vapors by @roh_offroad_wheels
- Tires… BFG KM3s by @bfgoodrichtires
- Rebuilt gearbox and reduction gears by @marks4wd
- Center console and custom roof consoles by @consoles.com.au
- Alpine Halo stereo and speakers by @Alpineau
- Stratos seats
- Custom padding and steering wheel by Tyson @prostitchtrimming
- Retractable side windows by @3xmcanopies
- Rear seat covers by @msa4x4
- Insured by @club_4x4
- Mechanical installation and wiring by @goldfieldsoffroad
- Steering Links (Upper) by @allbarredup4x4
- Seat storage by @navigatorgearau