How we refurbished the interior of our Landcruiser

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Congratulations to your newly acquired rig! Now it’s time to start customizing your overland vehicle interior to suit your needs. In this post, we are going to show you how we refurbished our Landcruiser. Building your first overland vehicle is all about copying from other people. Take what works for you and leave everything else behind!

Starting in naivete – constructing an overland vehicle interior

When we bought our Landcruiser it was already built for living in it. But at an age of 15 years, it was far from mint condition. 200,000 kilometers of overland traveling by three different owners had left their traces. There were broken drawers, many rusty screws and holes in the pop-up roof. Let’s say it has seen many back roads of this world and the bloom was off the rose. We decided to refurbish our new home and convert it into a livable place. We liked the arrangement of the cupboards, so we started sorting out all the stuff that came with the car – some was useful, most was not.
Then we started to demount the interior. Step by step we removed everything from the inside until it was (almost) down to its framework. We had not planned doing that in this extent but one rusty screw after another didn’t leave us a big chance. The good thing about that: it made installing the new electrics way easier!

Taking the opportunity of an empty car (we reinstalled the drivers seat) Anna drove to Keba for cavity conservation. Coming back with a nice odor of wax, we continued with our working plan.

Grinding and painting the furniture

While Anna started to posh up the furniture, Heiner began to reinstall all the electrical installations. Anna disassembled the wooden parts, grounded them off and fought with the pad sander, but she won! Heiner’s grandma has a large enough yard and the bright August sun lighted up this monotonous work. After painting the primer, two (or sometimes more) layers with the final color followed. Sounds boring? Well, it was. But seeing the paint make the furniture look almost new was worth it.
We also installed a new “parquet”-like PVC flooring. We got it in an outlet factory for carpets. So we made a good deal for this peace of leftover flooring.

After the paint was dry, we installed some new drawer slides. Many of the original ones were rusted to the ground. Additionally, we put in new drawer knobs at some places. With new screws and the help of installation glue, we rebuild the structure, installed the outdoor shower and the new lights. We strengthened the platform, the fridge stands on, with some hard plastic stripes. This should prevent the new paint from being scratched off easily. Two pieces of wood prevent any lateral or rotational movement of the fridge. One after another, it looked like an expedition vehicle again. We are happy about our “new” furniture with its sunny colors. Anna’s colleague Hanna, a passionate sewer, made new mosquito nets for the pop-up roof. They should keep us safe from those blood-sucking, malaria spreading bastards.

Bottom line: Although we are very satisfied with the result, today we would completely rebuilt the furniture with flight cases. The restoration of 15 years old cupboards and drawers can be expensive and time consuming. Things go out of shape with time and putting it all together can be really hard. Mostly it is not the large actions that eat up your time and money. It’s just that other drawer slide, another bucket of paint. Those things add up quickly. And after a week of work you do not want to be left with a result that is just slightly better than the initial situation. So you just start investing more money.
If we had to do it again we would spend that little extra amount of money to built an entirely new interior specifically to our needs.

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A lot of new foam and a well-considered spare bed

The past 15 years as a travel vehicle have definitely left their marks on our new companion. The mattresses were in such a bad condition, that sleeping in a tent would have been more comfortable. Therefore, we ordered two blocks of foam as new mattresses. Another two blocks of foam make up our new bench cushions. All mattresses were made to our measure by Nanoform. Including matching covers, we paid 310 €.
Maybe you are asking yourself, why we ordered two mattresses and two cushions and not only one of each. Here comes our only change to the original construction of the living compartment. For us, it is important to have a spare bed inside the car. There may be situations where we do not want to open the pop-up roof. For example in big cities or, more likely, if it is very stormy outside. Therefore, we lengthened the bench on the left side by around 30 cm. Now the bench lines up with the left back door. We just had to saw out a hole to have access to the compressor which is located behind the bench. We constructed a board in the same size as the sitting part of the bench and attached it to the bench with three hinges. In cases where we want to sleep in the living compartment, we flip over this board, lay it down on an opened drawer and a bolt screwed to one of the boxes on the right side. To make it a full length bed, we take our self-constructed camping table and put it between the fridge on the left and an open drawer on the right side. One mattress from the pop-up roof and one block of the bench cushions make up the mattress of our downstairs bed. That’s it. In a pretty simple and, more importantly, multi-functional way, we have a bed for special situations.
The paneling of the left back door must have gotten wet at some point. The cardboard was swollen and falling apart. With the confidence after being a week deep into repairs, we abandoned all plans of buying an expensive aftermarket paneling. 1 mm aluminum sheet metal, a jigsaw and 15 minutes of time got us a nice looking new paneling for about 10 €.
While the paneling was out anyway, we put in a new door lock. The old one must have gotten lost somewhere between here and Samarkand – not the only interesting makeshift we found in the Landcruiser during our process of refurbishment. At least the new lock is keyed alike the other locks for that stiff price of 110 €.
At last, Anna lacquered some spots that were missing paint on the outside. A lengthy process that took several days of grinding, cleaning, lacquering primer, grinding, cleaning, lacquering with genuine Toyota white paint, noticing that it won’t last for a second layer, ordering new paint, waiting, grinding again, cleaning, lacquering, and so on – our opinions about the final result differ.

Altogether it was long and hard work. But we like our new interior very much and we feel much more connected to our new home after this time! What do you think about our work and the result? What experiences do you have during refurbishing your car? Do you need some more details on anything? Just leave a comment!

This is the third step of our Overland Vehicle Preparation Series. You can read all steps here.

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