This article was first published in 2001.
It has as much tractable power as Michael Schumacher's Ferrari, but is still capable of crossing the Sahara desert with ease and is more than a match for the fastest road-going exotica over a standing quarter mile. This is one of 12-times FIA Middle East Rally Champion Mohammed bin Sulayem's road-going toys and its performance is absolutely awesome.
The creation of Mohammed's former full-time Australian engineer Ivan Ingrilli, this beast develops a monstrous 740hp at 6500 rpm and offers a staggering 1114Nm of torque, despite losing around 70hp with a minor transmission niggle when we tested it out! And even so, 0-100 comes up in around 5 seconds...
"Basically Mohammed wanted a fast road four-wheel drive car, capable of 300 km/h," chuckles Ingrilli, the former manager at Sulayem's Dubai-based Bin Sulayem Performance who now runs Arabian Automotive Technologies in nearby Sharjah. "He wanted it to look absolutely standard as well, so I sat down with him and we discussed a suitable specification. It took about a year from the initial discussions to the spec we have now and it's not quite up to full trim. We are still working on a lot of modifications to the transmission and the engine to make it even quicker."
Based upon a brand new white road car, it's visually different from the outside only by the installation of a single hoop roll bar and a bonnet featuring a Pajero scoop and Ford Escort Cosworth vents. And this Landcruiser even utilises the base 4.5-litre petrol engine from the standard car. But with the exception of the standard interior and facia, that's where the similarities end. The highly-tuned unit is mated to a pair of roller-bearing Garrett turbochargers working with twin intercoolers (each fed air by carbon fibre ducting), water injection, and MoTeC direct-fire management. The head has been ported and features enlarged inlet and exhaust valves, while below that there is a full steel balanced bottom end. The monster was especially built to Sulayem's wishes with assistance from technical teams in Australia, the UK and the USA.
Its sister car, a slower example which still sits proudly outside the workshop, just wasn't quick enough. It ran with a single turbo, manual gearbox and was only good for 640hp!
"In fact it's been big business in Dubai with turbocharger kits for the Landcruiser," says Ingrilli. "We have over 300 turbocharged cars on the road in the UAE and these increase the standard specification to 350hp. A different camshaft can increase this still further to 400. But there's no way we'd sell our secret spec to the public. It would be just too dangerous. This car is only safe in the hands of expert drivers."
Bin Sulayem, who runs a string of diverse businesses in the UAE, in addition to his motorsport commitments and the ownership of a new Hard Rock Cafe, has a vast collection of exotica. These include a Ferrari F40, Ferrari F50, Porsche 959, Jaguar XK220, Bentley Azure and a new limited edition Mercedes. "This Toyota is fantastic," boasts Mohammed. "Ivan has done a superb job and we have a really stunning specification. It's great fun to drive on the road and in the desert, but it's also perfectly at home in town driving."
But what is the car really like? Open the door and you sit inside what looks every bit a 'bog standard' Toyota. Unless you looked very carefully you'd miss the carbon fibre ducting surrounding the intercooler air intakes in the front bumpers and the carbon fibre wheel nut protectors. You'd spot the single roll bar and oversized wheels and tyres and twin 3-inch exhausts, but any enthusiast could really obtain these. You would have to look carefully to see the speedometer, calibrated to 300 km/h in Melbourne, a built-in digital turbo boost gauge and a red line at 8000 rpm. There are also separate switches on the dashboard for traction control, water injection, the anti-lag system and a speed limiter. "The last switch is a bit of a novelty really," says Ivan. "In Formula One racing they have pit-lane speed limiters, so we thought that we'd fit one as well!"
Fire up the engine and it idles remarkably quietly. You can sense it's not a standard unit, but even with the modified cams it doesn't suffer from a lumpy idle or excessive noise. Potter around, feathering the throttle up to 2000 rpm, and the Toyota could easily be confused with a 'shopping car'. It really drives that smoothly and is equally at home in the desert or outside the supermarket. Then it's time to put pedal to metal.
But first, make sure you hold on.
As the turbos initially chirrup, pop and bang - an almost identical noise to a highly-tuned World Rally Car - you're pressed back into your seat with all the force of a Boeing 777 on full chat down the runway. There's no respite. Second, third, fourth and up to the red line and the awesome acceleration takes you well into illegal speed territory. Between two small roundabouts, on a relatively short straight with a slight kink right, we were pulling 240 km/h and the beast was still accelerating strongly when it was time to brake!
"We're losing a bit of power through the transmission at the moment," confessed Ivan. "It's not quite up to full spec, but you have to be very careful." To cope with the massive power and torque output, UK-built 318 x 34mm vented discs have been fitted all round, along with Incon four-pot calipers. The car has been lowered, fitted with HT suspension from Holland, sway bars and runs on Australian-made 18 x 10 inch alloy wheels, fitted with free-wheeling hubs and Bridgestone 285/65 tyres.
"It actually handles quite well," said Ingrilli. "The brakes are more than capable of coping, but we're still working on perfecting the transmission. The clutch in the old manual gearbox version just couldn't cope with the power. But, with the help of Fraser McKellar from MoTeC in the UK, we have developed an excellent system with this car. We have been able to work with traction control, anti-lag and all aspects of improving the power curve. It's a very tractable unit and the automatic transmission is ideal." In fact, to cope with the massive power increase created by the engine, a standard Landcruiser transmission was sent to the USA. The modified transmission has a 4.1:1 final drive ratio and a modified differential with a solid spacer on the pinion.
"We've actually had over 290 km/h from the car in its present form, but it will be capable of over 300 km/h. You really begin to notice the acceleration between 50 and 210 km/h. Because it weighs over two tonnes as standard, it suffers a little from a standing start, but who cares with all that mid-range power?"
But what about fuel consumption? "A lot.... Over 740 horses take some feeding, you know!"
And the price? Don't even consider it. Ingrilli admits that Bin Sulayem has spent over AUD$280,000 developing this car - and that figure excludes the price of a new road car and all Ingrilli's labour charges!
Great fun it may be, and an awesome engineering feat to boot, but this project does pose one very serious question. Who'd be mad enough to drive a Landcruiser at 290 km/h?