By: IOL Motoring Staff
Johannesburg - You can tell a seriously hard-core beetle-crusher from a mile away; he drives either a Jeep Wrangler, a Land Rover Defender, a Nissan Patrol or a Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series - and when the weekend warriors stand around the fire discussing ground clearance, low-range ratios and departure angles, he just nods; he's got nothing to prove.
Mind you, none of those ultra-rugged off-roaders is exactly a ball of fire, especially the original Land Cruiser 70 diesel. It was blessed with an old-school 4.2-litre straight-six oil-burner that was virtually unbreakable and would digest even the dirtiest diesel, but at 94kW and 280Nm its performance was, frankly, pedestrian.
Then along came the V8 turbodiesel; a junior cousin to the twin-turbo diesel in the Land Cruiser 200, it's good for 151kW and 430Nm - a huge step up in comfort on the road and effortless off-roading. But more is always better; ask any gearhead.
Off-roaders were reading about the Unichip upgrade for the new V8 that was available in other countries where the Land Cruiser 70 was (literally) king of the hill (notably Australia) - and soon Steve's Auto Clinic was fielding calls from local Land Cruiser owners wanting the same for their 70 Series.
So SAC now offers a multi-stage conversion for the 70 Series V8 that delivers more than 20 percent extra power and about 30 percent more torque; the reason SAC won't quote numbers is that each conversion is individually tuned on the dyno to match the age and wear characteristics of that particular engine, so results vary.
But, according to customers, the results have consistently made each upgraded 70 Series so much more pleasant to drive that the conversion has picked up the Australian-style nickname 'The Beauty'.
Pre-programmed plug-and-play module
The basic conversion consists of fitting and setting up a Unichip plug-and-play module, pre-programmed with five different engine mappings. These start with a special anti-theft setting that immobilises the engine - making a chipped 70 Series much more difficult to steal.
Next up is a standard setting that exactly duplicates the standard factory set-up, while the third setting is optimised to deliver the lowest possible fuel-consumption for that specific engine. The fourth map is all about torque, to help the 70 Series do what it does best - off-road driving, fording rivers, crawling over rocks, and towing heavy equipment.
But it's the fifth and final map that's got the gearheads excited - it modulates throttle response, boost control and fuel pressure according to mechanical load and many other parameters to give you the most possible power from your specific engine without placing too much stress on the mechanicals.
All of which can be boosted still further by fitting a special 76mm stainless-steel exhaust system that SAC claims will reduce back pressure without increasing noise.
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