Barra-powered FJ45 FrankenCruiser

Richard Swindel-Hurst started a project to keep him occupied during lockdowns, and the result is this epic Barra-powered FrankenCruiser

Photographers: Ellen Dewar

For most young blokes, their first 4×4 will be something cheap and cheerful that they can jump in, turn the key and hit the tracks.

These days, we’re seeing plenty of first timers able to shell out for a brand new vehicle and then equip it with all the trimming, but Melbourne’s Richard Swindel-Hurst took a totally different approach for his first real 4×4 project. Richard didn’t even start with a complete vehicle.

“The 40 Series is my favourite shape of LandCruiser” Richard told us. “While it’s the best looking LandCruiser, it’s a little light on for features so I decided to modernise it and make it a modern car that looks like a 40 Series.”

Being a mechanical engineer certainly helps when you want to undertake such a project and gave Richard the knowledge to come up with a plan to achieve his goals. To say he started the home-built project from scratch is an understatement; the first step of the project was building the shed to house it in.

While Richard has done most of the work himselfin his shed, he started off by asking vintage LandCruiser specialists, LCS 4X4, to fit a 45 Series cab on to an 80 Series chassis for him.

“LCS 4X4 mounted a 40 Series cab on an 80 Series chassis for me and it came back to my shed as a rolling chassis,” Richard recalls.

Ford XR6 turbo

“I bought an engine conversion from an XR6 Turbo, which came in boxes and I was then able to mount the motor and build everything around it,” Richard added.

That’s right, this classic Cruiser is running a boosted Ford powerplant and, while V8 swaps are popular, the Aussie-made mill is the more logical choice for an engine bay that was made for an inline six.

The Barra was a simple choice,” says Rich. “They are cheap, reliable power. They are great in stock form but the perfectly balanced I6 responds extremely well to boost and it is easy to get power out of them on a budget. They are torquey down the bottom end and once you couple them with a good auto trans like the ZF6-speed which came stock on Falcons they are fantastic for four-wheel driving.”

The six-speed transmission links with a 79 Series transfer case using an adaptor from PJ’s Off Road in Queensland. This classic Cruiser truly is a Frankenstein build, taking the best parts from all the right vehicles and suppliers and being cleverly adapted.

While LCS performed the cab mount using mounts from McKinnon’s Cruisers, Richard still did most of the work himself, learning MIG and TIG welding and computer skills as he went. He 3D-scanned the chassis before shaving all the 80 Series mounts off and CAD modelling new mounts for the various drivetrain, body and tray mounts.

GU Patrol infusion

Plates were designed and fabricated to reinforce the Cruiser chassis and mount a GU Patrol steering box and which works with aftermarket Patrol steering arms and links on the front end.

The diffs are also GU Patrol with the rear housing having all its Nissan mounts shaved off and new mounts fabricated to fit on the chassis using original 80 Series mounting points. The housing was also shaved for clearance and reinforced. Both diffs run ARB Air Lockers with 4.3:1 gears.

“I picked the Patrol diffs because they are strong and also easy to get parts for,” explained Richard.

The 45 Series cab needed extensive rust repairs before it got its coat of Sandy Taupe paint and final fitting to the chassis. Again, Rich fired up the welder and the CAD programs, fabricating the replacement floorpanels and transmission tunnel. Consideration was made to allow access to a removable panel to make dropping and installing the ZF tranny easier if and when needed.

Richard was working with the guys at LCS on these panels and LCS now offers them and the front guards on their site.

The front and rear ’guards were also similarly fabricated to cover the 80 Series wheel track which is wider than that of a 40, and the 35-inch muddies.

The tray was, of course, designed and built by Richard and is there to mount the spare wheel and tyre, storage boxes and gear for travelling because the Cruiser was created for more than just local wheeling in Victoria.

Great COVID escape

Richard started the build during Victoria’s extensive COVID lockdowns and when they finally ended and borders opened, he couldn’t wait to get out and about with the Cruiser. Not just for local day trips but an epic Melbourne to Cape York adventure to really prove the build’s mettle.

After such a trip, it’s no surprise that Richard lists the Tele Track and Fraser Island as some of his favourite 4×4 locations.

When we spoke with him for this story, Richard was planning to design and build a canopy to go on the tray to make it more suitable for touring as there is a trip to Western Australia coming up that will include the iconic Canning Stock Route and WA’s amazing beaches. What an incredible vehicle to traverse Australia’s best 4×4 tracks in.

As always there’s so much more to this build that what we’ve shared here and thankfully, Richard documented the entire build on video which you can watch on YouTube over more than 30 episodes. Look it up at ‘Designed and built’ and sit back to watch the whole build and some action from the Cape York adventure. Better grab a six pack before you do as there are hours of great info and footage covering the build.

Gear that matters


The 4.0-litre ‘Barra’ engine pumps out 300kW and 600Nm thanks to a high-mount intake manifold, custom airbox, front-mount intercooler with custom piping, 3-inch exhaust and a 4-inch snorkel. All the custom fab’ work was done by Richard.


The 35-inch Goodyear MT/Rs on steel rims make for durable rolling stock for off-road touring.

Haltech dash

The Haltech IC7 dash is another world-class Australian-made product and allows Richard to monitor and control all of the Barra engine’s vitals from the driver’s seat. He says it was invaluable on the Cape trip allowing him to see and clear any fault codes from the engine.


Plenty of the owner’s handiwork at the rear of this rig; 300mm was chopped off the back of the chassis and the fabricated tray was fitted on custom mounts. Two fabricated fuel tanks each holding 100 litres of 95 octane unleaded went under the tray.

Front bar

LCS 4X4 front bar cradles an 8274 High Mount winch upgraded with a Bullet 6.8hp motor.

Air compressor

ARB twin air-compressor is mounted under the seat with pressure controlled through the app.


A 110Ah lithium battery is mounted at the back of the cabin and controlled by a Redarc DC-DC charger. Starter battery is an Optima AGM unit.


Richard fabricated the dash panel to mount the switchgear, air-con controls and accessories. Likewise, he fabbed up the frames to mount the Subaru WRX seats to the hand-made floor panels.