Stage 3 - Custom Canopy
The Map Patrol is a moving home office, so the LandCruiser Dual Cab needs a canopy that enables Hema’s field teams to live and work on the road.
Designing a canopy specific to the Map Patrol’s needs was simultaneously an easy and difficult process. Easy because after countless mapping expeditions, our field teams know what they need in a canopy, and difficult because the canopy will need to serve multiple purposes while remaining simple and efficient. The challenge to help us create such a canopy lay with Metalink, who have a reputation for making rugged and functional ute canopies. With its ARB fit-out complete, Metalink recorded some measurements of the LC79, and then it was on to finalising the design and bringing it to life.
On a basic level, the canopy will be the Map Patrol’s storage space, kitchen and work areas, and will house the LandCruiser’s auxiliary battery and power management system, fridge, water and extra fuel, data storage array and multiple charging stations for mapping and camera equipment. This is a lot of gear, and the canopy’s layout needs to be flexible enough to allow Hema’s field teams to access, pack, or reorganise said gear quickly. The volume and weight of supplies and equipment will only increase on long mapping expeditions, meaning the LandCruiser will be at its heaviest when mapping the most challenging and remote areas of Australia. This fact brings a consideration to the fore that many canopy buyers marginalise: gross vehicle mass (GVM).
Vehicle weight impacts a 4WD’s capabilities like fuel efficiency and overall performance, which are both important factors for remote area travel in demanding off-road conditions. From the perspective of the Map Patrol, keeping the LandCruiser under or at its GVM is a must, and a light canopy is a large part of that goal. Overloading the 79 Series could prematurely end a mapping expedition from acute or chronic vehicle strain, and degrade braking, suspension and handling capabilities while driving. With an ARB GVM upgrade taking the LandCruiser’s GVM from 3300kg to 3780kg, the dual cab has a bigger payload, which it will need every bit of with a loaded canopy on the back.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: A 2.5m Foxwing awning offers plenty of shade; The LandCruiser 79 Dual Cab is one step closer to being expedition-ready; Metalink delivered on our original design with a highly functional canopy for the new Map Patrol.
Metalink are known for making highly functional ute canopies using light materials and robust designs, which was exactly what they delivered for the LC79. Using aluminium for the frame, sheeting, shelves and drawer system, the canopy is light, which is aided by the simple shelf design and minimalistic drawers within it. A 90-litre water tank is against the front wall, which will also be home to the main power management system, two 150Ah lithium batteries, and an array of charging stations and data capture equipment. Behind that is a divider that splits the canopy down the middle and into two distinct sides: the left side for the kitchen, and the right side is a shared workstation and storage space.
On the kitchen side is a large 80L Engel upright fridge freezer, which takes advantage of the canopy’s height and is easy to access, avoiding the need for a heavy drop slide to use with an equivalent chest fridge freezer. Next to that is a simple shelf system, measured to fit four plastic kitchen drawers for quick access to day-to-day meal provisions and cutlery. Underneath the shelf is a pull-out kitchen bench, while pots, pans, a camp stove and fuel will be stored between the shelf and the roof.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The canopy creates extra storage options with tool boxes and spare wheels mounted on the rear; Flexible storage space on the driver's side; The kitchen side of the canopy features an upright Engel fridge and a simple shelf system.
The driver side of the canopy has a lot of open space, which will store long-term food and drink supplies, along with swags, a fold-out table, jerry cans and other trip-specific gear. Underneath all that are two drawers, one of which will get packed with tools, and the other with camera gear, tripods and other equipment. A simple aluminium drawer cover turns either drawer into a simple bench when extended, creating an ideal work area close to the canopy’s charging station. Between the left drawer and the rear of the canopy is unused space, so Metalink put in a false floor, underneath which all spares, oils and fluids can be safely stored. On both sides of the canopy are under body tool boxes, with the left side home to an air compressor and hose, and the other the LandCruiser’s recovery kit.
Within the canopy there’s a purpose and place for everything, which allows the Map Patrol to be efficient in the field both as a mapping machine and as a home-away-from-home. With the canopy finished and fitted, the 79 Series now has the framework of its build complete, and it’s a much-changed vehicle from that which rolled off the showroom floor. With 4x4 accessories to help it reach remote areas, and a canopy to store everything needed for long-term off-road travel, the LandCruiser is ready to roam – but the most important stage of its build is what comes next, which will ultimately turn our LandCruiser 79 Series Dual Cab into a true Map Patrol vehicle.