Toyota Landcruiser Police Rescue Squad tribute

By: Glenn Torrens, Photography by: Mark Bean

Presented by

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Terry's terrific Toyota tribute truck Police Rescue Land Cruiser

Owning the cool old cars of our youth – or the cars our mums and dads drove – is an ambition of many of us. There are also plenty of enthusiasts who associate particular cars with the happy years of their careers, too – such as retired policeman Terry Psarakis who has pieced together this Toyota LandCruiser as a terrific tribute to the NSW Police Rescue vehicles of the 1970s.


"I bought it for my own use six years ago, but then thought I could do this up like a Police Rescue truck," Terry explains. While a policeman in the 1970s, Terry spent time patrolling NSW’s highways and assisted with the Flood Rescue unit – hence his desire to create a tribute to some of the personnel he worked with. "Some of them are deceased now," he says respectfully.

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toyota-landcruiser-10.jpgOff the beaten track once more 

He chirps up when speaking about his time riding police bikes – Triumph 650s and Honda 750s – and of course driving some of the now-legendary Australian cars of the 1970s.

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toyota-landcruiser-9.jpgNatural habitat. Non bitumen surface

"I got to drive Torana XU-1s, Valiant Chargers and XA-XC Fords," he explains. "That was in what was known as the STP – Special Traffic Patrol – prior to its transition to what is now known as the NSW Police Highway Patrol. I worked around North Sydney, then I was stationed at (suburban Sydney) Sutherland and Kogorah." 

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toyota-landcruiser-onroad.jpgThe Cruiser was never a rocketship. The antennas bend easily, that's all

Terry makes us smile with what he says next: "I was also the Tom Ugly Bridge cyclist. I went out on my bike and changed the lane signs on the bridge to cope with the morning and afternoon peak hour traffic!"

toyota-landcruiser-8.jpgA younger, bigger relation

Terry’s Cruiser is a 1978 model and so is bang-on what would have been in-service prior to Terry’s retirement from the police in the early 1980s. With far fewer 4WDs bought and used by the NSW Police than other vehicle types, there are far fewer surviving vehicles than, for instance, ex highway patrol sedans. Terry’s tribute is in fact a civilian example that apparently spent most of its life in the north-western NSW rural town of Gunnedah before Terry bought it in Sydney.

toyota-landcruiser-1.jpgFunctional best describes the interior

Terry has owned it six years and has spent many happy Sunday afternoons working on it. He bought it for his own use – weekend camping trips – with the idea of building a police tribute vehicle coming later. Body-wise the Cruiser was in pretty good condition with only minor rust in the door edges that Terry paid to have repaired. And once he’d decided to make it a Rescue tribute, the roof was painted yellow and the police-specification parts sourced. "I built the canopy based on my memories and of course some old pictures," Terry explains. "I had to make and source a lot of parts – some obsolete equipment was donated. The parts came from all over the place, including a few retired policemen.

"Finding parts was like an Easter egg hunt!"

toyota-landcruiser-4.jpgAuthentic to the last detail

The original-type siren has an interesting story: "I used it at home as a door stopper for years!" Terry laughs.

Terry and his Cruiser are sometimes invited to participate in charity events, car shows, senior police retirement functions and events such as the Sydney Granville train disaster memorial each year.


The LandCruiser is powered by a 3.6-litre naturally-aspirated diesel six-cylinder engine (unlike today, most of the 4WDS of the era were petrol-powered) and it required a freshen-up.   


The first idea was to disassemble the engine and rebuild it with new piston rings and bearings. However, the required valve lifters were NLA (no longer available) from Toyota.  Instead, Terry bought a good second-hand engine from a Queensland LandCruiser specialist; it was from a farm vehicle that had rolled and been written off.  The second-hand engine mated with the Land Cruiser’s original four-speed manual transmission and 4WD system without any hassle.   


With probably one–fifth of the power of a brand-new Cruiser, this one is hardly a rocketship; a short drive during our photo shoot shows just how incredibly far Toyota’s LandCruiser design and driveability has come in the 40 years since this one was imported. It’s almost woefully slow and lumpy! But, said another way, like many other cool classic vehicles, this old girl has plenty of character and personality with time behind the wheel forcing you to chill-out, put a hand-brake on your brain and take your time!


From Unique Cars issue 437, Mar 2020

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