Unfortunately, when it comes to vehicles, I'm a bit masochistic. For some reason, my brain is wired a little bit differently and the prospect of driving a perfectly reliable, modern vehicle nearly terrifies me. I've tried it before, and it's just not my cup of tea. However, the idea of driving a vehicle that, by all modern comparison is a torture device, somehow excites and inspires me. In the past I've driven and owned a variety of vintage 4WDs, from a Willys Wagon to a Land Rover Series, but they all proved a bit too feeble for modern day exploring.
My search for a classic 4WD left me in a bit of a conundrum. What was a simple vehicle that could be modified to keep up with a modern lifestyle? Unfortunately, being a self-proclaimed Land Rover nut, the solution to my problem came from my arch-nemisis...Toyota in the shape of the 40 series Land Cruiser.
Even though the Toyota FJ40 I just purchased is the same year my Land Rover Series IIa was, there's no doubting that it's two, maybe three times the amount of vehicle the Land Rover was. It hurts to say that.
One could easily mistake my love for vintage cars as a hatred of modern technology—which couldn't be further from the truth. I like technology, I embrace it, but I believe the most reliable solutions are often the simplest ones. Sometimes a computer chip is more reliable solution to a problem than its elder mechanical cousin, sometimes it isn't. Toyota has a great balance, their combination of industry-leading quality control and practical engineering has undoubtably led them to producing some of the most reliable vehicles on the planet. That's something Land Rover could take a few notes from, their over-engineered approach to everything has officially pissed me off.
What does it take to frustrate a die-hard Land Rover enthusiast to the point where they purchase a Toyota? The answer is simple: a brake job on a Range Rover Classic.
Keep it simple, stupid.
The FJ40 I purchased hasn't exactly been the recipient of the world's best automotive decisions. However, the rust-free vehicle has lived it's entire life in Arizona and has only traveled 71,000 miles. The important bits are all there, and in great shape, not to say that it isn't a project.
The Arizona sun has taken its toll on the vehicle's seats. Scared of acquiring some disease from the dilapidated aftermarket seats, it will be my first upgrade.
The good thing is that every wire inside of the FJ is brand new—the bad thing? The wiring hasn't exactly been finished...
Once the wiring is all finished, the classic gauge pod should work—I just need to source the correct speedometer cable.
Somewhere along the line, the original badges were all painted black, why?
Luckily, a trip the the power washer saved this badge which was previously painted black.
More good news: the original F engine is intact and hasn't been replaced with a Chevy 350, as is so common with FJ40s.
Warn locking hubs are a staple of this vehicle's era. They still work great after a few decades.
The home-made sliders/steps might actually stay, I'm just not so crazy about the diamond plate...
Even though, at the time of writing, I've only owned this truck for 3 days, it's already received its first upgrade, a ComeUp winch.
The goal for this project is simple—can a classic car really be a usable tool for an overlander without spending buckets of cash? I'm going to attempt to keep the total cost of the project, including the price of the vehicle, under $10,000—or roughly the price of an older 100 series Land Cruiser. To do this, I'll need to search through the junkyards to save a few bucks, and do most of the wrenching myself, but I won't sacrifice the quality of parts I put on the vehicle—buy once, cry once.
I'm a firm believer that you don't need to spend inordinate amounts of money to have an interesting, desirable overland vehicle. This should be a pretty interesting project, stay tuned.