Blender, My LX450/FZJ80 + FJ45esk + GM + Land Rover crazy concoction


Expedition Leader
Time to get caught back up again....wholy carp what a last few months it has been. I had a firm date I needed to make for a Rubicon trail trip along with another commitment ( more on that later ), so I really thrashed for the last two months to get this thing together enough.

This is about where I left things. Getting color on the tub was a HUGE step. The paint isn't perfect, I learned a ton along the way, but it is one color and not rattle can.

Things like this added a TON of hours along the way. When your 'good' hood has a lot more filler in it than you think it did. I knew it has some, but the more I stripped off the worse and worst it got. These hoods, and cruiser parts in general, are just silly expensive typically. I don't know if I would build another one because of that.

Eventually I got it stripped down to bare metal again. It doesn't look bad, but it needed a LOT of attention.

As I worked on supporting parts I continued to do final assembly on the tub. This included the tunnel, shifters, pedals, etc.

I also had to sort out stuff like this, odd brake plumbing issues while trying to retain as much of the 80 series system as possible.

With everything tucked so tight in the chassis with the flat belly and V8 exhaust, I had to get a little creative with routing for the brake and fuel lines. That included making stone guards like this where they where going to be exposed to the outside of the frame rail.

I used Earls VaporGuard line for the entire fuel system from the custom aluminum tank to the engine. I used a 2006 GM fuel pump sending unit that has the filter and regulator internal to the assembly. With my returnless engine fuel system, all I needed to do was route a single line from the pump to the engine. The line was routed as carefully as possible with isolated supports, rub guards, stone guards, and DEI heat wrap anywhere close to the exhaust system heat.


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Doing things like brake lines always takes forever to make it not look like an after thought. As you progress through the build it is hard not to get backed into corners with some of this stuff. You end up just having to think as far ahead as you can and make the best of the space you have left when you get that far.

I cool trick I picked up from a local autobody guy. A heavy solution of dawn dish soap will soften up and reverse aging on rubber material like the window seal gasket. I let mine soak for a good 3-4 days.

After a quick, and poorly timed, trip back to the vendor for some thread improvement, I was finally able to install the heavy duty steering linkage.

More painting. I definitely didn't give myself enough time for this. It takes forever, especially with some used parts.

Getting the bed frame back on by myself as super fun. Having to remove the wheel/tire half way through was awesome.

While I had decided to have someone else tackle the engine wiring harness, I decided to make my own body harness from scratch. This firewall panel was the base for that system. I am using a 10+10 Bussman fuse block and HD maxi fuse protected relay pack to drive it. All the cabin wiring passes through the Seals-it grommet for bi-directional routing. In theory the entire harness can be pulled out by removing this panel from the tub and unplugging switches in the cabin.


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Juvenile exhaust system, check. There is no mistaking this is a stout V8. I will get tired of it, but it works for now.

Another key part of the wiring system. With the battery behind the cab, I needed a common point to route and distribute power and ground without having to add five feet of wiring to ever circuit.

I used making tape to experiment with pre-routing the chassis/body wiring before drilling holes to use pine tree replaceable zip-tie fasteners. This basically gave me a 'racetrack' to route everything for the wiring.

I ended up building from the ends inward with sub-harnesses for most of the major circuits. This will hopefully let me replace things in the future if needed. All the connectors are 150-series Metri-Pack connectors. Each wire was color coded with an identifying stripe AND tagged with a heat shrink label on both sides of the connector.

Here you can see the major trunk run of wires in the cabin space during the wiring process. I tried to keep everything as clean as possible, but even in my rather 'basic' wiring harness it was very surprising how fast things 'grew' in size and scope.

New battery, the Optima was pretty 'meh' after sitting for so long. This location worked out pretty well and kept the weight rather low and balanced.

Another super fun thing along the way was having to reverse engineer the E-locker wiring. It turns out the Lexus chassis had all it's own colors for the wiring harness. In the end it worked out fine, but I was NOT happy about it in the middle.

Eventually I started filling in the details like the gauge mount, switches, etc. It was a really good feeling when I finally got to function test all the wiring in the chassis/body harness for function.


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Even in thrash mode, I enjoy making stuff like this. I was able to convert a vacuum actuated 4-way heater valve to cable. I can even swap all the parts over to a new valve if needed in the future with no mods.

The 4-way heater valve helps keep heat out of the cabin by diverting coolant back to the engine.

Another fun one. After wondering around Walmart for a few hours I found the perfect $3 water bottle to make an overflow/recovery tank out of. I fabbed a small bracket to hold it to the shroud and turned a custom aluminum neck adapter on the lathe. In the end it fit perfect....

About at this point things started to get really interesting ( read super frustrating ). After fighting through an issue with a 'frozen' fuel pump regulator for a day or two, I started finding issues in my wiring harness.

The short version, I ended up having to repin the gas pedal at the ECM and at the pedal to get it to work right.

Sadly that was only the beginning also. The engine ran, but not well, after much looking....including purchasing my own HPtuner dongle....I found that the O2 sensors where LOOMED backwards in the harness. After re-pinning both of those in at the ECM plug things got a LOT better.

I also had to plumb the entire OBA system ( and the wiring controls ) in there somewhere. I came up with a neat way to do a pressure bleed down on the compressor output line using a micro sized orifice valve along the way.

Warn Industries was nice enough to rebuild my 8274 to current specs. These old style winches just look perfect on the front of 'older' rigs like this.


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I was like goldilocks with the rear springs. I ended up with 3 sets of rear springs to find something that made me happy. The magic combination so far si using TWO short side factory LX450 rear springs. That gave me the 5" of uptravel I was looking for for the rear suspension when loaded for a decent trip.

The rear suspension also got a set of stem top universal Fox 2.0 Resi shocks with 10.1" of travel from Accutune....

The front got Fox 2.0 Resi 10.6 inch stem-stem units that where originally for a lifted Nissan Patrol application. Accutune also valved these custom for me.

I really wanted bolt in shocks with factory like rod ends.

Somewhere along the way I made some sweet floor mats out of thick rubber barn mats from Tractor supply. These are held to the floor with small 6mm flat head fasteners mated to pre-positioned weld nuts in the floor and tunnel.

I also ended up completely re-engineering the factory wiper system to use a Jeep TJ wiper motor so I could have dynamic park and intermittent wipe using a Cole-Hearse switch that looks really factory. It also drives a washer pump. Details Details.


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Because of the thrash at the end....working till midnight or later for weeks on end....I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked.

This is what the windshield looked like assembled. I ended up having to make a love it or hate it wiper motor cover for the larger Jeep TJ motor.

Thing like the defrost cover where done on the fly with almost no pre-planning. In the end, these parts where some of my favorite things in the build.

Or how about a glove box door with a locking cam latch....

Things like the marine plywood bed floor are not my favorite, but in the end it actually came together WAY better than I thought it would.

TADA! The last 2-3 days where a complete blur as I assembled this thing on only a few hours sleep a night. At this point I was still dealing with the engine wiring issues too. The astute observers will also note another big change.....wheels and tires.

I was approached by Milestar tires to do some testing for them on their new 40" Patagonia Black Label tire. This is something 'new' in my opinion that deserved some attention. These are really a neat idea....more on that later....

Well that catches us up on vehicle building, now lets go on an adventure....or two.....


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Incredible work as usual. Is it done and you are still getting caught up or are you still in building phase?



Expedition Leader
Incredible work as usual. Is it done and you are still getting caught up or are you still in building phase?

Stay tuned. I jumped in it with 3 miles on the odometer and went and had a huge adventure. More tonight.


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Sounds good. It had the feel of a crunch (nothing motivates like a upcoming trip). Looking forward to it. Also, noticed that you made it into "Reader's Rides" in Peterson's.



Just had a friend have George put an 80 series axle under the front of his 60 series, but they flipped the radius arms to be on top of the axle instead of below. Wondering if you were considering that, or, is this thing too nice to wheel that hard?


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Just had a friend have George put an 80 series axle under the front of his 60 series, but they flipped the radius arms to be on top of the axle instead of below. Wondering if you were considering that, or, is this thing too nice to wheel that hard?
Too nice to wheel hard?

In my case, with the suspension being so low (basically stock height with 40 inch tires and 6 inches uptravel), I couldn't flip the arms. It would cause all kinds of interference issues with the steering, frame, control arm mounts, etc. The stock suspension seems to work just fine for me with the new shocks, bumps, and front swaybar removal. More ground clearance under the axle would be nice, but it doesn't seem to be a huge issue.


Too nice to wheel hard?

In my case, with the suspension being so low (basically stock height with 40 inch tires and 6 inches uptravel), I couldn't flip the arms. It would cause all kinds of interference issues with the steering, frame, control arm mounts, etc. The stock suspension seems to work just fine for me with the new shocks, bumps, and front swaybar removal. More ground clearance under the axle would be nice, but it doesn't seem to be a huge issue.
makes sense. I think there is usually a 4-6 inch lift requirement to keep the arms from hitting.

Beautiful truck


Expedition Leader
Day 0. I delayed my departure by a day or three because I was still
assembling the truck. I put about 3 miles on it around the
neighborhood in testing. I built another HF tool kit for this one with
a lot more metric, but basically similar to what I had in the flatty
for UA. Overall though, I didn't have jack for spare parts really
other than a driveshaft ( which fits both ends ) and a spare tire. One
thing I noticed, I REALLY took for granted how well packaged
everything in the flat fender is. I probably haven't changed much in
the last 4 years. I know where things are, where they go, etc. I had
ZERO of that in the Lexus and that was annoying. It takes time to
develop a packing system that is somewhat logical and organized. The
Lexus is pretty small, I need to develop a better plan for storing
things for sure. The cabin space fills up pretty quickly. I didn't
want a ton of stuff in the bed because of the weather.

Hey look....Utah.....or was this Nevada.....

Day 1. I packed up the night before and was ready to leave by 1st
light pretty much. I believe I left the house just after 7am. The goal
was to get to Travis's house in Round Mountain, Nevada, which was 733
miles away. Once on the road it was pretty apparent that this little
truck is a completely different animal than my flat fender. This thing
WANTS to go down the road. It will go as fast as you want generally,
going 5+ over the speed limit is easy up and down just about anything.
The only real issues this first day where filling the gas tank and the
transmission shifting was a bit off. The hidden gas filler neck thing
looks super sweet, but it is VERY slow to fill. You basically have to
shoot the fuel into the hole at a pretty slow rate to keep it from
burping back up the filler neck. The good thing is that with a 25+
gallon tank that you don't have to do it often, but when you do fill
it, it takes a long time. I was able to set up the AeroForce
Interceptor before leaving to do it's cycle scan function. This allows
me to watch 8 engine/transmission functions in a 2x4 timed rotation.
Being able to watch so many things made me feel a lot better.

A big win with this rig is that the cooling system for the engine and
transmission are rock solid. The engine runs 190-195F 99.9% of the
time. The transmission runs 165-170F. The only time I see higher temps
is if shut it off and let things heat soak. As soon as the vehicle is
started again the temps fall quickly back into the normal zone. I was
pretty worried about this with only a 24x19 radiator on an LS engine.
I also didn't do any of the fancy surge tank stuff. My first day
included driving up passes at 5 over the speed limit passing just
about everyone in 4th gear at 3000+rpm. Engine and trans temps hold
really well. I do believe that the hood louvers evacuate a HUGE amount
of heat from the engine compartment. Even with complete inner fenders
and the engine intake over the passenger side exhaust manifold, I
never saw high intake temps. They seemed to be about 120F at
most......and that included 95+F degree sunny weather in Nevada.

Oh....the other failure. This truck is fast enough, with bad enough
aero, that it basically folds the side mirrors in at highway speeds. I
need to get some better quality TJ mirrors, probably OEM units, to

It's not as quiet as I thought it would be, basically wind noise. I
still have some work on the doors to do. I kinda had to trash to get
them installed. I will need to spend some more time getting them
adjusted better. They do get pulled around in the wind a bit,
basically like oem jeep soft upper doors. I will probably have to add
something on the inside upper rear corner to keep the seal tight at
60+ mph.

The transmission tune was pretty aggressive for 4-6th. It basically
didn't like going into 5th till about 60mph.....and 6th didn't happen
till 73mph or so. This was kinda annoying. This did get better over
the course of the trip as the transmission did a bit of 'learning' I

I ended up making the entire 733 miles in about 12.5 hours without any
issues. I actually ended up staying up to about midnight helping my
friend Travis thrash on his truck.....and we worked on it another 4-5
hours the next morning too. So....the truck isn't too fatiguing to
drive or anything. I REALLY want cruise control however. I need to
find a way to get the BCM module back in the harness like I originally
planned, but the harness guys couldn't make happen.

700+ miles arrival......

Day 2. After working on Travis's old Ford for the morning, I finally
had to push him to leave basically. With his no-overdrive, older v8
engine, 5.38 gears, and 37" tires he was limited to 55mph pretty much,
I think he got up to 60mph once or twice. I made it about 20 minutes
out of town before I told him he needed an overdrive. I think this was
some weird karma thing that had something to do about my flat fender
being so slow on the highway. Driving the Lexus at 55mph is kinda
boring. With cruise it would have been better. It really wants to go

Nothing bad happened for either of us really. I did decide to pull out
my 'stuck on high' LED headlights and stick some regular 7" round
headlights from Autozone while Travis did some last minute shopping at
Tractor Supply for a few things. Doing that, I did manage to slip with
a screwdriver and take a BIG chunk our of my hand. Ouch. Once I had
regular lights in the truck, high/low worked fine. Weird.

Oh. I did notice I have a bit of a 'buzz' at 55-57mph. It might be a
harmonic thing with the poly motor mounts, but I think the front
driveline might need a slight angle/caster adjustment. I may have to
pull the front driveshaft to test that theory. The day before I just
didn't drive enough at those speeds to notice.

We got into Phil's place in Minden about dusk and the rest of the crew
had just gotten there too. We visited pretty late into the evening
with everyone.

Day 3. Rubicon Day one. We got out of Minden pretty early in the
morning, but is a decent drive around to the Wentworth side from
Minden, NV. We decided to go in that side to get more of the original
Rubcion experience. I think the Wentworth side entrance is a little
more difficult than the loon side...and sees less traffic. I had also
called Tim Hardy the day before and got him to come out for the day
with us. I think that made my friend Travis's decade. Tim brought the
Grand Vitaria, which he promptly broke about a bit past Wentworth
Campground. He ended up parking it where he could get out in 2wd and
rode along with Phil for a bit.

Other than my driveway, this was the 1st time I had the Lexus in low
range. Unfortunately, low range was acting pretty dang dumb. It just
wasn't shifting right. It would basically get kinda 'lost' in 3rd thru
6th eventually. I ended up figuring out that if I put the shifter in M
mode right after the 1-2 shift it would operate between those gears in
low range normally. That worked fine for the slower speed of the
Rubicon, but I was pretty bummed it wasn't working right. One of the
things I was looking forward to with the 6L80E was the ability to do
about 60 in low range if I wanted.

Other than that the trail was tons of fun. The truck, other than low
range shifting, was working very well. It did take a bit of getting
use to, it feels VERY different from my old flat fender for SURE. I
did jump into the deep end a bit on the Wentworth side, but the truck
handled it just fine. No damage to anything other than scuffed paint
on the rockers and the belly pan got a few scratches. I was even able
to do soup bowl on my 1st try....that was pretty sweet. I was the only
one in the group to make it.

We ended up getting all the way to Buck Island Lake at just about
dark. We found out Travis had popped his short side front axle shaft
about a mile before buck just as you start down the slab section. It
took a little bit of extra spotting to get him to Buck in 3wd.
Everyone was pretty worn out by then after a long day. It was awesome
of those fine upstanding gentleman camped across from us to blast
their music till 2am for us and have a roaring campfire during a fire
ban during one of the worst fire seasons in a decade.

Storage organization still needs work. I still like having gear stored
inside the spare tire, more smaller dry bags would work better than
large ones. I do really like my simple LED bed light and dome light
combo. That makes unpacking for camp in the dark easy. I really want
to build my idea for a collapsible hammock frame that attaches to the