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

Metcalf

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
try.

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
think.

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 later.....safe 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
faster.

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
bumpers.





 

Metcalf

Expedition Leader
Day 4. Rubicon day two. We got out of camp pretty early in the
morning. The group was a little worried about getting Travis down to
Rubicon Springs, but that ended up being a non-issue. The day went
pretty smooth. There where some tight spots. Travis needed a tug or
two but for a fool-size with 3wd it did fine!

We actually made it to Rubicon Springs by about 1pm. With Travis
having only 3wd and weekend traffic likely coming in, we decided to
push on up Cadillac Hill to make sure we could get the big ford up and
out. Worst case we planned on camping at the top, and best case head
all the way back to Minden a little early so everyone could start
their long drive home back north.

The Caddilac Hill section actually went pretty easy for everyone. The
big peg leg ford needed a few tugs, but I can't really fault it. We
had a mini-snafu meeting a group that was coming down in for the
weekend. They got a little worked up as everyone got shifted around to
let everyone pass. It wasn't a big thing really, but it was a thing.
In the end it worked out fine. We ended up getting all the way back to
Minden that evening. I have to say, the exit road to the staging area
wasn't my favorite, it reminded me of the exit road to
Pritchett.....long, bumpy, and dusty. Meh. I had fleeting thoughts of
just turning around and going back out to Loon!







I had to head south though!
 

locrwln

Expedition Leader
Unfortunately, those "fine gentlemen" take a lot of the greatness out of doing the 'Con. When I first started going in the early 90's, it wasn't a problem, but with the advent of cheap powerful stereos systems with "wake board" speakers, now you get to hear everyone's music. :cautious:

The exit from Observation Point is everyone's least favorite part of the trail. Too rough for any speed and not rough enough to be a challenge.

Looks like a great trip and I am glad to hear that the truck worked out so well.

Jack
 

Metcalf

Expedition Leader
Unfortunately, those "fine gentlemen" take a lot of the greatness out of doing the 'Con. When I first started going in the early 90's, it wasn't a problem, but with the advent of cheap powerful stereos systems with "wake board" speakers, now you get to hear everyone's music. :cautious:

The exit from Observation Point is everyone's least favorite part of the trail. Too rough for any speed and not rough enough to be a challenge.

Looks like a great trip and I am glad to hear that the truck worked out so well.

Jack
Yeah, we where more upset about the rather reckless fire during a fire ban and leaving it roaring while you went for a night run.....

We still had fun though.

Truck is working very well. I was really impressed for its first time out. I still have a list as long as my arm of little things I want to tweak, improve, or add. They are never done till they are sold. Anyone want to buy it?
 
Yeah, we where more upset about the rather reckless fire during a fire ban and leaving it roaring while you went for a night run.....

We still had fun though.

Truck is working very well. I was really impressed for its first time out. I still have a list as long as my arm of little things I want to tweak, improve, or add. They are never done till they are sold. Anyone want to buy it?
$3.50 shipped?
 

Metcalf

Expedition Leader
Road trip part B







I was really fortunate to be invited down to the Off Road Expo show in Pamona, California by Milestar Tire to display the #LX45 in their booth. I was a really awesome experience overall, and another bucket list item to check off for me. I have to admit, I was very nervous to have thousands of people, including some BIG industry players look over my little garage build. In the end it went great. I actually got to work into the booth both days and interact with people asking questions about the build. Lots of people where very impressed that I drove it.....now some 1650 miles out to the show.

The return trip back home to Colorado brought the final total for the shakedown run to just over 2400 miles!

Overall, for a first run, I couldn't be happier.

Some more reflection and review of the build from my notes....

The suspension of this thing is a TOTALLY different league from the
flat fender. I hope you get to go for a ride in it to compare to your
TJ. The road manors are really good. It is easy to drive on the
highway at modern 70-80mph speeds with one hand on the wheel and it
doesn't require constant attention. It doesn't seem to wander. There
is no steering wheel shimmy or shake. It doesn't seem to need a front
sway bar. You can toss it around pretty good and exceed most posted
corner speed signs without any issues.

The spring rates seem to be good, even the rear end ( which I thought
was going to be too stiff ). The stance is just about what I would
want. For REALLY big trips with more gear I might even swap in the
taller rear springs. The other really nice thing....it doesn't seem to
bottom out, or at least I can't feel it. I can't tell when the front
foam bumpstops engage either, they just basically 'catch' the axle
without any noise or drama which is so nice. I didn't notice the rear
suspension bottom out either, and it doesn't even have the big foam
stops yet. I think the good shocks really help and probably the best
thing is a decent amount of uptravel. I ended up with ~6" in front and
5" on the rear suspension ( 10.6 front shock travel, 10.1 rear shock
travel ).

In the entire 2400 mile trip I only had one butt-pucker moment on the
road. I was passing a group of motor-homes on a 2-lane highway in the
four corners area. This is basically on the 'res' and the roads are
crap. I was going about 75-85mph during the pass and hit a section of
repaired road with big 'rollers' in the pavement. I think any vehicle
would have gotten tossed around a bit.....getting tossed around a bit
on 40s at 23psi is a bit interesting. It was the only time I
specifically remember needing both hands on the wheel and having to
'try' and drive it through the issue. I think the rollers where big
enough and spaced just right to act basically like big whoops. I'm not
saying I went airborne.....but that is what it felt like....

The tires don't rub.....much....on the body. The rear tires just KISS
the lower edge of the fender when it is twisted all the way up. The
inside of one tire rubs on the bed panel a little....but the other
doesn't. I think it has something to do with how the panhard allows
the suspension to articulate. The front tires don't rub anything that
I could detect lock to lock. This is also with the new wheels which
have a bit more backspacing than I originally built it with. I think
the original wheels would make things even better.

Off road I really like the suspension also. I didn't get to do much
spirited driving yet, the Rubicon isn't really like that, but what
little I did felt really nice. Using all OEM bushings in everything
seemed like a big plus. There isn't any squeaking or clunking in the
suspension as it articulates or hits bumps.

The only real downside to the suspension I have found is how exposed
the rear frame side lower control arms are. They get hit. You can
drive around them to a degree, but you still hit them. I should
probably get them plated in a layer of 1/8-3/16 material in the
critical area. That would be a good winter project.

The vehicle seems to WANT to climb things. I think it is a lot of
things coming together.....suspension geometry, weight bias, lower
overall weight, etc. Overall I really like the vehicle size and
wheelbase. It feels bigger than the flat fender, but not HUGE. I was
the only one in the group to make Soup Bowl on the Rubicon. That felt
really good, especially with no seat time.

...cut....
 

Metcalf

Expedition Leader
Gearing. Overall I am pretty dang happy. I think it could be tweaked a
little, but I think it would be a trade off generally. High range is
really pretty good. It could be a touch lower I think, but I wouldn't
want to drastically change it....maybe something like 5.38 instead of
5.00 would be better on the highway, but honestly I am not sure. It
works pretty well. I do still want to try something like 6-7:1 gearing
in the axles on a build like this at some point, especially with the
6-10 speed transmissions. The new transmission tune feels even better.
I don't think higher gears in the axles would be what I want. I don't
think I would do 4.88s with 40+ tires and a 6L80E at this point. That
is kind of a shame actually, I think the 6L80e really needs about a
2.5-2.7 low range. 2:1 probably isn't deep enough unless you want to
try 6-7:1 in the axles. 3:1 is getting too low where I think the crawl
ratio is getting too short. For future builds this is an interesting
conundrum honestly. You can't get an atlas with 2.5 gearing. My low
range gearing feels REALLY good. It is low enough to have fine
control, but not so low it is pushing you through the brakes all the
time and taking all the magic out of the torque converter. It will be
interesting to get it into different terrain. I have a feeling for
climbs I have to bump, I am going to need to force the transmission to
be able to start in 2nd low. I am a pretty firm believer still,
especially after building this one, that the sweet spot for an
automatic ( with a proper amount of power ) is about 50-55:1 with a
40-42" tire. I am 54:1 in the Lexus. I do notice a bit of torque
'lean', or rather that the chassis is loaded up more, with more
upstream gearing vs downstream gearing. I am only running 4.10s in the
axles. For future builds, I would rather have more gearing in the
axles and less gearing in the transmission and t-case generally. I
think this calms the chassis down when doing dumb stuff. The Lexus
isn't bad, but I can feel it.

Steering. Overall I am happy, but it still needs some tweaking. The
steering wheel feels a bit heavy. I'm not sure if this is a pressue or
flow issue. The steering never seems to run out of force, it turns the
tires whenever you want, even with the tires aired down and the front
diff locked. It just feels a bit heavy. At speed with the engine rpms
up you don't notice it at all. The steering wheel feel on the road at
speed is actually very good. I really like that the steering doesn't
squeak at all. I might have to try some pump mods in the future. The
steering angle capability is also very nice. It turns lock to lock
with 40s. That makes the 112" wheelbase much more maneuverable than I
thought it would be. It is longer no doubt, but I didn't find myself
having to 3 point much if at all.

Lockers. The selectable lockers are ok. I left the center diff locked
99% of the time. I honestly didn't have to use the diff locks as much
as I thought I would. I did start to experiment more with different
combinations of locker use the 2nd day on the Rubicon. In one spot I
even tried a front 'dig' kinda thing to get the front end to slip
down, and that actually seemed to work pretty well. I basically kicked
out the center diff lock and grabbed the ebrake. That seemed to allow
me to force the vehicle to pull more with the front end and slip the
front axle sideways down off a big rock wall when trying to turn at
the same time. I also played with using the front or rear locker only
in mild situations. I still think that front locker only seems to work
better than rear locker only to me. Waiting for the lockers to engage
or disengage was kinda annoying, but it isn't bad. I have the locker
switch icon wired to the fork position switch on the elocker diff. I
can see exactly when the locker changes....and you can hear it click
typically. The toyota elockers actually work pretty well overall. They
seem to lock and unlock ok.

To muse about future builds. For a vehicle that is part time 4wd. I
would lean heavily toward running an automatic front locker with
selectable rear locker like the flatty. That combo just seems to work
better with less driver input required. Add in a t-case and front axle
that would hold up to front front digs. Add in rear left/right cutting
brakes and maybe another trick or two with the brakes. I think the
automatic front locker does a better job at locking and unlocking in
the medium stuff vs the driver having to turn the selectable locker on
and off. This is me just chasing unicorns to a degree. Both combos are
probably equally capable, its just preference about how the vehicle
handles the medium hard stuff.

Power. The 5.3 feels about right, but isn't a silly amount of power.
It is enough to be fun. It is enough to get up any hill on the highway
at extra legal speeds on 40s. That is about 325hp. That is honestly
pretty darn good. I'm not saying that I wouldn't give about 400hp a
try in the next one. I've driven the Summer Camp jeep with 525ish? It
was fun, but I think I got to 1/2 throttle maybe. In this build, I
wouldn't want much more on this chassis.....but I am happy I did a v8.
The low 1st gear in the 6l80e makes it feel like more and really helps
get things moving.

Cooling. I am VERY happy with how the cooling system worked out. I
haven't noticed any issues at all. It runs on thermostat and the
transmission doesn't heat up. I need to set the alarms on the
Aeroforce Interceptor, but I think I can generally forget about it.
That was actually one of the bigger worries for me honestly.

I will probably think of more later.
 

NCFJ

Adventurer
It does my heart good seeing this rig out and about doing what it was designed to do. You should be proud and have a smile glued on your face!
Great build and great build thread! Use the rig well :)
 
Metcalf, great build and awesome trip report! This and rango have to be two of my favorite builds of all time.

Would you mind telling me a bit more about your buddy's old ford? I have a '78 f150 shortbed that I think would look pretty cool with an aussie (think PCOR) tray. I don't want to muck up your thread, so PM is fine if you'd prefer. I'm especially curious about his drive train and suspension choices.

Again, great build, and I'd love to see more pics and video if you have them!
 
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Metcalf

Expedition Leader
Metcalf, great build and awesome trip report! This and range have to be two of my favorite builds of all time.

Would you mind telling me a bit more about your buddy's old ford? I have a '78 f150 shortbed that I think would look pretty cool with an aussie (think PCOR) tray. I don't want to muck up your thread, so PM is fine if you'd prefer. I'm especially curious about his drive train and suspension choices.

Again, great build, and I'd love to see more pics and video if you have them!
The big ol' ford is pretty simple. 351 v8, 4spd granny, np205, D44 front, 9 inch rear. He did 5.38 gears with a spool rear and an auto locker front. Leveling springs in front, cut fenders, shackle flip in back, and a 37" tire. It is very simple, it works pretty dang well. He doesn't care about the body really, so that allows him to go a few more places he shouldn't. It needs lower gearing for rock work, a 2:1 crawler box would be about perfect. He also needs alloy front shafts with good joints and full circle clips.....or an RCV axle set.....or a D60.
 
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