We give Toyota an honorable mention for the 2006 FJ Cruiser, but everyone agrees, “They don’t build them like the used to.” That notion sparked a resurgence of popularity in the classic FJ Land Cruiser, which was produced from 1960 to ’84. With a short wheelbase and rugged construction, they have a following that is almost unmatched in the world of 4 Wheel Drives. Our boss doesn’t normally choose a 4WD for Publisher’s Choice, so allow us to explain why he loves this Toyota.
Generally, classic FJs can be grouped into two classes: stock restorations or wild customs. You might value the Japanese engineering that was built to conquer any terrain, but we have an original example in our collection. In stock form, the FJ is nose heavy and underpowered. The original frame is an open C-channel that can flex when you need articulation. The original engine was based on the ancient GMC straight six, which made 105 hp and weighed over 600 lbs.
I could go on with other areas to be addressed on the original FJ series, but given an unlimited budget it might end up something like this. Travel the world and find a pristine FJ43 (long wheelbase) and ship it to Ai Design. First take most of the original C-channel frame and sell if for scrap. Call Art Morrison and order a tube frame chassis in their finest thick-wall DOM. Remove the original engine and fill it with tannerite. Find a late model Chevrolet 5.3L V8 to cut a few hundred lbs in weight. Back that up with a new Aisin-Warner 5 speed transmission. Send power through an Atlas II transfer case to locking differentials. Fabricate new bumpers with integrated receiver hitches front and rear, and add a Warn Zeon winch.
Change all the lighting to LED, the gauges to Autometer, and call it a day! But no, its still not light enough. Scan the entire body into a CAD program and make every body panel from aluminum instead of steel. There, you have the recipe for a perfect FJ. It will only take you over a year and a few thousand hours to build what you see here. Some of the more interesting features are an onboard CO2 system for inflating toys and a very rare hard top. As far as what original parts were retained, that would be the radiator support and the VIN plate. This is the world’s most capable FJ, and it can be yours.