CUS­TOM: TOY­OTA FJ CRUISER

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

THE FJ Cruiser was an at­tempt by Toy­ota to cash in on the per­ceived nos­tal­gia of the early petrol-pow­ered FJ40S, FJ45S and FJ47S – though without the kid­ney-jar­ring, spinecrush­ing ride and in­dif­fer­ent han­dling of its fore­bears.

A cer­tain cult fol­low­ing has grown up around this later FJ, be­cause like the mid-wheel­base of ear­lier times it was an at­tempt to tame the pitch­ing ride of the short­wheel­base FJ40.

The Prado-based FJ Cruiser has en­joyed a mixed re­la­tion­ship with the four-wheel-drive­buy­ing pub­lic: it’s one of those love/hate things. It did win 4X4 Aus­tralia’s 4x4 of the Year award back in 2006, but no­body can deny the at­tach­ment it has to those who seek to en­hance the orig­i­nal prod­uct.

It was once said that short-wheel­base Toy­otas were a great base for the ac­ces­soris­ing 4x4 owner, and the FJ Cruiser fol­lows this tra­di­tion.

Oleg Cher saw the po­ten­tial for what he wanted in a 4WD and be­gan plan­ning six years ago. He spent two years search­ing for the right ac­ces­sories. And while he agrees there’s noth­ing wrong with lo­cally pro­duced gear, he wanted his FJ to be a bit dif­fer­ent.

Ea­ger eyes might no­tice that the big­ger tyres and the bull­bar def­i­nitely look a bit dif­fer­ent, but it’s only when you get up close that things re­veal them­selves. That bull­bar is by Road Ar­mor in the US, while the rear bar and swingout tyre car­rier are also from the US and made by Ex­pe­di­tion One. These are names most Aus­tralian 4x4 own­ers prob­a­bly haven’t heard of, but they are well-known across the Pa­cific.

A slightly fruity ex­haust note is courtesy of a Toy­ota Rac­ing Divi­sion (TRD) Cat-back ex­haust; the chrome-plated tips give a more civilised fin­ish to the busi­ness end. The sus­pen­sion kit is from Icon Dy­nam­ics (yes, the US again), which

does a mag­nif­i­cent job of hold­ing the ve­hi­cle where it needs to be. We drove around Oleg’s macadamia farm and through some ar­eas he’d cleared for more trees. While the FJ Cruiser’s OE sus­pen­sion is pretty good the re­mote re­sevoir Icon gear is a lot bet­ter, par­tic­u­larly where sus­pen­sion travel is needed.

To back up that sus­pen­sion travel there is an ARB air locker in the front diff. This works from an ARB twin com­pres­sor, feed­ing a fourl­itre alu­minium air tank. Oleg de­cided to stay with the stan­dard Toy­ota rear locker, though the diff ra­tios have been changed to suit the larger rolling di­am­e­ter of those big Goodyear Wran­glers MTRS with Kevlar side­walls. Like most of us, Oleg is not a fan of do­ing tyre changes in the bush; he reck­ons the Kevlar side­walls have more than proven them­selves.

He went for a set of 16-inch Method rims with bead locks, once again bought in from the US. “I didn’t like hav­ing 17-inch rims on a ve­hi­cle like this,” he said. “The 16s pro­vide a bit more side­wall to help ab­sorb the bumps.”

Tyre pres­sures and tem­per­a­tures are mon­i­tored by a Tyre­dog unit on the dash, with the data sent from sen­sors on the valve stems. Oleg likes hav­ing the ARB com­pres­sor to vary tyre pres­sures to suit the ter­rain; it also con­trols air pres­sure in a Polyair raised coil in­sert air bag kit at the back.

The fac­tory Toy­ota roof rack has been aug­mented by a drop-in Garvin unit from the States, while the 9500lb Warn winch is spooled with syn­thetic rope. It’s com­ple­mented by a Fac­tor 55 hitch that ro­tates a full 360 de­grees.

Through­out the build Oleg worked closely with Au­tocraft in Gee­long, Vic­to­ria. They im­port a lot of spe­cial­ist 4WD gear from the US, and they do a great job fit­ting what they sell. The dual-bat­tery set-up is an­other prod­uct from Au­tocraft; it’s a Bond unit that uses a Redarc 15A bat­tery man­age­ment unit lo­cated

un­der the front pas­sen­ger seat.

The snorkel is from TJM, and the sill pro­tec­tion rails are a Toy­ota ac­ces­sory. The clean air pro­vided by the snorkel is aug­mented by a Cold Air In­take sys­tem that mon­i­tors the con­di­tion of the air fil­ter, and it can be taken out for easy clean­ing. Should Oleg need to travel through deep wa­ter, the breathers on both diffs and gear­boxes are vented up to the fire­wall. While any un­der­wa­ter ob­jects will have to deal with an Au­tocraft bash plate that pro­tects the un­der­side. Other un­der­body pro­tec­tion is af­forded by a guard on the elec­tronic ac­tu­a­tor for the rear diff, a Boztec skid plate on the rear diff hous­ing, and skid plates on the Icon lower con­trol arms.

For stor­age, Oleg has fit­ted a Drifta drawer sys­tem that in­cludes a slider for his En­gel 40-litre fridge/freezer. The draw­ers also house an ex­ten­sive re­cov­ery kit, while a Spring­tail So­lu­tions cargo guard from Au­tocraft keep his two kids safe.

With safety in mind, Oleg went for a set of Hella Lu­mi­na­tor Com­pact spread-beam driv­ing lights. “I didn’t want long-range lights,” he said. “It’s al­ways the ’roo that jumps out close that gives you prob­lems, not the ones far off.” He also in­stalled some PIAA Crystal fog lights, while mounted on the roof rack are strate­gi­cally placed cat’s eye LEDS – one on each side and two at the rear.

An­other safety ac­ces­sory is the Icom UHF 440N ra­dio, com­ple­mented by a TRG an­tenna and Boztec mount.

It’s prob­a­bly safe to say Oleg’s gone a lit­tle fur­ther in his quest for in­di­vid­u­al­ity than others – he has what is prob­a­bly the most of­froad ca­pa­ble FJ Cruiser out there! Cer­tainly on the NSW coast any­way.

Oleg chose 16in rims and 35in Kevlar MTRS to avoid pinch-flats. Born in the USA – well most of the bolt-ons were, any­way.

Redarc power man­age­ment is in at ground level.

Tyre­dog on guard; Spare makes touch park­ing eas­ier. Not much un­derneath is stan­dard Toy­ota-fare any more.

Neat in­stal­la­tions and at­ten­tion to de­tail are found ev­ery­where. Oleg’s won‘t say what the FJ owes him (his wife reads the mag). Crea­ture com­forts! The En­gel on a slide-out Drifta drawer sys­tem.

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