Reader Gerhard Victor had a dream. A dream to turn a classic Toyota Land Cruiser FJ45 into a modern Super Cruiser. One that has all the amenities of a modern bakkie but still retains that old-school-is-cool Cruiser character. This is how it turned out.
The coolest FJ45 in town?
The thing started in 2013. The thing about taking one 44-year-old Land Cruiser and turning it into the ultimate FJ45.
Reader Gerhard Victor and his fellow Cruiser fanatic Milton Slabber embarked on this great odyssey. A suitably sad Land Cruiser FJ45 was sourced and the transformation process commenced.
But, two years into the project, and facing a mountain of drivetrain challenges, Gerhard decided to change tack: a new plan was required to turn his dream into a reality. The old Cruiser drivetrain just wasn’t going to cut it. And if he was going to change the engine, why not change all the underpinnings at the same time, he reckoned.
So he hatched a plan: he’d transplant the FJ45 body onto a Land Cruiser 80 Series chassis and drivetrain. When he mentioned this plan to buddy Milton, there were some words bandied about such as “it’s a mad idea”.
In the end, the duo decided to go with the transplant idea. Off went the 80 Series VX body. Next the engine had to be moved back 76mm, to fit the FJ45 configuration. The really tricky
parts were extending the cab by 270mm, and shortening the loading bay accordingly.
The 80’s original FZ-FE straight-six engine, partnered with the original automatic gearbox, came with the deal. So there was 158kW of power and 373Nm of torque in the game, from the word go. Which is handy.
In the cabin, the instrument cluster proved a moot point. Should they stick with the FJ’s original bits or upgrade to the 80 Series parts? A compromise of sorts was reached, over a few beers (of course). A custom dashboard, modelled around the modern FJ incarnation design and fabricated from aluminium, with the 80’s cluster fitted.
The dashboard was by no means the only custom part that had to be fabricated. The engine mountings, bull bar, rear bumper and rock sliders were all handmade, custom parts.
But the best thing of all, says Gerhard, was the fact that they could include all the modern amenities of a modern bakkie, largely courtesy of the donor Cruiser 80 VX. This Cruiser has air-conditioning, electric windows, electrically adjustable seats, ABS brakes, power steering, cruise control, central locking and a modern infotainment system with GPS navigation, Bluetooth and an infrared rearview camera.
Another major bonus of this conversion is the 80 Series runs a coil spring suspension all-round, as well as disc brakes. This Cruiser thus features a much-improved ride over its 44-year-old siblings, which have to make do with solid axles and shoddy original brakes.
Challenges? Of course, there were many, says Gerhard. Like the dead-end reached with a wiring riddle and this wiring had to be tied up with the VX’s original computer box, in some mysterious way.
The FJ landed up at a firm called Lionel’s Audio in Springs and the company managed to magically sort out the wiring challenges. Everything electric and electronic in the FJ works like it once worked in the 80’s.
Now Gerhard and Milton’s Cruiser is done. It has taken five years but the effort seems to have been more than worth it. It’s a beautiful, classic FJ45 with a modern drivetrain and amenities under the skin.
The big question, of course, is how much did it all cost? A grand total of R510 000. And will he now sell this Cruiser, and start building the next one?
“No way. This project took me five years to complete. It’s a work of love. I never built it because I want to sell it again, it was born out of my passion for Cruisers,” concludes Gerhard.
Main: Now that’s a Cruiser! Featuring a custom FJ45 body, the Cruiser is all 80 Series underneath. So it has a 4.5-litre petrol engine, coil spring suspension and disc brakes. Below, from top left: The donor 80 Series body making way for the...