Cool Cus­toms

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.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Pho­to­graphs: Ger­hard Vic­tor

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...

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