4 Wheel & Off Road - - CONTENTS - Harry Wag­ner BY ED­I­[email protected] PHO­TOG­RA­PHY HARRY WAG­NER

Leaf springs and mono­tube shocks for our 1970 Land Cruiser.

SUS­PEN­SION TECH­NOL­OGY has come a long way in the nearly 50 years since this Land Cruiser rolled off the show­room floor. Leaf springs are now a thing of the past on every­thing but the rear of a few pickup trucks. While there’s no deny­ing that coil springs and in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion of­fer a smooth ride and gen­er­ous wheel travel, there’s an in­her­ent beauty in the sim­plic­ity of leaf springs. This one com­po­nent not only suspends the axles but also lo­cates the axle fore and aft and side-to-side and pro­vides sway con­trol.

Skyjacker makes coilover con­ver­sions for mod­ern Jeep Wran­glers with beefy con­trol arms and high-an­gle rod ends, but we went back in the com­pany’s cat­a­log to source a set of Softride leaf springs and M95 mono­tube shocks for our 1970 Land Cruiser. These parts are in­ex­pen­sive and easy to in­stall. They im­proved the ride qual­ity of our FJ40 while pro­vid­ing enough room for 33-inch Toyo Open Coun­try M/T tires.

Skyjacker’s 21⁄2-inch lift springs are mild enough that they don’t re­quire longer brake lines, a dropped drag link, or axle shims to ad­just pin­ion an­gle. This fur­ther sim­pli­fies the in­stal­la­tion and keeps costs down, leav­ing room in the bud­get for op­tions like U-bolt skid­plates and new shack­les, which we sourced from the Land Cruiser spe­cial­ists at Man-A-Fre. We were able to in­stall the sus­pen­sion in a weekend with sim­ple hand­tools, just like guys used to do back when Lon­nie McCurry started Skyjacker in 1974.

1 In down stock to form the sus­pen­sion. the FJ40 was We rugged, wanted right to im­prove the ride qual­ity while mak­ing room for larger tires. We also wanted to in­stall the com­po­nents our­selves and didn’t want to go broke in the process. This was a tall or­der, but Skyjacker had ex­actly what we needed.


There is beauty in sim­plic­ity. Skyjacker’s com­plete kit in­cludes four new leaf springs, polyurethane bush­ings, and shocks. Four dif­fer­ent shock op­tions are avail­able to fit your bud­get and spe­cific use. The steer­ing sta­bi­lizer is op­tional; we will in­stall it in the fu­ture when we up­grade our steer­ing.

3 We value Amer­i­can-made products, even if we are in­stalling them on a Ja­panese 4x4. Skyjacker makes its leaf springs right here in the USA, sup­port­ing hard­work­ing Amer­i­cans and pro­vid­ing im­proved qual­ity con­trol mea­sures com­pared to off­shore man­u­fac­tur­ing.

4 The stock springs could sup­port a lot of weight, but with the top re­moved and the FJ40 empty it rode like a dump truck. Note that we soaked all of the bolts ahead of time to ease dis­as­sem­bly. Our Cal­i­for­nia truck is sur­pris­ingly rust-free, but if you live in the Rust Belt you might need a torch or a re­cip­ro­cat­ing saw to re­move the old U-bolts.

5 In or­der to keep the in­di­vid­ual leaves in a spring pack from fan­ning out dur­ing droop, clamps are used. Bud­get springs use clamps that sim­ply wrap around the springs, hin­der­ing their move­ment. Skyjacker’s Softride springs use bolted clamps that al­low each leaf to move freely.

6 While leaf springs have been around for cen­turies, a lot of tech­nol­ogy is packed into their de­sign. Skyjacker’s Softride springs use ta­pered leaves with Te­flon slid­ers be­tween them to re­duce fric­tion and pro­vide a smoother ride on the street and trail.

7 We started by sup­port­ing the Land Cruiser by the frame with tall jack­stands. This al­lowed us to re­move the wheels and ac­cess the axles to swap the leaf springs and shocks. In the rear, the jack­stands went in front of the spring mount, mak­ing the springs easy to reach. In the front we sup­ported the ve­hi­cle by the bumper, which made in­stal­la­tion slightly more com­pli­cated.

8 We started by dis­con­nect­ing the drivelines, shocks, and brake lines and then un­bolted the shack­les to ro­tate the axle down onto the ground. At that point we un­bolted the fixed end of the spring and then fi­nally re­moved the U-bolts from the axle. In ret­ro­spect it would have been eas­ier to put jack­stands un­der the axle and just swap the leaf springs one at a time.


Skyjacker in­cludes new U-bolts with its sus­pen­sion, but the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the

FJ40 has the vul­ner­a­ble U-bolts point­ing down to­wards the ground. We trimmed them to length and pro­tected them with these War­rior U-bolt skid­plates from Man-A-Fre.

“It doesn’t get eas­ier than this ”


Shack­les are an of­ten over­looked part of a leaf spring sus­pen­sion. They have to ac­com­mo­date the spring length changes that oc­cur as the sus­pen­sion cy­cles. We used stock­length shack­les from Man-A-Fre to pre­vent any changes in pin­ion an­gle or caster. They have greasable pins that al­low them to move smoothly and im­prove ride qual­ity.

11 The rear sus­pen­sion re­tains all of the fac­tory ge­om­e­try with the ex­cep­tion of the lower shock mounts, which are moved to the U-bolt skid­plates. By low­er­ing the shock mount, ad­di­tional travel is gained while the shocks are kept mounted un­der the tub of the Land Cruiser.

12 Skyjacker of­fers a va­ri­ety of shocks with its lift kits, from the eco­nom­i­cal Hy­dro 7000 up to the top-of-the-line M95 mono­tube shocks. We choose the ni­tro­gen-charged M95 shocks for their ap­pli­ca­tion-spe­cific valv­ing and re­sis­tance to fad­ing even when sub­jected to con­tin­u­ous use over rough ter­rain.

13 The mild lift height meant that no changes were ne­c­es­sary to the fac­tory brake lines or steer­ing sys­tem, even with the funky Toy­ota push-pull con­fig­u­ra­tion (which we in­tend to re­place with Sag­i­naw steer­ing soon). Skyjacker in­cludes polyurethane bush­ings with the leaf springs, and the greasable bolts of the Man-A-Fre shack­les keep squeak­ing to a min­i­mum.

14 We had the fac­tory wheels pow­der­coated in the orig­i­nal gray color by Marq Pow­der Coat­ing. The color code is Car­di­nal GR21, and we think they look just about per­fect on our old Land Cruiser.


We have run Toyo Open Coun­try M/Ts on a va­ri­ety of ve­hi­cles, and they are one of the qui­etest mud-ter­rains on the mar­ket, al­ways re­quir­ing very lit­tle weight to bal­ance. Our 33s are Load Range C, which is per­fect for our small 4x4, but Toyo of­fers load ranges up to F in a va­ri­ety of sizes to ac­com­mo­date every­thing from Jeeps to 1-ton diesel tow rigs. Toyo is one of the only com­pa­nies to make a 33-inch-tall tire for a 15-inch rim in a 101⁄2 -inch sec­tion width. These 33x10.50R15 pizza cut­ters are a per­fect fit on our stock wheels, and the nar­rower tires weigh less and are eas­ier to fit un­der the un­cut fend­ers on the Land Cruiser.

16 We capped off the Skyjacker lift and

33-inch Toyo tires with a set of OEM hub­caps sourced from Man-A-Fre. The hub­caps re­ally com­plete the vin­tage look that we are go­ing for with our old Land Cruiser. Next we plan to up­grade the steer­ing to turn the

33-inch Toyos.

















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