What has coil springs, solid axles, and lockers front and rear? Did you say the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon? Well, what if we add luxury to that list? Give up? It's Toyota's FZJ80 Land Cruiser. In 1991, Toyota introduced the 80-series Land Cruiser to replace the more utilitarian FJ62. In 1993, they did one better by adding the 1FZE motor and optional factory electric lockers, front and rear. Although well regarded in Toyota circles, these vehicles are still relatively unknown to the four-wheel community at large. One person who has really tapped the potential of these rigs is Christo Slee of Slee Off-Road. In Slee's native South Africa, Land Cruisers are better known as strong, reliable expedition vehicles than luxury SUVs.
When we stopped by Slee's shop in Golden, Colorado recently, we weren't surprised when we found a built Cruiser in the bay. Lynn Jankovsky was having the African Outback Drawer system in his '93 FZJ80 outfitted with a power inverter. After a quick phone call, we made plans to head to Spring Creek with Jankovsky and his rig. He explained how he had purchased the vehicle new in 1992. There was a waiting list for these vehicles, and he had an order in for a green model with factory lockers. Months later, the dealership called to tell him they had a burgundy model, sans lockers. Clearly he was not too upset, because he is still driving the Land Cruiser today.
Early on, Jankovsky added ARB Air Lockers to compensate for the lack of factory lockers and to provide more traction when negotiating the way to mountain-bike trailheads in Moab. Like many of us, it was not long before four-wheeling changed from reaching the destination to being the destination for Jankovsky. Soon, the truck was in Slee's shop for the full meal deal. The suspension is a Slee Off-Road suspension kit, comprised of Slee 6-inch-lift coil springs, long-travel Old Man Emu shocks, sway-bar relocation brackets, double-cardan front driveshafts, and Slee Off-Road front control arms. This provides a smooth ride on street and trail, coupled with impressive articulation and room for the 35-inch Goodyear MT/R tires mounted on stock rims.
On the drive from Denver, Jankovsky apologized for the driveline vibration. Slee was using Jankovsky's rig to prototype the spring rates and handling of some new 4-inch lift springs, and a vibration resulted due to the rest of the suspension not currently being adjusted for the lift. (We tried to keep a straight face while thinking about our open-topped, Swamper-shod rig in comparison.) Further luxury was provided by the heated and vented Recaro seats that were added after the stock leather had become cracked and worn. The stock rear seats were recovered in matching fabric for an integrated look. The dash contains an Alpine head unit and Cobra CB. The head unit is connected to an Apple iPod that dispenses classical music from the glovebox. Instrumentation is largely stock, with a few notable exceptions. A hand throttle and center diff-lock button were added as factory Toyota parts available only on overseas Land Cruisers-this is where Slee's South African heritage shows. VDO gauges monitor exhaust gas temperature and boost.