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1975 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 - Tried & True

Posted in Features on March 1, 2004
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Contributors: Phillip Dayton

This rig might look like your run-of-the-mill Toyota Land Cruiser, but don't be deceived. Owner Mike Trathen has been building, 'wheeling, and rebuilding this 4x4 for years and says that it may never really be finished. We first had the opportunity to see this not-so-stock FJ-40 on a Rubicon snow trail opening a few years ago, and it was a real performer. Since then, it has undergone further modifications, which have left it an even better trail rig than before.

Rumbling beneath the hood of this '75 Cruiser is a '70 Chevy 350 engine that Automotive Associated in Redding, California, bored 0.30-inch over, and then equipped with a Crane camshaft, an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, and a Holley Quadra-Jet carburetor. To dress it up a little, Mike added a polished-aluminum alternator, a polished air pump, a Mallory ignition, Edelbrock valve covers, and stainless-steel braided lines. To let the newly built motor breathe more easily, Mike bolted on a set of Sanderson headers, a Flowmaster muffler, and some 2-1/4-inch aluminized tubes.

Looking to beef up the rest of the drivetrain, Mike chose to go with a stout SM420 transmission backed up by a three-speed transfer case. Advance Adapters provided a new crossmember to support the new boxes. Taking receipt of all this newfound power are the stock front and rear ends, both of which have been outfitted with 4.11 gears, ARB Air Lockers, and disc brakes. For increased reliability, the frontend was further modified with CV Unlimited Newfields.

Looking to combine good off-road performance with decent on-road manners, Mike decided to perform a spring-over conversion. He kept the stock springs front and rear, but moved the rear spring back 1-1/2 inches. The shackles were custom-built specifically for this Cruiser and recessed into the frame. Providing damping for the new suspension setup are dual Rancho shocks, front and rear. To solve any bumpsteer problems that this amount of lift would create, Mike immediately installed an All Pro HySteer setup complete with Heim joints.

As do many four-wheelers, Mike runs two sets of tires; one for summer rockcrawling and one for winter snow running. The former consists of 35x15.50-inch Super Swamper TSL SXs mounted on 15x10-inch Champion bead locks; the latter set comprises 38x16.60-inch mud terrains from Dick Cepek.

For added tire clearance up front, the fenders were raised 4 inches, then cut to retain the stock look. A custom tube bumper now provides ample trail protection and contrasts nicely with the '63 embossed chrome grille. In back, Mike had the rear bumper narrowed to gain ground clearance and still keep the stock look. To protect them from trail damage, Mike had the rear marker lights recessed into the body, and then had the tub and rear fenderwells trimmed 2 inches for the added clearance. To cap it off, Mike built and installed the nerf bars and skidplate himself, and had Industrial Welding in Redding, California, custom-build the tire carrier.

Inside, Mike installed a set of Beard Superseats upholstered in black cloth and gray vinyl. The seats are bolted into an integrated rollcage setup and are rounded off with a set of Pyrotect seatbelts. All the stock gauges were replaced with Auto Meter units, and the floor and tub were Rhino-lined, both for protection and to quiet down the interior.

This project has been in the works now for nearly 10 years, and if Mike has learned anything, it's that shortcuts don't pay. You're better off just doing it right the first time. It may take a little longer, but in the end, it will keep up with the best of them.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown: Mike Trathen/
  Redding, California
Year/make/model: '75 {{{Toyota}}} {{{Land Cruiser}}}
Engine: Chevy 350ci
Transmission: SM420
Transfer case: Stock three-speed
Frontend: Stock with ARB Air Locker
Rearend: Stock with ARB Air Locker
Ring-and-pinion: 4.11
Suspension: Custom spring-over
Tires/wheels: 35x15.50-inch Super
  Swamper TSL SXs/
  15x10-inch Champion
  bead locks

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