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Toyota Land Cruiser FJ45 - King-Size Cruiser

Posted in Features on November 1, 2005 Comment (0)
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Toyota Land Cruiser FJ45 - King-Size Cruiser

We aren't newcomers to four-wheeling, and with rigs such as our Project Pull Me Over sporting Dana 60s and 37-inch tires, we feel pretty confident on the trail. About the time our egos start to get too big, though, we inevitably run across someone like Jeremiah Proffitt who knocks us down a peg or two. We expected a guy named Jeremiah who drives a gigantic lime-green Cruiser to call it Bullfrog, but Proffitt felt that his FJ-45 was more deserving of the name Newt. Whereas you might find a bullfrog lounging on lilies, newts climb up anything and everything in their path. Trust us when we say that this rig truly lives up to its name.

When Jeremiah first opened Proffitt's Cruisers in 1994, he wanted an eye-catching vehicle to highlight the potential of his Delta, Colorado-based fabrication shop. Starting with a rare (and rusty) FJ-45 Land Cruiser pickup, Proffitt set to work. The frame was sandblasted and reinforced to provide a sturdy platform for the project. Jeremiah nested a proven drivetrain between the framerails, consisting of a Ram Jet Chevy small-block, TH350 automatic transmission, and Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case with a 5:1 Low range. The small-block is fitted with a remote start for those cold Colorado mornings and a Moroso oil accumulator to provide adequate oil pressure during Newt's frequent vertical climbs.

The drivetrain was pushed rearward to aid in weight distribution and allow for a better approach angle. The winch actually sits behind the grille and in front of the radiator, with barely any framerails protruding beyond the front of the vehicle. This involved major surgery to the firewall, but no more than the host of other modifications. Other body alterations include a generous amount of tubework, including the fenders, rollcage, and custom-fabricated bed. The stock bed was in such sad shape that Proffitt found it easier to start from scratch. He created a bed that tapers at the bottom to provide tire clearance and is completely sealed from the elements. After all the tubework and drivetrain components, this rig now tips the scales at a portly 7,200 pounds. Much of that weight is in the bed, which houses two winches, three coolers, a fuel tank, a water tank, an air compressor, a spare battery, a welder, and enough tools and spare parts to assemble a space shuttle. More space-age technology found its way into the cab, where Proffit mounted a flip-down LCD screen that allows him to view any one of the four cameras mounted on the vehicle's undercarriage. Proffitt's Cruiser contains details you would expect to find in a concept car, not a dedicated rockcrawler.

From the Atlas II, power is transferred to Rockwell axles at each end. The toploaders both feature hydraulic steering and are loaded with 6.72 gears, Detroit lockers, and pinion brakes. Although the rear steer does not automatically return to center, the rear tie rod is outfitted with a sensor that triggers a light on the dash when the rear tires are straight, allowing Proffitt to pay full attention to obstacles instead of having to keep his hand on the rear steer lever. Big axles beg for big tires, and none come bigger than the 49-inch IROKs found on Newt. Marsh Racing 20-bolt bead-lock wheels connect the tires to the axles and limit the chance of having to change one of the 350-pound tire and wheel combinations. The 103-inch track width and 112-inch wheelbase keep the rig stable and nearly square, even with the tallest of tires.

Suspension duties for the Toyota are handled by front and rear four-links that provide approach and departure angles well over 90 degrees. The rear setup is comprised of 37-inch-long 1/4-elliptical springs and 16-inch travel Rancho shocks. Both ends feature triangulated four-links consisting of 1-1/2-inch-od, 3/8-inch-wall tubing and 7/8x3/4-inch rod ends.

While this rig is far bigger than anything we are accustomed to, we can assure you that it is no show truck. While the size might be a detriment on tight, wooded trails, Newt worked incredibly well on the Moab terrain that we encountered it on. The wide track width provided stability and the enormous tires allowed Proffitt to try seemingly impossible lines - and succeed.

SPECIFICATIONS
Year/make/model: ’66 {{{Toyota Land Cruiser}}}
FJ-45
Owner/hometown: Jeremiah Proffitt, Delta,
{{{Colorado}}}
Engine: Chevy V-8 350ci/
Ram Jet EFI
Transmission: TH350
Transfer case: Advance Adapters Atlas II
Frontend: Rockwell with Detroit
Locker and pinion brake
Rearend: Rockwell, rear steer with
Detroit Locker and pinion
brake
Ring-and-pinion: 6.72
Suspension: Front: Bilstein coilovers
w/ triangulated four-link;
rear: 1/4-inch-elliptical
leaf springs w/
triangulated four-link
and Bilstein shocks
Tires/wheels: 49x21R17 Super Swamper
IROKs/17x12-inch Marsh
Racing 32-bolt bead locks

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