This FJ40 Is a Product of Its Environment
Not everyone has the pocketbook or the garage space for a dedicated rock buggy, Trophy Truck, or sandrail. So what do you do when you live in an environment where each of these vehicles could be used to its full potential? Well, if you are Frank Maciel, you build one vehicle that can do it all. Maciel resides in Reno, Nevada, where the Rubicon Trail lies to the west, miles of wide-open two-track stretch to the south, and Sand Mountain is located only an hour to the east.
The foundation for this vehicular equivalent of a cross-trainer shoe is a '66 FJ40 Land Cruiser. The 'Cruiser was delivered to SamCo Fabrication, where fabricators Sam Cothrun and Jake Povey were allowed to work their magic. Cothrun is the crew chief for Rod Hall's Team Hummer, so he obviously knows a thing or two about building a vehicle that can perform in a variety of terrain. First, a drivetrain was chosen to provide the best balance between power, reliability, weight, and cost. The engine is a 383ci Chevy small-block stuffed with SRP pistons, Eagle rods, a Scat crank, and Trick Flow heads all tickled by a custom Erson bumpstick. A 600-cfm Holley Truck Avenger feeds the engine and an MSD ignition lights it off, though fuel injection is on the top of the short list of future upgrades. The stroker engine provides enough torque for rockcrawling, while the trick components generate high-rpm horsepower to propel Maciel across the desert at a high rate of speed.
Behind the small-block sits a Leverett-built TH400 with beefed-up internals and a reverse manual valve body. The three-speed automatic transfers power to an Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case fitted with a 4.3-ratio Low range and 32-spline outputs. This drivetrain is incredibly strong and built for abuse at speed yet still has the gearing required to tiptoe through the rocks. Beyond the transfer case, the power is routed through 0.120-wall driveshafts with 1350 joints from Reno Driveline Service and Gear to full-width 1-ton axles. The front axle is a Dana 61 fitted with an ARB Air Locker and a custom ring-gear spacer from Wolf Machine that was required to accept a Sierra Gear 5.13 Dana 60 ring-and-pinion. The rear axle is a simple Corporate 14-bolt loaded with a Detroit Locker, Superior chrome-moly shafts, disc brakes, and 5.13 gears.
Although the drivetrain is impressive, the suspension and tube work are what really set this Land Cruiser apart. The front suspension consists of a radius-arm design with a Panhard bar. The arms are angled to provide the maximum possible turning radius and are constructed of 2-inch, 0.250-wall 4130 tubing fitted with 1.25-inch FK rod ends. Cothrun likes the sway-bar effect that the radius-arm design provides as it adds stability at the high speeds this Land Cruiser is cable of. In the rear, he built a triangulated four-link with a Blue Torch FabWorks truss, SamCo flex joints, and more 4130 tubing. The link suspension results in a 104-inch wheelbase that is complemented by Fox coilovers and air bumps front and rear. The front coilovers are 12-inch models fitted with tender springs and 150-lb-in Hypercoil springs over 325-lb-in QA1 coil springs, which results in 15 inches of wheel travel. The rear shocks are 14-inch models fitted with similar spring rates that net 16 inches of wheel travel. After designing the suspension, SamCo Fabrication dialed in the shock valving for improved stability in a variety of terrains. This is another departure from the typical rockcrawling vehicle.