The Perfect Resto-Mod?
The success of Toyota's FJ Cruiser relies heavily on the legacy of the tried and true FJ40 Land Cruiser. Although it has a white top and an oval grille-and-headlight bezel, many Toyota diehards were discouraged by the independent front suspension and lack of removable top on the FJ Cruiser. These hardcore enthusiasts wanted a 'Cruiser that offers modern creature comforts without softening the corners of the original Land Cruiser design.
Erik Niemeyer of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, is one such person. Instead of spending his money on a new FJ Cruiser, Niemeyer created his own interpretation, starting with a rust free '76 FJ40. He wanted a vehicle that retained the original Land Cruiser feel, was capable off-road, and comfortable enough to drive every day. This is a tall order, and Niemeyer consulted several shops before he found one capable of meeting his goals. The FJ40 was sent to Proffitt's Cruisers in Delta, Colorado, for a full makeover; a process that took over nine months. "Nine months is not that long in the bigger scheme of things. I plan on owning this vehicle for the rest of my life," Niemeyer confessed to us.
The first thing we noticed when we jumped in the passenger seat of Niemeyer's Land Cruiser was how easily the engine turned over with a twist of the key. A fuel-injected 3FE engine from an FJ62 was transplanted into the '40. This engine retains the same tractor-like grunt of the factory 2F, but adds the mileage and reliability of fuel-injection. The engine is fed clean air by a Safari Snorkel and exhales through custom 2 1/2-inch exhaust with a Flowmaster muffler. From there the power is routed through an imported Toyota H55F five-speed manual transmission that is backed with a late '80s Land Cruiser "split" transfer case with a 2.26:1 low range.
Since 1976 was the first year that disc brakes were offered on the front of the FJ40 the factory brakes and axles were retained. The differentials still contain the stock 3.73 gears, but they were upgraded with ARB Air Lockers for traction on the trail without any quirky handling on the road. The lockers are powered by a Viair compressor that is also used to air up the tires after a day of wheeling. Even with the ARBs unlocked, steering can be difficult with the factory manual steering and its multitude of sloppy tie rod ends. Proffitt's Cruisers added Saginaw power steering to the FJ40 for improved precision and less wandering and bump steer. As a final touch to the drivetrain, Longfield axles were installed to replace the factory Birfields, which are prone to cracking under severe use.