Tom Campbell is a wildlife cinematographer by trade and his incredible ’77 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 was built to assist him in his profession as well as serve as a dependable method of conveyance for off-time activities like camping. The ’yota has been totally restored and retains many of its original components, but it has been enhanced by some of the latest and greatest off-road and performance items. The result is a modern classic.
Campbell, a former police officer, has been a Land Cruiser fan for a long time. He purchased his first FJ in 1967 for $2,000 right off the showroom floor from a dealer in Colton, California. He owned the rig for 15 years and during that time it was used for 10 hunting trips to Colorado, several trips to the Sea of Cortez for scuba diving, and 21 organized trail rides in various states. Four years into ownership of the ’67 FJ he replaced the stock six-cylinder engine with a Chevy V-8. Soon after, he had the “brilliantly stupid” idea of running the rig in the Baja 1000 off-road race. He promptly modified the rig with a variety of performance items, which “exhausted every penny” of his California Highway Patrol paycheck. Friends begged him not to destroy the rig in the Baja race. Campbell heeded their advice and began sand racing with the FJ. Eventually he sold the rig to a close friend.
Fast forward to 2006. Campbell had owned two FJs since the ’67 when he found this ’77 FJ40 in Georgia. “I spoke with the son of the elderly man who had owned the truck for a long time. He said that the truck was completely stock, the body was near perfect, and the vehicle had been stored for many years. It seemed like a good place to start for a frame-off restoration,” he says. Campbell purchased the FJ and had it shipped to Vail, Colorado, where it sat for two years next to his daughters fully restored ’78 FJ40. After a significant amount of research he chose to have Man-A-Fre in Simi Valley, California, restore the rig. Man-A-Fre has been in business since 1965 and the company is the oldest operating Land Cruiser-specific parts and accessories business in the world. “I started this adventure by driving the old FJ from Vail to Simi Valley. At 10 mpg I rumbled down the freeway, keeping my fingers crossed it would make it to California,” he recalls. Once at Man-A-Fre the FJ was completely dismantled and every part was analyzed to determine whether it would be replaced or rebuilt. This included all gaskets, weatherstrips, and bushings. In the end, the restoration process would require one year. Campbell says, “As a wildlife cinematographer I felt that with the modifications it would be the perfect vehicle to get into the backcountry to film. While I could’ve purchased an off-road camper van to perhaps accomplish the same goal, my love of FJ40s and the rugged reliability of these legendary vehicles made the FJ my only choice.”
The finished product is breathtaking, both from a visual and functionality standpoint. Immediately after the FJ was restored it was put on display at the 2010 SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The response to the rig was phenomenal, even resulting in several offers to purchase the rig.
Campbell sums it up by saying, “There is something about owning an older vehicle like this that has been rejuvenated and brought back to life that makes it far more rewarding and exciting to own than buying a new one.”
At A Glance
Vehicle: 1977 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
Owner: Tom Campbell
Stomping grounds: Prescott, Arizona
Build time: 1 year
Engine: Chevrolet Performance Ram Jet 350ci V-8, fuel-injected
Transmission: Toyota H55F 5-spd manual
Transfer case(s): Stock Toyota
Low range ratio(s): 2.296:1
Crawl ratio(s): 45.6:1
Front axle/differential: Toyota/4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear axle/differential: Toyota/4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker
Front: 2.5-in-lift Old Man Emu leaf springs, Man-A-Fre shackles, Old Man Emu shocks
Rear: 2.5-in-lift Old Man Emu leaf springs, Man-A-Fre shackles, Old Man Emu shocks
Steering: Man-A-Fre Saginaw Power Steering Conversion Kit
Tires: LT32x11.50R15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2
Wheels: 15x8 Mickey Thompson Classic Lock, Gorilla wheel locks
Armor: Man-A-Fre front bumper, Kaymar rear bumper w/tire and fuel carriers
Cool stuff: Warn M8000 winch, Overland Equipment secure cargo storage