“The rod knock made it easy to pull the old engine”
Max Lyon has always liked Toyotas, previously owning a well-built Tacoma that he used to explore nearly every mountain range in Nevada. Max also works on diesel engines, so it should come as no surprise that his current rig doesn’t have spark plugs. It didn’t start that way though. Max picked up this 1992 FJ80 for cheap, and that’s good since it had a rod knock and was full of Bondo. That just made it easier to rip the drivetrain out and start building a dedicated crawler with diesel power.
A Dodge W250 gave up its drivetrain for the Land Cruiser. The Cummins 6BT engine was upgraded with new governor springs and Lucas 300 POD injectors fed by the stock Holset H1C turbo. The turbo can’t quite keep up with the big injectors, so the EGTs get high at times. Max plans to upgrade to a HE351CW. If he had it to do over, he would run smaller injectors.
Behind the engine, Max didn’t have to touch the Getrag G360 and NP205 that came out of the same W250. This allowed him to avoid having to buy any expensive adapters, but changing from an offset transfer case to a centered rear output meant that the axles had to be changed as well. A tried and true combination of a Dana 60 front axle and a Corporate GM 14-bolt rear fit the bill. They are plenty strong to withstand the torque of the diesel without requiring many aftermarket upgrades.
Starting with an 80 Series that already had a blown engine gave Max a good foundation for his project without taking up his entire budget on parts he was just going to scrap. He did nearly all of the work on his Land Cruiser himself over a couple of years, and says that he still isn’t done. Max would like to clean up the wiring, swap in the larger turbo, and clean up the interior, but for now he is just enjoying the clatter of the diesel engine as he idles down the trail.
The factory 3FE engine had a rod knock, so it was replaced with a 6BT diesel. Both are inline-sixes, so the dimensions are surprisingly similar. The Cummins engine has been upgraded with a new fuel pin, governor spring kit, and Lucas Prince of Darkness injectors to up the torque.
The air-to-water intercooler is compact, but Max explained that it only does a marginal job of keeping exhaust gas temperatures in check. Since these photos were shot he switched to Snow Performance water/methanol injection and has been happy with the results.
In factory form, FJ80s use a radius arm front suspension that limits articulation. Max replaced the entire front suspension with a three-link that uses 14-inch-travel Profender remote reservoir coilover shocks with 300/300–lb-in coil springs and Profender air bumps. The lower links are 40 1/2 inches long and were constructed from 2x0.250-wall DOM tubing and loaded with Barnes Enduro Joints. The single upper is 33 inches long and uses all the same materials.
The front axle is a full-width Dana 60 from a Chevy CUCV, so it has a passenger drop to match up with the NP205 transfer case. The kingpin axle came with 4.56 gears and a limited slip differential, so Max just added 35-spline chromoly axle shafts and Warn Premium hubs.
The factory rear axle is offset to the passenger side and uses a 6-on-5 1/2 bolt pattern, but these wouldn’t work with the NP205 transfer case and eight-lug Dana 60 front axle. Instead, Max swapped in a GM Corporate 14-bolt filled with 4.56 gears and a Yukon Grizzly locker. He previously had a welded differential but has been much happier with the way the Grizzly performs on both the street and the trail.
Land Cruisers came with a coil rear suspension, but Max ditched the coils for leaf springs for a couple of reasons. First, they are inexpensive and provide the correct ride height. Second, they allowed Max to swap the factory side-mounted fuel tank for a rear-mounted one from a WJ Grand Cherokee, which holds 20 gallons.
The front bumper is a custom piece from Relentless Off-Road. It holds a Smittybilt XRC12 winch along with a 20-inch light bar and a set of Optimus LED lights from Vision X. The bumper provides clearance for the 40-inch tires and vastly improves the approach angle of the Land Cruiser.
Rolling stock consists of 40-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers on Trail-Gear CreeperLock beadlock rims. The wheels are 9 inches wide with 5 inches of backspacing, which keeps the overall track width reasonable with the full-width axles.
The factory FJ80 steering box is mounted on the outside of the frame with the pitman arm facing forward. This left plenty of room for the Panhard bar to be placed behind the steering box. Max modified the box to power his hydraulic assist ram and drilled out the pitman arm to use a 7/8x3/4-inch rod end and Grade 8 bolt instead of the original tie-rod end.
The interior isn’t pretty, but it is huge, with enough room to hold a 40-inch spare tire, a Coleman cooler, a Puma air compressor, enough camping gear to last all week, and enough tools and spare parts to fix anything that might go wrong.
1992 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80
Engine: Cummins 6BT diesel
Transmission: Getrag G360
Transfer Case: NP205
Front Axle: Dana 60 with limited slip differential and 4.56 gears
Rear Axle: Corporate GM 14-bolt with Yukon Grizzly locker and 4.56 gears
Springs & Such: 3-link front with Profender coilovers and air bumps, 63-inch rear Chevy leaf springs, Timbren bumpstops, Bilstein 5100 shocks
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x9 Trail-Gear Creeper beadlocks
Steering: FJ80 steering box, 4Wheel Supply high steer arms, stock Dana 60 tie rod, custom 1 1/2x0.250-wall draglink, 1 1/2x8-inch Surplus Center hydraulic ram, custom -6 JIC steering hoses, modified Cummins steering pump
Lighting: Vision-X 20-inch LED light bar and Vision-X Optimus LED lights
Other Stuff: Lucas 300 Prince of Darkness injectors, Frozen Boost air-to-water intercooler, Griffin radiator, Spal electric fan, 2-inch body lift, Relentless Fab front bumper, Smittybilt XRC12 winch, W250 cylinder with Sky’s Off-Road adapter, Relentless Fab rock sliders, 1350 drivelines from Driveline Service of Carson City