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1985 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60- A Classic Cruiser With Modern Power

Posted in Features on February 13, 2017
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Toyotas have long had a reputation for being “underpowered and overbuilt.” That includes the 60 Series, long the black sheep of the Land Cruiser family. They use essentially the same running gear as the smaller 40 Series but weigh a thousand pounds more and have considerably more sheetmetal to mar on the trail. And they lack the coil suspension and refinement of the later 80 Series wagons. Lately though, the 60 Series has enjoyed a resurgence. This particular specimen is one of the best examples to showcase the strengths of these vehicles.

The new powerplant is a 5.3L Chevy V-8 from Tilden Motorsports. This is a low-mileage takeout engine that shows up on a pallet with all of the accessories and wiring necessary for it to run. Stoffregen Motorsports did the installation and handled details such as the motor mount placement, intake plumbing, and coolant lines. The company also cleaned up the composite intake manifold so it doesn’t look like a rat maze anymore.

In order to get the most out of any 60 Series, a heart transplant is necessary. This particular Cruiser has housed three engines during its life. We will spare you another Goldilocks reference, but the new engine is clearly the best match to the weight and intended use of the vehicle. Note that the factory 2F engine was never a powerhouse, with reliability being its only redeeming feature. The F series inline-six engines are heavy and underpowered, and Dirk Nelson previously had a five-cylinder Mercedes diesel engine and a five-speed Toyota transmission retrofit into his 1985 FJ60. The idea of being able to pour waste oil from the local Chinese restaurant into the fuel tank and drive off was appealing, but the reality is that the Mercedes engine suffered from the same issues as the original 2F; namely, it just didn’t generate enough power to motivate the heavy wagon.

The coil-on-plug ignition and pushrod design of the Gen3 engine leaves plenty of space in the engine bay for accessories, such as the ARB air compressor, the factory vacuum brake booster, and an accessories fuse block that is tied into the dual Optima RedTop batteries.

Enter Stoffregen Motorsports. The team there retained the H55F five-speed transmission but yanked out the Mercedes diesel and replaced it with a 5.3L V-8 from Tilden Motorsports. Now if you are saying, “Another LS swap!” take a step back before you spend someone else’s virtual money on their pride and joy. The GM Gen3 engines are popular for a reason. They check all of the boxes for this, and many other, off-road vehicles. The engines are relatively inexpensive and easy to source, they make great power in a compact package (particularly compared to overhead-cam engines), and the aftermarket has embraced this platform with every swap part and power adder you can think of. Nelson could have spent twice as much to put a 4.7L Toyota V-8 under the hood, but why? After taking a chance on the Mercedes engine and being underwhelmed, going the tried-and-true way of remedying the “underpowered” aspect of an “overbuilt” Toyota was the best solution.

Tech Specs

1985 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60
Engine: Chevrolet 5.3L V-8
Transmission: Toyota H55F 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Factory Toyota “split case”
Axles: Factory Toyota with 4.88 gears and ARB Air Locker (front and rear)
Springs & Such: Old Man Emu leaf springs and shocks (front and rear)
Tires & Wheels: 285/75R17 Toyo Open Country A/T on 17x8 American Racing Mojave wheels
Steering: FJ80 steering box, GM pump, Old Man Emu steering stabilizer
Lighting: LED headlight conversion
Other Stuff: Front Runner roof rack, Autohome Maggiolina rooftop tent, dual Optima RedTop batteries, ARB air compressor, 38-gallon Man-a-fre fuel tank, Advance Adapters headers, Champion radiator, Walker muffler, Stoffregen Motorsports fan shroud, wood center console, reupholstered leather seats, custom interior panels

The interior of this 30-year-old Cruiser is in remarkable condition. Stoffregen Motorsports used Toyota oil pressure and water temperature sending units to allow the use of the factory gauges. The seats have been recovered in leather by Carney Upholstery and flank a supercool custom wood center console.
The Autohome Maggiolina rooftop tent is fitted onto a Front Runner roof rack. It makes a comfortable place to rest after a long day on the trail, featuring 4 inches of insulation. And with 36 inches of headroom there is plenty of space to sit up or even change clothes.
The factory Land Cruiser front axle has been rebuilt and upgraded with an ARB Air Locker and 4.88 gears. The gears were well matched to the diesel engine but a little deep for the V-8 powerband. They will likely be swapped out for 4.10s soon.
The factory rear axle is offset to match the Toyota “split case” transfer case and uses a third member filled with 4.88 gears and an ARB Air Locker. Also visible is the 38-gallon Man-a-fre fuel tank that provides excellent range for backcountry exploring.
The interior panels were made by Carney Upholstery in Milton, Oregon. The panels hold 10-inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofers that are powered by an Alpine amplifier and controlled by an Alpine head unit. The stereo system was installed by Performance Auto Sound in Walla Walla, Washington.
A rear bumper and tire carrier from 4x4Labs holds a fullsize spare tire and a Yeti cooler. A matching front bumper sits up front, with provisions for a winch should Dirk Nelson choose to add one in the future.
Rolling stock consists of 34-inch-tall 285/75R17 Toyo Open Country A/Ts mounted on Teflon-coated American Racing Mojave wheels. The tires are well matched to the capabilities of the vehicle; they are aggressive enough to go everywhere Nelson wants to go without the noise typically associated with mud-terrain tires.
Old Man Emu leaf springs are fitted under the front and rear axles to minimize axle wrap and provide a smooth, predictable ride. The front suspension has a shackle reversal that improves ride quality. At both ends the U-bolts are pointed upwards to maximize ground clearance and OME Nitrocharger shocks smooth out the bumps.
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