Most of us learn as we work on our project vehicles. Looking back, we can all admit there are things we would have done differently if we’d had more experience. Now imagine how much you could refine the process if you had built dozens of 4x4s. This is what Tim Wehrer has done with Toyota Land Cruisers, specifically FJ40s and FJ45s. Tim has a day job like the rest of us, but he spends his free time in his shop building Land Cruiser for himself and his friends. The one shown here is perhaps the nicest one yet.
Tim started with a relatively clean 1978 FJ40 and lengthened the frame using 2x4 box tubing. He then cut the tub in half and added 12 inches from a donor body for storage space and a longer wheelbase for increased stability on the trail. The length was no accident either, as stretching the Cruiser 12 inches allowed Tim to add the pop-out window from a 1975 hard top to a pre-1972 top to stretch the hard top an equal amount while looking stock.
While the paint and body look distinctly Land Cruiser, none of the factory drivetrain was retained. A 6.0L V-8 engine routes power to an NV4500 and an Atlas II transfer case. A coilover suspension and the Dynatrac ProRock 60 axles capped with 40-inch Maxxis tires are icing on the cake.
With a wish list full of the best parts and a ton of bodywork you might think that Tim is hesitant to wheel his FJ40, but our experiences with him on the Rubicon tell quite a different story. After all, he can always build another one.
Power comes from a 6.0L GM V-8 wired with a Howell harness and cooled by a four-core radiator. The engine is backed by an NV4500 manual transmission and an Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case to provide the right gearing for any situation from rockcrawling to freeway driving.
Tim Wehrer built his own cage from 1.75x0.120-wall DOM tubing, and it provides ample legroom and makes it easy to get in and out of the MasterCraft Safety suspension seats. The factory gauge cluster is supplemented by AutoMeter gauges to keep tabs on the engine’s vital signs.
The Warn 8274 upright winch is the perfect choice for this classic Cruiser. Tim built his own tube fenders and skinned them with sheetmetal and topped them with factory turn signals for a subtle look with increased tire clearance and rock resistance. He also built the front bumper and sealed it up to use as an air tank for his onboard air setup.
The front axle is a beefy Dynatrac ProRock 60 filled with an ARB Air Locker and 5.13 gears. Inner 35-spline chromoly axleshafts and 300M CTM U-joints connecting to the 35-spline stub shafts mean that breakage is a nonissue, even with the 40-inch Maxxis Trepadors. The tires are turned by a Saginaw steering box from Howe that is used in conjunction with a PSC hydraulic-assist ram.
The front suspension is a three-link design with 2x0.250-wall DOM links and RuffStuff Specialties rod ends. The track bar was constructed parallel to the drag link to eliminate bumpsteer. Up front, 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 16-inch-travel Sway-A-Way coilovers are fitted with 200-over-250 lb/in coil springs and work in conjunction with Fox hydraulic bumpstops.
The rear axle is a full-floating Dynatrac ProRock 60 loaded with a Detroit Locker, 5.13 gears, 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, and disc brakes. Tim actually bought a Jeep that had these axles in it, swapped them out, sold the Jeep, and got a killer set of custom axles for less money than you could build junkyard axles for.
The rear suspension consists of a triangulated four-link configuration to locate the ProRock60. 2 1/2-inch-diameter, 14-inch-travel Sway-A-Way coilovers and 200-over-250 lb/in coil springs suspend the Cruiser and tie into the rollcage for the upper mounts. A Currie AntiRock sway bar provides stability on both the street and the trail. Also visible is the custom rear 15-gallon fuel tank that supplements the stock 18-gallon fuel tank under the passenger seat.
Custom touches abound on this Cruiser, such as the dual exhaust outlets that are routed through the custom rear bumper to protect them from harm. We often encounter vehicles that are extremely capable on the trail, but rarely do they benefit from this level of attention to detail.
1978 Toyota Land Cruiser
Engine: 6.0L Chevy V-8
Transmission: NV4500 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60 with 5.13 gears and ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60 with 5.13 gears and Detroit Locker
Springs & Such: 3-link with Sway-A-Way coilovers (front); triangulated 4-link with Sway-A-Way coilovers (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.5R17 Maxxis Trepador radials on 17x8.5 TrailReady HD beadlock wheels
Steering: Howe steering box, PSC hydraulic ram, factory pump
Lighting: Factory Toyota
Other Stuff: Stretched 12 inches, custom matching stretched hard top, dual Optima batteries, Warn 8274 winch, AutoMeter gauges, Tuffy center console, Howell engine harness, MasterCraft Safety seats, Santa Rosa Driveline 1350 driveshafts, 1-ton Chevy master cylinder