Trying to pick just one vehicle that will act as both a daily commuter and an off-road weapon is quite a task. Such a vehicle must be able to handle everything from high-speed, desert dirt roads to backwoods, rock-strewn trails. Now that you have one in your head, add the following: You must be able to carry four adults and their baggage and still have a nice smooth ride on the street. When I decided I was going to replace my 4Runner, this was what I was up against. In an ideal world I would have two vehicles - one for the trail and one for the street. One problem: I live in a townhome complex, and there is no place to park or work on a trail rig. For this reason, I chose the Toyota Land Crusier FZJ80. All of our vehicles are some type of compromise, whether it be interior space, ride quality, or engine power. So far, I have been very happy with my decision, and even a little surprised at how well balanced my Land Cruiser 80 is.
In case you missed Part I, I discussed the overall scope of Project 80 and documented the Hanna Quality rock sliders installation. In Part II, I continue with vehicle protection and extraction duties. As you may have seen in the photographs in Part I, my 'Cruiser had no front bumper. The stock bumper did not provide any great amount of protection, and I removed it before shipping the vehicle to Slee Off-Road.
Slee Off-Road specializes in outfitting and servicing 80-series and 100-series Land Cruisers. Christo, the owner, is an expert on these models and can transform a stock Land Cruiser into an all-out expedition vehicle. Everyone at Slee has years of experience on the trail and wrenching on four-wheel-drive vehicles. Not only does Slee carry almost every aftermarket part available for these vehicles, but it also manufactures quite a few very specialized ones as well. While Project 80 was at Slee Off-Road, I had Christo and the crew install an ARB air snorkel, an ARB front bumper, and a Warn 12,000-pound winch.
While attending the 2005 Surf N Turf event in Pismo Beach, California, I ran into a gentleman named Luke Porter. Luke is the owner and operator of 4x4 Labs in Grass Valley, California. His company specializes in rear bumpers and custom fabrication. His rear bumper/tire carrier is a production piece with some customization to fit personal preferences. What I wanted was a rear bumper to increase my departure angle and be able to carry a 37-inch spare tire. Luke's design was able to meet these needs, and it was nice looking to boot. Follow along as we install (with help from I-FIX-M Auto Service) Luke's rear bumper on Project 80 and highlight some of its unique features.
A wise man once said to me, "You can save your face or your butt, but you can't save 'em both at the same time." Since Project 80 now had a front bumper, it was time to protect the other end. When I first began to search for a rear bumper, I came up with very few choices. I came to the conclusion that I was going to have something custom-made. This really went against one of my objectives for Project 80. I wanted all the parts to be off-the-shelf items and not one-off custom creations. I know this flies in the face of the super-ultra-trick custom-fab rigs that occupy the pages of most off-road magazines; however, I have personally found this trend to be overkill and unattainable for the average Joe. I come from the perspective of the average reader/off-road enthusiast. I do not know how to weld and even if I did, the time and space needed to fabricate these parts is unrealistic for me. Many of us have families, jobs, and a list of honey-dos that grows by the minute. I felt the average reader wanted to see a vehicle buildup consisting of items they could buy off the shelf and bolt on.
Luke's design is really a masterpiece of metal. The departure angle of Project 80 has been greatly improved over stock. The new bumper's wings completely wrap around the rear quarter-panels, protecting them. The new bumper replaces the stock crossmember that was cut out, and the entire unit is tied into the frame by no less then 10 bolts. There are two D-clevis mounts for extraction points. Both swing-outs are gas-assisted, making it easy to swing the weight of a 37-inch tire or a well-stocked ice cooler.
One of the most ingenious features of Luke's design is that the unit can be modified to carry all different types of attachments. You can have two spare tires, a bike rack and a spare tire, or two gas cans and a spare tire. The different combinations are endless and all mount with just two bolts. You can basically have anything fabricated to fit this pattern. There is even a flush-mounted receiver hitch built into the bumper. As you can tell from the photos, this is a really clean-looking design that follows the contours of the 80-series body very well.