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Toyota Land Cruiser Axle Upgrade - Purebred

Posted in How To on February 1, 2007
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Photographers: Christo Slee
Slee Off-Road equipped its 1998 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser with front and rear solid axles from Diamond Axle. The coil suspension accommodates the 39-inch BFG Krawlers.

It seems as though every time Toyota adds a new feature to its vehicles, it takes something else away. For instance, fuel injection became common on pickups and 4Runners in 1985, and then the next year Toyota replaced the solid front axle in these vehicles with independent front suspension (IFS). Similarly, when the 100 Series Land Cruiser replaced the 80 Series 'Cruiser in 1998, a powerful V8 engine was added, but the solid front axle was no longer available in the United States. Wishing to have the best of both worlds, Slee Off-Road recently combined the best Land Cruiser parts available throughout the years into one vehicle.

Slee has built many capable FZJ80s; however, they have typically been heavy and underpowered. Strongly believing that a solid-axle swap is easier to perform than an engine conversion, Slee began looking for a reasonably priced UZJ100. Soon thereafter, a damaged version of Toyota's latest Land Cruiser was purchased on eBay. These vehicles come with a stout drivetrain and sturdy frame, but the IFS lacks the strength and articulation necessary for serious rockcrawling. In overseas markets, you can buy a new Land Cruiser with solid axles and coil springs (the 105 Series), but these are not available with a V8 engine either. Slee used the same basic suspension design found on the 105 Series and earlier 80 Series Land Cruiser for its latest project. The new front suspension uses Slee 6-inch coil springs and prototype Slee shocks intended for an 80 Series. The coils and shocks are mounted using a combination of Toyota OEM parts and custom bracketry. Joe Risavi of Slee Off-Road did all of the design and fabrication necessary to clear 39-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers. A Slee adjustable Panhard rod and billet-steel control arms locate the axle and are also 80 Series components that Slee produces. Using off-the-shelf parts made the axle swap more economical and less complex than using a four-link and coilovers. The drawback, however, is that overall articulation will not match that of a four-link.

The suspension is connected to a custom front axle from Diamond Axles. An FJ80 front axle was considered; however, it is 5 inches narrower than the 100 Series rear axle. Additionally, the 8-inch ring gear found in the 80 Series front axle is only marginally strong enough for the weight and power of the UZJ100. Instead, Diamond Axles made a special housing to match the width of the stock rear axle and accept a rear third member from an 80 Series Land Cruiser. This third uses a 9-1/2-inch ring gear and considerably larger bearings than the 8-inch third member. Diamond makes custom axles in any width or differential offset, and with the outers the customer wants, and can accommodate any dropout third member from Suzuki Samurai to Toyota 4Runner to Ford 9-inch. The housings all use 3/8-inch-wall tubes and fully welded, CNC bent centersections with 1/2-inch-thick mounting flanges. For this project, 80 Series Land Cruiser knuckles, hubs and brakes, and Newfield chrome-moly Birfields are used in conjunction with custom-length 4130 chrome-moly inner axles from Diamond.

Slee Off-Road began with a well-used '98 UZJ100 Land Cruiser. The 'Cruiser had more than 158,000 miles on it and had sustained damage to the passenger-side front fender. It was ready for a new lease on life.

Steering duties are handled by an FZJ80 steering box added to the plated 100 Series frame. The 80 Series steering box utilizes a forward-facing pitman arm (like an International Scout) that provides additional clearance between the steering components during suspension compression. The box was drilled and tapped to power a PSC 8-inch-stroke hydraulic ram, and a PSC steering pump is mated to the engine with a PSC undersize pulley. A 0.250-inch-wall drag link connects the steering box to the axle with 3/4-inch PSC rod ends. A matching tie rod is connected to Slee high-steer arms and secured in double-shear mounts for added strength. The stock tie rod on an 80 Series Land Cruiser sits behind the axle and under the high-pinion differential, but that configuration was not possible with either the larger, low-pinion third member or the PSC hydraulic ram.

The stock rear suspension is a four-link with a Panhard bar, and it connects to a stout factory solid axle fitted with a 9-1/2-inch ring gear and 1.35-inch, 32-spline axleshafts. Aftermarket 5.29 gears were fitted to the stock Toyota E-locker rear differential. The factory axleshafts and disc-brake rotors were also redrilled from a 5x150mm wheel bolt pattern to 6x5.5-inch wheel bolt pattern to match the new front axle. Slee 6-inch-lift coils from the rear of an 80 Series were used to match the front lift height. The rear suspension also uses upgraded, high-strength Slee lower control arms in conjunction with a Slee adjustable Panhard bar. The lower shock mounts were raised to allow for additional clearance and shock travel.

After the suspension was completed, the rest of the truck was addressed. A full interior cage was crafted by T.J. Briscoe to keep the occupants safe in the luxury interior. The rear seats were removed and replaced with an African Outback drawer system and Engel fridge/freezer. The dented body was straightened and covered in factory Toyota Electric Blue paint. In order to protect the new paint, Slee rock sliders and bumpers were added all around. The front bumper houses a Warn M12000 winch, while the rear bumper holds a Hi-Lift jack and a fullsize spare.

After completion, Christo Slee drove the 7,300-pound 'Cruiser from Denver to Moab for the Toyota Land Cruiser Association's annual Cruise Moab event. Not only did the new suspension drive straight and true on the highway, but it gobbled up all obstacles that Hell's Revenge had to offer - and that includes optional obstacles like Hell's Gate.

Look for Slee and his big 'Cruiser on the trail as he continues to test his ultimate Land Cruiser. Or call him up to order your own ultimate Land Cruiser.

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