FJ cruisers are everywhere. Yes, they can be found getting groceries and driving kids to after-school sports, but there's no shortage of 'Cruisers on the trail. From moab to Baja to tellico, FJ cruiser owners haven't held back in the dirt.
With body-on-frame construction, and a gutsy 4L V6, toyota provided FJ cruiser drivers a great platform for a real-world trail rig.
The FJ's suspension is as functional and rugged as the rest of the vehicle. The five-link (four links with a Panhard bar) rear suspension treats the occupants to a smooth coil-sprung ride, and the ifs delivers great handling on twisty high-speed terrain. So far, so good.
It's not all perfect. As competently as the ifs handles high-speed terrain, it is nonetheless shackled with pencil-thin tie rods and breakageprone cv boots and cv joints. Furthermore, there's not enough droop travel to allow the FJ to keep all four feet firmly planted when the rocks get bigger than a microwave oven. We're not saying that the ifs is junk. We're saying it has drawbacks.
Hardcore trail performance calls for a solid front axle. Properly executed, a swapped-in solid front axle gives gobs of articulation, keeping the rubber on the trail when the boulders get big. Noodle-sized ifs tie rods are replaced with heavy-wall tubing. Finally, two stout u-joints take the place of a quartet of CV boots and CV joints. Properly executed, a solid front axle is a simpler, stronger way to go.
The phrase "properly executed" bears repeating because there are several criteria for a successful solid- axle swap. The resulting trail rig should steer properly without "death wobble." The axle must be squared up under the rig so it drives down the road in a straight line. The axle needs to cycle through the range of suspension travel without hitting vital engine parts. It must cycle without binding u-joints or steering components. Do a solid-axle swap the right way and you've got a sought-after trail rig with newfound capability. Do a solid-axle swap the wrong way and you'll be the not-so-proud owner of a rolling disaster.
All-Pro off-road, in Hemet, California, is no stranger to properly executed solid-axle swaps or to traversing hardcore trails. All-Pro's rsum includes solid-axle swap kits for '86-'95 toyota pickups and 4runners as well as the taco' supreme solid-axle swap kit for the '96-'04 tacoma. Developing a solidaxle swap kit for the FJ cruiser was a natural progression. "We're the leader in the FJ cruiser aftermarket, and we're going to keep that leadership," states all-Pro's Jon Bundrant. "We know that not every FJ cruiser owner will end up swapping the ifs for a solid axle, but enthusiasts need to know that they can turn to us for that product if they want it. Our sas kit for the FJ cruiser is the first kit of its kind. We've done a solidaxle swap on another FJ cruiser, but that buildup was beyond the scope of what we would offer as a kit. We know of a couple of other FJ cruisers out there with swapped-in solid front axles, but no one has offered a solid-axle swap kit for the FJ cruiser until now."
We followed along, lenses and notepads in hand, as all-Pro's lead fabricator Mike Schoffstall and all-Pro ceo Jon Bundrant developed and installed the FJ sas kit using Jon's personal FJ as a lab rat. The kit is based on the highly successful taco' supreme sas kit but is not identical. Although the two kits do share some common parts, dimensions differ between these two vehicles.
The photos that follow capture the prototyping process. Snags were encountered and solutions were found. Stay tuned for the final version of the kit in our coverage of the '08 all-Pro Jamboree in Johnson valley.