An Innovative Approach To Rocker Protection
FZJ80 Toyota Land Cruisers are becoming increasingly affordable as they become older and gas prices rise. While they are not the most fuel efficient vehicles, recreationalists are purchasing these vehicles from their former pavement pounder owners and putting them to use on trails around the country. The coil suspension, optional factory lockers, and stout running gear make it obvious to see why they are so popular. As more FZJ80s hit the trails, it is only natural that aftermarket manufacturers develop new accessories for them. A new player to the FZJ80 market is Metal Tech, of Newburg, Oregon. Rather than rehash products that are already offered, Mark Hawley of Metal Tech decided to use the same innovative thinking that he previously applied to his line of unique FJ40 Land Cruiser and FJ Cruiser parts. Metal Tech started their FZJ80 product line by introducing rock sliders that are different than anything else on the market.
If you own a late model SUV, you know the importance of good rocker protection. While bumpers can be replaced, rock damage to the long, low rocker panels can easily cost into the thousands to repair. Additionally, the catalytic converters on FZJ80s hang dangerously low beneath the frame, a serious flaw in an otherwise spectacular platform. Should a rock or other trail debris contact the exhaust, the resulting repairs could be very expensive. Having tempted fate for far too long, we decided to test the new Metal Tech sliders on our '94 FZJ80.
Instead of using box tubing, the Metal Tech sliders are made of 3/16-inch laser-cut and CNC-formed steel and reinforced similar to an airplane wing. This allows the sliders to be lightweight and still offer greater strength than boxed tubing. The construction also allows the sliders to be powder coated inside and out for corrosion resistance and makes it easy to run air hoses or auxiliary wiring inside of the slider. Further easing this process are the two rock light tabs mounted on each slider and the additional tabs for storage on the driver side. A huge space exists between the body and frame on the driver side of the FZJ80. This area houses the exhaust on overseas diesel models but is unused on North American Land Cruisers. Metal Tech takes advantage of this wasted space by offering a skid plate that bolts to the slider and can hold a second battery or an air tank mounted low to retain proper center of gravity.
To address the clearance issues on the passenger-side with the catalytic converters, Metal Tech created a massive -inch-thick, CNC-bent skid plate that wraps around the cat to protect it and let the vehicle slide up and over obstacles. The sliders also feature a two-stage outrigger that sits further from the body at the rear to move the vehicle away from any obstruction that may otherwise cause body damage to the rear of the vehicle.
Installation was easily accomplished with hand tools and floor jacks to support each 75-pound rock slider. Three attachment points per slider distribute the load and connect to the frame with Grade 8 U-bolts. The exception is the outrigger at the catalytic converter, which uses a -inch-thick plate and tapped holes to sandwich around the frame. The front mud flaps have to be removed or trimmed to accommodate the sliders, but this is a small price to pay for the improved protection. We also found it necessary to unbolt the brake hard line routing brackets from the frame on the driver-side in order to allow the U-bolts to be installed. The outriggers are all placed next to cab mounts for extra strength, and the rear attachment points have "ears" that wrap around the cab mount to aid in locating the sliders. It was easiest for us to start at the rear of the vehicle and add all of the U-bolts before tightening everything down. We received a pre-production set of Metal Tech's sliders, but all of this information and more should be available on the installation DVD Metal Tech includes with their production sliders.