Old Man Emu FJ-60 Lift Kit: Adding clearance and comfort to a Land Cruiser that's old enough to drink.
So, you have a truck riding on leaf-springs, and you want to add a lift kit, but you don't want to pay someone else to do it? Don't be scared! It's not as hard as you might think. All you need are the right parts, the correct tools, your buddies, and a clear plan of attack. Here's how two lift kit rookies were able to raise an FJ-60 in a weekend (read this, and you should be able to do it in just one Saturday).
When shopping for a suspension kit designed to fit an FJ-60 Land Cruiser, it's almost impossible to ignore Old Man Emu parts. They are named after the flightless Australian bird with powerful legs that blasts over rough terrain while its body barely moves. OME stands out because their kit is specially designed for the Cruiser, it includes greaseable shackles, and is extensively tested off-road, keeping performance (and comfort) in mind. Not something you expect from a lift kit maker - but it's something you should expect. We chose a medium heavy duty setup because it allows a lot of camping gear to be carried in the back, but doesn't require modifications to the driveshafts or the steering system.
Our project truck is a 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-60 that was bought with suspension lift that included aftermarket shocks and add-a-leafs inserted in the original spring packs. It's performance off-road is quite admirable, but a recent trip to Truckhaven Hills near the Salton Sea proved the tires were rubbing too much, and the suspension also resulted in one "stuck" that required a yank from a nice guy in a Jeep. A consultation with 4-Wheel and Off-Road Editor, Rick Pw, revealed the existing kit was hot poop about 20 years ago. Not bad, but it looked like nothing had been replaced in the suspension setup since the late-1980's. The springs were obviously flat from wear, allowing the 33x12.5 tires to rub in the wheelwells and leave cuts in the sidewalls. The ride suggested the shocks were no longer hot - just poop.
Rick was kind enough to volunteer Tech Editor, Fred Williams, to help two web guys install the Old Man Emu kit during a weekend at the Warehome while he worked on his '86 Toyota Project, Clampy. We brought a couple of cases of PBR to help repay Fred for the use of his driveway, tools, and patience. He did a good job of looking happy to see us when we arrived.
Before we got started, Video Producer John Adolph talked to Fred about some tips gleaned from various Land Cruiser Message Boards on the Internet. Crazy Uncle Freddy gave us some safety tips and general advice before getting back under Clampy to replace the clutch and a leaky main seal.
A week earlier, we had sprayed down all the suspension connections with PB Blaster to make removal easier (WD-40 or JB-80 will also work). This is an especially good idea if you live somewhere rust is a problem - or if your truck lived in the rust belt or near the ocean. Another spray of Blaster was applied before we started removing anything from the Cruiser.
We decided to take some measurements and photos to know how much lift we gained once the last bolt is tightened. Plus, that provided some time for the new coating of Blaster to soak in. In the rear, the tires were about 3 1/2 inches from the fenders. The front tires, (which were constantly being cut by the fenders), had about 5 1/2 inches of room for travel. The current setup also left the rear end sagging, which was ugly, and problematic when heavy camping gear was stored in the cargo area (along with a 175-pound Mastiff in the back seat).