Outfitting the Inside
It arrived! Our Sun Fusion Yellow '06 Toyota FJ Cruiser showed up just in time for us to ship it off to Denver to start the transformation from entry-level off-roader to our extreme exploration machine.
If you've been under a rock, or better yet away from your subscription out in the rocks, let us catch you up. Each year the staff of Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road takes a weeklong dirt road trip and goes exploring some different part of the nation. On top of that we build an official trail contraption that must fill the roll of stead and stallion for group leader (and 4-Wheel & Off-Road editor) Rick Pw. Of course, being a magazine project truck we usually get started late, and try to round up a group of top fabricators, mechanics, and component suppliers that are willing to lend a hand or two, or even those of their entire staff, to get the truck done in record time (as this is written we have just over two months left to go).
So what is the plan for this year? You can expect a big trail machine with expedition flair. We plan to spend over a week living out of this beast with rare stops at fuel stations for tummy and truck fuel, hole-in-the-wall repair shops to patch up anything that gets hammered, and random small-town motels to wash up after a week of camping and wheeling. With this in mind, we took the FJ to Poison Spyder Customs for safety upgrades in the form of an internal cage built to protect four occupants, and to Slee Off Road for internal expedition amenities that should help the trip run smoothly. Poison Spyder is a recognized name in the Jeep and tube buggy portions of the 4x4 scene where they make armor for TJs, YJs, CJs and the upcoming JK as well as both two- and four-seat chassis for folks wanting the next level of trail rig. Meanwhile Slee Off Road is renowned in the Toyota Land Cruiser scene for supplying everything from expedition racks and lights to roof-mounted tents and rocksliders. If you want to see even more info on our Ultimate FJ buildup, just log onto www.ultimateadventure2006.com.
When traveling off-road and living out of your 4x4 for any extended period it isn't uncommon for gear to get bounced around and quickly become a disorganized mess. Slee Off Road offers its African Outback drawer system that has been in use for years overseas in sport-utes that need safe and secure storage. We like the idea of access to the tools and heavy gear that will be stored down low in the drawers without removing everything from on top. These heavy-duty drawers are constructed of galvanized steel and wood and can support up to 200 pounds of cargo. They use a bolt-action lock to keep the drawers closed on steep climbs and against criminal fingers.
We also foresee a mountain of gear being stacked on top of the drawer system, and in case of emergency braking or a rollover situation all those bits can become deadly projectiles. To try and keep our heads clear of bumps and bruises, Slee also installed a Milford steel cargo barrier to keep camping, camera, and cooking paraphernalia in the back where it belongs.
Our Ultimate Adventure trip has been to many off-the-beaten-path destinations in the past, and having a stocked cooler always makes for a more delightful time. This year, Slee Off Road also equipped us with a 35-quart Engel USA fridge freezer. The Engel unit will keep everything from beer to ice cream perfectly chilled and the unit efficiently runs off of 12 or 24 volts DC or 110 volts AC. The Engel piece can run at nearly any angle and erases the issues of melted ice water ruining our lunch. To secure it to our drawer system we used an Engel transit lock that holds it tight.
We took the Ultimate FJ to Poison Spyder Customs outside of Denver for an internal cage. The PSC crew spends long days welding up buggies, Jeep cages, and various tube body armor so our request for a cage that would still allow access to the back seats, all dash knobs, and reclining of driver and co-pilot seats was well within their skills.