1966 Toyota FJ Cruiser V8 - Cross-Trainer

This FJ40 Is a Product of Its Environment

Harry WagnerPhotographer, WriterMike McAndrewsPhotographer

Not everyone has the pocketbook or the garage space for a dedicated rock buggy, Trophy Truck, or sandrail. So what do you do when you live in an environment where each of these vehicles could be used to its full potential? Well, if you are Frank Maciel, you build one vehicle that can do it all. Maciel resides in Reno, Nevada, where the Rubicon Trail lies to the west, miles of wide-open two-track stretch to the south, and Sand Mountain is located only an hour to the east.

The foundation for this vehicular equivalent of a cross-trainer shoe is a '66 FJ40 Land Cruiser. The 'Cruiser was delivered to SamCo Fabrication, where fabricators Sam Cothrun and Jake Povey were allowed to work their magic. Cothrun is the crew chief for Rod Hall's Team Hummer, so he obviously knows a thing or two about building a vehicle that can perform in a variety of terrain. First, a drivetrain was chosen to provide the best balance between power, reliability, weight, and cost. The engine is a 383ci Chevy small-block stuffed with SRP pistons, Eagle rods, a Scat crank, and Trick Flow heads all tickled by a custom Erson bumpstick. A 600-cfm Holley Truck Avenger feeds the engine and an MSD ignition lights it off, though fuel injection is on the top of the short list of future upgrades. The stroker engine provides enough torque for rockcrawling, while the trick components generate high-rpm horsepower to propel Maciel across the desert at a high rate of speed.

Behind the small-block sits a Leverett-built TH400 with beefed-up internals and a reverse manual valve body. The three-speed automatic transfers power to an Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case fitted with a 4.3-ratio Low range and 32-spline outputs. This drivetrain is incredibly strong and built for abuse at speed yet still has the gearing required to tiptoe through the rocks. Beyond the transfer case, the power is routed through 0.120-wall driveshafts with 1350 joints from Reno Driveline Service and Gear to full-width 1-ton axles. The front axle is a Dana 61 fitted with an ARB Air Locker and a custom ring-gear spacer from Wolf Machine that was required to accept a Sierra Gear 5.13 Dana 60 ring-and-pinion. The rear axle is a simple Corporate 14-bolt loaded with a Detroit Locker, Superior chrome-moly shafts, disc brakes, and 5.13 gears.

Although the drivetrain is impressive, the suspension and tube work are what really set this Land Cruiser apart. The front suspension consists of a radius-arm design with a Panhard bar. The arms are angled to provide the maximum possible turning radius and are constructed of 2-inch, 0.250-wall 4130 tubing fitted with 1.25-inch FK rod ends. Cothrun likes the sway-bar effect that the radius-arm design provides as it adds stability at the high speeds this Land Cruiser is cable of. In the rear, he built a triangulated four-link with a Blue Torch FabWorks truss, SamCo flex joints, and more 4130 tubing. The link suspension results in a 104-inch wheelbase that is complemented by Fox coilovers and air bumps front and rear. The front coilovers are 12-inch models fitted with tender springs and 150-lb-in Hypercoil springs over 325-lb-in QA1 coil springs, which results in 15 inches of wheel travel. The rear shocks are 14-inch models fitted with similar spring rates that net 16 inches of wheel travel. After designing the suspension, SamCo Fabrication dialed in the shock valving for improved stability in a variety of terrains. This is another departure from the typical rockcrawling vehicle.

The custom valving was necessary to reign in the huge 39-inch Super Swamper Iroks mounted on 17-inch Walker Evans beadlock rims. The suspension, however, was not the only system modified to address the stresses created by the large, heavy tires. A PSC hydraulic ram and high-volume pump complement the Saginaw steering box that was mounted outside the Toyota framerails. The PSC components work in conjunction with Blue Torch steering arms and a custom-fabricated, 1.25-inch, 0.120-wall 4130 drag link and 1.5-inch, 0.250-wall 1026 DOM tie rod; both are fitted with 3/4-inch FK rod ends. Braking for the rolling stock comes from the 1-ton disc brakes fitted under the 17-inch wheels. The calipers are plumbed to a Wilwood CNC dual master cylinder with custom-bent, stainless AN brake lines.

The cross-trainer theme continues with the 'cage design. The 1.75-inch, 0.120-wall 'cage is fitted with Kartek adapters to allow a variety of configurations. The rear section can be removed to allow a half-cab to be fitted for winter wheeling, and a rear storage rack is easily removable for longer forays into the backcountry. When used for high-speed romps through the desert, the doors and storage rack are left at home in favor of the removable lightbar fitted with six Lightforce 140 Lance lights to brighten the Nevada landscape. Once the tube work was completed, Maciel took the Land Cruiser to Bill Ronchetti, who laid down the '07 Toyota Yellow paint.

When you have diverse environments just outside your doorstep as well as access to a topnotch fabricator, it makes sense to take advantage of your opportunities. Maciel's Land Cruiser delivers the goods in a wide variety of terrain. And, with an iron small-block and junkyard axles, he didn't have to break the bank to get it that way.

YEAR/MAKE/MODEL '66 {{{Toyota Land Cruiser}}} FJ40
OWNER Frank Maciel
ENGINE 383ci Chevy OHV V8
ASPIRATION Holley Truck {{{Avenger}}}
TRANSFER CASE Advance Adapters Atlas II
FRONT AXLE Dana 61 w/ARB Air Locker
REAR AXLE Corporate 14-bolt w/Detroit
Locker, Superior shafts
FRONT SUSPENSION Radius arms, Panhard bar
w/{{{Fox}}} coilovers
REAR SUSPENSION Triangulated four-link w/Fox
TIRES/WHEELS 39x13.5x17 Interco Super
Swamper Iroks/Walker Evans
17x8.5 beadlocks
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