1987 BJ74 Land Cruiser Built to be Even More Unique
Third Time’s a Charm: One Man’s Quest for the Perfect Cruiser
Les Wong has had a soft spot for 70 Series Land Cruisers since he first drove one in Australia ten years ago. “I had owned an 80 and 100 Series Land Cruiser already, but something about the simplicity and ruggedness of the 70 Series design had me hooked,” Wong says. “So I returned home, searched long and hard, and found a 1985 LHD BJ70 (SWB) Land Cruiser, imported from Canada and purchased it. It was the only 70 Series that could be imported into the U.S. at the time, as it was FMVSS compliant.”
The problem was the Cruiser he purchased had a naturally aspirated diesel engine that couldn’t get out of its own way, and was rusty after years of service in a mine.
Undeterred, Wong sold the Canadian Cruiser and replaced it with a Japanese BJ74 once it was over 25 years old and able to legally be imported to the U.S.. This Land Cruiser rode better thanks to a longer wheelbase, had a turbodiesel engine, and was full of options, such as locking differentials, a PTO winch, and suspension seats. It was perfect . . . except for one thing. Since the BJ74 was intended for the Japanese market, it was right-hand drive.
So the search continued Eventually Wong found his current BJ74 through Chris Spaulding at Cruiser Import Company. This Cruiser has already been converted to left hand drive in Spain and had a six-cylinder diesel engine added.
Most people who import 70 Series Land Cruisers are content to leave them stock, since parts can be difficult to source and there is already a certain novelty to having one of these rare vehicles. Not Wong, though. He took his prized possession to Matt Stoffregen at Stoffregen Motorsports, who swapped in wider, stronger axles and built a completely custom suspension. Stoffregen Motorsports has gained a reputation for building suspensions that minimize compromises to work as well on the street as they do on the trail, and this Cruiser is no exception.
Just like Goldilocks, it took Les Wong three tries, but this Land Cruiser is just right.
If it fits, it ships. That is the idea behind the 12H-T diesel engine in the Land Cruiser. This 4.0L six-cylinder diesel is out of an HJ61 Land Cruiser, but since the engine conversion was performed prior to the vehicle being shipped to the states it is grandfathered in. The 12-valve turbocharged diesel makes 134 hp at 3,500 rpm and 232 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm, making it perfect for trail use. Les Wong does plan to add a bigger turbo in the future.
The 70 Series Land Cruisers are designed for utility rather than the luxury commonly associated with modern Land Cruisers offered in the states. Dual batteries were a factory option, and they fit perfectly in the passenger side of the engine bay against the firewall and behind the air cleaner.
The Land Cruiser originally had leaf springs and the same axles as a stateside 60 Series Land Cruiser. Those were tossed in favor of a Diamond Axle front housing that uses a 9 1/2-inch third member from the rear of an 80 Series Land Cruiser. The third member houses an ARB Air Locker and 4.10 gears that route power to a set of RCV axles fitted inside Hellfire 80 Series steering knuckles.
Fox 12-inch-travel coilover shocks are fitted with 250-lb/in over 300-lb/in Eibach coil springs and are mounted on 4Wheel Underground towers. The shocks work in conjunction with the heaviest AntiRock sway bar that Currie Enterprises offers. Stoffregen Motorsports built the coilover front suspension to be low and stable, which has become the shop’s calling card.
Most 70 Series use a fixed steel top, but Wong found this rare model with the removable fiberglass hardtop in Spain. The windshield even folds down, and the doors can be removed for a full open-air experience, much like the earlier 40 Series Land Cruisers.
The rear axle is out of an FZJ80 Land Cruiser. It came from the factory with an offset differential, full-floating axles, disc brakes, and a 9 1/2-inch ring gear. All that needed to be added inside were 4.10 gears and an ARB Air Locker. The factory brackets were removed and replaced with custom brackets from Stoffregen Motorsports.
The rear suspension uses Old Man Emu 1 1/2-inch-lift coils and 10-inch-travel Fox pin-top shocks instead of coilovers to allow the suspension to be packaged beneath the body rather than having to punch through the floor. Stoffregen Motorsports built the control arms from 2x0.250-wall DOM tubing with MetalCloak Duroflex joints at the frame end to absorb impact and Flex Joints from Parts Mike at the axle end to minimize binding.
The 70 Series Land Cruisers were produced in both left- and right-hand drive for different markets. This Cruiser came from Spain, so it is left-hand drive. The shifter rows an H55 five-speed manual transmission backed up by a Northwest Fab Black Box planetary reduction box mated to the factory Land Cruiser split transfer case. The reduction box helps reduce the front driveline angle in addition to providing lower gearing on the trail.
The bumpers on the Cruiser were built by 4x4Labs of Grass Valley, California. The front bumper was just installed the day before our shoot, so there wasn’t even time to mount up the winch before we took these photos. Fortunately it was not needed during our time on the Rubicon.
4x4Labs focuses on matching the vehicle’s body lines and maximizing ground clearance and approach angle with their bumpers. Note how the tube work wraps around the side for extra protection and is plated for strength.
Dual swingouts match the rear doors on the Cruiser, which are not the same size. The driver-side swingout carries a fuel can, while the passenger-side one has a fullsize spare tire, a Hi-Lift jack, and a fold-down tray.
Tech Specs1987 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ74
Engine: Toyota 12H-T 6-cylinder diesel
Transmission: Toyota H55 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Northwest Fab Black Box to Toyota split case
Front Axle: Diamond Axle housing with 9 1/2-inch third member with 4.10 gears, ARB Air Locker, RCV axles, and Hellfire knuckles
Rear Axle: 80 Series Land Cruiser full-floater with 9 1/2-inch third member with 4.10 gears and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Stoffregen Motorsports custom 3-link with coilovers (front); Stoffregen Motorsports custom 3-link with Old Man Emu coil springs and Fox shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 35x12.50R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2s on 17x8.5 Raceline Monster wheels
Steering: Factory steering box with Trail-Gear pitman arm, custom tie rod and draglink with Parts Mike TREs
Other Stuff: 4x4 Labs bumpers, dual batteries, FJ80 brake booster and master cylinder, Wilwood proportioning valve, air ride seat, ARB air compressor