Custom Toyota FJ45 with Ram 1500 3.0L EcoDiesel Engine Swap
An EcoDiesel-powered FJ45 that’s ready for anything
Many of us have a soft spot for Toyota's 40 Series Land Cruiser, the traditional body-on-frame SUVs that were produced to compete—and, some would argue, outperform—the Land Rover 109s and Jeep CJs of the day. This love wasn't lost on Carl and Adam Van Rooy, father and son Cruiser enthusiasts from the greater Indianapolis area, but they were after something truly unique in an expedition, fishing, and leisure off-road vehicle. After turning to John Conrad of J.B. 's 4x4 in Kingman, Indiana, the trio came up with an FJ40-based project, built from the ground up, and finished and titled as an FJ45 Troop Carrier.
While the project would be based around the '78 FJ40 John sourced in neighboring Illinois, the only real salvageable parts from the original donor were the clutch, brake, and accelerator pedals, along with the hood. The doors were obtained from a California donor, the roof came from Colorado, and the rest of the body is aluminum thanks to Aqualu Industries. Mandrel-bent, steel tube framerails and crossmembers were also supplied by Aqualu, with John and his talented team piecing everything together.
For an added twist, the Ram 1500 3.0L EcoDiesel was chosen for the Land Cruiser's modern, yet reliable, means of propulsion. The compression-ignition V-6 is backed by an NV4500 five-speed manual transmission, a two-speed Atlas transfer case, a Dana 44 axle up front, and a Dana 60 in the rear. Not only was the integration of the new-age diesel mill time-consuming, but so, too, was the body, chassis, and interior work. Three years after the project got underway, the Van Rooys were presented the Troopy you see here—a stunning, bumper-to-bumper build with a one-of-a-kind powertrain.
After a three-year, ground-up build was methodically executed by J.B. 's 4x4 in Kingman, Indiana, Carl and Adam Van Rooy essentially own a brand-new, yet completely unique, '78 Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser. It's equipped with the same EcoDiesel V-6 found in the '14-'19 Ram 1500, a bulletproof drivetrain, and wears original Toyota colors thanks to Sherwin-Williams' Olive Green paint. While the Troopy will spend most of its time in the sands of Key West, Florida, used for fishing on the beach, we're told the Van Rooys also plan to use it as an expedition vehicle out West.
Building the Land Cruiser almost entirely from scratch required a lot of in-house design, fabricating, and welding, not to mention all the bodywork, wiring, and wrenching that was involved. Luckily for John Conrad, owner of J.B. 's 4x4, he had Evan Ratcliff—a talented young jack-of-all-trades—on the payroll. After tying the Aqualu Industries framerails together via the supplied crossmembers, virtually every other foundational component was custom-built or modified. The front and rear bumpers, leaf-spring hangers, shock hangers, engine mounts, side steps, rollcage, roof rack, seat frames, and more were all produced at the small, western Indiana shop.
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Engine Swap
Though the guys at J.B. 's 4x4 know their way around a Cummins swap, they admit the EcoDiesel was a first. To make the high-tech common-rail work, a Painless Performance wiring harness was employed, along with a stand-alone Bosch Motorsport ECU from S&S Diesel Motorsport to control the engine. For reliability and a little added power, the factory variable geometry turbocharger was ditched in favor of a BorgWarner S200-based fixed geometry unit, for which John and his team built a custom pedestal and up-pipes. On the dyno at S&S Diesel Motorsport, the 3.0L V-6 turned out 278 hp and 489 lb-ft of torque.
Despite the one-off expansion tank for the custom radiator taking up some space, there was still enough room on the passenger side of the engine bay to mount the ARB onboard air compressor for the front and rear lockers. Also notice the enclosed air filter element on the driver side of the EcoDiesel. It's part of the Troopy's fully functional snorkel system.
Suspension and Axle Upgrades
To get the exact suspension performance they were after, an Old Man Emu leaf-spring suspension from ARB got the call. A front antisway bar from Speedway Motors was also installed to quell body roll. As for the solid front axle, it's a Dana 44 out of an '80 Jeep Cherokee. The 44 has been treated to an ARB Air Locker, a 4.30:1 ring-and-pinion, and custom disc brakes.
Out back, a trail-prepped Dana 60 features Strange Engineering axleshafts, an ARB air locker, and the same 4.30:1 gearing as the Dana 44. Farther up the driveline, you'll find a two-speed Atlas transfer case, along with custom-built driveshafts to transfer power to the front and rear axles.
For improved steering with a locker and larger tires in the mix, a PSC Motorsports cylinder-assist system was made to work with an International Scout gearbox. The pitman arm is a custom J.B. 's 4x4 piece. Here, you can also see that Bilstein 5100 series shocks made the cut, too.
EcoDiesel Fuel System
Not trying to reinvent the wheel as far as the EcoDiesel's fuel system was concerned, an OEM lift pump off of a Ram 1500 is employed to keep the Bosch CP4.2 injection pump supplied with plenty of low-pressure fuel. The filter base and pump assembly were mounted on the driver-side framerail near the 2.5-gallon VIAIR tank and make use of a Donaldson water separator and fuel filter.
Custom Adventure Equipment
Thanks to the swing-out spare tire rack, additional side boxes for storage, Hi-Lift jack, and extended range provided by the jerrycans, the Troopy is ready for virtually any type of adventure the Van Rooys feel like embarking on. For improved rear and side nighttime visibility, three 20-inch lightbars from ARB are mounted to the custom roof rack.
At the front of the roof rack, four 9-inch-diameter ARB Intensity LEDs aid nighttime visibility beyond what the 7-inch driving lights bring to the table. Between the top-mounted ARBs sits a high-definition marine camera from FLIR Systems. And while there are no plans to submerge the Troopy anytime soon, the watertight snorkel system is there in case it's ever needed.
Though they've been refinished, authentic jump seats are retained in the back of the FJ, lap belts and all. A multipurpose roll-out tray allows for cargo to be securely fastened, and both the tray and the entire floorboard is coated in Rhino Lining for a non-slip surface. Like the bumpers, roof rack, and side steps, the rollcage and seat frames were powdercoated black.
Up front, a pair of Corbeau seats offer a surprising level of comfort, while a Dakota Digital gauge cluster—complete with speedometer, oil pressure, voltage, water temp, and custom 4,000-rpm tachometer—can be seen behind the MOMO steering wheel.
NV4500 Five-Speed Transmission
Transmission shifts are made manually via a GM version of the NV4500 five-speed and the corresponding GM shift stalk. A customized single-disc South Bend clutch has no problem handling the EcoDiesel's low-end grunt, while a Raymarine head unit, amplifier, GPS, and Morel speakers offer a touch of modern luxury.
Interior Gauges and Controls
The toggle switches that operate the air compressor, front and rear lockers, and front drive lights can be found at the top of the center console that was built in-house at J.B. 's 4x4, along with the controls for the Old Air Products air conditioning, heat, and fan. Two GM factory match gauges from AutoMeter allow the driver to keep tabs on exhaust gas temperature and turbo boost pressure. An overhead switch panel entails the toggles responsible for turning the dome, front fog, side, and spotlights on and off.
Vehicle: '78 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ45
Owner: Carl and Adam Van Rooy
Stomping grounds: Indianapolis, Indiana
Build time: 3 years
Engine: 3.0L/182ci VM Motori EcoDiesel V-6 with fixed geometry turbo, standalone ECM
Transmission: GM NV4500 five-spd manual, South Bend single-disc clutch with GM hydraulics
Transfer case: Advance Adapters Atlas 2-spd
Front axle/differential: Dana 44, custom disc brakes, 4.30 gears/ARB Air Locker
Rear axle/differential: Dana 60, Strange Engineering axleshafts, custom disc brakes, 4.30 gears/ARB Air Locker
Front: Old Man Emu leaf springs, custom hangers, Bilstein 5100 series shocks, Speedway Motors antisway bar
Rear: Old Man Emu leaf springs, custom hangers, Bilstein 5100 series shocks
Steering: PSC Motorsports hydraulic-assist, International Scout steering box
Tires: 33x10.50R15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2
Wheels: 15x7 Smoothie
Armor: Custom front bumper, custom rear bumper
Cool stuff: Warn M8274 winch; custom roof rack; Xantrex power inverter; custom snorkel; and 3-inch, one-off, roof-exit exhaust system