May 2017 Rig of the Month: lzalusky
We'd like to congratulate lzalusky - Leigh for having the May 2017 Rig of the Month.
Hayden: Tell us a bit about yourself (age, family, school/job, hobbies, where are you from, how long you’ve lived where, etc.)[Really whatever you’d like to share, like what you would tell someone if you were meeting them for the first time]?
Well, I am 33 years old, married and have two kids. My little girl is two and a half and we just had our son four weeks ago, so sleep is a bit of a luxury right now. I grew up in a little town about 2 hours North West of Sacramento California and after high school attended UC Davis, where I secured a degree in computer engineering. During that time my wife (high school sweetheart) attended the University of Tennessee under a Volley Ball scholarship. I would drive to Tennessee in the summers and work as a painter / maintenance guy at the university.
Kristen graduated earlier than I did since I wasn’t able to attend summer school at Davis. After graduation, she moved back to California and we got married and 2008. At that point, I had started my career working in various green tech startups in the bay area and Sacramento region. Eventually I started my own company with another engineer as a spinoff of a technology we were working on in a startup that went under. At this point we are still pursuing that technology while taking occasional consulting work when it comes along.
Anyway, life has been busy lately as we sold our house in suburbia and just purchased 50 acres in the country back where we grew up. I am currently cleaning up the property and we intend to build a house in the coming year. We wanted our kids to grow up in a rural setting as we did, so we took the plunge. So far so good!
Hayden: What is the story of how you got your FJ Cruiser?
I have always loved working on cars and was driving a modified Toyota Supra Turbo before the FJ. I wanted my next project to be more family oriented and closer to the lifestyle we were pushing towards. I also wanted something that you could have fun in without doubling the speed limit. We had always done tons of camping growing up and I had gone wheeling many times in my friend’s jeeps. Once I saw the FJ I kind of fell in love with it. It was quirky and unique enough to be interesting and had a good aftermarket.
Hayden: Is the FJ Cruiser your first offroad vehicle? If not what was you’re the first vehicle you took wheeling?
Well, I guess I would say the FJ is my first real offroad vehicle. My parents had a sidekick and Honda CRV that I got into trouble with growing up, but looking back at it I wouldn’t really say they were offroad vehicles in the same context that the FJ is (especially the CRV).
Richochet HD Front Skid Plate (Modified mounting, cooling slots and trimming for EXP1 bumper)
Allpro steel transmission and transfer case skids
Total Chaos rear link skids (Front)
Custom stainless steel rear link skids (Rear)
Custom Aux. fuel tank skid
Icon extended travel 2.5” front dampers without CDC
Icon 2.5” rear dampers with CDC, Icon springs
Camburg ball joint UCA’s
Konig Countersteer Type X wheels
Goodyear Wrangler MT/R w/Kevlar in 305/70/R17
4.56 Nitro Gears with ARB Air Locker
TRD Cold Air Intake with stock filter (Don’t think it does much but I couldn’t help it)
AFE high tuck exhaust
Shrockworks Dual Battery Kit
Shrockworks Air Injection Pump Relocation Kit
Shrockworks Main Battery Tray
Shrockworks Dual Bussmann Bracket
Shrockworks Winch Disconnect Bracket
Baha Designs Squadron Pro LED’s in front bumper
Android Head Unit
Uniden Bearcat 980 CB
Baha Rack (Mesh Floor)
Expedition One Kodiak Front Bumper
Shrockworks Washer Fluid Reservoir
Warn M8000S Winch with Rokmen Fairlead
Bandi Mount and 4 foot FireFly Antenna
TT Black Out Parts
Scuba Mod (My Version)_
Custom rear enclosure with ARB Twin compressor, 400W Inverter, Fire extinguisher etc.
Overhead mount for CB
Switch and gauge pod for aux tank
Hayden: Any key modifications unique to only your FJ Cruiser?
Well, there are a number that started out unique to my FJ but are now offered through a vendor. They are:
Washer Fluid Tank for 2010+ FJ
Smog Pump Relocation Bracket for 2010+ FJ
Dual Battery Tray for 2010+FJ
Main Battery Tray to hold charge regulation components
Winch disconnect switch bracket
Dual Bussmann Relay Module Bracket
Rear Link Protector Cups
There are also a couple that are pretty much still unique to my FJ:
19 Gallon Aux Fuel Tank
Switch and gauge pod for aux fuel tank and accessory switches
Custom engine cover
Hayden: Can you tell us about your very popular auxiliary fuel tanks you designed as well as your unique dual battery setup? (If not already mentioned)
Our family loves to take long trips into the national forest, which quickly revealed how limited the FJ’s range is in that kind of scenario. I wanted to create something that looked and performed like stock, with stock like integration.
The system I came up with tucks underneath the rear of the FJ and holds an additional 19 gallons of fuel. It incorporates a thick ¼” aluminum skid plate that serves as the mounting structure for the tank, isolating it from impacts on the trail. The tank is filled from a modified stock filler neck allowing you to keep the second tank empty if desired. Basically, you just stick the nozzle straight in to fill the main tank, and tilt it to the side to fill the second tank. Since everything is properly sealed there is no issue with evap codes since the second tank piggy backs on the stock evap system.
Fuel is transferred to the main tank with a marine fuel pump and fuel/water separating filter that is incorporated into the tank assembly. I designed a control module that reads both the main tank level as well as the second tank level and limits the transfer of fuel based on the readings. The controller will let you manually transfer fuel any time the second tank is not empty and the main tank is not full, preventing the pump from running dry or needlessly transferring fuel to a full main tank. The controller will also allow the transfer switch to remain permanently on. In this scenario fuel is automatically transferred once the main tank drops below 90%. This is the mode I use most often and basically replicates a single ~37-gallon tank without worrying about transferring fuel.
The dual battery setup is really for peace of mind and the ability to run my accessories off of a second isolated system. The 2010+ FJ’s have mirrored sheet metal for the battery mounting on both sides of the truck, however the passenger side has a number of components in the way. The tray I made relocates these components and allows a second battery to be mounted in this location. I also made a tray that goes under the main battery and has a mounting surface for a Blue Sea ACR and 400A fuse, which serve to control the charging and isolation of the second battery. This has been a very reliable setup so far.
Hayden: What modification has been your favorite or has been the most worth the money/time/effort that you’d recommend it to someone else?
I would have to say that auxiliary fuel tank has been the best modification so far. With the extra 19 gallons of fuel and automatic transfer I no longer worry on long trips into the national forest. It is great on road trips as well, especially when the kids are asleep and stopping for gas would wake them up.
The re-gear and front locker are pretty great as well. I figure the lift and better tires are pretty standard to most FJ enthusiasts.
Hayden: What upgrade has been your least favorite, or what modification would you do differently if you had to do it over again?
Doing the re-gear for sure. The result is awesome, but I chose to set up the gears myself, which was a way bigger undertaking than I thought. The rear end wasn’t bad actually, but the front clamshell with ARB locker was a nightmare in terms of setting up. This was especially true since I started with a new clamshell with no gears or starting shims in it, which meant hours upon hours of swapping shims, completely assembling and checking backlash and bearing preload. Now that I have all of the special tools and some experience it shouldn’t be too bad to do it again in the future (hopefully not on my FJ though!).
Hayden: What future modifications do you have planned for your FJC?
That is a list that keeps growing, regardless of how much I do it seems. I would like to get a rear bumper and some additional lighting put on in the near future. I am also anxiously waiting for the unicorn that is the 2010+ supercharger. I have a set of Phillips LED headlights sitting on my desk that I need to put in as well.
Hayden: Where all have you been with your FJC? What trail/park/location is your favorite?
I have been to the FJ Summit a couple times, Moab, the Oregon dunes, as well as countless miles in the national forests in Northern California / Southern Oregon. I really enjoy the
annual Florence Dunes run since the environment is so dynamic and changes dramatically from year to year.
Hayden: What park/location that you have not been to yet would you like take your FJ too?
I would really love spend more time in Moab as I was only there briefly on the way back from the summit. It seems like an amazing place.
Hayden: Has anyone on the forum inspired your build or been a go to resource for you?
There are so many great contributors, so it’s hard to single someone out. I would say I have always been impressed with Belly Docs well thought out posts on a range of subjects.
Hayden: What has been the most memorable experience with your FJ Cruiser?
There was a time on the coast where I crossed a pretty deep river to get onto the beach on the other side to look for wood that hadn’t already been burned up by less ambitious campers. On the way back there were a couple of trucks with huge lifts and probably 37” tires waiting on the other side afraid to cross. We drove right through with the water splashing up the windshield at one point and the look on their faces was priceless when we went by.
Hayden: Any additional thoughts about your FJ or FJ Cruisers in general you’d like to share?
The FJ has really been a lifestyle change for us in a number of ways. It makes camping and exploring so much more enjoyable knowing that you have a vehicle that is pretty much ready for anything. We have also thoroughly enjoyed the sense of community both though the forum and the various FJ events we have attended through the years. I intend to keep the FJ indefinitely and look forward to all of the future trips, events and friendships that follow.