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Apexbasher is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: NE Florida
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FJ Cruiser 4x4 5AT
Convenience Package, Upgrade Package #1
Okay, so I killed Bessie. Now what am I gonna do?
Build another! And build it better.
The basic story here is that I got hooked on Geocaching a couple of years ago when I purchased my first vehicle with a Navigation system. The VW Touareg was a cool vehicle for me since I was a former Audi guy. But the T-reg could go off-road. This was new to me.
When it became apparent that the T-reg was going to bury me beneath upkeep bills I new it was time to buy a new ride. (Of course, that means it was actually my wife who said the VW had to go.) The FJ was on my list of possibilities and I fell in love when I finally got around to trying one on for size. I wanted something that I could do some
modifications to and be able to go for overnight/weekend trips into the wild in search of the more remote Geocaches out there. I bought my first FJ on December 31st 2006 in an effort to get a good price.
But then killed her nearly two years later. “Bessie” had become a major source of pride and joy for both my wife and I. It never even occurred to me that I shouldn’t replace one FJ with another, so…
In the short time before the insurance company tower her away we (Dusther (Forrest), BirdMan (Martin), Martin’s brother, and myself) stripped all the mods we could off the ol’ girl and replaced them with the stock take offs from BirdMan’s rig (Many thanks, Martin!). Things like the OME/ToyTec suspension, ARB bumper w/ winch, 16” steelies with Nitto TGs, Eclipse Nav system, Bandi Mount, passenger armrest, and assorted interior switches and gizmos can off and she was made to look basically stock again.
Some things had to stay, like the Scuba Mod, over head map lighting, and the ToyTec spacers for the front since we could not source replacement studs before the tow truck arrived. No biggie.
Here’ is how Bessie 2.0 started life.
Description: 4x4 Automatic Transmission
Year/Model: 2008 / 4704C
Port of Entry: Jacksonville, FL
Options: CO (Convenience Package), FE (50 State Emissions), UP (Upgrade Package #1), FP4 (Southeast Toyota Quality Insp.)
It’s true. On the surface this FJ came with less stuff, less ghefuffel. I learned during the last build that there were certain items I just didn’t like, but was stuck with. Things like the roof rack, trailer hitch (SE Toyota installs REESE hitches), etc. I also didn’t bother with the off-road floor mats, or A-TRAC switch, since I had liberated these from my ‘07.
But to wifey’s great pleasure I pointed out that this ’08 had side and curtain airbags, the subwoofer, and the nifty side visors that I bothering her to buy me for Christmas.
The plan is this: I tend to spend a great deal of time offroad and alone. So I’ll need to make the new Bessie self-supporting and self-sustaining for two passenger trips lasting no longer than four days with out replenishment in terrain ranging from maintained forest roads to Moab style slickrock. No heavy mud, or insane rock crawling, but able to skirt around such obstacles if needed. Oh, and it will still have to function as my daily driver.
And THIS time I want to do things a bit less amateurish. Neater. More elegant. Especially with the electrical items, which were a tad …. Frankenstonian, to be quite frank, on my ’07.
Since I did a build thread for my ’07 Bessie I will quote some parts of that build to give you an idea of where I was coming from with a particular bit of kit (and because it will speed up the writing of THIS build thread)…..(I am probably wrong about this, we’ll see). I reused some pictures as well, out of sheer laziness and the realization that, among other things, my ARB bumper looks the same on an ’08 Voodoo Blue FJ as it does on an ’07 Voodoo Blue FJ.
Here is a link to that thread in it’s entirety:
I had driven by the local 4WheelParts to see what they have. Most of the truck/4x4 shops I see are big on bling and chrome diamond plate boxes. So I was pleased to see find this place. While I’m there the guy behind the counter asks of I owned the FJ out front. I answered affirmatively and he tells me that they have an ARB front bumper in the back that a guy had ordered but changed his mind about. He says he has to ship it back to the warehouse or sell it because it’s just takes up too much space. A set of IPF driving lights came for free from ARB and I paid $900 out the door for the whole package.
That was back when I had my ’07, and the bumper went right on the new ’08 along with the Tabor 9K winch. But it's days were numbered (see
) and was replaced by a Smittybuilt XRC8 a few days before leaving for Utah this past summer ('10).
A set of Toyota rock rails had found their way into my garage from a guy that had pulled them off the day before he totaled his FJ on the way home from work. He got a shiny new Acura, and I got a set of rails for $75.
For some extra piece of mind on the rocky trails I purchased the Trail Gear Transfer case skid and bolted it up with some extra washers, about 3/16” worth, between the front of the skid and the frame crossmember it attaches to. This prevented an annoying vibration caused by the exhaust pipe coming in contact with it.
Finally, I realized that the new “Bessie” will be seeing a bit of deep water, so it was time to do that SCUBA Mod again.
Thank you, Shadow-Warrior. You will be missed.
I knew I’d be going with three additional sets of lights for use on, and off, road. The first thing would be a set of Fog lights for the provided locations on the ARB bumper. After pricing the IPF lights the bumper was designed to accept I figured my budget would rather I went down to PEPBOYS and bought some el-cheapos. This I did and did some simple fabrication to get them to fit right in where the IPFs would have gone. And I had to add a factory switch for the lights. I went with the three lead fog light switch from TRD Source and placed it behind the light selector lever.
For driving lights I have been floating between three different sets of lights, mounted to the ARB on either side of the winch controller and utilizing the factory harness and switch. I started off with the IPFs that came with the bumper, but after a lucky run at the FJSummit raffle I had a fresh set of PIAA 520 ATP Xtreme Whites (Thanks MetalTech!). So on they went. Then a year later in Moab on the morning of the Day Long Safari (see
) they just up and stopped working, blowing fuses and generally ticking me off. Something was shorting out between one of the bulbs and the light body. So I ran out to the parts store again and found a nice set of HELLAs just in time for the big even and they have been there ever since. Someday I’ll get around to figuring out the issue with the PIAAs and they will go back on, because I do like those ATPs.
Rooftop lights were going to present a problem I knew I wanted a good set of lights up there. But I had no roof rack. I had intentionally bought this second FJ with no roof rack because I wanted to save up for a Baja Rack and lights would be a breeze. But the more I modded and honed in the overall functions of the truck I came to the realization that I would NOT be needing a roof rack. So, how to mount lights? Somebody turned me on to N-FAB, and it was an easy decision. Local off-road shop gave me a sweet deal on a whole box of mixed ProComp 55 lights. The box contained four ‘fluted’ and four ‘flood’ lights.
I went with the floods and once again utilized the factory wiring and switch with power coming up through the roof adjacent to the driverside roof rack mount, similar to how the factory airdam routes it’s power. I used a three post trolling motor connector that seals the roof and allows for quick connect/disconnect when needed. I like this quite a bit!
With that big black bumper up front I started to think, "Hey I'm kinda diggin' that black. What if there was more of it?" So I ordered up a set of the black door handles and did the bezel and mirrors in satin black myself. Add to the a black hood decal by Amaesing and it all starts to come together.
In-Car Entertainment Images
Having been spoiled by my previous three vehicles my list of mods started with little things that Toyota overlooked, at least in my book. First off, why Toyota would put that impossibly large FJammer in the dash and not offer an optional in-dash Nav system is just beyond me. So I got a crazy deal on an Eclipse AVN-5500 and mounted it myself.
Instead of running the antenna cable up the windshield trim and onto the roof, I opted to route it into the engine bay and up to one of the black plastic grills between the engine hood and windshield. Using a dremmel tool I cut out just enough plastic to allow the antenna to snap firmly into place level with the grill surface. Me likey.
Since the speakers provided in the 9 speaker system by Toyota were fair but nothing special, I decided it was time to bump up their performance level. I sourced two pairs of aftermarket speakers for cheap at a local swap meet.
The first set was a pair of Boston Acoustics SC65 6 ½” two-ways, these went into the elbow pockets in the rear seating area. I wired these by intercepting the speaker wires for the D-pillar in the wire bundle along the driver’s side door jam just aft of the doors. I constructed speaker mounts out of 1” fiber board and finished them off with satin black paint.
The second set, Kicker KS693 6x9 three-ways, replaced the door speakers. This took a bit of work, though. I utilized the stock speaker frames, cut away from the speaker themselves, as a mounting surface. Some cutting was involved, but it turned out good, with no vibrations and stock appearance is maintained.
To make sure my impedance numbers didn’t overload the head unit, the D-pillar speakers and headliner speakers are disconnected. Sound is MUCH better, especially when I’m jammin’ out.
Under the Hood
No V8 for me, no. As per my grand plan I wanted to keep the power train as stock as possible. That’s the way Toyota designed the truck, and I figure their multi-billion dollar R&D center probably knows a thing or two about making things pretty solid on that count. But I have done a few things under the hood to enhance their good design.
First I installed the Painless dual battery system from my old FJ as per the instructions done by sbechtold. The battery box is by Blue Torch Fabrication and painted black. The battery is an Optima Red Top. The system is set up to utilize the main battery for all primary and auxiliary power requirements with the exception of the winch. The winch goes directly to the secondary battery and is to be used only while both batteries are tied together.
Sitting on the shelf was a Toyota cyclonic pre-filter. This part did not come with my FJ but I wanted one after seeing what it could do in the dust of SE Utah. But before I could swap out the standard intake fitting with the pre-filter I wound up snagging a great deal on a Safari Snorkel via another great forum group buy. I made sure to get the one with the tubing sized for the pre-filter. Making these changes to my intake has resulted in a massive reduction in the amount of dirt and debris getting into my air filter. I figure that is saving me $$ in the form of replacement filters and fuel.
At first I just mounted up the OME/ToyTec 3” lift using 885 springs and new spacers, since the originals had to stay with my old truck. A quick refresher on the process had the work done quick, fast, and in a hurry.
And this would have been fine if I hadn’t seen All-Pro have a sale on the new Walker Evans 2.5 coilovers. After a bit of confusion concerning the incorrect spring seat being sent (see
) I found these to have a superior ride quality, and their adjustability would come in handy for dealing with weight changes up front.
The coilovers went on at the same time as a set of Light Racing upper control arms I had bought as part of a forum group buy. I had to experiment with clocking the adjustable ball joint to achieve the best front end alignment. It took a while.
At the rear I adopted a mish mash of quality items to increase suspension travel and durability. The first things to go were the Pro Comp shocks I had bought with the 3” lift from ToyTec. These were replaced with Bilstein 5100s and WOW, what a difference. Next the long arms were replaced with units from All-Pro, the shorter upper arms came out and some handsome pieces from Toy Outfitters, and I found a pan hard bar from Man-A-Fre. All of these items allow for adjustment in length to change geometry when needed.
Walker Evans 2.5” coilover front shocks
Light Racing front upper control arms
Bilstien 5100 rear shocks
ToyTec Superflex 2” rear coils
All-Pro rear long arms
Toy Outfitters upper arms
Man-A-Fre pan hard bar
Wheel and Tire
Wheel and Tire Images
Next I started looking at tires and wheels. Turns out the same combination would have to do since I was running low on funds and they seemed to do quite well. Once again 305/70-16 Nitto Terra Grapplers mounted on a set of Pro-Comp Series 87 steelies from Wheeler’s. And, yes, a body mount chop was in order.
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