July 2019 Rig of the Month: 101Firedog
The earliest photos I have of ARCA9 - by a long shot, due to an unfortunate data loss. 3 days after I signed the paperwork at the dealership, I was out at the local Hidden Falls Adventure Park
putting it through its paces! The engine bay is much later, but is the oldest engine bay photo I've got.
We'd like to congratulate 101Firedog for having the July 2019 Rig of the Month!
Hayden: Tell us a bit about yourself (Family/pets, work/school, hobbies/interests, location, etc.)
: My immediate family's mostly from Texas, and I was born and raised there. I studied theater & computer science in college and now work as a software engineer during the week.
I tend to focus on a few hobbies at a time, rather than just adding new ones alongside the old. 4-wheeling is obviously a big one at the moment. I'm also an enthusiastic casual consumer of video games - classics from the 80s & 90s as well as more relaxed or story-focused contemporary titles. I built a two-dance-pad home setup for Dance Dance Revolution-style dance games. Originally I bought a hard metal pad, but now I'm working on building my own. I enjoy reading sci-fi, especially pulp paperbacks from the 70s & 80s - the kind you can get 10 of for a dollar a piece in the back of a used book store.
I love eating & making food - especially Indian & Japanese cuisine. Not like a Michelin-starred restaurant, though - I look for classic, delicious dishes with wide appeal. I've got my own cookbook of collected & refined recipes alongside the purchased books, and a full bar where I can mix up just about any ****tail.
I'm "stuck" in the city but (because of that?) love
road trips - both the journey and the destination. There's more open road out west so I tend to strike out in that direction - Big Bend National park, Moab, Las Vegas, etc - at least nowadays.
Hayden: How did you come to own your FJ Cruiser?
: A business I'd been pouring heart, soul, & money into for years found its feet and I sold my stake... and suddenly "What car I'd get someday if I had the money" wasn't just idle dreaming.
I wanted a 4x4 to build into a Zombie Response Vehicle (and also road-trip vehicle, on account of how much I love road trips). I wanted a "compact SUV" form factor instead of a pickup truck or something like a 4-door Jeep because I thought it would be easier to navigate around and fit it places. At the time everything in that form factor had been discontinued in the US except the Jeeps, but my family was lifelong Toyota owners and Toyota has a great reputation especially
for longevity of their vehicles in adverse conditions - something that a Zombie Response Vehicle would need!
In the end, Toyota's reputation won out and I started looking at late-model FJ Cruisers instead of Jeeps. When I saw the two-tone Magma paint color & funky styling in person, I was in love and my mind was made up that I was going to get one.
Hayden: Is the FJ Cruiser your first off-road vehicle? If not, what was the first vehicle you took wheeling?
: It's the first! Bought with the intent to go off-road, taken to a local off-road park before the dealer's 3-day 150-mile return warranty was up!
My build-up thread
covers most of these in-depth, with progress photos & narration along the way. Check it out for more detail on any of the following!
- ARB Deluxe front bumper
- BudBuilt 3/16" skid plates - bumper fill plate all the way back to the gas tank.
- All-Pro APEX rock sliders
- TrailWorx rear link skids
- ARB rear bumper
In the interest of maintaining daily-drive-ability, I figured I wouldn't lift too high - but that means less clearance. So, armor up with the beefiest stuff out there and load up some wide tires for maximum traction to drag through!
My tires at the moment are the classic BFGoodrich T/A KO2s, in 305/65/r17. They're 33" tires, but a 40mm wider contact patch with the ground than the 285/70R17 option. They also fit (barely) without a body mount chop.
The suspension is ToyTec's BOSS Performance kit, but with the front coilovers upgraded to 700 pound springs instead of the 650 that came with the kit.
The big one is Magnuson's 2010+ Supercharger
, beautifully color-matched in Magma.
- Off-Road Garage (the Kazakhstani company) snorkel
- URD Mark3 3" stainless catback exhaust
- Oil catch can in the PCV system
- 2x rigid driving lights, facing forward on the front bumper
- 2x rigid floodlights on the sides of the front bumper
- Alternator upgrade: 130 Amp 4Runner alternator
- Battery upgrade: Odyssey 31M-PC2150 marine deep-cycle battery
- "Big 5" wiring ugprade - bumped all the main alternator / starter / battery cables by at least one size, added some more 0-gauge grounds
- Added accessory fuse boxes in the engine bay and behind the rear seats
- Edison (120V AC) outlet w/ 2 fast-charge USB ports added below front passenger A/C vent
- Edison (120V AC) power strip w/ 2 fast-charge USB ports below rear passenger seat
- Auxilary, charged-off-main-electrics, but isolated-with-a-button-press rear battery
- Dometic CFX40 electric fridge/freezer powered off that rear electric system
- Illuminated boost gauge for the supercharger under the driver's side A/C vent
- CB radio - Cobra 18 WX ST II mounted in the dashboard
I'm wary of touching the exterior! Obviously, the armor, bumpers, and snorkel can be seen from the outside, but I haven't done much beyond that!
- Opened the fake hood scoop into a real vent
- Swapped the headlights, taillights, & front fascia for a streamlined, pure-LED set
A previous owner swapped the fabric seat covers with black leather, but it's definitely worth noting. It's not seatcovers, either - the seats actually got completely reupholstered! I love it.
- Drifta drawer system in the rear cargo area - two teflon-slide lockable cargo drawers, a stowable camp table, and a flush slide for my refrigerator. All perfectly fit to the FJ Cruiser by the Australians.
- LED dome lights
- Tuffy lockable center console - 10/10 would recommend. Easy & indispensable!
- WARN M8000 winch on the front bumper
- ARB tow hitch receiver on the rear - it's got a recovery point built into the hitch in addition to the regular receiver & saftey-chain anchor points.
Hayden: Any modifications unique to only your FJ Cruiser?
: A couple rare
modifications that I have unique takes on, I think.
Opening up the fake hood scoop into a real vent
. Every one of the brave few who've opened up the fake hood scoop have done it slightly-differently, so my approach would, I think, technically qualify: I used a double grille to keep even small particles out, and I replaced the one-time-use plastic trim clips with re-usable bolts. That way I can easily get back into that area if I need or want to change anything later on without
having to burn ~$12 of specialty plastic fasteners.
I think my boost gauge
may also qualify - because while I'm sure another supercharged FJ somewhere has a boost gauge, I went through the trouble of connecting mine to the FJ's dashboard dimmer circuit so it'll shut off its lights when you shut off the dash lights - you know, like a regular gauge should!
The headlights and taillights
are unique as far as I know - though they are a kit so I'm sure someone else, somewhere has them. What makes mine unique is how I swapped all of the connectors on the headlight side and the FJC side for my own, weatherproof, solidly-soldered connectors. It's not huge, but it's night-and-day more solid than the aftermarket parts came from their factory. The Toyota connectors and wiring, too, were starting to show signs of fatigue after how many times I have had to take the headlights in and out when working on them or on something they block access to.
Finally, the one that may actually be truly
unique, is the wiring harnesses I made for the center console switches and cabin fuse box accessories
. I wanted - nay, needed - all of my aftermarket accessories that lit up to dim correctly! I also didn't want a messy fusebox that made it hard to disconnect specific accessories to troubleshoot issues down the line.
For illumination, I built a forward-thinking harness and spliced it into the FJ once
Every illuminated dashboad accessory since then has been soldered up in the comfort of my home, at my desk, and then just plugged in to the FJ's wiring. No cramped crimping or stretched soldering! Not only does this make the process of installing new accessories faster and easier, but they're much more ruggedly-built, too.
For general accessory power, I built single-pole connector harnesses off of a couple fuses in the fuse box, with plenty of slack. Now, powering
any new accessory is also plug-and-play by the time it gets out to the FJ.
These played out exactly
as I'd hoped they would, and I've patted myself on the back many times as a result!
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?
Fridge/Freezer with auxiliary battery
Going to the store but want to run some errands afterwards? No biggie, just put the perishable groceries in the fridge
Road tripping and want to bring your own beverages to save money, but also want them to be cold? You could deal with a cooler, space for insulation, and swapping ice out... or you could just put 'em in the fridge.
. Heck, packing meals for a road trip? You can't really pack frozen food for a long trip because coolers keep things right at freezing at best - unless you want to deal with dry ice and its suffocation / explosion risks. If you can even find it to replenish it on a road trip (I've done this before). Or, you could... just put that frozen food in the freezer.
Going to hang out or camp somewhere, want to bring some beer? You can fill up a cooler and maybe it'll still be cold by the time you get there, or you can lug a cooler full of unnecessary ice and ice water around... or you can just reach into the fridge
Hot summer day at a car meet? Cold drinks don't require any preparation of forethought or purchase (like a cooler or ice), just toss some in the fridge
on the way over. Heck, you could even toss some ice cream in the freezer
Leftovers from a restaurant or other big meal? No worries about getting them home right away, heck, you can even forget them in the car overnight and they won't be ruined if you put them in the fridge!
I feel like a million bucks every time I fetch something from the fridge that's just sitting there in the back, doing its own thing, keeping my stuff cold with no ice required!
Second place goes to the supercharger, but only with the color match. I love the performance boost, I love the sound, I love watching the boost gauge, but it was, admittedly, not cheap. Expensive, one might even say. Pop the hood and see that bright magma rectangle staring back at me with "MAGNUSON" in black relief, though... and all doubt drains away.
Hayden: What upgrade has been your least favorite, or what modification would you do differently if you had to do it over again?
: Making the hood scoop "real." Good gracious. It takes up two complete posts in my "Member Build-Up" thread
because I hit the 20,000 character limit on the first post. It was a difficult, painstaking adventure with no room for error that had no discernable benefit to the FJ.
It took me several nerve-wracking weeks and if I had to do it over again I wouldn't do it
. I'm not even going to go into it any more. Put a light bar or something in the "scoop;" there's no reason to try to open it up for airflow!
Hayden: What future modifications do you have planned for your FJC?
: I'd like to think I'm nearly "done" with the build-up phase, about ready to move on to "maintain & improve." I've busted my butt in the years since I got it building it out into my Zombie Response Vehicle as fast as I could!
For sure, I still need to do the following:
- Better roof-rack. Lower-profile with a full bed so I can actually store cargo up there.
- Rear lower link skids - where the shocks connect to the hub assemblies. I've dinged this once before and got lucky.
- Onboard Air - that dual ARB compressor, in particular. It'll have a dedicated tank, and I know right where I want to put it - just need to get around to it.
And, depending on where my interests go over the next few years, I'm eyeing:
- long-travel rear suspension
- rooftop tent
- re-gearing the transfer case with Marlin's higher-ratio kit
That last one in particular has me quite excited, but it's quite an undertaking - according to their install guide, in addition to pulling and completely disassembling the transfer case, you've got to cut on some of the parts to make them fit! Hopefully Marlin comes up with a drop-in replacement FJC transfer case that just has a lower ratio. I don't want to go for one of their addon cases because I dont want a second shift lever - I like my second cupholder!