August 2019 Member of the Month: norm356
We'd like to congratulate norm356 – Norm for being selected as the August 2019 Member of the Month!
Hayden: Tell us a bit about yourself (Family/pets, work/school, hobbies/interests, location, etc.)
: I am a Senior Principal Engineer at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, MI, in Body Design for Functional Hardware. I’ve been with Toyota for 29 years. When I started in 1990, we only had 12 engineers in a rented office in Southfield, and TTC was an experiment to answer the question, “Can Toyota develop a car outside of TMC headquarters?”
Now, after what seemed like the blink of an eye (and 30 years later), we’ve got around 1,800 staff in two campuses (AA and York, MI). The development and growth of this organization (on both sides of the Pacific) has been a wonderful thing to watch and be a part of. Travel to Japan was constant during the first 10 years or so (typically a month, or more, at a time). I think I've gone there at least 25 times, and spent more than a year, overall. Japan is a very pretty country, and the Japanese people are amazing hosts, but I struggle with the crowds, the hot, humid weather and can't eat seafood, so there's that.
I’ve worked in Body shell, Evaluation, Interior, Manufacturing and finally found my way to Body Functional Hardware.
Then, after being a manager for about 10 years, I eventually moved on to become an SPE (for the past 5 years).
Mangers work to develop young team members to be future leaders. As an SPE I work to develop new technology to be adopted to future projects.
I’m a trained first responder/EMT and volunteer as Ski Patrol at Mt. Brighton, MI in the winters. My long term goal is to work at a ski resort out west and be a proper ski bum. This is what my FJ is for. It is my "RV" for cross-country trips out west (it takes about 24 hours to drive to Utah, Wyoming or Colorado from my house).
I am restoring a V6 manual transmission 1993 Camry that I've owned since new. I drove it all these years because I like it and haven’t found a newer vehicle I liked better. When it got old, and completely rusted out, I tried to find a replacement and realized I could restore it cheaper than buying a new car, and hopefully get another 25 years (and another 200,000 miles) of trouble-free motoring. First, I found a rust-free body in Montana on the internet, had it shipped here, added agility welds, crack-tested the shell and cleaned it up ready for paint. The race team turned me on to a great engine guy who is rebuilding my 3VZ-FE V6 engine (originally developed for the T100 truck, tough as nails and great low-down torque). The 5speed manual transmission is still as good as new, so I’m just putting new seals and cleaning it up. Luckily, Toyota still stocked most of the key suspension and other wear parts, so, when I am done, I expect to have a “brand new” 1993 Camry. This is the same car the Onion issued their “recall notice” for, saying, “Really, people should have moved on to a newer car by now!”.
Hayden: How did you come to own an FJ Cruiser? Is the FJ Cruiser your first off-road vehicle? If not, what was the first vehicle you took wheeling?
: I’ve never owned a truck before. I’d always preferred small, nimble cars. But, once when my Honda Civic was in the shop they loaned me a Jeep Cherokee and I was surprised at how good a small well sorted truck could be. Years later I got to drive an FJ and was hooked. It was far more appealing to me than the “floppy” Tacoma, and much smaller than the otherwise nice 4Runner. When 2014 came and they stopped making them I got serious.
Then TMS announced in early 2015 they were stopping their supercharger sales too, I jumped.
In July of 2015 I found one of the very last TRD S/C kits left, in Coos Bay, OR.
So, I owned about $6k of S/C kit but still no FJ, for a few weeks. After an extensive, nationwide search I found a black MT in an auction on Long Island. I bought it sight unseen (only a blurry Carfax report), had it shipped to me and it was / has been perfect.
Hayden: How/when were you first introduced to the forum and what made you decide to join?
: Coworkers with FJs came out of the woodwork. One (who is restoring an FJ 70) told me about IH8MUD and this forum.
I lurked here for a while and learned so MUCH that I joined and became increasingly more active.
Every time I am about to do something I’ll search here first and find all I need to know to do it well.
I appreciate how well everyone gets along here and how helpful folks are with solving people’s problems.
Hayden: What modification is your favorite or is the most worth the money/time/effort that you’d recommend it to someone else?
Definitely putting in LED dome lights.
Japan spec outside mirror glass (convex + heaters).
Replacing the over stylized stock “FJammer” head unit with a navi audio with Bluetooth, SD card reader, USB, hands free phone and backup camera.
Big 7x15” mud flaps to keep it somewhat clean on long winter road trips.
Sheepskin drivers seat cover for long road trips (cool in summer, warm in winter, comfortable all of the time).
Clutch defeat switch.
7” PIAA driving lights on the front bumper.
Studless snow tires (Michelin X-Ice) on a set of painted black steel rims for winter.
Rustproofing, rustproofing, rustproofing!
Hayden: What upgrade is your least favorite, or what modification would you do differently if you had to do it over again?
: hmm. None yet.
Hayden: What has been your favorite thing about owning an FJ Cruiser?
: driving west for skiing. One of these days hope to make it to the summit (I tend to use up all of my vacation time in the winter).
Hayden: Has anyone on the forum inspired your build or been a go-to resource for you?
: All of them. Many great ideas came from people who are long gone now. Many new ideas keep coming from those who are here now.
Hayden: Where all have you been with your FJC? What trail/park/location is your favorite?
: Driving 24 hours from Michigan to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, for ski trips. I have taken many dozens of 12 hour road trips, and several 24 hour ones, in a lot of vehicles over the years, but I have never driven as far or as long and been as comfortable at the end of the day as I am in this FJ.
Hayden: Is there a trail/park/location you haven’t visited yet that you would like to take your FJ to someday?
: Easy: the FJ Summit.
Any insider Toyota opinion on the possible return of an FJ Cruiser to the US market?[/ COLOR]
: Unfortunately, no.
Hayden: What has been the most memorable experience with your FJ Cruiser?
: My first big road trip, I had been at Toyota for 25 years and decided to take 6 weeks off for a “surfin safari” ski trip. On my way out west I stopped and visited with friends and family scattered around the country. Skied 5 out of those 6 weeks, had great adventures and met amazing people. “Trip of a lifetime “ (the trouble with something like that is you immediately begin thinking about how you can somehow get to do it every year, from then on!)
Hayden: What do you enjoy the most about the FJCrusierForums?
: Helpful, even tempered people (rare on the internet).
Hayden: What has the FJCruiserForums done for you and what do you feel you contribute to the forum the most?
: Tons of amazing ideas, insight and guidance for everything related to my wonderful FJ.
I try to help out however I can.
I check / look up facts from my reference files before posting.
Hayden: In a world without new FJ Cruisers being built, do you plan on keeping yours forever or upgrading to a newer model ever?
(see above comment about rustproofing)
Hayden: What do you expect to be in your FJs future build-wise/travel-wise/etc?
: Aux tank.
Hayden: What final advice do you have for someone new to the FJ Cruiser or the Forum?
: Don’t automatically lift it, or put on big showy bumpers. Drive it a while and modify based on your needs, not for “looks”