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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My plan had been to wait quite a while, storing up photos as I went... then start a thread about this and meter in the pictures over several days ... making it look like I was really fast at fabrication.

That's a stupid idea.

There are a couple of reasons why.

First of all, I owe a debt of gratitude to several of the good friends I've made here on these FJ Cruiser Forums just to have gotten this far and learned this much already. Failure to acknowledge this, and to pretend that I was able to quickly whip together a crawler based on my own merits as a garage fabricator would represent the extreme of selfishness and false pretense.

Second, there are many people who are as curious as I am, who are as enthusiastic as I am, but who either lack means or drive to launch into an ill-conceived plan such as this one... and to those I can offer the most valuable service of reporting the unedited and painful (and often expensive) truths that I learn along the way. For some it will be useful information that will help them avoid pitfalls that I find... the hard way. For others it might be the vicarious thrill of watching someone else suffer needlessly for their entertainment. After all, people love a good reality-TV show. This may be no different.

Lastly, and this may (or may not) come as a shock to some on here who have read my posts... I have a habit of typing, and typing a LOT. Therefore, I can think of nothing better than to keep a running narrative of my project, both physical and mental aspects... even if there are NO forum members that choose to read it.

If I *don't* type it here, I'll likely try to explain these thoughts to my wife, my daughters, my dog, my residents, my professional colleagues or anyone else who happens to get unfortunately cornered by me when my mind is locked into project mode.

In order to avoid that potential social suicide, I choose instead to start this thread now, rather than to wait.
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Very cool Jon. Let's get started! :D

btw, shouldn't this be in member build up area?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Some of you may have been aware that I crashed my FJ Cruiser on the freeway.

Totally my fault.

EARLY in the morning (even for me).

I changed lanes to the left because of a wide load on my right.

The lane that I changed INTO came to a screetching halt.

I did not.

Nobody was hurt, but I managed to CRUSH the rear end of a Kia minivan, plow it out of the way and STILL ram a small gray car in front of it.

When it came to rest, the FJC had stalled, been pushed into neutral, and started right up to drive to the side of the road.

No airbags deployed. I barely felt it.

The Kia was DESTROYED!!!!

Kia vs. FJC = FJC wins BIG TIME.

(note to self: ARB bumpers ROCK!)

I was mildly miffed that the brakes seemed so wimpy when I tried to stomp on them. They seemed so touchy in traffic when I was going slower, before. Why were they different?

My conclusion is that had just obtained my introduction to "antilock brakes".

I parked my FJC at a body shop for almost a month while they tapped it back into shape. I basically needed fenders and a bumper.

In the mean time, I started thinking... why not start a new 4x4 project? I have been thinking about building a dedicated crawler for YEARS. Of course the mechanical wherewithall to do this is COMPLETELY beyond my current skills or experience, but I'm clever and resourceful. I'm doggedly persistant, and now that I'm done with my surgical training, I actually have an income that would support such a project.

This is *why* I stayed in school... right? :D

I had been looking for a pre 84 Toyota mini truck so that I wouldn't have to solid axle swap it. I was basically thinking: crawl box, birfield upgrades, big tires, tube cage... and I'm good to go.

That's when I put "Toyota" into the search mechanism on craigslist.com.

I realized that I had one of two choices. Either I buy something for cheap that is unbelievable crap and drag it home where I could work on it, or else I could pay a bit more for something that would limp home under it's own power, but then in working on it, I'd basically destroy what value it had left... so all I'd be getting extra for the additional money would have been not begging some buddy to help me tow it.

That's when I came across an ad for a 69 FJ40 that had been languishing on the list through 3 price reductions. It was down to the same price as mini trucks that would have required being lifted onto a flat trailer with a forklift.

It had the magic word "runs".

I switched my plans.

Time to build an FJ40 - based rock crawler.

How do you do that?

Simple.

Start by buying the FJ40.

Figure the rest out as you go along.
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

It's too bad you could not make Pismo last weekend. There would be plenty of inspirations to a FJ40 build. I think they would be great crawlers. Nice foundation to start. So exciting. This is in the plans in the future for me as well. I too wondered about getting a early solid axle Toyota pickup or 4Runner. Have thought about Suzukis too. Strengthen it, gear it up, and the rest is fairly straight forward. Subscribed to this thread. Please post pics as soon as you can :).
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

subscribing to this.....
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

I still think this should be in "build up". It's not a FJC, but it is a FJ!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

So... I went ahead and did the deal. I was able to get the thing rolling and drive it home. I had friends follow me just in case.

The only thing I really cared about was the frame. The frame was STRAIGHT and was impressively rust free. The body was a little beaten, but wait till I get through with it!

Here's a picture of what I had when it got to my driveway:



This is already after the first modification.

There had been a horrifying hard top on it. The meth-head that owned it previous to the guy I bought it from, decided that it would be cool to try to make it into a hard top bikini style... almost like the FJ45 pickup truck. He chopped the hard top in the middle and glued the ends back together with a strip of fiberglass. I tossed that thing immediately. It was worthless.

Then I got underneath and took a serious look at the engine.

Major parts were missing.

No cover on the bottom of the bellhousing.

The e-brake cable was dangling.

There appeared to be less than the total number of connections intended to end at the transfer case.

An MGD beer cap sealed the clutch master cylinder.

JB Weld closed off the end of some piece of tubing I couldn't even identify.

The transmission was not the original 3 speed on the column... it had been replaced with a 3-on-the-floor which had necessitated a cut-through in the tranny hump.

My first goal was already going out the window.

I had thought it would be kinda fun to base the project off of near original parts... put a crawl box in between the existing transmission and transfer case... use the F engine...

No go.

I started talking to Sean (Sean K. - who recently decided no longer to participate in forum chatter... it's ok, I still call him at work at least twice a day with ideas or questions...)

Sean suggested several things.

First off, the transfer case is weak. If I wanted to stay with that FJ40 configuration, I should upgrade to the Orion which is a stronger iron case that won't break in half under crawl conditions.

Next, the axles would be maxed by crawler sized tires... also strongly consider upgrades.

Things rapidly mushroomed from there.

The FJ40 has an oddball arrangement of parts relative to many things we see nowadays. In most 4x4 vehicles we see now, the engine crankshaft is in the middle of the vehicle, followed by a transmission, in the middle of the vehicle, followed by a transfer case also in the middle of the vehicle. The transfer case splits the output from the powerplant into a rear drive shaft and a front driveshaft. The rear driveshaft continues down the midline of the vehicle. The front driveshaft is either on the right or the left side of center. The rear differential housing is on center. The front differential housing is off center.

In the FJC, you can't really see that so much because the clamshell housing for the differential is hidden up on top of a crossmember and behind some skid plates, but it's there, on the left side (driver's side). On any solid axle setup, it's readily apparent.

The original FJ40 plan was completely different.

Instead of having a midline driveshaft to the rear axle, the transfer case offsets BOTH the front and rear driveshafts to the passenger's side. Both of the differential housings are offset.

This meant that if I were to retain the original transfer case or a stronger clone, I'd be forced to use either FJ40 axles or some other type of axle that also had offset front AND rear differentials... perhaps from a larger Land Cruiser like an FJ80.

At the same time, I was looking at the engine and transmission issues.

I wanted a GREAT crawl ratio. This meant a dual case crawl box as far as I knew, but inside a vehicle with a stock 90 inch wheelbase, that could be a problem! There could literally be not enough room to bolt these parts together.

That's ok. Everyone seems to agree that 90" is WAY too short a wheelbase for AZ rock crawling. I only improve things if I start to splay apart the axles... so I shouldn't let that stop me from putting together the transmission system that I dream of.

...but what to drive it??

The problem with the original F series engine - although it is a marvel of longevity (this one should have been dead long ago), is that it's a carburated engine. This poses two problems for a crawler, according to my homework.

First off, carburated engines idle with low fuel and low air intake, and then increrase both proportionally with throttle opening. They have very low power at low throttle, and high power at high throttle. A crawler needs to have good power even at low RPM.

Secondly, a problem with carburated engines is that they were naively designed to run UPRIGHT and they don't necessarily fare very well when tipped on their sides or steeply stood on end. This can be a problem when the plan is for the engine to be put in some pretty awkward positions and the absolutely COUNT on its performance, once there.

The solution to both these problems is fuel injection. Fuel injected engines perform better at low speed, AND they do better in off-camber positions.

The problem is that I don't know THING ONE about working on engines, let alone fuel injected ones.

I found it only mildly reassuring that many people swap fuel injected Chevy engines into FJ40's, however, the party line is that it's do-able even if you don't know how to deal with the fine points of fuel injection, because the little computer thingie does most of that for you... as long as you wire it in correctly.

So... since I decided to go with ginormous tires, I decided to upgrade to 1-ton axles which are compatible with a standard centered rear driveshaft design and an offset front axle. I was then able to use more readily available parts like the Atlas transfer case which packs more gear reduction into less distance, anyhow... improving the control I have on the length of the powertrain from engine to driveshaft.
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

All the deficiencies aside, the body looks really good. So are you leaning towards a Chevy engine? This isn't a restoration so it really opens up the possibilities.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Ok... so here's some more pictures.

Having settled on 1 ton axles, and an Atlas 4 speed transfer case, I started looking at transmissions. There was a lot to learn.

Meanwhile, while I was looking for Chevy 350 engines for the swap, I learned that the LS1 was a Chevy 350 with an aluminum block and had a rep for doing quite well in rock crawlers.

Dan (Pumbaa) pointed me back to craigslist.com where I instantly pounced on this:



It actually cost more than the car, but it also looks nicer.

I wanted a really GREAT transmission, and I was looking for a few things other than raw strength. I wanted a sickly low granny gear. I wanted overdrive (in case I had the fantasy that I could be driving this home-build on the highways along side you and your family...) and I wanted it to mate nicely with the Chevy 350 LS1 engine and with the Atlas 4 speed without any space-wasting adapters.

I chose the NV4500.

Although it's a little longer than a number of other tranny choices, it bolts directly to an Advance Adapters bellhousing which bolts directly to the LS1. The Atlas bolts directly to it. By not having several inches of intervening adapter plate, I think I'm ending up breaking even on powertrain length, but having better mechanics.

Here's my new tranny:



I called the guys at NV4500 Transmissions - Adapters - NV4500 Conversion Kits | NV4500.COM and wouldn't you know it, as soon as they found out that I was young, stupid and willing to spend lots of money, they were SUPER helpful in that regard!

They were able to help me string together the parts from engine to clutch to bellhousing to tranny to t-case with no adapters. I rewarded them with a fat order. They returned the favor with a reasonable discount.
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

BD, I didn't know about the crash, and it sounds like there were no serious injuries, thank goodness. The new 40 looks like an excellent project. I mean if it was already ready to go, where would all the fun of the buildup be? I wish I had the funds, the garage, and the TIME to start such a project. Have fun and keep us up to date as the new 40 take shape. Tim
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Sweetness Jon! Rawwrrrr!!! All that power and reduction box. Are you going to reinforce the body? It's a shame this is buried in "off topic".
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Ok...

I didn't take pictures of my axles yet, but I did acquire them...

or almost did.

Actually I screwed up.

Based on Sean's recommendations to go 1-ton, I was looking Dana 60 front axle. I was hunting for a high pinion, driver's side differential, "kingpin" style. This basicaly makes it from a Ford F350 between some different years (that I have in my notebook - but I'm to lazy to re-lookup now). I started hunting in my usual overzealous way. I searched the internet, I searched the county, I searched the state.

If you can find one of these, they're flippin' expensive!!

I found a junk guy in town who said he'd get me one for 1100.

He did, but then when I took it home, it turned out that I hadn't paid attention to the difference between the kingpin design and the ball joint type.

I had the wrong one!! $#!+!!! I just found out last week.

The thing is freakin' HEAVY. The guy promises to make good on the swap, but I'm not relishing the thought of taking it back. It's languishing in my driveway, waiting for the call to come and swap it at the yard.

I did, however, find the CORRECT rear axle. This is another 1-ton. It's from a Dodge full sized pickup. It's the Dana 70U (slightly beefed up 60). Oddly enough, front axles are wider than rear axles. Did you know that? I didn't know that. The D60 in front and the D70 in back are fairly closely matched in track width (1/2" difference as opposed to a few inches of difference if I had gone with a rear D60). When I pull this apart, I'll put it back together with a disc brake kit.

 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Sweetness Jon! Rawwrrrr!!! All that power and reduction box. Are you going to reinforce the body? It's a shame this is buried in "off topic".
MAN you're good... I couldn't have PAID for a better segue...

So...

Then it came time to actually start building something!

A couple of weekends back, I got the thing over to a friend's uncle's yard and ripped it down to the frame (mostly). I put the tub and the body panels off to the side (behind a decrepit ice-cream truck and next to an abandoned hotrod project) and I drove home with the frame on a flat trailer.

It then went to several sessions of wire wheel, grinder, and plama cutter to get the old paint off as well as some riveted-on things like shock towers, steering brackets and old engine mounts.

Plasma cutters are COOL. :D

Rivets are tougher than they look... :mofo:

What was left was steel in startlingly good condition! There's a little rust inside, but NOT MUCH!









As you look along the frame rails, you can see where the inner and outer halves of the frame are riveted together. I'm going to stitch weld along those edges in order to distribute the stress. i'm also going to plate over the inside everywhere there's going to be a structural component like a crossmember or mount.

The rear portion from the tube-crossmember back is going to be chopped and replaced. I was going to box it in with plate steel, but now I have to get it to clear the links I'm planning in back, so I'm just going to replace it with rectangular tube steel.

Everything is contingent on the position of the engine, transmission and transfer case. The rear axle is going to move back substantially (over a foot) while the front axle will only move up a couple of inches.

The existing cross member will be replaced by a heavy duty version that will accept the lower links near the center. I'll cut out the existing cross member AFTER I cut the tail end off and replace it.

First I have to get the engine mounts done and commit to a set of positions for everything else!
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Jon, just baiting you to give out more info. This is great stuff. I'm salivating here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

... and now we're up to date!

I've taken off a few days to make some forward progress on this thing, and it looks like I'm going to get the engine mounted soon.

I have a nice Centerforce clutch I'm trying to figure out how to put on before I get the engine mounted, and I put the new flywheel on today. It's heavier to make the low end more stable without stalls:



I've kinda sorta figured out where the engine is supposed to go.

I *think* it goes here:



I got ahold of a Camaro/Firebird radiator, shroud and fan (2 actually, its a dual fan setup) and I *think* I can fab a bracket that will hold it in place, but it's too tall right now. I may actually cut down into the frame to seat it lower. I LIKE that it's the radiator that's supposed to cool the LS1 and I'm not re-engineering something else to do the job. Cutting notches and plating them in forward of the front shock mounts and suspension seems pretty benign to me... unless of course I rip the front off my rig when I go to winch myself out of a hole!



Next, I'll post the engine mount saga.

...it's already a saga.
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Jon, why did you have to do this! I spent years building vehicles and was finally at peace with the FJ being almost done. You have just excited the beast in me to build a pre FJ FJ. Looks great. Way to go!:bananahump-slvrathl :)happy for you. :( sad I don't have one.:bananahump-slvrathl Excited to see the result.
 

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Re: A Fool and his Money: my FJ40 build

Jon, what a great project!. I will be watching the prgress of this build with baited breath. Sean is a great guy and full of great advice and knowledge about rock crawlers. It is a shame that he left us, I was hoping to convince him to come back. Anyways, this is going to be a great build I too agree with Tony, it dosn't need to be buried in an OT area. I'm moving into the member build area. This is an FJ, so it rightly deserves it's own place in the build section. :)
 
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