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255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The Cheekymonkey Build Thread

Recent Photos:

Uses and Build Purpose and Needs
- 90% Daily Driver, 10% Moderate Offroad
- Initially only reversible mods
- To be used to live out of on multiday excursions for biology field work
- As a kayak carrier
- To store my adventure equipment in (live in a condo with no garage)

Purpose in progress:

The Starting Package
- 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser with aftermarket light bar (no lights)
- 4x4 AT
- Convenience package
- 30,000 miles on it at time of purchase

Cheesy Modifications Now Removed
- Aries Push Bar (painted with truck bed liner)
- OEM Nerf Bars

Roof Rack Modifications
- Yakima Addon Rack System with 78” Crossbar
- Yakima Bowdown Kayak Rack Post #5
- Camping Labs Mid-Size Tent Post #3
- 4x KC Offroad Lights

Off Road Modifications
- Nitto Terra Grappler 285/70/17 Tires
- OME 3" lift
- Metaltech4x4 Sliders
- Metaltech tube bumper with winch plate
- ENGO 9000ES winch
- Hi-lift mounted to front bumper

Exterior Modifications
- Bandi Mount with Tune-able Firestik
- Front / Back wings blackout (truck bed liner)
- Front Bezel complete blackout (truck bed liner)
- Blind spot mirrors on both mirrors
- Trailer Hitch generally carrying Hitch mounted cargo carrier
- Yakima Sparetime bicycle rack Post #4

Interior Modifications
- Roof Liner Cargo Mesh (homemade)
- Cobra 75 Radio mounted to the right of steering wheel
- 2 All time 12v jacks next to stock 115v jack
- ARB 54q Refrigerator
- 2 12V Jacks and 1 USB port added in center console with false bottom Post #7
- Bags attached to rear door interior, and left side interior
- Cell Phone Charger Left A Pillar with dash mounted phone holder
- Bluetooth and Charger from Left A Pillar

Cargo Always Carried
- 10 gallons of water behind seat
- Kayaking paddles, and safety gear
- Recovery Equipment in Pelican 1600
- Tools in Pelican 1500
- Spare Clothes and Bedding
- Full Size Maglight behind passenger seat
- Maglight Mini under steering wheel
- Empty 3 gallon Gas Tank

- Now carries my Camping Lab RTT
- Kayak
- Welded up frame to hold tent and additionals
- Repainted in Truck bed liner
- Found on page 5

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Original Thread Found Here:

So I am relatively new to the forum after lurking for a month or so and this is my first attempt to give back in some way.


So first off, I’ll tell you a little bit about me, my vehicle and my needs.
I am a graduate student studying Biology with most of my research done in coastal areas, often in national parks and other places that don’t allow camping and have limited facilities. My field work involves early mornings, late nights, and long distances from my home. So having even earlier mornings and later nights to sleep in my own bed is often not a viable solution. Because of this I found myself sleeping in my car all too often, painful in my last car, bearable in the passenger seat of my new (to me) FJ. Camping was generally not viable as my tent took far too long to set up, took up a bunch of interior cargo space, and didn’t do so hot on the wet ground.


Thanks to the FJ cruiser forums I saw rooftop tents for the first time, being on a student’s budget I began researching obsessively to find something that would both be affordable and fully functional for my purposes. Relatively quickly and mostly for price reasons I began focusing in on the soft rooftop tents, and from looking at the rooftop tent thread I found several viable options. The most affordable of which is the one I really narrowed my focus too, the campinglabs tent.

So now is the part where the obsessive googling begins. I get tons of hits all positive about the tent. Unfortunately 80% of the hits are the exact same review that has just been posted on dozens of forums, that doesn’t make me feel so confident. However since I can’t find any negative reviews to speak of I contact Fernando the owner of the company to talk.

As others have mentioned Fernando at camping labs is nothing but helpful. We discussed the several possibilities and I decided that the “medium” 55”x 94” tent was the most realistic option for me. Occasionally I lucky enough to have an assistant on my research and when that’s possible it would be nice to share a tent without waking up spooning in the morning. If I was considering purchasing for myself and a spouse I would have simply opted for the smaller size.

I picked up the tent from Fernando in person since I am lucky enough to be a Floridian who occasionally travels through Miami anyway. Fernando helped me load the tent and lash it down on the roof so I could head home. Once again Fernando from camping labs was nothing but helpful and friendly.


My FJ Cruiser has a factor roofrack, on top of the factory roof rack are two 78” Yakima crossbars anchored in place with four Yakima Railgrabs. The wide bars allow me to hold my kayak a 14-foot Wilderness Systems Tarpon I use for field work tied down to a Yakima Bow-down, as well as a multitude of other objects such as a rooftop tent.

The tent was boxed very well, and is as tough as nails, although I picked mine up in person I can only imagine it would survive shipping very well. I will say though that the box is massive, I would have it shipped to whatever place you want to do your installation. Moving it in the box makes it fit poorly on the roof rack, and it is impossible to fit in the cargo bay.
We unpacked the tent and found a bag of parts in matching tent material, a couple wrenches, and a set of rudimentary instructions. The instructions vary depending on whether or not you are mounting the tent to open over the rear or side of the vehicle. We opted for side opening so that the kayak and the tent would continue to fit side by side. This will work on 78” bars regardless of which size tent you use. If you opt for the “small” tent it would fit with the kayak in rear opening as well.

Quickly within the instructions we realized we were missing parts, BUT have no fear once you open up the tent on your own you will find the ladder and rails are contained within the tent itself. No need to panic! Once the rest of the parts were discovered the instructions sufficed to put together the tent, although I will list a few hints that can make your installation easier:
1. In the diagram of how all the parts fit together the image is unclear that you are looking for long rails, the ones contained within the tent.
2. If you want to cut the installation time to a quarter of what it will otherwise take, get out your ratchet set.
3. When bolting the rails onto the base of the tent for god sakes open up the tent and sit inside it while a friend holds it half folded. So much easier than trying to reach between the mattress and the floor.
4. When putting the cover on, slide the unzippered portion into the track first!
5. When zippering fold the material back on itself to go around the corners.
6. The awning supports slide into the metal frame of the tent through the brass grommets, this is not mentioned in the instructions.​
The tent attached very quickly and easily to the Yakima cross bars, it should immediately feel absolutely rigid when sitting in the tent. Bouncing around in the tent should result in the car rocking, not the tent flexing.


Well actually it turned out not to be a disaster at all. So the campus garage which we were exceptionally careful entering and driving around in fails to correctly mark the heights in the garage. Suddenly and without warning with any kind of sign the garage goes from 8’6” to 7’1”. This resulted in a loud crash as the tent slammed against the cement support. The Yakima bolts within the Yakima railgrab buckled the tent and Yakima crossbars ripped off the roof and fell about 7 feet to the ground. CRASH!

So it’s a really bad day, my friend comes and she rescues me, puts the tent and cross bars in her pickup, I go with her, load it into the garage and proceed to drink a lot of beer since I know there is no way I can afford another tent on my student income. And getting the school to be responsible for their lack of signs will be a long fight away if ever.


The next day I go out and starts inspecting the tent, it took the full force of the crash both into the cement, and the 7 foot fall.

The damage was as follows: small dent where the ladder touches the tent floor, scuffed cover, crushed immovable zipper.

Well 30 minutes with needle nose pliers and the zipper is as good as ever. The dent is only on the outside, and the tent is in perfect condition.


The tent is comfortable, sturdy, and quick to set up (5 minutes to take the cover off, 2 minutes to open the tent) making it ideal for my needs. It fits next to my Kayak even while open. It stays dry, and fits nicely on the roof rack with a relatively quick and easy installation. The mosquito netting is holding up to field work at the aptly named “mosquito lagoon” in Florida. The tent stayed dry during what little rain we have had so far with the windows open and the awning up.

The tent is built like a tank! It took abuse that it should have never been dealt, and likely won’t experience under any normal conditions.

:bigthumb: I am happy with this purchase and just wanted to pass along this information and create another review so that the next person that is googling for information about this tent can find more than one full length review.

Pictures are coming soon to the thread, and thanks for reading.

Tent with me in it, kayak on roof as well.

Watching the neighbors watching me

Closing Sequence


255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yakima Sparetime Review

Originally Thread

The Problem
So I like to drag my bicycle around with me around town, especially to campus. I'm a lazy bum, so if I have to put my bike up on my roof rack I'll likely never put it up, or if I do I'll never it take it down. Additionally I use my trailer hitch for towing a boat, and no surprise I'm too lazy to have to take my bike rack off the hitch every time I need to use it. So I began investigating some other possibilities.

Looking for Ideas
So the first couple possibilities I looked at were a dual hitch design that would allow me to have my trailer ball in place, and use a trailer mounted bike rack. These were surprisingly expensive for what they are. Then you still have to buy a quality bike rack.

Then I looked at the next common type that most stores around here carry (walmart, sports authority, even target). These strap on or clip on to spare tire bike carriers. Everyone I talked too said that they were relatively unstable compared to a hitch mounted bike rack. I was also concerned about the ease of someone stealing the bikes and rack together with just a sharp knife to cut the strapping.

The Solution
Finally I narrowed it down to the bolt on type, and eventually to the Yakima Sparetime. I like to search on this forum before I purchase anything for the FJ, and I found very little helpful information on the topic. The only information I found was compatibility problems with the backup camera.

So of course, when I went to pick up the Sparetime at my local Yakima dealer it was about the only Yakima product they don't stock, so I ordered from ORS racks direct. The package shipped quickly and arrived in perfect shape delivered by UPS. Everything was packed nicely and the directions were great.

1. Remove the spare tire from your car. (If using stock wheels, remove the Toyota logo from the center of the wheel.)
2. Disassemble the Yakima rack from it's base mount.
3. Remove the adapter plate from the back plate. (This needs to be removed to fit the wheel support on the rear of the FJ Cruiser)
4. Reassemble the back plate with the medium arm. (Three arms come with the Sparetime, the smallest is attached during shipping. The medium arm fits stock wheels, the longest arm may be required for larger off road wheels).
5. Put the back plate on the car, and screw the wheel down back in place on top off of it.
6. Now you can put the rest of the bike rack in place with the red screw down handle.

The Aftermath and what you should know before you buy
This product comes with two Yakima locks. If you already own Yakima keys order two more lock cores to use with this set and keep your keys simple. Every website I saw only recommended getting one lock core, the first lock core gets placed into the red handle, the second is part of an optional steel cord lock.

Something else of note is that the loop for locking bikes to the bike rack seems very flimsy to me, I would use two locks if you plan on leaving the bike on the rack. One lock through the bike rack lock loop, and the other through your wheel.

The fit was excellent on my 2008 FJ Cruiser with stock spare tire. However in my research I found that FJ models with the rear facing camera will impede the installation.

There is no wobble at all in this bike rack. The rack is very stable with two bicycles on it, and I am very pleased with my purchase.

Please let me know if you have any questions I can answer for you.

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
How to make the Yakima Bowdown NOT SUCK!

Original Thread Found Here:

Like some others I haves seen on the FJ Cruiser forum I use the Yakima Bowdown system for securing my kayak. I have Yakima crossbars mounted to my OEM roofrack, with the Bowdown system mounted to those.

The Problem
While the Yakima Bowdown was a must for me since it folds up, and perhaps most importantly has a built in bottle opener; it was still a pain in the behind because of the Yakima's grip system's almost complete failure on the round cross bars.

I found that as I slide a kayak by myself onto one of the Bowdown arms, the weight of my 14ft wilderness systems kayak would actually spin the Bowdown around the round bar, causing the kayak to slide off and nail me in the head. NOT FUN!

I tried tightening them down more, all that I could accomplish was to strip right through the plastic cover on the Yakima cross bars and the spinning continued.

Additionally after some experimentation I determined that the "whistling" that Bowdowns are sometimes known for is all but eliminated when the Bowdown's are kept perfectly level.

I played around with a couple ideas... and this is what I came up with.

My Solution

Parts List:
  • Yakima BowDown
  • 36" Zinc Plated Steel Rod Threaded M10x1.5 (lowes) $2
  • 36" long 1/2" Aluminum Tube (lowes) $8
  • 2x Washers M10x1.5 (lowes) $0.68
  • 2x Locking Washers M10x1.5 (lowes) $0.68
  • 2x Wingnuts M10x1.5 (lowes) $1.02
  • Dremel with Cutting Wheel
  • Blue Loctite (lowes)
  • 3/8" Drill Bit
  • Tape Measure

Step by Step Instructions
  1. Use your tape measure to find the distance between Bowdowns on your car. In my case my crossbars are about 32" apart, but the bolt needs to be 30.5" to pass through half of each Bowdown without getting in the way of its up down operation.
  2. Next drill one hole in each Bowdown as shown in the pictures below. This can be done anywhere on the Bowdown, but the two Bowdowns' holes must be mirror images of one another. Higher up on the Bowdown arms like the holes I drilled will give a more stable configuration.
  3. Use your Dremel or other cutting tool to cut your threaded steel rod to length. Attach the Bowdowns with the steel rod to get at test fit, inside each Bowdown loop put a washer, locking washer, and wing-nut. Test fit on car.

  4. While still on car tighten down the Bowdowns, they should have very little forward/backward wiggle now. In mine of my drill holes is off so the Bowdown sits a couple of degrees off center, shouldn't be a problem for the kayak.
  5. While its still on the car, measure for the length of the aluminum cover for the steel rod, cut the aluminum rod to length, disassemble the setup, slide the aluminum tube onto the steel rod, and test fit again.
  6. If fit is appropriate add blue loctite underneath the wing-nuts, and paint the bar with an aluminum paint.
  7. Now enjoy trying to rotate the Yakima Bowdown on your round cross bars. Notice it doesn't rotate in the least. Congratulations your done!

Finished Product

I hope this helps someone out!


255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Console Cigarette Lighter Mod

Excerpt from this thread by Wink_82:

So here are the finished pictures, you can see the three section console divider is raised up higher than normal. The first two pictures show this.

This is what it looks like when I remove the divider, there is the makeshift riser I jury rigged together.

Here are two photos of the removed riser. It was made out of plastic from a marine battery holder lid. As you can see its rather poorly made, if anyone has another solution they can suggest it would be greatly appreciated.

Finally here is the actual walmart cigarette lighter splitter. The faceplate is all that is showing screwed onto the inside of my center console.

The riser allows me to still use the three section divider to hold my VHF radio, iPod etc. It also hides all the wires below it so I can have a loose wire free cabin. So far I really enjoy this mod, but I need to come up with a plan for how to make a more attractive and professional looking.

Anyway I hope this helps, and once again thank you to Wink_82 for the idea.

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Great looking FJ and I'm diggin' how you did the 12V outlets! That's the first time I've seen one that way :rocker:
Thanks I'm pretty happy, it looks rather cheesy with the divider out, but looks stock with the divider and false floor in. If it wasn't for that I would have mounted it higher up to also give a semi stock look. Of course in that case I would recommend painting it black.

The piece itself was from walmart, only about $15.

Premium Member
17,339 Posts
Nice build! Like the rooftop tent and your build name.

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Nice build! Like the rooftop tent and your build name.
Thank you sir, that first picture is a mock up I was trying to make it photoshop, trying to do a skull with an owl monkey skull (the goofiest one I could find). I would like to have a decal made, or maybe first find someone better with shopping to clean up the look of it.

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Just started my black out on the alloys with plasti-dip. Pretty easy so far, doing them one at a time. I did my spare first.

I started by cleaning the wheel very well with "krud kutter" a degreaser from home depot. It comes in a spray can, I was careful to keep it only on the alloys, and not on the tires.

Placed 7mil plastic behind the wheel.

That being said thanks to everything I've read about plasti-dip I decided not to tape off the tires. I am allowing overspray onto them, and afterwords we will see if it really rubs off as easily as everyone says it does.

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
So right now I am painting the 5th wheel as we speak.

On a happy note though my Old Man Emu heavy suspension arrived today. So as soon as I make some new friends in Orlando to beg for help, and bribe with beer and food, then I will be able to get this suspension installed.

If you know anyone in the area let me know, the bribes will be good :)

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Looking to have a roof-rack fabricated for my needs.


Raised front with four light tabs, (not hoops, just tabs)

Low back for rooftop tent, as close to the roof of the FJ as possible.

2 bar extensions off of the side of the roofrack 14" off on the left side. One in the front of the roof rack, and one in the rear, these will be for attachment of my yakima bowdown.

The issue is that all the RTT roof-racks don't allow attachment of kayak holders in addition to the tent. Any way of doing that, such as my ghetto way result in the tent being moved further up from the center of gravity.
In my case currently I have the rooftop tent and and kayak bowdown attached to yakima cross bars, attached to my stock roof rack. This places the bottom of the tent about 12 inches from the roof. Big problem.

Please let me know if you are interested in a fabrication job.

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
So now having some troubles after some playing in the mud this weekend...

Some sort of strange thud sound, hopefully nothing.

On a happy note Brandon from Metaltech4x4 called today...

In addition to the new OME suspension sitting next to me, I'm told that my new Metaltech tube bumper, sliders, and ENGO10000S winch will be arriving this Monday.

I'll be trying to get that suspension done this week!

255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well the Sliders/Bumper/Winch keep getting delayed by the freight company. They are now supposedly arriving Monday the 2nd. I'm excited to do the installation.

However the OME installation got installed this week. Boy are those heavy springs a beast to compress with the crappy little rental compressors.

Had an opportunity to park next to a stock FJ today, so I stopped to take a photo and show off the lift.

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