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The Tale of an Adventure Vehicle

10547 Views 30 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  Jrnottarts
I have always enjoied unique vehicles, and my previous SUV's have not disappointed. My first vehicle, and the vehicle that I started wheeling in was an Upcountry Grand Cherkoee, which I got rid of a year or so later for a 2000 Jeep Landrunner. I loved it because there were only a few on the east coast, and I could do some great off roading with the top off.

I had the Landrunner for close to two years, and I had an offer on it that I couldn't pass up. Years before, I had fallen in love with a Land Rover XD Discovery (one of 200) I saw at Foreign Cars Italia in Greensborro, NC but was no where near being able to afford it. Years passed and I had the opportunity to buy one in Virginia Beach after driving a family car for the first semester of my Freshmen year in college. I had invested half of the money from the Jeep and saved the other half with aspirations of another SUV when I found something I wanted; it was the XD in Virginia Beach.

I now had the quintessential SUV (for me) and loved everything about it. At first I really didn't care that it got 12-14mpg and that it was a bear to drive on the interstate, I was in love. Close to a year after owing it, I lifted it with OME Heavies. The ride was stiff compated to the Teraflex suspenison I put on the Landrunner and the taller ride height kept the gas mileage around 12. I did a good bit of wheeling in it around NC and really enjoied the time I had with it. A guy from Baltimore saw some posts I had written on a LR forum and contacted me about possibly coming to look at it. I really wasn't quite sure I wanted to sell something I had come to like so much, but gas mileage, and LR maintenance were big negatives. He wound up offering me more than I paid for it after two and a half years. Again, I couldn't pass it up.

Move forward to the FJ. My dad and I always loved the FJ40's, but he never could persuade me to have one as my daily driver. Seeing the pictures of the FJ concept, I really was not a fan. However, after reading early posts on this forum and ultimately test driving one, I decided to pull the trigger in July 2006. I reserved the exact one I wanted and got it a week and a half later. The first impressions were not as 'wowing' as the previous Rover for looks, but I was getting older, and so was my taste. I wanted to make it more rugged and suited to my needs, which meant a bumper with the provision for another Warn M8000. After studying some of the early bumpers from a select number of vendors at the time, my money went to ARB. My first off road trip in the FJ was to Uwharrie NF, a place I had come to know fairly well. I was really unsure of the limits with an IFS since my previous 3 SUV's had all been SFA's so I went with a small group of fraternity brothers that I trusted and were supportive of me taking my time.

I really had come to like the security of four wheeling with a winch, so I asked for one for Christmas, and my incredibly supportive parents picked up the tab. So off came the bumper that a friend of mine and I had previously installed and in went the winch. One trip to Uwharrie and banging my skid plates unmercifully was all it took for me to fix the rake from all the added weight in the front (below).

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So I bought 2.5" billet spacers to level the front and it worked perfectly: cheap, effective, and no warranty issues.

After 28,000 miles of off roading on the horrible stock Dunlops, I bought a set of Goodyear MT/R's. I love these tires, and ran them on my Jeep and Land Rover previously. Each time, I sold the vehicle before I wore the tires out - would the MTR's outlive my ownership of the FJ? As my college years were coming to a close, I was putting money away and not into my FJ, but I was still having a ton of fun with it, and wheeling it harder than any of my other previous vehicles (mostly due to the superior abilities of the FJ). My final wheeling trip on the east coast turned out to be the North Meets South run in the Spring of 2008.

I knew after school I wanted to take a few months and travel around the country with a long time friend from childhood, so he and I started making plans for that including the FJ where appropriate. I had previously installed a remote Cobra 75 WXST which I knew I would need in the future, but wanted to improve some of the weakpoints I had started to notice. I bought some IPF 968's from a friend at Tarheel 4wd and put those on the ARB. A gentleman from the forum sent me some free mounts that he made to mount a hi-lift on the inside of the FJ. This was the third hi-lift purchase I have made to date, the others went with their respective SUV's...

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I still had an old Garmin iQue (palm pilot/gps combo) that I planned to use on the trip for maps and to avoid getting lost in places we didn't want to be. The last thing before the trip was to clean up the birdsnest of accessories plugged into the cigarette lighter, so I hardwired the Passport radar detector and made it look much better, as I hate clutter. Our road trip started two days after graduation in 2008 (we both took our time to get through college) and took us south from Charlotte, to New Orleans for a few nights, along the Gulf, and to Dalls to meet up with our dads who were meeting us at a brewery opening party that my dad had just completed. I didn't know how beautiful Texas ladies were, and I will not soon forget either! Our dads joined us for a week as we all loaded our stuff in the FJ and headed West. Along the interstate just outside of Albuquerquie we saw some guys playing on some dunes in what turned out to be Seven Mile Hill, so we stopped and played for a while as well.

We continued and went through southern Colorado, and stayed at a friend's place in Telluride. Unfourtinately it was too early in the season to do any of the FJ Summit trails so we continued to the area my friend and I had lusted over for years for the off roading; Moab, Utah. Our dad's rented a Jeep JK and we all took turns in all of the vehicles comparing what we liked or didn't like while on Fins N' Things. We all had such a wonderful time that we will never forget, and continue to talk about. I really had a hard time adjusting my driving from East coast style to slickrock, and it showed.

After a great time with our fathers joining us on our trip, we dropped them off at the airport in Grand Junction where they flew back home. My friend and I came to a family friend's condo in Aspen, CO that he let me have through August. My friend had to leave a few days later to get a "real" job in mechanical engineering, thus leaving me in Aspen for a couple months to explore. That exploration was supposed to end in August 2008, but the family friend told me to stay in the condo until the winter if I chose to do so - no way I would pass that one up! My goal was to see all that I could and integrate the FJ as much as possible when I wouldn't be hiking or biking. I managed to meet most of my goal in the Aspen area and part of the Western Slope.

My FJ saw about 300 miles off road last summer on the factory suspension and I began to think about upgrading, with the intentions of being able to bomb down fire roads, and still have a stiff enough spring setup to minimize the impact of the extra weight on the front end.
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I did some research and really started to like the Sway a Way setup and it fit my needs quite well, although I would say its just a little stiff on the road after having it for 6 months. I bought the setup from a forum member who was moving on from his FJ after having the SAW for 8,000 miles. I broke it in on a 20 mile loop just outside of Aspen with a member from the forum visiting the area from Texas. We finished traveling down the back side of Ajax (Aspen) mountain into town. The ride was sweet. A month later I took my parents from the historic mining town of Marble to Crested Butte via Schofield Pass. My mom has never been the biggest fan of off roading (she wouldn't even do the off road 'course' at the Land Rover dealership that the salesman takes you on), but she stuck with my dad and me through the trip and only got out to walk a couple of times.

To conclude, I am still in Aspen and living my dream of skiing as much as possible. We made a couple trips a year here skiing since I was 3 and I have always wanted to have this experience. I grew up with the ideology of Warren Miller - "Move to a ski town and ski every day... If you don't do it this year, you'll be another year older when you do," and I certainly can see why that statement has come to symbolize his carreer, and now mine. The FJ has been a number of places, racking up 62,000 miles along the way; From the Carolinas

to Yellowstone

and back home to Aspen,

it is the best, and most capable vehicle I have owned. I now have a set of BFG AT's for the winter, so the FJ survived past the 'fateful' MTR's. My dad enjoied the wheeling in Moab so much and the JK they rented, he got a 2 door JK Rubicon and loves it.

Enjoy life! It should always be about the journey and adventures along the way!
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Thanks for sharring,and the Adventure continues......
I enjoyed that.....thanks :)
Was a real pleasure to watch yout pics' video and read this thread..

Thank you....
Thank you for all the nice compliments. I have always built my vehicles slowly and I really enjoy doing it that way. For me, its "sustained gratification" which also allows you to see how each action effects the overall dynamics of the vehicle.

Great thread, nice story and pics!
Thanks for posting that up, very enjoyable.
Nice story and thanks for sharing.
Thanks again all!

My (FJ) wishlist includes a Kaymar rear bumper, Budbuilts, Lower links, and possibly a switch from 700 lb. coils up front to 600 lb. to do a little better on the rocks(SAW coilovers). Also I would like to upgrade the (potentially) weak early production ring and pinion. Any thoughts on these last two?
Great photos - and that video, some crazy trails in there!
Nice write up. I'm just over in grand junction, so give a shout it your in the area or want to do a moab trip.
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