A New Ride on the Edge

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Sometimes you get emotionally attached to objects.  Against all reason, a tool, or a thing you use regularly becomes so much a part of you, you begin to think about it as you.  It has been that way for me with my 2008 FJ Cruiser.  From early trips with my son to National Parks, to various hunting trips across the country, it was my home, my transportation and, on occasion, my savior.  We carefully considered each modification, some we built, some we bought. It never ever let us down.  After 113,000 miles or so, I can honestly say there wasn’t anything about it I would change.  It was my ride for the first leg of my trip around the edge.  And it is gone.

 

I sold the FJ because we had more cars than drivers and I had to make a choice.  Keep it and sell a 2002 Landcruiser 100 series with the same mileage, or do the opposite and keep the 100 series.  Two things came into play – one more than the other.  First, the economics were such that I could get a lot more money for the FJ than the 100; second, the 100 is bone stock and the prospect of building it out held some appeal.  Like any red-blooded male, the idea of buying stuff for the truck was like a siren on the shore. And, once built, the 100 series would be substantially more valuable than the FJ.  I am happy that the sand colored FJ has a good new home and that I got a very fair price for it.  I will be forever grateful for its service to me.

The history of the Landcruiser series of vehicles is legend.  From the initial little FJ25 during WW2 through the current 200 series, the trucks have conquered lands and safely carried everything from African expeditions to Special Forces warriors.  They are just remarkable vehicles. I have owned an FJ40, two FJ60s (one my son drives now) and two 100 series and for the remainder of the journey around the edge, I will call the “hundy” home.  Here’s what I’m doing to it to prepare:

  • New tires — 285/75/r16 Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs.  These tires are the best all terrain tire on the market in my opinion.  I put over 60,000 miles on a set on the FJ.  They are relatively quiet on the road and offer great grip and ride off road.  My comparison for them is the venerable BF Goodrich All Terrain (which we run on our FJ 60), and the Duratracs are better — by a lot.  Others will differ with me I am sure, but we go with what we know and what we trust.
  • New Suspension — Iron Man Foam Cell shocks front and rear, “B” coils in the rear, torsion bars and upper control arms.  This gives me about 3 inches of lift (also installed a diff drop to keep the geometry correct) and dramatically improves the ride and handling of the vehicle.  I tell folks who ask about mods to their vehicles that suspension changes like this have the most dramatic effect — the truck feels planted, rides and turns flat, and just generally soaks up the terrain differently.  Iron Man is an australian company and their components are very well made and thought out.  The foam cells make an odd “which” sound when they compress, but nothing objectionable and the technology keeps the shock cooler and, I feel like, rides softer on entry and exit of bumps.
  • New protection — front and rear bumpers do two things; they improve the clearance angles of the front and rear overhangs, and they give you protection far bend the plastic ones from the factory.  In the case of rear bumpers, they also usually improve storage capacity by relocating the spare tire and creating space for things like jerry cans and hi-lift jacks.  I chose ARB combo bar for the front on the strength of my experience with them on the FJ, and the added protection they give for game strikes.  When discussing with someone who loved the look of another option that was much more streamlined and has a dedicated following I asked the person if they’d ever hit a deer on a day two track in the middle of nowhere.  They hadn’t, I have, and so I went with the full bull bar of the ARB.  Again, Australian in origin, ARB is a great company that does dependable work based on the absolute requirement that you be able to get somewhere AND get back.  For the rear I chose Slee Offroad’s dual swing out bumper.  Made here in America, it combines the great build quality we want with a very well thought out arrangement for tire carrier and ladder/accessory mounting.  We are including a triple jerry can holder on our bumper.
  • Power supply — we are adding a dual battery setup to give us added electrical power capacity both for safety, and also to accommodate a fridge/freezer and additional device charging and lighting.
  • Recovery — a WARN 9.5xp winch will go in the front bumper to save me when I’m solo and exercise poor judgement.  Hope I never have to use it, but if I do I have the confidence of one of the longest operating providers of winches.  Take no chances here.
  • Storage — in the FJ I built a set of drawers for the cargo section because I couldn’t find any on the market that seemed worth the price or that met the need.  I should say that I’m hung up on noise when I’m traveling and one of the things that happens with cargo drawers that use slides on the side of each drawer is that there is an acoustic space created around the drawer that makes them noisy, no matter how rattle free they are, stuff moves inside the drawer and I want to avoid that echo chamber.  In the set I built, I ran the drawers with no hardware — just wood on wood, and they slid fine — if a bit heavy.  I recently found another Australian company, Drifta 4WD, that makes their drawers the same way, but recesses strips on teflon on the bottom of the drawer and the carcass so they slide teflon on teflon, but there is no space between the drawer and the carcass.  So we are putting those in — thanks to some special efforts to get them over here.

We added tactical ballistic seat covers from Coverking (Skanda) that have great mollie style loops on the back for various storage pouches, and we still have some stereo issues to sort out, but we are on our way with the build.  We will keep the Autohome Rooftop tent and my homemade awning and may add a new roof rack for those.  Hopefully by mid May we will be ready to go and can lay out the plans for the next leg on the edge.

The times I’ve spent overland with my son and others in places I never dreamed of accessing, learning situational awareness and navigation, taking risks and getting rewarded have changed me.  I got opportunities to share and grow with people I care deeply about and I had the privilege of sitting behind the wheel of a remarkable little truck that always got me there and back.  I will miss the FJ terribly, but I’m excited about the Landcruiser and can only hope it will generate similar experiences out on the edge.

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