In My Opinion

I just recently stopped to consider what a time-savings option it would be to post my opinions on some of the different things that I have been asked about on a regular basis for the last 29 years. After 34 years of working on cruisers, of course Iíve got more than a few opinions. I spend a lot of time on the phone and at the counter going over the same things, month after month. So I figured I would take the time to highlight the main talking points, let you read and download them at your leisure, and then call to fill in any gaps that may remain for you.

A. General

NEW vs. USED.I am often asked if it is ok to use a used part for a particular application. Of course the only answer that always works is: it depends. Often, the choice is moot because a new one is no longer available. Sometimes the choice is easy, because it is a cosmetic part, and the decision is mostly aesthetic. But when the part is mechanical, there are usually more fundamental questions as to durability and longevity.

You would think that since I am in the business of selling used parts, I would have a natural bias. Well, I do. I canít see spending the money on a new part when a used part will do. Since I donít make a habit of hanging onto junk, I also think my used parts are pretty good. 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is, and I did.

I was swapping an H41 tranny into my 68FJ40. To save time on the swap, I decided to build up another transfer case to put behind the tranny, rather than reuse the case that had been behind the 3spd from Day 1. I built up a case using all used parts. I not only used used gears and housing, but used bearings and gaskets! The only things that were new were the seals. I figured I would be a hypocrite if I wasnít willing to do myself what I suggested to my customers on a daily basis. When I pulled the trans and transfer 30K later for an engine swap, I took a peek inside the T-case. It looked as good as the day I put it together! Itís stayed in there a total of 16 years, until I pulled it for an Orion. It still looked good, so I put it on the shelf, where it remains...available for sale!

My point is, I believe that if I say it is good enough, it is! I have NEVER had a used part that I have sold FAIL because I misjudged its adequacy.

Not all used parts are the same, and I donít sell them that way either. If you tell me what your intended use is, I will give you my opinion as to whether the part(s) I have are adequate. If you donít, I wonít!

B. SHIPPING. Inbound. Most of my inbound shipping consists of parts that need rebuilding; I will use carbs for an example. If you are planning on sending me a carb to be rebuilt, you need to do three things: make sure it doesn't leak, make sure it doesn't smell, and make sure it doesn't get damaged.

If the carb has been on a running vehicle in the recent past, you must do two things to drain it. First, open one of the 14mm plugs below the sight glass on the front of the carb to let the gas out of the fuel bowl. Replace the plug. Then work the accelerator pump about a dozen times to empty the accel pump chamber of gas.

Next, put the carb in a bag and seal it. Put it in another bag and seal it. Then a third. The idea here is to make it so the freight carrier doesn't mistake your carb for a BOMB! [I wish I was kidding!]. Lastly, pack the carb carefully, as if monkeys were going to play hockey with the box on the way to me!


I ship as quickly as I can. We do ALL of our shipping from home, so NOTHING ships the same day it is ordered. My wife handles the shipping online, and we use FedEx and USPS for pretty much everything. This means you can double-check rates yourself. We don't charge anywhere near enough for our time typing up invoices, shipping documents, packing the boxes and taking them to the drop off center, so trust me, whatever you're charged for handling, it's fair!

I do my best to ship everything paid for by money order the day after it is recieved. Merchandise paid for by personal check is held for two weeks before shipment. As of 2020, we now ship twice a week, Monday mornings and Thursday mornings.



a. DISTRIBUTORS-Vacuum vs. Mechanical Advance. Vacuum advance is the only way to go! Mechanical advance is just an approximation of timing, with no sensitivity to engine load. Hereís advance in a nutshell. Electricity will travel from the distributor to the spark plug at a constant speed. As the engine turns faster and faster, the pistons take less and less time to get to TDC, by which time the plug is supposed to have fired. So, in order to not have the spark reach the piston on or after it reaches TDC, youíve got to start the spark going from the distributor to the plugs sooner and sooner. Thatís where advance comes in.

Because of the inherent restrictions of the mechanical parts involved, a mechanical advance distributor can only go so far. Mechanical advance utilizes the centrifical force of spring-loaded counterweights inside the distributor to rotate the plate on which the points are mounted. The weights and springs are preset at the factory to a safe rate of reaction. Modifying the springs and weights will affect how quickly the advance starts to occur, but the advance will still not be sensitive to load. Vacuum advance gives you more potential. The vacuum diaphram is load and RPM sensitive. It does not engage at idle and it releases when the vehicle is under a heavy load.

Of all the vacuum distributors, I still think the Nippondenso unit is the best. If you donít have one, buy one while you can. They will be obsolete before you know it.

b. ELECTRONIC IGNITION-Stock vs. Aftermarket. I give the edge to the aftermarket here. I am totally unimpressed with the Toyota system, and itís hard to get affordable parts for. I run a Pertronix electronic ignition and have found it for the most part very reliable. Two things to keep in mind. The pickups on these ignitions were designed for v-8s, because thatís where the majority of the sales have been. Consequently, if you dwell one of these things out, youíll find that they have much less duration. Less duration means weaker spark from the coil. Ergo, you need a hotter coil.

The other thing: donít buy a Crane. Their universal kit is a joke. When you try to make one size fit all, it fits NOTHING WELL! Just my opinion, but it is my website!

Pertronix install tips. Since I sell a LOT of these ignitions, it seemed appropriate to add a few notes here on installing. First and foremost, you should plan on having a timing light onhand when you install the ignition because your timing will change, sometimes significantly, even though you do not move the distributor body or the shaft. Since it is virtually impossible to time a cruiser by ear, I really, REALLY emphasize the need for a timing light. Second, though the instructions call for hooking up the Pertronix while retaining the stock ballast resistor, I have never reused the ballast resistor on a Pertronix install and find the logic of using a voltage limiter with a high voltage ignition counter-intuitive. My hunch for the reasoning behind the Pertronix position is that they are not totally familiar with the Toyota wiring system, and they probably had customers at some point in the past whose trucks wouldn't start after a ballast resistor bypass that left their carburetor's fuel cut solenoid without power.

c. GEAR REDUCTION STARTERS. Cool and a lot less pricey than they used to be. Marginal advantage for most users. Wonít have an exciter wire (for those running 73-79 stock igniter systems).

014- HIGH-AMP ALTERNATORS. Personally, I think these are overrated. I think a second battery is a much more cost effective and versatile solution. A high-amp alternator wonít get you started when your first batteryís dead. A second battery will. Exception: if youíre running an onboard welder! Bottom line: talk to an electrical shop, not a land cruiser shop, before you buy one. Preferably not a shop that can sell you one!

If you have a 1966 to 1974 inline 6 with the F145 or F155 engine, you have got to get an aluminum valve cover. Those stock steel ones leak like crazy, and nothing short of gluing them to the engine will stop it. You cannot use a valve cover from an 81 or newer cruiser (the ones with the TOYOTA in raised letters down the drivers side) because they are not tall enough to clear your rocker arms. Only 1975-1980 covers will work. But boy do they work. I forked out the $$$ at $OR years ago, and have no regrets. I sell them now too, of course, and have worked out the bugs in getting them to properly vent to the early air cleaners.

I like them all. Cudos to Marv Specter for convincing me to give them a chance 24 years ago. The huge cranks and flywheels keep the motors lugging at RPMS v-8s canít reach. When properly rebuilt (full balance and align bored) they run smoothly on the highway to 70mph and better. Lack of torque is not the issue; usually gearing is. One of my oldest wheelin buddies can shred a full floating axle with his F155 running on 5 cylinders!

The F135 had superior low end torque because of its Siamese intake ports. The F145s run on just about anything with their lower compression. The F155s have the most horsepower of the Fs, with their domed pistons. The 2Fs have even more horses. The 81 and newer 2F are the best balanced of all the 2Fs. Really the key is a first rate rebuild, which cannot be done for less than $2k in a boonies machine shop, $3000 around here. You get what you pay for. Deal with it.

All other things being equal, the F does get better gas mileage in my experience. The best Iíve been able to do for a pre-79 carbureted 4speed 2F is 13.5mpg. I regularly get from 14-17 out of an F.

038-V-8 CONVERSIONS. Every owner of a V-8 cruiser is the owner of a chain that is constantly looking for the weakest link. Parts that would last 50-100k behind a 6 often fail in a year behind a v-8. In one word, the V-8 is seductive. You hear it, you want to drive it. You drive it, you want to test it. You know what comes next.

The most bulletproof V-8 cruisers have virtually no Toyota power train components. If youíre gonna keep a stock powertrain behind one, you better have someone like me make sure everything is good and tight. And that still might not be enough. Iíve never had a V-8 customer break one of my rebuilt tranny or transfer cases, but that doesnít mean you wonít be the first!

V-8s have clearance issues for the engine, exhaust, transmission and cooling components. A small block moved forward to meet the radiator will have much of the transmission in the engine compartment, which can be a real problem with some of the stick shift options. Exhausts routed inside the frame are difficult to set up and have clearance issues passing the transfer case. Headers outside the frame mean cutting into the fenders and short exhaust pipes.

V-8s are often hard to cool and require substantial upgrades to the cooling system. 4 core radiators are the standard. Pusher electric fans are strongly recommended. Occasionally, this is still not enough, and custom radiator and core support fabrication are necessary.

Heat is the biggest enemy of the internal combustion engine. Whatever you can do to get rid of it, within reason, has merit. I choose 4 core radiators over 3. High Density (40+ tubes per row, not 30) Direct drive over clutch fans (I donít do enough deep water crossings here in the Southwest to worry about it!), because Iíll gladly trade a little HP and noise for the longevity of the motor. I donít go for 5-core because they are not proven reliable. I donít go for aluminum because it is not cost-effective in the long run. And I donít go for slick additives; itís straight 50-50 for me. If you can make room for an electric pusher fan in front of the radiator, its helpful on the trails.



I am a devout follower of the stock Aisan carburetor. With the exception of one model in early 1969, these carburetors provide excellent vacuum, low end torque, hill climbing capabilities, and gas mileage when they are running properly. The one advantage that aftermarket carbs like the Holley and Rochester have is in acceleration. Because both their throttle plates open simultaneously on a single shaft, they will dump more fuel into the motor faster than a stock carb, for that seat-of-the-pants acceleration. I compare this 'dumping' to pushing the lever on your toilet tank! If you want a carb that WORKS LIKE YOUR TOILET, go for it. Youíll have to install vent tube extensions, baffles, remote sight glasses and reinforced power valves to get them to try and duplicate what the Aisan can do out of the box. The Aisan carbís only real disadvantage is that it has several small passageways that can easily be contaminated with small particles that wouldnít affect a toilet bowl aftermarket carb. With patient cleaning and tuning though, the Aisan will outperform the aftermarket carbs on the trail and at the gas pump.

b. MODIFIED AISAN CARBS. I have been Ďtinkeringí with the Aisan carb almost as long as I have been rebuilding them, which is a very long time. As far as I am concerned, the Aisan is one of the most sophisicated carbs ever designed. IMO, Aisan, as a semi-autonomous company, was more or less forced to severely restrict the operation of a very capable carburetor in order to meet Toyotaís new car emissions standards.
It all started with a tinkererís natural curiousity. Looking at a disassembled carb I asked myself, why would the Japanese, who greatly embrace functionality, design a carb with superflous ribs and ports that donít seem to go anywhere. So I started experimenting, putting things together, in different combinations.
With the F engine carbs from 70-74, the first thing was to calculate the right location to port them for vacuum advance, effectively making them non-US carbs. With the 2F, the focus was on improving the operation of the secondary circuit. I havenít stopped tinkering yet. As new ideas come along, I still break out the micrometer, the calculator, and the drills. Lately, I have made a few modifications to my SD-40 1bbl carb that I am pleased with, and have a couple more to try.
It should also be noted that so far, none of the modifications I have made or offered has caused a customerís vehicle to fail an emissions test. A few have noticed a decrease in mileage, but this is only because they cannot resist using all the extra power available after the carb work! [see comments on V-8s, above]

Other Carb Notes. I plan to write an extended article just on carburetors, but haven't gotten around to it yet. A couple of quick pointers tho. A lot of people ask "How do I know if my carb needs rebuilding?" Well there are a few 'classic' symptoms. One is a flat spot on acceleration. Granted, there could be other fuel or electrical issues, but if the truck is also hard to start, this could be indicative of a carb problem. Poor idle is also often caused by dirt in the idle circuit, though vacuum leaks and valve clearance/timing issues could also factor in. My point is, quite a few carbs get sent in for rebuilding that actually don't need it. You might want to call me first.

c. V-8. If youíre running a V-8, then my choice is a Quadrajet. If youíve ever heard the expression that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then consider that Holley and Edelbrock both offer their own versions of this legendary carb. The spread-bore design gives you low end torque and fuel economy, combined with secondary passing and top end. It just basically does it all!

When I started wheeling over 30 years ago, I spent a lot of time at the campfire listening to the old timers talking about their experiences. I ran with a group of Chevy people who had basically tried everything available on the market. Their carb stories were always the same. They cussed out the ĎQuadra junkí and put on a Holley. Six months later the Holley was on the shelf and they were sure a Carter AFB would be the silver bullet. A year later, the venerable Rochester was back on the rig! I figured I just saved myself a lot of headache and $$ by leaving well-enough alone on my K5 Blazer.

d. FUEL INJECTION. I spent 6 months as the guinea pig for Downey Off Roadís fuel injection kit, which used the Howell harness and chip. The potential is seductive, elusive, and perhaps illusory. I never felt more vulnerable than when I was running this. Carbs are easy for me to fix, anytime, anywhere. Again, I will sacrifice a little economy for less vulnerability. I had 17mpg before the fuel injection and 17 with it. So much for the dollars and sense. A fellow enthusiast has re-coined this mod as 'fool infection.'

055-EXHAUSTS-Manifolds vs. Headers. I am a big believer in headers on the 6 cylinder. The concept of forcing multiple cylinders worth of exhaust to run headlong into each other in the fight to make an abrupt 90 degree turn down the collector makes as much sense as 3 people trying to get thru a doorway at the same time. Headers not only offer a significant increase in performance by facilitating the movement of exhausts in the same direction, they are more durable in the long run. When they crack (not if) you can weld a steel header; you throw the un-weldable stock, cast iron manifold away. The ONLY advantage of the stock manifold is that it is quieter.

Not all headers are equal. I think the Tri-Y header is superior to the 6 into 1 type. Header efficiency is judged by many things, one of which is the RPM at which it begins to move air efficiently. This efficiency in turn is controlled by the tubing size and length of the runners. Assuming that the runner size of both headers is the same, all the extra tubing of the 6 into 1 means that it will take more air flow (read: higher rpms) to start to move air efficiently. In a low speed, rock-crawler world, you want more power at lower speeds for more control. Ergo, the Tri-Y is the better choice.

There are a couple of companies that offer the Tri-Y as a two piece header. I find these problematic. As a mechanic that has to service these, I discovered the hard way that the collector pipe does not bring the two halves together until they are somewhere underneath the left corner of the bell housing. Because of the extra bulk of twin pipes, this often results in a situation where you have to unhook the exhaust in order to get the clutch out! Thatís just wrong!

HEADER GASKETS. I don't use kevlar gaskets, and I don't sell them. They are supplied in the header kits I sell, but I do not recommend installing them. Kevlar may very well have a higher temp rating, but in EVERY other aspect, I consider it to be an inferior product. It has minimal compressive capabilities, which means that there is little chance that it will conform to any irregularities in your manifolds. Further, the kevlar gasket usually fails between the two outside surfaces, 'blowing out' from the middle because it has no sealing bands to seal the cylinder head chambers from the gasket. The gasket that I have featured on the specials page not only has the widest sealing bands available, but they are designed to be 'sandwiched' and compress and conform as you tighten your manifolds down, providing the best seal possible. That said, I still use copper coat on all the exhaust ports when I install one.

EXHAUST SIZE. The same factors should go into picking an exhaust. Smaller pipes will begin to flow smoothly at lower rpms. I currently service two rigs that seem to have optimum conditions. One is a 1969, Aisan carbed F engine with a 2.25Ē exhaust. The other is a 1977, Aisan carbed 2F with a 2.5Ē exhaust. Both use the Downey Tri-Y and Flowmasters.

On the V-8s Iím a lot more ambivalent. The time-tested header of most use on the FJ40 is an upswept model that runs outside the frame. While this eliminates clearance issues for skidplates, transfer cases dual mufflers and crossovers, it usually requires cutting a path for the exhaust out of the front fenders. I am not a fan of that surgery. Headers inside the frame are a lot more expensive and problematic. Clearances are very exacting. Bolt and plug access is difficult.

The cast iron manifold of choice for exhaust inside the frame is an early 60ís design referred to as a ramís horn. These will route the exhaust so that it doesnít run headlong into each other at the collector. There are reproduction units available at competitive prices. I will probably use these on my first V-8 conversion, whenever I get around to it.


Let me start off by saying NOT ALL EMISSIONS EQUIPMENT IS BAD! In fact, some of it is very good. Take the PCV system for example. No internal combustion engine is 100 percent efficient. There is always going to be some blowby of air/fuel mixture that gets past the piston rings and into the crankcase. Even the earliest engines had provisions for letting that gas escape, usually via a 'road draft tube.' The earliest Landcruisers also incorporated road draft tubes, while some others went so far as to leave small slits in the valve cover. The more efficient introduction of the PCV [positive crankcase ventilation] system allowed for the engine to use it's own manifold vacuum to pull that unburned air/fuel mixture back into the intake system via the PCV valve and hose for another chance at being burned in the combustion process. Letting that mixture just escape into the air is not only bad for the environment, but it's a waste of fuel you could be burning!

Much the same logic follows for the charcoal canister system. Vapors build up in the fuel tank, which on most FJ40s sits inside the cab with the occupants. Early vent systems often ended up filling the cab with gas fumes. The canister was one method for routing those vapors out of the cab, giving them a chance to condense in the charcoal itself, returning the condensed vapor droplets back to the tank while sending on the lighter vapors to the air cleaner to be pulled into the intake with the carburetor's air/fuel mixture.

While I'm on the subject of charcoal canisters, I would like to note that the NUMBER ONE SOURCE OF CANISTER FAILURE is from OVERFILLING THE TANK!!!!!! The charcoal in the canister was designed to handle VAPOR, not gasoline! When you overfill the tank, the excess gas is quickly pushed thru the vent lines into the canister, where it breaks down the charcoal AND THE HOSES!

The vacuum lines and switching valves are some of the most problematic of the emissions components. I often use a sitcom of my youth as an example. At the beginning of the show "Get Smart" the secret agent enters thru a series of vault doors to reach his destination, one after the other. In an over-simplified sense, each of the vacuum switches on the Landcruiser similarly acts as a vault door between the vacuum advance signal of the carburetor and the vacuum advance diaphram of the distributor. Unless each and every one of the switches performs it's function [and there is reason to doubt the adequacy of 30+ year old switches] the distributor will never have the full advantage of vacuum advance, and will suffer from less than optimum power. This is BY FAR the strongest reason in my opinion for bypassing and/or eliminating this equipment from vehicles that are not required to maintain it.


a.3 SPEEDvs. 4 SPEED [3 finger vs diaphram] (DD?) The 7/74 and older FJs came with a large recessed stepped flywheel and a 3 finger type pressure plate. The 8/74 and newer came with a diaphram type. When people are looking at swapping in newer motors and/or trannies, they often wonder about changing the clutch setup as well.

Why? Well if you have had a problem with clutch chatter with a 3 finger pressure plate, you probably heard somewhere along the way about how much smoother the diaphram pressure plate is. This is undeniable. So why would anyone stay with the older clutch then? Because if you don't spend a lot of time shifting, and you do spend a fair amount of time off road, you will appreciate the fact that the heavier flywheel of the older clutch type will keep the motor spinning at lower rpm than the newer one will [i.e. it's harder to stall!]

If slippage is a concern, I have found rebuilders who were willing to install heavier coils into the 3 finger pressure plate. All you can do to the diaphram pressure plate in this regard is add plate weights like Centerforce uses, which do not really start to apply their extra pressure until much higher rpms, not usually where you're running your cruiser for longevity's sake.

Bottom line: I'm not advocating taking out a diaphram setup if it's already in your rig. But if you've got one, think for yourself before ditching it based on a rumor that the grass is greener on the other side.


a.3 SPEEDvs. 4 SPEED (DD?) I think the only time itís worth keeping a 3 speed tranny is when youíre running a factory column shift for it, because thatís just retro cool. Iíve had one in my LWB 45 for years. Also like the extra floor space.

Most commonly asked questions from 3 speed owners. Do they all grind in 1st gear? Yes; first gear is not synchronized. Double-shifting [shifting into 2nd to stall the gears, then shifting into 1st] is the best way to minimize grinding issues. Can I get a 4 speed to go faster on the freeway? NO; 4th gear in the 4 speed is the same as 3rd gear in the 3 speed. 1 to 1.

The standard Toyota 4spd tranny (3.55 to 1 first gear) is THE MOST COMFORTABLE TRANSMISSION YOU CAN OWN! The shift points are evenly spaced, with an easily accessible first. A downshift to 3rd in traffic wonít slam you backwards the way a granny tranny will. An Orion transfer case behind one of these can make your rig trail capable without loosing any street comfort. This is the best no-compromise, multi-purpose setup without spending a fortune. Additionally, this transmission can be adapted to your existing '3 speed' transfer case using my adapter kit [PN 090-05] along with a 4 speed bellhousing.

b. STANDARD 4 vs. GRANNY (DD vs. OHV) I swapped a standard 4spd out of RufToys for an H41 Toyota 4spd with the 4.99 first gear almost 10 years ago now. The tranny definitely made the truck a more trail worthy crawler. However, it was a step back on the road, as 2nd, 3rd and 4th felt (and still feel) more like driving a 3spd. GM options like the SM465 (6.5 to 1) and SM420 (7 to 1) are like having an old VW bus 3spd on the street: 2nd gear is good for about 10 FEET! For driving to and from trails and road trips, thatís just fine. As a daily driver, I donít think thatís as good of a choice.

c. AUTOMATICS (brake system issues)(driveline issues). While in graduate school, I swapped my wifeís Cougar for a 66FJ40 with a TH400 setup, SBC poweredFJ40. I learned what every cruiser owner with an auto already knows: YOU CANíT STOP AN AUTO WITHOUT POWER BRAKES. Itís all GO power. If you pride yourself on being a smooth operator that doesnít use his brakes much, forget about it. Autoís are cool on the climbs because you can apply power smoothly until you get momentum. They will also save you embarrassment in front of your trail buddies from stalling if youíre a little less than superman working a clutch in the rocks.

In an FJ40, automatics lead to driveline complications. The trans is so much longer than a Toyota stick that there is often less than 2 feet left between the transfer case and the rear diff for a driveshaft. This greatly complicates having any kind of lift on the truck, as well as good slip yoke contact. Complicated solutions often involve trying to move the axle further back with modified suspension components. Then thereís the whole heat issue! Guess you can tell my bias.

d. OVERDRIVES. Obviously, this is the no-compromise, daily driver vs. trail rig showdown feature. TRAIL RIGS DONíT NEED THIS; DAILY DRIVERS DO! When I got my Fairey overdrive in 1986, it was just a spendy luxury in a 55mph world. Now Faireys have passed into the world of mythology, replaced by H55 (Toyota) and NV 4500 5speed sticks. First runner up would be the Advanced Adapter Ranger overdrive, because it also can be used as an adapter if youíre converting to V-8 for the first time. The 700R4 auto and its offspring are ok if you have the wheelbase of an FJ45, FJ55 or FJ60. Again, there are problematic driveline issues in an FJ40. Also read my auto section on brake issues first.

For more thoughts on the 5 speed transmission, try reading my "Life in the Slowlane" article in the "Collected Stories" link of my website.


3spd vs. 4spd. The basic difference between the older cases and the newer ones is that the older ones have a lower low range (2.31 to 1)with slightly noisier gears, while the newer ones have a higher low range (1.95 to 1.99, depending) and quieter gears. Durability is another issue. With regards to the gears, I think the older gears are more durable. This is because the teeth that mesh to the output shaft are longer, so there is less pounds per square inch of pressure on them. With regards to cases, I prefer the oldest ones without the extra beef on the idler shaft. Iíve had far fewer of those cases break.

In theory, the 1981 and newer Ďsplití transfer cases should be the strongest. I have never seen one of these housings break. Neither have I seen one break a tooth off like on the older ones. They still suffer from having an inferior interface with the output shaft compared to the early 3spds.

Aftermarket cases are the newest bling for the rock crowd. Biggest bucks for the axle-snapping torque machines. A decade ago, 3 to 1 low range was still a dream. 4 to 1 will soon be a reality! The idea of the saki-powered Sherman tank is what got a lot of us into cruisers in the first place, so crawling is in our blood. The jury will be out for a long while on durability. Will I wait patiently on the sidelines; probably not!


a. WHEELS-Factory vs. Aftermarket. Nothing looks as retro cool to me as an old FJ with the factory 15Ē rims with the center caps. There are those of us who wonít compromise even on our off road rigs and will pay to have custom wider rims made with the Toyota centers so we can keep the center caps. Paying for custom also goes a long way to solving the offset issue.

Aftermarket rims are very problematic on Landcruisers. The front axle steering linkage (knuckle arms specifically) run very close to the stock rims and often will not clear aftermarket rims. Ditto that with the brake calipers on the newer ones. Generic 4x4 shops just assume that because a Toyota hub matches a Chevy bolt pattern, you can throw any Chevy rim on. Often a customer will show up at my shop with wheel spacers or worse! Iíve had guys that have come in with wheels that had less than 6 turns on the lug nuts holding them on! Thatís NUTS! Bottom line: ask the salesman to slide one on your front axle BEFORE you buy them!

b. RATIOS. I am a big fan of the 4:11 setup that was factory on all the 78 and older Fjs. I think the benefits of lower gear sets (4:56 and 4:88) are marginal when weighed against their cost. I think tranny swaps are more appropriate for dealing with gearing issues. When you add to that the fact that you can find spares at a very reasonable price, compared to building your own spare, the cost-effectiveness increases.

For go-fast speed on the highway, 3:70s are the tallest gearing available. A marginal increase for the work involved. I think Iíd rather just get larger tires.

c. FULL FLOATERS. FFs, as they are called in Netspeak, have a high coolness factor. The idea of an axle that does not carry the weight of a wheel, and a wheel that will still turn after youíve busted your diff, is a very appealing one. I was always concerned about the fact that a factory FF had spindles that were welded to the housing. After a buddy of mine came in with a FF axleshaft he broke at 1mph with his 6 cylinder (running on 5!), I became even more concerned. Now I am thinking the aftermarket FF kit with the bolt-on spindles might be the answer. I think Iíd like to see a few in action before passing judgment on them.

d. TIRE SIZE. This can do a lot more for you in terms of gearing, for a lot less money. If at all possible, try and borrow a few sizes of tires from a buddy and take them on a road trip that involves some good uphill grades. Find out what your motor can handle before you shell out the $$ for something that will turn your horse into a dawg!

e. LOCKERS vs. LIMITED SLIP. I thought LSD was a 60ís thing! IMHO, it should have been. I have seen Limited Slip Differentials (LSD) in action a few times and consider them disappointing and problematic. The idea, as the name implies, is that once one wheel starts to experience a limited amount of slip or spin, pressure builds up in the LSD that begins to lock the two sides together, transferring power to the other tire. The disappointment comes from the fact that you never know when the LSD is gonna start working. I have seen situations where it should have turned on but didnít.

As far as the problematic side, in the real world, this is what I see. One tire starts spinning very fast. The vehicle starts to move past the obstacle that let the tire slip in the first place. Within just a couple of feet, the weight of the vehicle shifts, and now the fast spinning tire comes back in contact with the ground while the vehicle is still moving basically zero miles an hour. Sounds like axle snapping torque to me.


BIRFIELDS OR ?. Iíve broken 8 early birfields so far, so youíd think Iíd be up for a change. NOT! Every chain is only a strong as its weakest link, and Iíd rather stick with a part thatís easy to replace, rather than get a blingfield that breaks an inner shaft you might not get out so easy. Pick up a couple of spares on Ebay before everyone realizes how right I am!


GENERAL-Most components in the steering system are fairly easy to test, as long as you understand the principles involved. Each 'link' in the system is designed to do a simple task: take motion from one direction and change it into motion in another direction, with no excessive freeplay in the operation.

At the steering box, motion traveling vertically down the column is translated into horizontal motion out the sector shaft. With one hand on the steering wheel, simply turn the wheel back and forth and see how far it rotates before the sector shaft begins to rotate. This freeplay is in the steering box. Rebuild or replace if freeplay exceeds 1" of steering wheel rotation.

Likewise, the drag link and relay rod ends take motion from one direction and redirect it in another. The tie rod ends are comprised of a ball and socket assembly. If they are worn, you can usually see the socket bobbing up and down on the ball, or moving side to side on it if someone else turns the wheel back and forth a few inches while you're observing it. The drag links are rebuildable, the tie rod ends not.

The steering center arm likewise takes motion traveling down the side of the frame and changes it into lateral motion across the truck. The center arm should rotate cleanly in a horizontal plane. In most cases, it rocks slightly from side to side, indicating that it is at least out of adjustment. After repacking it with a good heavy grease, you can attempt to tighten the adjustment on the center arm according to the service manual. This is usually sufficient. If this does not remedy the wobble, a rebuild kit for the center arm is required.

a. MANUAL vs. POWER. Truth be told, once I did power steering on my FJ40, I wonder why I ever waited. I imagine that eventually I will have p/s on all my rigs except the resto 45. However, I counsel everyone I talk to with this one warning: if youíre considering p/s because your steering is sloppy, STOP!!!!!!!!!! Make sure you are treating the real problem, not just the symptom. Loose tie rod ends, spring bushings and wheel bearings can all contribute to sloppy steering and WILL NOT CHANGE BY INSTALLING POWER STEERING.

I have many customers who are more than satisfied with their factory manual steering once I have repaired the true source(s) of their steering problems. My take on this is, if it was always sloppy, they never would have left the showroom floor. Obviously it is possible to make the system work properly, if you are willing to invest the time and effort to make it happen. My 1965 LC that is my daily driver turns 32Ē tires with little effort and 100% control with rebuilt factory components.

b. TOYOTA vs. SAGINAW. Having installed a Toyota power steering system onto an FJ40 that didnít originally come with it, I can tell you that I was under-impressed. I thought (and still think) that it was and is a lot more money than a Saginaw conversion for what is essentially a power assist, versus full power. To visualize that difference, I compare it to turning the wheel with your palm, versus turning the wheel with one finger!

The advantage of the TOYOTA box is that you don't have to cut a hole thru your frame; the toy box incorporates the factory linkage (less problems with front winches,custom bumpers and toolboxes)Higher resale value too.

c. 72 AND OLDER ISSUES. If you havenít already taken a good look at the steering column in your FJ40, this may come a bit of a surprise to you: your steering box is 3 FEET LONG! The worm gear in the steering box extends as one solid shaft all the way to your steering wheel! If you are planning a power steering conversion, you will have a lot more work to do to keep your stock column than the 73 and newer guys. Downey Off Road (with my help) has a good kit for cutting and reinforcing the box/column just below the firewall.


1.BOX CHOICE/LOCATION-steering shaft. The traditional mounting location for a Saginaw steering box has been in the area just ahead of the front grill, inside the frame where the stock steering center arm goes. This works reasonably well, except for the angularity of the relay rod. On 6 cylinder applications, there may be an issue with connecting the steering column to this box as it passes the left side motor mount. Usually, running the early style round motor mount insulator will be sufficient. Occasionally the mount will need to be trimmed.
As far as which box to use, get a car box, not a truck, with as many turns lock to lock as possible. 4 turns is optimal.

If you intend to run a mini-truck box in the factory stand, obviously this isnít an issue.

2. PUMP MOUNT-alternator relocation-smog. The ideal spot to mount the power steering pump on all 6 cylinder cruisers is on the lower left side of the engine. This way you can run short hoses to the steering box and stay clear of air cleaner and exhaust issues. On 74 and older cruisers, this of course is where the alternator is located. Moving the alternator isnít that big of a deal on a 67 and newer cruiser because these engines have holes near the front of the passenger side of the head where an alternator relocation bracket can easily be installed( read the drive pulley section below)

On 1975 and newer cruisers, the alternator is already on the passenger side, out of the way. The only issue here is if the vehicle is exempt from emissions inspections because, the lower left is where the smog pump is installed! If you are unfortunate enough to have one of these, the power steering pump becomes more problematic. There are a couple of outfits offering pump mounts for these applications. They scare me a little because they require you to pull out one or more cylinder head bolts in order to attach the p/s pump above the smog pump (2F) or alternator (F). Besides the possibility of compromising the head gasket, the fan belt often gets very little contact with the pump (in degrees of wrap) which increases the likelihood of the belt slipping.

3. PUMP DRIVE -pulleys.v For optimum results, the alternator and the power steering should be driven by separate, dedicated belts. This requires two drive pulleys on the harmonic balancer. Not an issue for 73 and newer cruisers that came with a dual drive balancer (or 1968s!) If you have a single drive balancer, you can upgrade to a dual pulley balancer. For a lot less hassle (and possibly money too) I offer a bolt on pulley that adds a second drive to your balancer.


a. SHACKLE REVERSAL Why donít I sell this? Read my motto: I will only sell what I would be willing to install! As far as I know, Bob Hollingsworth is the only other one that is with me on this, but that still counts! In a nutshell, I think that front axle shackle reversal is a wash at best, an accident waiting to happen at worst!

Shackle reversal is most often considered as an option by people who have handling issues with their rigs. News flash: shackles are rarely the source of handling problems. I run front-mounted extended shackles on my cruisers, none of which have handling problems. If you address your real handling issues, you wonít need this. Consider this: if the stock setup was never roadworthy, it never would have left the dealership!

Hereís the theory, which I absolutely agree with. When you hit a bump with your stock suspension, the axle wants to recoil away from the bump, which means upwards and backwards (assuming you are moving forward at the time!) With the shackle mounted at the front of the spring, the spring (and consequently the axle) will need to move forward as the shackle flexes forward. This pushes the axle and the rig even harder into the Ďbumpí causing more shock and recoil. Having the shackle at the rear will allow the axle to travel away from the bump, lessening shock and recoil.

HOWEVER, THE CONVERSE IS ALSO TRUE. If you encounter a pothole, the axle in its stock configuration provides superior performance. As the ground falls away from the front tire, the axle will drop backwards towards the ground, with the shackle flexing back. A front mounted shackle will let the axle fall forward, into the abyss, so when it hits bottom, you guessed it, more shock and recoil. Really then, its just a crap shoot whether you plan on hitting more bumps or potholes.

Now for the bad news. A. Toyota never designed the cruiser for rear mounted shackles. The clearances on your driveshaft donít matter with an axle that only flexes away from the transfer case. With shackle reversal, you have the real potential of fully collapsing your driveshaft into your transfer case! OOPS. Maybe thatís why the companies that market them offer bump stop extensions so your axle will hopefully hit the frame before your driveshaft takes out your T-case! So now youíve got to limit suspension travel to compensate for this ďimprovementĒ

B.Now that the axle is flexing backwards, away from the steering center arm (or traditional Saginaw box) it causes a greater pull on the relay rod, as it moves away from its parallel plane to the main steering rod. This causes a condition known as Ďbump steerĒ . Basically, this means every time you hit a bump and your axle compresses away from your center arm or steering box, your tires will turn to the left. NICE? NOT!

C. At an off road event a few years back, I got to see an FJ40 that had the axle flex far enough back that the lugs of the tire grabbed the inner fender skirt where it protrudes around the steering box. Guess what happened?


For better or worse, I was the 'guinea pig' for Downey Off Road's foray into the world of compound shackles. Their shackle is marketed as the cantilever, but you can also find versions out there with other names. The premise is that the shackle has two stages in order to provide a certain lift during normal on and off road operation, and a second stage that theoretically should deploy under more extreme conditions to allow additional axle articulation [keeping tires on the ground to improve traction]

The first thing you need to know about these is that the upper half of the shackle lays flat against the frame when not in use. This bracket is too large to fit with the stock steering center arm in place on the FJ40 and FJ45. Which is to say, you need Saginaw power steering to even consider using this.

On the trail, I did not find the cantilevers to provide the extra articulation I had expected. In the Big Sluice of the Rubicon, I purposely took the right side of the trail [the high side] in order to come off of the big rock they call Volkswagon rock and see what the shackle would do. With the driver's side front tire hanging in the air, going downhill, the upper half of the shackle opened up a paltry 1"! On a previous run, I had purposely pushed the driver's front tire up onto a 3 foot tall boulder in order to see what these cantilevers would do. To my amazement, the suspension absorbed all of the flex required, and the other three tires were all on the ground, with NO extension of the shackle.

On the highway, I was very pleasantly surprised by the handling improvement of these shackles. Because the lower half of the shackle now splays forward at quite an angle compared to a stock shackle, leaf spring compression is greatly aided. The shackles, at their greater angle, shift less from side to side than standard shackles, which gives the axle a firmer feel at the wheel as well. So in summary I would say that these are a great improvement for on-road handling, but only a modest gain off road.

c. SOA (Springs Over Axle) In a nutshell: very easy to do, VERY HARD TO DO RIGHT!

This is a popular setup for the heavy duty rock crawling crowd because it offers A LOT of clearance potential for larger tires, as well as the under carraige. All other things being equal, you can count on getting about 5Ē of lift out of a SOA. Depending on the positioning of your power train and the length of your drivelines, this can be very problematic. The yokes and u-joints of your driveshafts only have a certain amount of flexability before they start to bind up. With an SOA, you will have an incredible amount of what I call Ďdroopí potential. The droop will increase the severity of the driveline angles well beyond the limits of the yokes and u-joints, so other modifications are critically necessary. The most basic of those is turning the differentials toward the transfer case.

In the rear, turning the differential is just a matter of welding the new perches on to the axle housing in the appropriate position, right? Well, not exactly. Consider three things. First, if you turn the diff up to the transfer case, will the pinion bearings be too high to get any oil? Thereís a recipe for disaster.

Second, if you take all the angle out of the lower u-joint, but the upper u-joint at the transfer case still has a lot of angularity, the difference will not go unnoticed by the driveshaft, but will actually cause its own wear problems.

Third, if you bring the pinion line up to the driveshaft, when you apply power, the differential will actually rotate up, higher than the driveshaft angle, which puts a high stress load on the weakest part of the pinion, right at the driveshaft flange. Have I slowed you down yet?

With the front axle, things are even more complicated. The front differential generally needs more rotation than the rear because the transfer case is tipped up away from it. At the same time, you canít change the rotation of the axle 1 degree without throwing your caster completely out of whack. A proper spring over will require you to dissassemble the axle, grind the welds off that hold the steering knuckles to the main housing and rotate the center housing only! How much to turn the axle is anybodyís guess. A couple of good mock ups are really the best way to go. There are lots of good BB discussions on this. Some of the SOAís out there are so radical that nothing short of high pinion differentials will solve their problems.

c. LIFT KITS. There used to be some scary stuff on the market in the 70ís and 80ís. I think product liability and more competition drove off all the bad stuff. I think every suspension I have seen advertised recently is good. There is no hands-down winner IMHO. I personally think OME is mostly hype and bling. If youíre considering mail order springs, just make sure you know what the shipping charges are BEFORE you give them your credit card! I like the 4Ē lift springs I sell, with tapered leafs and poly pads, but I donít think theyíre that special. Truth in advertising!

d. SHOCKS. I run a single Rancho 5000 shock at each corner. I havenít killed one in my 6000 pound Blazer in 20 years, so every thing else is just overkill to me. Rancho 5000 have the best warranty, they are the easiest to find a store to warranty (should you ever need one) and most-cost effective. Everything else is just bling unless youíre in the go-fast crowd. If you are in the go-fast crowd, get an onboard control system and a co-pilot to run it (ďkeep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheelď-Jim Morrison-Roadhouse Blues)


a.70 AND OLDER FIREWALL/carb issues.

IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING A DISC BRAKE ON YOUR 1970 OR OLDER FJ, READ THIS FIRST! You should not attempt a disc brake conversion without first doing a power brake conversion. If you cannot afford power brakes, DONíT DO THE DISC!

When contemplating power brakes on your 1970 or older FJ, the first thing to consider is whether you have the original 6 or the V8. The reason for this is that the combined length of the master cylinder and booster will run into the stock carburetor on the 6 cylinder. You do not have this issue with a V-8 because the carb is in the middle of the engine compartment

The second issue is the firewall brace between the brake and clutch master cylinders. I am not in favor of cutting any primary tub bracing. That is why I have designed an adapter to space the booster out from the firewall past the brace. The Landcruiser booster WILL fit if you cut out the brace; it will partially obscure the mounting flange of the clutch master cylinder.

b. POWER vs MANUAL. If you have driven a cruiser with power brakes and then got back in your non-power FJ, you know: power brakes are NICE! If youíve ever been in a 71-75FJ with 4wheel power drums that pulls sharply when you hit the brakes you know: power brakes can be SCARY! Adjustments that are important on manual brakes are exacting on power brakes.

If you are contemplating power brakes because you canít get good pedal out of your manual, hereís a tip: YOU WONíT GET GOOD PEDAL FROM THE POWER EITHER! You are attempting to treat a symptom, not a problem; that is why it doesnít work. I have full, hard pedal with 1Ē of pedal travel on my single reservoir, manual braked 65DD. It can be done; it just takes good parts and patience.

If you are contemplating power brakes because you donít like the thought of one leaking wheel cylinder taking out your whole brake system, I UNDERSTAND AND SYMPATHIZE! That is why, when I restored my shortbed 45, I developed an adapter to put the tandem master cylinder directly up to the firewall. Now I have the safety without the booster issues!

c. DRUM vs. DISC. IMHO, drum brakes have superior stopping power. The power drum brakes on my HJ45 are so strong, they will throw you forward if you hit the pedal hard! The real issue with the drums is THE DRUMS! 90% of my calls on disc brake conversions are from guys with the 71-75 power drum system that have radical pulling to one side and/or cannot get hard pedal on the first pump. This is because the factory drum is weak. You can have the drum turned perfectly round, but the simple act of bolting a rim over it will warp it into an elliptical, with high and low spots that cause the brakes to skip, drag and pull.

SOLUTION A: I have imported heavy duty replacement drums whose flanges are literally twice as thick as the stock drum, isolating the wheel pressure. The drum weighs 6 pounds more than stock, and satisfies the majority of my customers.

SOLUTION B: Disc Brakes. there are two things that I will grant about disc brakes. One is that they are definitely lower maintainance. Nothing I have said above detracts from the fact that drum brakes require more attention. The second is that discs will work better after getting wet than drums will. I have scored my brake shoes to help them dry easier; if water crossings are a regular part of your off road adventures, then discs make sense.

d. DISC PARKING BRAKE. Other than the bling factor, I don't recommend this unless your cruiser is not going to leave the pavement OR you have a skidplate that is impregnable. While the theory of the disc is interesting, as a practical matter you cannot get a disc big enough to reach into a caliper of any worth without it being big enough to hang lower than the transfer case. That being the case, it becomes the weak link, because as soon as you hit it, you WILL dent it, and it will not travel thru the caliper any more. At that point, something will have to give, and I don't want to be there to find out what it is.


a. STEEL, ALUMINUM OR FIBERGLASS TUBS. I like steel the best, because itís the easiest to repair or modify. Fiberglass and aluminum have the same problem as v-8s in that they rarely increase resale value.

b. DIAMOND PLATE QUARTER PANELS. Considering that I donít like covering up mechanical problems (read steering, brake and suspension sections) you can kind of guess my opinion here too. However, I wouldnít put the same effort into repairing sheet metal on a trail rig as a street one. I fondly remember on one of my very first outings with the TLCA (Dusy-1986) meeting a guy who welded a piece of 1/8Ē steel over every dent he put in his truck! Judging from his green Dalmatian, he used the truck a lot! After backing into a tree on Thompson hill a year later, I decided to weld 1/8Ē steel into both my rear corners.

c. REPLACEMENT QUARTER PANELS. Great idea, but they are a TON of work. Separating the bedrail from the factory skin is a chore an a half. Then you get to figure out how to get the skin off of the wheelwells with out destroying them. Unless you have really serious rust cancer, I think I would rather just cut the parts out of the replacement panel that I needed and weld them into the existing quarter panel. I am beginning to see companies offering smaller panels following this same logic.

d. WEATHERSTRIPPING. Weatherstripping is for wind and rattles, not water. Drill your floorboards! I once accused a teenager who was washing my 78FJ40 of deliberately aiming the hose at the door seams because of the amount of water that had gone inside, past good weatherstripping. His response: ďGet real! Your Landcruiser couldnít keep out a heavy fog! A typical antagonistic and annoying answer from a teenager, but oh so true. I have given up making any of my land cruisers weather tight. Now I just go around drilling unobtrusive holes to let the water back out!

e. RUST PROTECTION. No carpets, no mats, no headliners, no spray on liners. I am passionate about this. Anything that can act as a blister, holding moisture underneath its surface, against the metal, is insidious. The problem with liners is that, like many things in life, the vast majority of the work is in the preparation. Inadequate prep will mean that patches of liner wonít stick as well or at all, forming, you guessed it, BLISTERS! You have to wipe down and scuff every square inch of body and or frame you intend to coat, or pay a lot of money to a shop who might actually do it, but will probably settle for a power wash! DONíT DO IT!

I donít know anything about rust inhibitors like POR 15, so I cannot comment on them.

f. BONDO. The quick and dirty answer for people that canít or wonít weld and intend to sell their truck in the near future. It is useful as a skim coat after sheet metal work is done.


a. WIRING: stock vs. aftermarket. Pretty much a wash. Stock has easier color codes to follow, but is obviously older and more temperamental. Internal breaks in the wire cause a lot of grief. Aftermarket wiring looks a lot easier to set up than it actually is. If done properly (which includes writing LOTS OF STUFF DOWN) it can be a superior solution.

b. GAUGES- stock vs. aftermarket. Marv Specter said to me 18 years ago, Ďland cruiser guages are one step above idiot lightsĎ . Eighteen years later, I would add, a very small step! As an illustration: I run a tandem oil pressure gauge on Ruftoys. The mechanical gauge will show a 20lb fluctuation with little or no response from the Toyota gauge! The water gauge isnít much better. At least the fuel gauge is reliable once you get the sender working right!