So today we stickered-up the rig. We had Steve over at Anderson Brothers take the web site banner and turn it into a vinyl graphic for the rig. The guys there did a great job creating a 70″ long vinyl sticker. The sticker gives the rig a real one-of-a-kind look.
Along with Last Great Road Trip sticker, we added our sponsors stickers as well. Sway-A-Way, are the guys who make the coil overs and shocks we are running. The 2″+ lift the SAWs added and the great ride have convinced us that we made the right choice. These have performed well on the trails so far. The Haul Road will really put them to the test and I’m sure they will make the 800 miles of dirt and gravel much more bearable.
Mark at Metal Tech installed those SAWs and put on the bull bar, winch and fog lights along with a very nice custom fabrication that keeps those big tires from rubbing (aka body mount chop).
If you spot our rig driving around, honk and let us know you’ve seen us on the web. Honk for Diversity.
Their is no cell coverage on the Haul Road and many stretches of roads along the way to the Arctic Circle. On these roads and most off-road adventures the life line is maintained by CB radio with the truckers watching out for each other on channel 19. To keep in touch, hear warnings, and provide assistance if needed we picked up a CB radio with the weather channels.
The CB mod was one I did myself based on the posting of bigbill25 on the FJCRUISERforums.com. Thanks to bigbill25 and others on the thread selecting the right equipment and installation was straight forward. I did take one major deviation from the postings. I ran the coax cable through the inside, rather than under along the frame. My route followed the tail light wire bundle. By following Toyota’s cable route I was able to take advantage of the protection put in place to ensure wires don’t get crushed, stripped or pulled out.
The CB is a one hand unit so it can be installed without much room. In fact with everything tucked into place, no mounting was required and we kept the OME look. The antenna is now tuned for the radio and tuning a CB antenna turned out to be pretty straight forward once we picked up the SWR meter.
The mod tally is now at five with:
- Sway-A-Way coil over shocks
- ARB bull bar
- Warn 9.5 XP winch
- Wilderness rack
- Cobra 75WXST CB
What makes me think I can build a better Toyota FJ Cruiser than the engineers at Toyota? Well I’m not hampered by the need to please a large demographic and ensure the rig meets marketing, budget and focus group requirements set forth by the starched shirt corporate bean counters. No, I just need to ensure the mods register high on my cool meter… and they do!
As I mentioned we made a run down to Portland to see our friends at Metal Tech. The guys at Metal Tech are great and by guys I mean Mark and LT the owners of Metal Tech. They put on a new Sway-A-Way Coil-Over Shocks, ARB bull bar, IPF fog lights and a Warn winch. And for a guy like me it was great because Mark knows and enjoys chatting about everything FJ from 40s, 80s and Cruisers . He also let me hang around like I was a real motor-head.
Now those of you who remember, I started out looking to get an Old Man Emu coil-over shock set. Everyone I talked to said they are good for the type of terrain and driving we plan to do on this off-road adventure. Mark had even pre-staged the font shocks in perpetration for the install. Then when I got there I had to ask about the Sway-A-Ways (SAWs for those in the know). He explained how they are hand build and exclusively tuned for the FJ. The SAWs have 7/8” shafts, 2.5″ diameter shocks and they are completely re-buildable. Of course once I started asking Mark explained he did have one last set I check out and that was all it took. Ok let me be the first to admit it… I upgraded to the SAWs because they are high on the cool factor and I get instant off-road trail cred showing up with these bad boys. On the performance, as a result of adding the SAWs, the ride is great. Stiff enough to make handling a dream without jarring my teeth loose. The increased travel is very visible with the rig now sitting two and half inches taller. The cool SAW logo visible at the top of the shock is bonus.
The ARB bull bar Mark and LT added rides nice and straight with the SAWs in place and holds the Warn 9.5 XP winch. In order to reduce a little weight the guys swapped out the winch cable for a synthetic line. The synthetic line is the same stuff I run for the dogs tug lines when we go mushing in the winter.
The whole set of mods really work as a package. The grill and front will now be protected from any deer, moose, bear or big foot that jump out in front of us. This is a big plus over the five pounds of plastic that was replaced. The little IPF fog lights will hopefully allow us to see and be seen a little better and avoid hitting the critters all together.
With all the new travel and lift there is always the temptation to test out the next bolder path or sand trap. To make sure the rig doesn’t get stuck the Warn winch should be just the ticket to pull our way out. But as everyone knows the winch is probably your last resort. Often a few shovel fulls of dirt moved from here to there can do the trick and get you unstuck. But just in case the shoveling doesn’t work we now have the winch.
Ok the rig is moving up on the cool factor meter, but take a look at LT’s rig. He and Mark really know their stuff and put it to work on their Toyota trucks as well as everyone they help. Thanks Guys.
We have started the ball rolling for a number of the mods we will need in order to take the FJ Cruiser on our off-rad adventure to the Arctic Circle. Some of these mods are simple; others involve major components. To record the humble beginning we started with, say the best stock off-road rig available today, we’ve captured a few quick shots of our stock rig in action.
One mod you will see already in place is the new addition to the factory roof rack. The FJ Cruiser Adventure Rack has been installed. I know the factory roof rack catches a lot of flack, but like it. The look works for me. What I did not like was all that wasted space up front. The new wilderness rack sits in the front and creates a nice four-inch deep basket. Having these two basket areas also helps keep everything neat and tidy while allowing access front and back. I only need to focus on digging through or securing half the load at a time.
While this little set of two tracks is nothing to write home about, in fact it is only six blocks away from home, it did give us a change to validate that all the nuts and bolts were tightened as well as test out the low gears and rear locker. The stock clearance is good enough to go up and down these little 20-degree dirt terraces but we’ll be adding to it soon.
Toyota did a nice job with their rig making it off-road capable right out of the box. Sure they made compromises to sell to a wider audience but it still retains its trail worthiness and Land Cruiser heritage. Part of our preparation is to ensure the rig is as self-sufficient as possible since more often then not the nearest civilization will be a couple of hundred miles away as we will travel down washboard gravel and mountain pass two tracks heading to the Arctic Ocean. Of course we’ll be carrying a couple of tires, fuel and the usual stuff to get unstuck. Even though we are not going rock-crawling we will be getting off the beaten path and don’t want to rely on someone else coming by for help.
Soon we’ll post up the rig with its mods so you can follow the changes. We’ll also let you know if the mods perform as we hope and tell you weather we think they are worth the trouble, at least from our point-of-view. You can decide if they are right for you.