Builds BJ73 for Pan American Highway (Alaska to Argentina)

Joined
Jun 26, 2019
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Location
NJ, USA
Hi All,

Planning a PAH trip later this year (starting in fall) and looking to pick up an older Land Cruiser for the trip.

Was thinking about a BJ73 (w/ 197K miles & the 3.4L diesel) and wanted to get the communities input - would you recommend this 2-door for the trip in terms of overall reliability and parts availability? Looking to stay away from newer cars for overall simplicity of repairs and electronics (and the uniqueness factor, of course :) )

If so, any mods that you think are must have for the trip? (e.g. better temp gauge, necessary spare parts to bring, etc.). Also open to other vehicles the group might recommend. Plan is to take 3 months to do the trip and spend as much time off the highways as possible.

Thanks!
 

FJBen

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Apr 1, 2004
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Have you ever driven a BJ73?

I'd have a few little concerns with a BJ73. A loaded down BJ73 could make a slow ride. As you are going off-highway as much as possible you should be fine with the 3B. It's a very reliable engine, good on mileage and the whole 70 series are some of the toughest vehicles ever made.

How many people are going? Not a ton of room in a BJ73/74, but for 2 or less it should work great.

Camping in a tent or roof top tent? There have been issues with mounting roof-racks on a BJ73/BJ74 FRP top. Just make sure you read up on how to do it the best way.

Power:
I have a BJ74 13BT turbo diesel, and I wouldn't want any less power. It's peppy and runs excellent, but I definitely wouldn't want less. I'm averaging 20mpg at the moment and have a range of around 400miles if I drive around 65 or under. If this BJ73 is in tip top mechanical shape you could slap a turbo on it as others have done to get more power.

Cooling: overheating is the enemy of these 3B's. You could always do a preventative maintenance new head gasket (MLS style) and replace any cracked pre-cups in the head, and just do an overhaul on the cooling system. Fan clutch, water pump, thermostat, hoses, belts. A busted hose can ruin your day/trip/engine. Ask me about that.

Is this a 12v or 24v BJ73? That might make choosing what spares to bring a little different.

Fuel system: Get a good pre-filter like a Racor or something you can see and unscrew for when you get bad fuel. Carry a couple extra filters, plus at least 5 gallons of diesel and some sort of additive for bad diesel/water removal.


I would recommend getting everything mechanical up to speed:
Engine
Knuckle rebuild
Brakes refresh
New fluids in all spots
new hoses, belts

Headlights LED upgrade or H4, AND driving or off-road lights. These older 70 series lights are dim!
Well known tire brand with spare and repair kits. Get something and a size you can get all over.
Tint: Harder to steal what they can't see.

Protection:
Bumper, at least a front ARB preferable with winch so you don't have to count on someone else.
Rear: good idea with swing outs for spare or 2, extra fuel, high-lift jack and whatever else you might need

Locker: I would get a least 1 locker on this. ARB/Harrop E-locker would be my preference.

Comfort: Seats...see if these will be comfortable enough for that long of a trip. Scheel Mann seems to get a ton of reviews on those seats, although they are pricey.

Solar charger: Cheap and easy way to help keep batteries and whatever fridge/etc you run charged.


As for spares, most things you can get online in a few days from wherever you may be. Aside from your standard belts/hoses/tools/fuel you could maybe do an alternator.

Sounds like a fun trip!
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
12
Location
NJ, USA
Have you ever driven a BJ73?

I'd have a few little concerns with a BJ73. A loaded down BJ73 could make a slow ride. As you are going off-highway as much as possible you should be fine with the 3B. It's a very reliable engine, good on mileage and the whole 70 series are some of the toughest vehicles ever made.

How many people are going? Not a ton of room in a BJ73/74, but for 2 or less it should work great.

Camping in a tent or roof top tent? There have been issues with mounting roof-racks on a BJ73/BJ74 FRP top. Just make sure you read up on how to do it the best way.

Power:
I have a BJ74 13BT turbo diesel, and I wouldn't want any less power. It's peppy and runs excellent, but I definitely wouldn't want less. I'm averaging 20mpg at the moment and have a range of around 400miles if I drive around 65 or under. If this BJ73 is in tip top mechanical shape you could slap a turbo on it as others have done to get more power.

Cooling: overheating is the enemy of these 3B's. You could always do a preventative maintenance new head gasket (MLS style) and replace any cracked pre-cups in the head, and just do an overhaul on the cooling system. Fan clutch, water pump, thermostat, hoses, belts. A busted hose can ruin your day/trip/engine. Ask me about that.

Is this a 12v or 24v BJ73? That might make choosing what spares to bring a little different.

Fuel system: Get a good pre-filter like a Racor or something you can see and unscrew for when you get bad fuel. Carry a couple extra filters, plus at least 5 gallons of diesel and some sort of additive for bad diesel/water removal.


I would recommend getting everything mechanical up to speed:
Engine
Knuckle rebuild
Brakes refresh
New fluids in all spots
new hoses, belts

Headlights LED upgrade or H4, AND driving or off-road lights. These older 70 series lights are dim!
Well known tire brand with spare and repair kits. Get something and a size you can get all over.
Tint: Harder to steal what they can't see.

Protection:
Bumper, at least a front ARB preferable with winch so you don't have to count on someone else.
Rear: good idea with swing outs for spare or 2, extra fuel, high-lift jack and whatever else you might need

Locker: I would get a least 1 locker on this. ARB/Harrop E-locker would be my preference.

Comfort: Seats...see if these will be comfortable enough for that long of a trip. Scheel Mann seems to get a ton of reviews on those seats, although they are pricey.

Solar charger: Cheap and easy way to help keep batteries and whatever fridge/etc you run charged.


As for spares, most things you can get online in a few days from wherever you may be. Aside from your standard belts/hoses/tools/fuel you could maybe do an alternator.

Sounds like a fun trip!
Thanks so much for the quick and thorough reply! I haven't ridden one personally, only via friends/ internet. We'd be 2 making the trip and would likely camp in tents (overall i'd like to keep the weight down for fuel efficiency - relatively speaking).

I don't have a specific truck in mind (to answer your voltage question).

Would love something with the HZ engine but seems as though many of those trucks I wanted (e.g. Troopy) are very expensive. Overall, I'm looking for something around the $15K mark.

Any thoughts on other vehicles that could fit the bill? Thanks!
 

FJBen

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Joined
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Messages
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You are right about getting a 1HZ. Simple, reliable and all parts are still available for it.

Do you care if its RHD or LHD? That narrows the search and price a little.

If you wanted a 73 series, the one to get is the HZJ73. It's the newest, most parts available and can be had in LHD. It will have more power than a BJ73 but is basically the same rig.

Troopys are kind of the de-facto overloading rig at the moment. There is a cool one here: 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ75. My guess is it's goes up to 25K, it's a gasser.

That said...
You can pickup a built "expedition ready" 80 series for the price to get a stock BJ74/74, HZJ73 with probably who knows what maintenance. I know it's not as cool as the 70 series, but super reliable, comfortable and they are all over in US. I've had 6 80 series from stock to built and driven all over the US and would have no issues doing that again. The 80 series is one of my favorite Land Cruisers. Biggest downside with 80 series, fuel mileage will be 10-12mpg.
I wouldn't have issues taking my BJ74, but I just rebuilt the whole engine and will build doing the rest of the mods/knuckles, brakes, etc. It for sure wouldn't be as comfortable as an 80 series, but IMO cooler.

That BJ73 on eBay looks OK but it appears to have a lot of bondo and rust coming through. I also doubt it has any maintenance history.

What is your mechanic/skill level?
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
12
Location
NJ, USA
You are right about getting a 1HZ. Simple, reliable and all parts are still available for it.

Do you care if its RHD or LHD? That narrows the search and price a little.

If you wanted a 73 series, the one to get is the HZJ73. It's the newest, most parts available and can be had in LHD. It will have more power than a BJ73 but is basically the same rig.

Troopys are kind of the de-facto overloading rig at the moment. There is a cool one here: 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ75. My guess is it's goes up to 25K, it's a gasser.

That said...
You can pickup a built "expedition ready" 80 series for the price to get a stock BJ74/74, HZJ73 with probably who knows what maintenance. I know it's not as cool as the 70 series, but super reliable, comfortable and they are all over in US. I've had 6 80 series from stock to built and driven all over the US and would have no issues doing that again. The 80 series is one of my favorite Land Cruisers. Biggest downside with 80 series, fuel mileage will be 10-12mpg.
I wouldn't have issues taking my BJ74, but I just rebuilt the whole engine and will build doing the rest of the mods/knuckles, brakes, etc. It for sure wouldn't be as comfortable as an 80 series, but IMO cooler.

That BJ73 on eBay looks OK but it appears to have a lot of bondo and rust coming through. I also doubt it has any maintenance history.

What is your mechanic/skill level?
Preferably I'd pick a LHD (manual if I had my choice) model as I hear there are some issues entering some countries in a RHD car (e.g. Costa Rica). Would love to pick up an HZJ73 but the current stock seems pretty limited.

The 80 series is an option but you're right, gas mileage would be a killer as I'm planning to travel ~20K miles. I'd love a troopy as well, however those seem to be pretty prohibitive on price to purchase. If they can be had for much cheaper than than an HZJ however, the spend on gas or diesel may be a moot point.

In terms of mechanic skill level, I'm pretty comfortable with light duty stuff (e.g. swapping out an alternator, brakes, changing bearings etc.) but have never done anything deeper (e.g. suspension, replacing head gaskets etc.) Not that I wouldn't be comfortable, just that I haven't done it before.
 

FJBen

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@MobiusRising
Yes, you can get a built 80 series for cheaper than a stock HZJ73. Your HZJ's are usually $15K and up for stock, non-locked, no-ac LHD.

You can get a baselined, lifted, locked, bumpers 80 for $15kish thats ready to go for the most part.

That said, diesel in the US is more expensive and would take A LONG time to make up the mileage difference between gas cost/vs diesel cost MPG. Diesel in south america may be really cheap or really expensive, that I don't know.

I'll agree the 70 series are cooler for sure. If you are in it because you like adventure and the 70 series, then go for it and bust out that wallet. That troopy I linked earlier would be an excellent rig to travel in. The 3F isn't my favorite engine, but it's reliable. That auction is ending soon. Possibly some bad body work, no heat or A/C.

If you really like the HZJ73, one will show up. @joekatana gets them from time to time. I believe he just sold what would have been an excellent one for you.
 
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Aug 18, 2014
Messages
187
I don’t recommend a RTT on a 73 with stock suspension . I had one on my 73 for awhile and it makes it TOP heavy feeling ...mine has a trail tamer suspension lift kit...but the PO removed one leaf on each corner to make the ride more comfortable in unloaded form , so I imagine it’s probably still a bit stiffer than stock . I base that off my stock RJ70 that is very soft still in comparison to my 73.

I have the front runner roof rack also. The rack kit can be made for use on the 73 no problem . Just tell em what truck you have and they just send the correct lengths and brackets .

Fuel cost in Central America can be more than the US ...especially in El Salvador . Ultra clean diesel is rare still , so the 3B or HZ is a good choice . The highway speeds there are considerably lower than here also , so the 3b is still at home there. Finding camping gear and vehicle accessories is near to impossible to find in CA , and when you do it’s 2-3 times what you pay here for it.

El Sal doesn’t allow RHD into the country either . I’m not sure what the boarder crossing into Nica is like right now , but I know the US had travel restrictions and have had many warnings posted on the state department site for some time now . Most Americans have vacated the country for some time now.

If your plans are to make it to South America , I would just bypass Central America and ship the trucks to Colombia from Cali or Miami. Save your money for travel in South America . There is more to see in SA anyways .

I lived in EL Sal for almost two years and traveled a lot in that country and a bit in Guatemala while there. I hope your Spanish is up to speed also ..you won’t find a lot of English speakers in El Sal , Guatemala , or Hondo. Especially in rural areas. Crime is real there , and just because some say they drove through without a hitch doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s a odds game and if your there long enough you will witness it or be a victim of it. Seems like South America has less stories of bad encounters .

I had a incident in San Salvador , where they tried to pull me from my cruiser when I drove into the wrong neighborhood by accident. I also seen several dead laying in the streets or ditch while driving around that country.

Have you seen the FB groups




Some people just sell their rigs at the end of their journey rather than ship them home. May be a option for you also.

Good luck !
 

89GASHOG

 
 
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If your plans are to make it to South America , I would just bypass Central America and ship the trucks to Colombia from Cali or Miami. Save your money for travel in South America ..
After hearing my Guatemalan friends' account of his latest (and claims to be last) road trip from US back home I think this is good advice. In Mexico he was shaken down for cash by both the latest big drug cartel and the military. Every trip he's taken through C. America has featured some sort of misadventure in which he's been ripped off in some way or another. This time he was driving a beat up 90's Toyota 4x4 pickup that he sold down there. Maybe for gringos it's a bit safer but I wouldn't count on it.
 
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