Buying the Unicorn

Joined
Apr 10, 2019
Messages
6
Location
Colorado Springs
Let's see how this goes. My first post ever:

I had been looking into getting a land cruiser but honestly I am pretty much a cheap skate and was having a hard time parting with the kind of cash it would require. I was open to an 80 or 100 series as I needed it to be at least nice enough and easy enough to drive that my wife would be willing and able to do so from time to time.

I almost pulled the trigger on a few different rigs that were in the $20,000-$25,000 range and were basically ready to go as overlanders. I know me and I am not a do the project a little at a time, kind of guy. I have to just grind it out until it is done or just buy it pretty much complete. That is the route I was hoping to go.

My brother had been helping me look and he found a previously listed 80 series that had not sold. He hit the guy up and he seemed pretty much ready to let the thing go for what I felt was a VERY reasonable price! I kept calling it the unicorn. As in, too good to be true and unicorns do not exist, they are imaginary.

The rig came with a professionally done 4BT swap with a 4L80E and a bunch of overlanding gear! I was excited but also knew this could be a bit more than I could handle if things needed to be worked on. I am a pathetic mechanic and knew basically nothing about diesels. Lucky for me I have some brilliant friends, one of whom is a great mechanic, diesel or otherwise and one of his best buddies is a 4bt nut! He has owned a TON of them (honestly I think he has 4 sitting around right this moment). So with them to help I felt like it may be something worth pursuing.

Oh did I mention the rig was 1700 miles away and had been sitting for a few months... I talked my mechanic buddy into flying out to take a look at it and we decided that if it seemed all good we were going to drive it the 1700 miles back home. We looked it over for a couple hours and both test drove it for a few miles and honestly it was better than we expected. It was by no means perfect but seemed like a legitimately good buy.


I didn't even dicker with the guy just paid him the agreed upon price, signed the docs and we decided to drive the thing about an hour and a half away and stay at a friends house that night, get up in the morning and give everything a final going over and then heading for home. Well... we got about 15 min down, the road at night, in the dark, in an area we do not know at all and the engine started making this terribly loud banging sound, then the turbo dies a very audible death a few seconds later. We could hear the tone of the turbo change and get deeper. "Oh crap" was pretty much it. We pulled of at the first available exit to investigate.

Pulled the air intake off and there was metal in the intake and the turbo was toast. We figured that what ever it was, it had been pushed through the turbo and was likely in the engine block so, change of plans. We got an Uber back to the seller's house. He felt terrible, had no idea what the problem was and help us figure out how we were going to get it home. He put us up for the night in a nice hotel just down the road, came back and picked us up in the morning, went with us to rent a trailer, picked up the LC and helped us locate a rental F250 to tow it home with.
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So the unicorn did not exist. Towing it home cost almost $3000 ($500 in air fare to fly out, $550 to rent the trailer, $900 for the truck, about $700 in fuel, and a bit more in food, etc.). We could have just had it shipped home for about half that and probably another $500ish to fly home. The problem was it was too tall for standard shipping and we were on a bit of time crunch and could not find anyone quick enough to get it done before we needed to be back home.

Once we got it home the real fun began. We pulled the head off and there was what appeared to be pieces of a large steel packing staples hammered into the top of a couple of the pistons. Still no idea how they got there. It really makes no sense. The 4 bt swap was originally done by Proffitt's Cruisers in 2011, before they became Proffitt's Resurrections. It was a pretty basic swap and they did not put an intercooler on it. I sure wish they would have because it would have caught the metal pieces.
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We ordered new pistons, a rebuild kit, and head studs, all the parts to build an intercooler, picked up a HE221w turbo from my buddy with all the 4BT parts. Decided that since we were going to be in it so deep we may as well make it great right from the start. So we ordered up new injectors, a 3000 RPM governor spring (it only had the stock 2000 RPM spring in it), 60# valve springs, an Attitude Adjuster, an EGT gauge, and boost gauge, since it did not have them and a couple pods to mount them and a Koso temp gauge. The stock Toyota gauge did work but the sender was really badly done and the Toyota gauge is just not that accurate. Since we had done a bit of tuning we just figured it was a good idea to upgrade. That turned out to be life saver. It also did not have a harmonic balancer and the 4BT guy had one just lying around, so why not add that too. We noticed that the torque converter was not the right one for the job. The previous owner had it put in by AAMCO and they pretty much just threw in something they had lying around. He had told us that he had had trouble with it for a long time and we notice that was the case when we test drove it. So ordered up a better fit.

We pulled the motor and got to work. A bunch of long days, late nights, lots and lots of money, many beers later and we had the engine back in and vastly improved. Once it was in we were reconnecting the wiring and realized that the wiring was not really soldered or crimped in place properly, so we did that properly as well. The wiring was really a pretty big mess. The previous owner was an electrical engineer and did a job good enough for an installation that sat in place but not for something bumping down the road at 80 miles an hour. We did a bit of a hack and slash job to get it up and going, knowing full well we would have to redo a bunch, if not all, of the wiring later on. There was a bunch of other stuff but if I listed it all the post would go on forever.
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Once up and running I drove it like a saint for the break in period. It was all pretty ok at first. The transmission did not run right at all but it did move down the road. We knew we needed to get the engine and turbo running right and then we could start monkeying with the transmission issues. There were issues like the waste gate would only allow for 20lb of boost, so ordered a boost controller. The AC and heater did not work. We recharged the AC and it was good to go. The heater has a plastic cable that opens and closes the valve and it was broken so that will need to be addressed but we have not got to that yet. Once we got the boost controller in we were pretty stoked to take it out and see what it would do and start figuring out the transmission quirks. What a train wreck that drive turned out to be.

Spent the first part of the day figuring out why the tachometer was not working. The set up was pretty janky and my brilliant friend found a much better and simpler solution. He also figured out that the Dakota Digital sender was not wired exactly right and remedied that. We did the set up wizard on the Tci EZ-tcu. We did notice right off that the battery voltage was reading pretty low on the hand held (more on that later). We took it out on the road. AC pumping out cold air. The sun shining on a beautiful afternoon and we started checking out what the transmission was doing.

It turns out that it was running worse than I realized. I have never owned a diesel and I just did not realize what all was going on but once we had the controller hand held going it was obvious that it was going into 4th way to early and just staying there. It had noticed plenty of issues I just did know what they were. The dang engine has so much torque that it will just chug along in 4th no problem even at VERY low speeds. The torque converter was doing exactly the opposite of what it should, locking up when no throttle was applied and unlocking when you put your food to it. We are cruising along watching the boost, the EGT's and the controller hand held when I look down and were are on the verge of over heating. We pull over, shut it down and take a look. Nothing obviously wrong. Let it cool down, go to start it and no go. Dead battery(s). Get a jump and drive it into town to the Napa. Pull the battery and they put it on a fast charge. While waiting we try to figure out what's up. We had been having some battery issues but figured it was all the starting and testing. NOPE! When we went through and re-did the main wiring we missed checking the alternator connection. It was never soldered on and was not really even crimped it was just held on by some really nice heat shrink. It had literally fallen off the alternator. So a parking lot crimp and we are back in business.

After the Napa charge up we are rolling again this time heading straight back to the shop. It is overheating a bit again right as pull into the shop. Hook the charger up to the other battery on a fast charge and the minute we hook up the cables and turn it on the fan fires up. Overheating question answered and hopeful that is why the hand held was giving low battery voltage. The second battery was so low that it did not have enough juice to run the cooling fan. By this point we have been at it again non-stop for 2 days. Its running so I drive home and start doing some research.

I replace one battery as it is pretty much toast and hope it will fix the voltage issue. It does not. I think the problems are likely from a bad tps (it has what I think is a mid 2000's Cummins throttle control sensor) so I test it out and it seems ok. It has the Cummins throttle body and the mounting bracket is just crap. It's held on by 2 bolts instead of the stick six. We new it would need to be fixed but figured, it had been running along this way for a long time and we would get to it later. Not sure who did it that way. We think it got changed some time after the Proffitt's swap. As best as we can guess Proffitt's sent it out with the throttle controlled by a Cummins computer mounted in the engine bay. Some body must have decided to change it but they decided to run the tps control back through the computer anyway. Not sure why. Dropped it off at the 4BT guys house and let him monkey with it for a couple days. He ran everything direct and just deleted the need for the computer. He also ran a direct line to the TCU since we could not tell if that was done correctly (we assumed not since plenty of the wiring had been done improperly). When tested it had 12v in and 12v out but still read 7v-8.5v on the hand held. It made the transmission run a little better but still not great.

At this point my brilliant mechanic buddy is pissed and he does not really like the TCU EZ-tci functionality so I order a new controller that will do a better job with the Cummins motor. We also decide to just bite the bullet an redo ALL the under hood wiring. So I order up two Waytek Power Distribution Modules and all the goodies that we will need to get it all sorted.

If you all have some wisdom to impart I'm all ears. It has been one heck of a ride up to now and I have no idea how much farther down the rabbit hole will go. There are still some issues I have not mentioned like I'm pretty sure I have a birfield going out. The aftermarket remote locks and alarm system are all glitchy so I disconnected it and will figure it out later. The oil pressure gauge sender leaks like a sieve so that will need to be replaced. , the power steering pump leaks so I ordered the rebuild kit for it.

I'm heading out of town for a family vacation and will likely just leave it at my buddies house so he may get some more done while I am gone but will not be updating for at least a couple weeks. Cheers and man I love this site!
 
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Joined
Feb 21, 2012
Messages
1,558
Location
Snohomish, WA
Dang, that was quite the read. It sucks that the truck has been nothing but problems for you but it's a pretty common story. Especially with used vehicles that have had extensive modifications done previously by persons unknown with varying skill sets. Keep plugging away at it is all I can say, you'll get there after a lot of beer and $
 

G-Cat

SILVER Star
 
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2003
Messages
4,793
Location
Georgia
Nothing to add but sympathy. Breaking-down a few minutes after purchase it the worst.

Go to Fargo's and get a Giant Pepperoni Pizza and a pitcher of root beer...or Leon Gessi's for a couple of slices...that's what I'd do. Good luck!
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2005
Messages
2,680
Location
Oregon
Buying rigs this old can be difficult / risky. Buying a heavily modified vehicle done by someone else is even riskier. Sorry for your troubles.
 
Joined
Jan 10, 2017
Messages
1,232
Location
New England, USA
Man, I am sorry to hear about all of your issues. That being said, it sounds like you are getting close to getting your rig to run right. I applaud your determination and you'll have a really cool rig once it's sorted out. Diesel Land Cruisers are awesome.
 
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
51
Location
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
What a read, sucks that it’s giving you such a hard time man. I get how you feel. The previous owner of my lx was a tool who knew nothing. Keep with it and soon it will turn out great
 
Joined
Apr 10, 2019
Messages
6
Location
Colorado Springs
Thanks for the support guys. I am still not sad that I bought it. I could have picked it up here at home, payed way more money for it and still had all these crazy issues. I knew the risk and still jumped in. I am still in it for less than it would take to build it. I honestly think it is going to be amazing some day soon. Or I will cry myself to sleep on my giant pillow. "Head! Move your head!"
 
Joined
Feb 13, 2017
Messages
196
Location
Colorado
It will be a fun rig once you have the bugs worked out. (Heck, some folks even like the monkeying) You know know a bunch more about diesel, maybe some hard knox, nothing like knowing how to do it yourself when you need to.

I'm looking forward to some future adventures! (Even in spite of some of your troubles, im still jealous, its a dang sweet rig)
 
Joined
May 20, 2009
Messages
1,830
Location
Canby Oregon
Wow. They saw you coming, the 4bt is garbage I wouldn't put one in anything. Even a rebuilt one. And to top it off you have a crummy slush box, behind the rattle box . So you need a stand alone for your transmission Micro squirt are pretty good. Oh I have no sympathy for you, it seems you have more money than brains, but hey its often
 

scottryana

 
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2004
Messages
10,484
Location
Salt Lake City, UT
This post is uncalled for. The guy wanted to buy a truck, took a gamble and it didn't turn out well.

While you might have experience with the 4BT, I am guessing he does not. This is going to be a big learning experience.

Saying he has more money than brains is a ridiculous statement, unless you know him.


Wow. They saw you coming, the 4bt is garbage I wouldn't put one in anything. Even a rebuilt one. And to top it off you have a crummy slush box, behind the rattle box . So you need a stand alone for your transmission Micro squirt are pretty good. Oh I have no sympathy for you, it seems you have more money than brains, but hey its often
 
Joined
May 20, 2009
Messages
1,830
Location
Canby Oregon
I guess I am a little rough, but buying something that had been modified and has zero mechanical aptitude and goes 1700 miles and runs into problems no way, hey I'm sorry I'm old school and if someone dives into a fertilizer pile he's going going to catch some flak.
 
Joined
Feb 13, 2017
Messages
196
Location
Colorado
I guess I am a little rough, but buying something that had been modified and has zero mechanical aptitude and goes 1700 miles and runs into problems no way, hey I'm sorry I'm old school and if someone dives into a fertilizer pile he's going going to catch some flak.
Yea, anything can go wrong on a used rig that has passed through several folks and is 20+ years old, but I don't think he is looking for sympathy. He wanted a rig he could use and monkey with a bit. He has friends that are pretty familiar with the 4BT so with an adventurous attitude he went for it. He is just relaying his story.

If you are "old school" I am sure you have some story zingers too. :) We were all young once and did crazy things just for the fun of it. He could have spent a bucket of $$ and purchased a fully finished rig but he didn't because he got a really good price on the rig and I am sure his friends with the 4BT experience let him know what he would be up against. Sounds to me like he is learning quite a bit, and really isn't that what we all got into this hobby to do?
 
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Joined
Apr 10, 2019
Messages
6
Location
Colorado Springs
I guess I am a little rough, but buying something that had been modified and has zero mechanical aptitude and goes 1700 miles and runs into problems no way, hey I'm sorry I'm old school and if someone dives into a fertilizer pile he's going going to catch some flak.
It's all good, you can talk all the fertilizer you want. I know there was a chance for things to be great or for them to go sideways. I have more money than brains when it comes to wrenching, certainly, but at least I have money to make it better if I need it. I'm still in it for less than I can likely sell it for all done up right. So yeah I'm not sad. The fertilizer pile was just a bit deeper than expected.

Also, my smart friend would agree with you on the controller. I ordered the Micro Squirt for it and expect it to show up any minute.
 
Joined
May 20, 2009
Messages
1,830
Location
Canby Oregon
It's all good, you can talk all the fertilizer you want. I know there was a chance for things to be great or for them to go sideways. I have more money than brains when it comes to wrenching, certainly, but at least I have money to make it better if I need it. I'm still in it for less than I can likely sell it for all done up right. So yeah I'm not sad. The fertilizer pile was just a bit deeper than expected.

Also, my smart friend would agree with you on the controller. I ordered the Micro Squirt for it and expect it to show up any minute.
I am glad you understood, sorry you got hosed by that seller, and wish you would have asked a few questions and it seem's like you have someone on it, I like the the micro squirt in my swapped cruiser I am using a stock A343F connected to a 6bt . wish you luck Oh yeah new guy :flipoff2:
 
Joined
May 20, 2009
Messages
1,830
Location
Canby Oregon
Yea, anything can go wrong on a used rig that has passed through several folks and is 20+ years old, but I don't think he is looking for sympathy. He wanted a rig he could use and monkey with a bit. He has friends that are pretty familiar with the 4BT so with an adventurous attitude he went for it. He is just relaying his story.

If you are "old school" I am sure you have some story zingers too. :) We were all young once and did crazy things just for the fun of it. He could have spent a bucket of $$ and purchased a fully finished rig but he didn't because he got a really good price on the rig and I am sure his friends with the 4BT experience let him know what he would be up against. Sounds to me like he is learning quite a bit, and really isn't that what we all got into this hobby to do?
I have been fortunate, with my cruiser, I have had other thing's in life . The OP has thick skin, and he will be all right, I was just surprised how bad that dude hosed him .
 

Bludozer

SILVER Star
Joined
Mar 11, 2016
Messages
945
Location
Central Virginia
I remember seeing that truck for sale. Even saw video of it running, sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience but I'm glad you're making it right! Best of luck with the journey.
 

lumbee1

Native American
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Messages
2,748
Location
Holly Springs, NC
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor. Did you ever figure out where the metal came from that killed the turbo?
 
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