Builds Machito the LBJ70

ddelong6767

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We've been working on a new project in the shop the last 6 weeks or so and I thought folks here might take an interest in it. The project started with an LJ70 that was being delivered for a mild restoration and Cummins R2.8 installation. Arrival day for the Machito...

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We didn't waste any time tearing into this one, the goal is to have it running for Cruise Moab in April so we needed to get to work. Strip down started with removal of the 2LT (currently for sale in the classifieds) and assessing things.

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The powertrain seemed in decent shape but as we got it on the hoist and really started inspecting the body the troubles started to surface. This truck was imported from Venezuela and while it had decent paint on it, the sins were lurking beneath the surface and in the shadows. The rockers appear to be mostly made of spray foam and bondo. The rear quarters and wheel wells weren't much better.


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Credit to the Venezuelan guys who did the work, from the top side none of this was visible. They were pretty skilled at slinging mud down there and making something look decent at least. But this is a lesson of buyer beware, it seems like it was a quick flip paint job in Venezuela and then sent up here to be sold looking like a much better truck than it really was.

After some conversations with the owner about budget, timeline, and value we determined that it was time for a reboot. There just wasn't a lot of sense putting the untold hours into trying to repair the body on this truck. On the other hand, all was not lost because we had a pretty good chassis and drivetrain to work with. So the search began for a new body to swap on to this chassis. A month or so later the right fit was found here on Mud. A deal was struck and this 87 BJ70 arrived at the shop...

BJ70.jpeg
 

ddelong6767

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With both trucks in hand and a new plan we got to work stripping things down. Both trucks on the hoist for body removal...

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The interior of both trucks were stripped. We're cherry picking the best parts of the two to get a complete truck. Short version is that the LJ70 dash and steering column are going in the BJ70. The door cards and vinyl flooring of the BJ will be reused and the headliner from the LJ is going to be installed. Lots of teardown, bagging and tagging to be done...

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It didn't take too long and we had the LJ chassis out and slid it under the BJ body for the first test fit. As some of you may know, the main body mounts of the tub all line up so it was simply a case of dropping the BJ body straight down on to the frame...

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The only real difference in the body mounts is at the front clip due to the changes in fender design. The BJ body mounts under the core support are actually wider than the LJ and spaced out on tubes. We cut those mounts off the BJ frame and bolted them on to see the gap...

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Solving that challenge was a quick affair, we found some tubing that slid right through the original BJ body mounts and welded it to the LJ frame just like it had been on the BJ frame.

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Joined
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:clap:

Finally someone calling out the schister jobs these VZA trucks really are.

And the people taking advantage of demand in the US to sell these sheeeit boxes with lipstick.

:clap:
No kidding. Every time I read one of these threads I think how fortunate I am/was to find my relatively unmolested, rust free FZJ75. Of course I still have to ship it home at some point but I'll still have a lot less invested than most of the ones I see for sale in the US.
 

2fpower

 
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lenexa, ks
The comment that I want you all to absorb is never buy a vehicle from a country where the parts are more expensive than the labor rate. If you can pay someone $50 for a week of labor to do something to avoid a $100 part, you are going to get a "shade tree special."

Never again....
 

FJBen

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The comment that I want you all to absorb is never buy a vehicle from a country where the parts are more expensive than the labor rate. If you can pay someone $50 for a week of labor to do something to avoid a $100 part, you are going to get a "shade tree special."

Never again....
your rig may be the concours d’elegance of Venezuelan shade tree specials.
 

ddelong6767

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It's definitely a warning to folks to be very cautious with these imported trucks. The BJ is in a lot better shape than the LJ despite having come from Nicaragua. It's got some rust but nothing we can't handle and most of it is in relatively concealed areas (pass rocker, inside rear door jams, lower rear quarters). I'd be a very cautious buyer for any South American import and be darn sure to put your eyes on the truck before committing to a purchase.
 
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Caracas, Venezuela.
This is interesting. Are you sure that truck was imported from Venezuela? We didn't have any diesel 70s nor any LCII/Prados (2LT, coils).

The only Diesel ones we've seen are a handful HZJ79s that were imported by the government on 2012 and they have the new face.

From the looks of the work, it might've been. Yes, people here are deceptive, they sell a poorly worked on truck as restored as long as it looks fine on the outside. 2fpower's thread on this board thoroughly documents this issue.

I'll be following this thread, any R2.8 retrofit is worth looking at! Good luck!
 

ddelong6767

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This is interesting. Are you sure that truck was imported from Venezuela? We didn't have any diesel 70s nor any LCII/Prados (2LT, coils).
Well, I didn't buy it and didn't really spend much time worrying about that so it's second-hand from the owner. Perhaps it was somewhere else. But on to the build...

The fun begins (gratuitous hero shot from Instagram)...

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The factory LJ transmission is an R151 and in a stroke of luck Chad at QuickDraw was releasing an adapter bellhousing right when we needed it. This is the new unit he's making to mount the R2.8 to the R150/R151 Toyota transmissions. Chad is a great guy to work with, if you're looking at a R2.8 build I highly recommend his products.

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Our first goal in this build was to try and keep the transmission/tcase in the stock location. Doing so saves a lot of work in terms of fabricating crossmembers, new driveshafts, modified shifters, etc. We mounted up the new bellhousing and started test fitting the engine.

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In keeping that factory transmission location we have to live with whatever fore/aft position that engine ends up in and associated firewall clearance. We were pleased to find that in general it fit quite well. The Cummins heater lines on the back of the engine had to be removed, but I've had to do that on every build so far so that wasn't surprising. The EGR pipe is close to the firewall but liveable. The real clearance challenge showed up on the underside (also common) - driveshaft to oil pan. This shot somewhat shows how the shaft is extremely close to the passenger side of the pan.

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We were worried that in RH front wheel compression we might hit the pan with the shaft and potentially even the front differential. We decided to offset the engine another 3/4 of an inch towards the driver side to gain some clearance here. That puts the EGR pipe closer to the brake booster and causes some clash between the bellhousing and firewall around the accelerator pedal. Driveshaft clearance is a must though, so we modified the trans crossmember to scoot the mount over and then trimmed the firewall to clear the bellhousing. Here's the cut...

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That window is fairly close to the steering column mount but we'll be able to close it up with some new sheet metal and also incorporate a mount for the new accelerator pedal (Cummins provides and electric throttle-by-wire pedal).

With the engine location defined, we'll move on next to making the motor mounts.
 
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I actually just found Quick Draw last night and am highly weighing their product. I'm closely following your progress now as I am about to pull the trigger on a 2.8 for my HZJ73. I'll have an H55 mated to the 2.8 though. I'm glad you had good things to say because I thought their price was too good to be true.

A couple questions: Was the 70 a 24v system? If so, what plans did yall have for operating a 12v engine in it?

Are you going to have to modify the output shaft between engine and tranny?

Also, did yall have any issues with the VIN? I spoke with Chad last night and it was unknown if my JDM VIN would come up. If they can't verify VIN, Cummins won't back up their warranty.
 

ddelong6767

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A couple questions: Was the 70 a 24v system? If so, what plans did yall have for operating a 12v engine in it?

Are you going to have to modify the output shaft between engine and tranny?

Also, did yall have any issues with the VIN? I spoke with Chad last night and it was unknown if my JDM VIN would come up. If they can't verify VIN, Cummins won't back up their warranty.
The LJ was a 12V truck and we're putting all the LJ harnes, dash, etc in it so no concerns there.

Output shaft - I think you mean transmission input shaft? No, this one works with the Quickdraw setup as-is.

VIN - I honestly don't remember any issue when I purchased the R2.8 so I think it must have taken it just fine. The LJ has a clean title in the US and is the title/VIN that will remain with the truck (law enforcement generally recognizes the frame VIN as the official vehicle).
 

ddelong6767

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With the firewall cut out, we reinstalled the engine to check fit and clearances again. Here's a shot showing how the rear of the engine is fitting into the new window we created.

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We're going to take a little bit of metal out of the column support in that bottom right corner and then patch it all in with an inverted corner of sorts. That will come a bit later in the build process so no photos of it yet.

With the firewall clearanced we checked everything thrice and started fabricating engine mounts. We're using a hydraulic motor mount to help cut down on vibrations, they are nice units but do have the downside of being a bit large. Sneaking them in between the turbo and the AC compressor doesn't leave a lot of free space. We custom make the bracket on the engine side to fit the mount, then hang the motor in the exact space and fabricate towers off the frame to match it.

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You can also see in the above image that clearance between the AC compressor and the frame is pretty good, that's often an area we've run in to trouble on these R2.8 builds. Here's more of a front view showing how it all nests in there.

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If we needed to we could cut those ears off the compressor and gain some additional clearance, I think this one will be okay though. After tacking up frame towers on both sides we pull the engine again and finish them out. After welding it all up it looks like this, fairly close to a factory setup in terms of location and size.

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With the mounts all done and welded up we install the engine one more time for a final set of clearance checks.
 

ddelong6767

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We dropped the motor back in on it's mounts and pulled the RF spring to check clearances at full compression of the suspension...

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Zooming in for a closer view, the tight area is the pumpkin to front corner of the oil pan, but with the axle on the bump stop we've still got clearance. The panhard rod helps us out a bit here, as it rotates through it's arc it pushes the axle to the passenger side and helps keep the pan and axle from meeting.

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The driveshaft gets very close to the oil pan and the bellhousing, but everything clears with at least a half inch or so. We called it good and started to move on. The next step in the plan was to start placing all the major supporting components underhood. Front clip goes back on...

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It looks like there's a lot of room around the engine, but as you'll see it fills up quickly.
 

ddelong6767

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Getting back to this build and underhood progress... The first step was cooling pack installation. We knew from rough tape measurements that we had a lot of room so this one would be easy (relatively speaking). I ordered up a Griffin combo unit (rad plus fan and shroud) and a Mishimoto intercooler spec'ed to support the Cummins requirements. The AC condenser is mounted to the front of the core support so we put the intercooler just behind it using a custom lower saddle that bolts to the core support and two top tabs to mount it. The radiator is quite a bit bigger and heavier so we decided to mount it to the frame crossmember. Under the radiator on the passenger side we have a pretty simple U-shaped saddle that bolts to the crossmember. On the driver's side we decided to integrate two parts and made a mount for the oil filter. The filter isn't installed in this shot but that 4-bolt pattern in the flat plate is the top mount for the Cummins oil filter housing. The filter will hang down and be protected by the crossmember while the radiator sits in the saddle just ahead of it.

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The finished assembly of radiator and intercooler looks like this. Lots of room for belt changes...

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With the intercooler mounted I could then move on to air pipes to connect the engine. On the passenger side the turbo discharge and intercooler are not quite aligned so using two 45deg bends I welded up an S-pipe as I've done on other builds. In this shot you can also see we decided to mount the fuel filter/separator to the firewall and have installed a washer reservoir. Available space is disappearing quickly.

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In that shot you can also see the beginnings of the air intake pipe. That 90deg aluminum elbow connects to the turbo inlet with a 90deg reducing silicone elbow. On the driver's side we started looking at pipe routing and finding homes for other components that need to live underhood. The intercooler exit has a 90deg silicone boot and in the small forward corner I mounted the ARB air compressor (truck will have a rear locker). The compressor is on a simple tube/plate that bolts between the fender and core support. In this shot you can also see i was starting to mock up the upper radiator mount and shroud which will control the tilt of the radiator.

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Once I was happy with the intercooler pipes and fit of everything up front I went ahead and finished the radiator top mount. I added sides to help keep air pulling through the AC condenser and grill and metal finished everything...

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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
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North Carolina, USA
:clap:

Finally someone calling out the schister jobs these VZA trucks really are.

And the people taking advantage of demand in the US to sell these sheeeit boxes with lipstick.

:clap:
Imports from Japan are probably the best. The car inspection process in JP (JCI inspection) is very extensive and expensive to have done every 2 years. As vehicles get older they become very expensive to pass inspection so the Japanese often junk vehicles because it's too expensive to repair. Most Japanese don't have room to park a project car and do not do their own work. The stereotypes about Japanese being highly disciplined are mostly true. If you are going to import and you can deal with right hand drive, importing from Japan is a good choice.....I have a 73 from Spain that someone else imported and I have a variety of "shade tree mechanic work"showing up on this truck.
 

SNLC

OCD
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Cruiser hunting
Imports from Japan are probably the best. The car inspection process in JP (JCI inspection) is very extensive and expensive to have done every 2 years. As vehicles get older they become very expensive to pass inspection so the Japanese often junk vehicles because it's too expensive to repair. Most Japanese don't have room to park a project car and do not do their own work. The stereotypes about Japanese being highly disciplined are mostly true. If you are going to import and you can deal with right hand drive, importing from Japan is a good choice.....I have a 73 from Spain that someone else imported and I have a variety of "shade tree mechanic work"showing up on this truck.
Except rust.

Very clean original HDJ81 coming in for some work at my shop. Rust in firewall, otherwise yup very nice truck.

Cheers
 

ddelong6767

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Buena Vista, CO
One (of many) challenges with this BJ body was that the LF inner fender was pretty trashed. We notched it for shock tower clearance and were using it for mockup purposes but it had a lot of really poorly done rust repair.

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I put a call in to @joekatana and got lucky, he happened to have a BJ LF inner fender in his inventory. We made quick plans to get that headed our way as it was a much cheaper and easier solution to replace it rather than repair the existing one. Joe also happened to have an OEM battery tray so we had him throw that in as well, along with a retrofit AC system. The owner lives in Moab so this one definitely needs a way to cool down in the summers.

When the parts arrived we quickly swapped out the inner fender and installed the battery tray to get a look at the fitment around the left side of the engine. I was concerned about clearance between the intercooler pipe and battery tray and my concerns turned out to be correct. Here's the problem...

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There are a number of ways you could work around this. Building a complex bent CAC pipe would be possible but take quite a few mandrel bend sections and a fair bit of time (which equals $$). We decided to scrap the battery tray and make our own from scratch that would hug tight to the inner fender and allow us enough room to just run a simple straight pipe to the throttle body.

You can sort of see that the R2.8 has the throttle pointed forward and down. I had an adapter from Axxis which allows the throttle body to be rotated so we installed that and pointed the throttle opening straight forward. That allows a straight pipe to go between it and the intercooler. There seemed to be enough room to squeeze in a battery so I made a quick mockup tray out of steel to check fits.

In parallel, I also finshed welding up the air intake on the opposite side of the engine. It's a simple cone filter with a 3" inlet pipe connecting to the elbow shown earlier. There's a small bracket that supports the filter and attaches to the inner fender with the MAF sensor just behind the filter. We also knocked out a simple bracket to mount the ECU behind the battery near the master cylinder. The Cummins engine harness is attached on the driver's side of the engine so there wasn't really an option to put it anywhere else.

Putting all the pieces together we were left with this...

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As I said earlier, all that empty space underhood sure fills up quick.
 
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