My ‘79 FJ40 Build—a long time coming & a long way to go.... (1 Viewer)

HefJ40

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May 6, 2018
Messages
52
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Charlottesville, Virginia
Hey everyone, MUD newbie here. First post, but I’ve been scouring threads on here for about 3 years now. Seems to be a great community with a wealth of knowledge. I feel like my head is about to explode though o_O

I’ve been out of the wrenching world since 2004 when I had to park the 40 due to electrical issues. SO, this will be a humbling experience. I greatly appreciate any advice and criticism as I work though this build….so please share your experiences! I will also note, I am completely new to posting in forums….so bear with me.

I’m not a long-winded storyteller, so here are the nuts and bolts of my backstory with the 40, if anyone’s interested.

In 1996 (I was 16) my dad found a rusty 1979 Mustard Yellow FJ40 for sale in in the weekly Bucksaver in Ashland, Va. We had CJs, but he said he’d always wanted an FJ40. I had never seen one, but I fell in love immediately. $4,500 later, I was happy to be broke again because I had a landcruiser project to build with my dad.

I spent about a year of nights and weekends researching through off-road mags how to somewhat restore the truck to safe, drivable condition, which led to much sandblasting and doing bodywork in the driveway. No welding, just fiberglass and bondo because I was 100% green. We painted her in the driveway back to the original mustard yellow.

It wasn’t long after I got her on the road that the 2F took a dump in the middle of an intersection. I still have the 2F in the barn, hopefully to rebuild one day. The 350 conversion was a hot mod back in ’98, so I found a rebuilt 350 out of a 72 Camaro (I believe) and made the swap. Other than it not being Toyota, I love that engine.

Next came the shackle reversal, Rancho 4” lift and 33x12.5 BFG’s. I really liked that ride height and clearance without being too top heavy, however, it seems like those Rancho springs were extremely stiff. I had nothing to compare it to, so I made it work. Looking back, it seems like the angle of the rear extended shackles wasn’t enough----they were basically vertical. Maybe that was my problem?

That’s about the extent of my work on the 40. I was able to have tons of fun wheeling and exploring until 2004. I really can’t believe how long it’s been. Life happened with family and careers, but I vowed never to sell her no matter what. Unfortunately, from about 2004 to 2010, she sat outside and deteriorated even more. In 2010, I was able to move her into the barn, which I’m hoping saved her life.

This is a special addiction that won’t go away and I’m thankful for that. I’m finally at the point in my life where I can start to chip away at restoring the 40 back to a point where I can enjoy and use her as she was meant to be used.

Wife and kids are on board---a HUGE plus. I have a small ‘shop’ area and have been accumulating tools to be able to do as much of the work myself as possible. Financially, I can outsource some things if needed, but it’s so much sweeter to be able to fully understand every part of the truck and spill the blood and sweat myself. I still have the problem of TIME. Career and other house projects take up much of my time, so I’m only able to wrench on occasional nights and weekends. I’m sure if I’m able to get tips and advice on MUD, I’ll be able to dedicate more and more time to focus on the build!!

I’ll post some pics shortly. I’ll scan and post any photos I can find from when I had her running in the late 90’s so you can see my work from back then. Again, please share your thoughts based on what you see so I can avoid doing the same thing again if there are visible issues with that work. I’ve been documenting my progress thus far, so I’ll get those posted as well.

I’m hoping the 40 community will find this build of interest and you guys will be willing to help me bring her back to life. Many thanks in advance! I’m really looking forward to finally being able to do this!

-Hef
 

HefJ40

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Joined
May 6, 2018
Messages
52
Location
Charlottesville, Virginia
Here is the earliest pic I could find right after I bought the 40 and started stripping down back in 1996. There was a lot of rust. PO had diamond plating on quarters and rockers. Floorboards were mostly gone. I left the DP on the quarters until very recently. More on that later.

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HefJ40

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Charlottesville, Virginia
Here are the pics I have after I’d finished bodywork, paint, lift and engine swap. Wish I took more pics of the process :bang:

Edit: this was pre-engine swap from seeing the exhaust here.

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HefJ40

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Charlottesville, Virginia
Having some fun. When the shop ran the new exhaust, they ran it up into both wheel wells...which doesn’t seem normal. I don’t remember their reason, it I assume they thought there wasn’t enough room to run it elsewhere. Anyone with a SBC and how’d you run your exhaust??

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HefJ40

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Charlottesville, Virginia
My plan for the cruiser is not to do a full, professional restoration to show quality. I will fix all problem areas to be able to have a new baseline. I will do the best I can having never really done something like this before. I want to enjoy this truck off-road as it was meant to be, not be a mall crawler.

I’m going to start stripping everything down and assess and tackle metal work first.

In looking at her condition, this will still mean a full body-off and complete dismantling. Here are some pics from when I pulled her out of the barn and brought her home.

I’ll post a bunch of before pics to show the starting condition. It’s bad. But this is a good platform to show what can be possible and hopefully give the next guy some hope. I’m also posting these (similar to how sellers post many detail photos on BaT when selling their trucks) to get feedback from the MUD community and your experiences with conditions like mine. I’m new to this, so I’m looking for advice! I’m going to resurrect this cruiser one way or another, so I’m hoping you guys will see issues and be able to point them out. Suspension, steering, recommended replacement parts, etc. Don’t say RUST...I know that already :clap: :flipoff2:

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macdaddy59

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Niceville, Florida
My suggestions: Do all of the mechanicals first Brakes, engine etc. and get it running and stopping. Then and only then would I attempt to do the body. If you start pulling sheetmetal off to restore and then the mechanicals you will be in a frame off restoration mode and likely will over your head and will never finish
 

HefJ40

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Messages
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Charlottesville, Virginia
I should note, I brought her home last May, so that’s when these pics start. I’ll try to get you up to speed quickly. I know these aren’t glamor shots or cruiser porn, but it’s part of the learning process.

Of course, COVID hit and caused a major stall out last year. I wasn’t one of those people that was able to ‘work’ from home, so I couldn’t take an hour here and there to post or do any work on the build at 10am on a Tuesday like my neighbors....

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HefJ40

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My suggestions: Do all of the mechanicals first Brakes, engine etc. and get it running and stopping. Then and only then would I attempt to do the body. If you start pulling sheetmetal off to restore and then the mechanicals you will be in a frame off restoration mode and likely will over your head and will never finish
Thanks! I’m was really hoping that could be the case. But, you’ll see there was no way this wasn’t going to be a frame-off in order to address all the issues and cancer. I didn’t want this to be a bandaid. If we were still back in 2004 and I had the resources to get mechanicals and electric back in check, I could have lived with the slightly roached metal. 15+ years later and 10 of which she sat outside, I’m in it for the long haul and I’m at peace with that. I know it’s going to be a long process. Everyone has grand intentions like this, I know. I’m committed because I’ve held on to the 40 dreaming about the day when I can start working on her. I owe this to the truck. If fellow cruiserheads on here are even remotely interested in this build and can help with any tips or experiences, it’ll help immensely.
 

HefJ40

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Charlottesville, Virginia
Rear drums will be changed to discs.
Rear frame and spring gussets are shot. @macdaddy59 its stuff like this that isn’t safe to sideline. I know that’s not what you’re saying—you were looking out for me and the endless pit of work I’ll be faced with. But as I reveal more and more, you’ll see how much of a necessity it is to address the rust in it’s entirety or I can’t put my kids in this truck, which defeats my goal.

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HefJ40

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Floors patched with fiberglass from 1996.
With the 350 conversion, I remember that I had to shift the tranny forward to mate up with the AA bellhousing, thus cutting into the tranny hump and having to remove the heater, which sucks. Has anything changed with these conversions to where the tranny can be located back to its original location?? I haven’t checked with AA yet, but it will. It seems like I’ve seen 40’s with 350s with normal tranny placement...but maybe they didn’t run the stock tranny. This has been something I’ve wanted to get some insight on if anyone has experience or can point me in the right direction.

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HefJ40

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The sbc, master cylinder / booster leak and pesky wiring harness. @Rainman, I understand you’re the man that may be able to help me with this harness? I do have a new harness (still in box from 2004), but as of right now, this is out of my wheelhouse....so I’d love to discuss.

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HefJ40

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As I continue to dig through more bondo and fiberglass, I’m finding pretty much everything behind the front seats / b-pillars is shot, plus the front floorboards. Sweeet.

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Rainman

Wondering what my next vehicle will be...
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I've been known to be of some help here and there but your wires are crossed... I'm no help at all with wiring. I can install a new harness and hook it up but that's it. Sorry. Good luck with that swiss cheese machine.
 

HefJ40

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I've been known to be of some help here and there but your wires are crossed... I'm no help at all with wiring. I can install a new harness and hook it up but that's it. Sorry. Good luck with that swiss cheese machine.
You’re right...my wires are crossed...I meant @Coolerman

Thanks, I’ll be needing brake and fuel lines down the road
 

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