My FJ40 build thread + adventures (1 Viewer)

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Dec 15, 2015
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Well I’ve decided to start a build thread. I’m hoping this will serve as a way to keep myself motivated and making steady progress on our FJ, but we’ll see how it goes. Don’t be hanging on the edge of your seats waiting for the next installment – progress will be slow (I’m talking years here people. EDIT: It's coming along faster than I had anticipated and could have hoped for! Almost certainly be done with the frame-off by 2017. Then the adventures begin!). But I’ve been inspired by some of the amazing builds and stories on IH8MUD (IelandEOD and Sea Knight in particular) to get my story written down and documented with photographs. It may not be as exciting or well-written, but at a minimum, it could serve as a good memoir to look back on down the road.


First, a bit of background. As of writing (December 2015), I’m in college. A few years ago, when I was still in high school, my dad and I started looking for a project car to work on together. He has always been pretty handy with cars, and I have a strong passion for cars and was interested in learning to work on them. After perusing eBay for a few weeks, we stumbled upon a 1976 FJ40. We had kind of been looking for a more traditional classic; my dad’s first car was a 68’ Camaro whose engine he rebuilt, and that was the idea we both had in our heads. But the Land Cruiser attracted us. We knew nothing about them at this point, but a few quick Google searches proved they had quite the following and could be worth a lot restored. So we went for it.


This ’76 was a bit rough. It was missing: the hardtop, jump seats, roll bar, entire brake system, clutch hydraulics, doors, drive shafts, and more. You get the idea. It had recently, however, gone through the conversion to a Chevy V8, and had a running small-block 327 under the hood. It had also been repainted in a non-original blue, and looked decent in the pictures. Any first project car is going to have quite the learning curve, and this first FJ was no exception. I don’t want to go into the details of that build on this thread, but essentially we completed the project and got it back on the road. Only took 2 years too! (haha) Throughout the course of that project, we agreed that we wanted to do another FJ, except the second one would be all original. Hardtop, straight-6, the whole nine yards. So when we spotted an all original 1973 FJ40 on eBay with minimal rust, we brought that home too. The 1976 has been sold, and now all our focus is on the ’73. Let the build thread commence!


Status of the Cruiser when we got it: all original, sold to us by third owner, had been a farm vehicle for most of its life in Idaho. Paint was original, and in fine condition but faded. Rust was in fact minimal as described, and the restoration will hopefully require very little rust repair to the tub (and none to the frame). Engine ran and it drove pretty well. Electrical system and lights were unreliable. But the potential was there, and we were ready for the challenge.


We’ve planned to complete the project in three phases. Phase 1 is to continue doing small improvements to make the truck a better daily driver. Phase 2 is to do the complete frame-off restoration: repainting, restoring and replacing as we go. Finally, phase 3 will be to add a few improvements to the usability of the 40 as an off road vehicle, such as a roof rack and a light bar. Unlike most flashy Wranglers that have never seen a spot of mud, we actually have a use for an invincible off road vehicle like the FJ40 with a light bar on it, which I will probably get to at some point in the future on this thread.


I’ll conclude this first post with the things we have done so far. We have recovered the seats with SOR’s great upholstery kit, mostly fixed an issue with the electrical system (clean your fuse box and contacts!), repainted a few parts like the rear bumpers in CCOT’s pewter (which is a very close but not perfect match to the original Toyota pewter), and recovered the dashboard with a plastic cover sold by SOR. All these changes and more have made the vehicle a more comfortable and better looking truck, and given us a few little projects to work on while we find time to begin the phase 2 restoration.


I will include pictures in a follow up post. And in reference to the title, I have grand plans for adventures to be had in this FJ, inspired by some of the legends here on Mud (Rustbucket, Hecrod, etc). More on that in the future. Thanks for reading, and welcome along for the ride.
 
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Joined
Dec 15, 2015
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Atlanta, GA
This was the 1976 before it was shipped to us
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This was the 1976 when we were done with it. It was sold not long after this.
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This was one of the images from the eBay listing of the 1973 that we bought.
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Another from eBay
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The two Cruisers together
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Joined
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Our work begins: some of the improvements to the interior so far include recovering the seats and dashboard, repainting and installing the original console, replacing the shift boot for the transfer case, and making some floor mats out of old gym mat material.
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We also repainted the rear bumpers using CCOT's pewter paint. As you can see, there's a bit of rust repair to do on the sill where the tire carrier attaches.
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Yes! At first we were unsure if that light was original, but we found the TEQ logo once we took it off. So now we will need to replace the lens. Thanks very much for the link.
 
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Today we started the restoration of the hardtop. Just about every single bolt holding it to the hardtop panels snapped off so we've got a lot of drilling and tapping ahead of us. The door bows that mount to the frame were a total pain to get off, and we ended up just prying the cover off. They're pretty bent now but we're hoping we can salvage them. Next step will be to completely sand out the old headliner and foam, recondition the fiberglass on the top (there are some pretty deep scratches that need to be filled and sanded), and paint the whole thing. A new headliner from Cruiser Corps is in the mail.


We were pleasantly surprised with the condition of the top edge of the hardtop panels, and the lower edge of the rain gutter. As you can see in the picture there's practically no rust, which will save us much suffering I'm sure. The gasket is in relatively good condition and it's clearly been doing its job keeping water out, so we'll probably reuse it.

Topless:
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Top edge in great condition:
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Struggling to get the door bow covers off:
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Hardtop resto entry 2

After we got the door bows off, we were able to remove the gasket from the top and inspect the rain gutter. There were some spots where the bonding agent and rivets were clearly failing to hold the gutter to the fiberglass, and although we knew we were taking on a bigger project than expected, we didn’t want to have any problems with leaking or rust in the future.

Rain Gutter:
I used the Dremel to take the ends of the rivets off, then drilled them out with the top upside down. With this done, we were able to pry the rain gutter off the fiberglass. It was very rusty on the underside, and we knew that we’d made the right decision by taking it off to sandblast and paint it. Dad did a lot of drilling to get all the bolts out and threaded again. He also did some research and ended up using his torch to braze a small metal plate onto a very weak, rusted part of the rain gutter to reinforce it. The rain gutter got two coats of super rust-resistant primer and bondo to fill in some pitted sections.

Fiberglass:
The PO had clearly had an issue with leaks and had tried to solve it by filling the top lip of the fiberglass with silicon and sealant. Thanks for that. It took a lot of scraping and sanding to clean the edge up, but we know the result will be much better for it. Next, I set to work filling the scratches on the fiberglass with bondo and sanding that. Throughout the course of my research for this project, I heard about LizardSkin sound and thermal insulation. The reviews were very positive so we decided to put that in too. The stuff isn’t cheap but it was very good to work with. We sprayed the sound insulation on over the course of about 6 hours, at first milking every degree we could get out of a 2:00pm high of 55 degrees and some sunlight, and then moving inside the basement and turning up the heat. We now have to wait 24 hours to put the thermal insulation on. Hopefully I will have another report soon on further progress.

Thanks very much to @LakeNorman_FJ40 for his writeup on the hardtop resto, it has been very helpful. Maybe we’ll see you around Atlanta!


Close-up showing the rust on the inside of the rain gutter. This is why all the bolts wouldn't budge!
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Condition of the top before any repair was done. The scratches were mostly just into the paint, but we used reinforced fiberglass bondo anyway on some of the larger ones.
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Example of the fiberglass lip once we cleaned it up
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Sandblasting the rain gutter with a rented compressor (we've got plans in the works to get a heavy duty compressor for the basement, since the little one we have isn't good enough for sandblasting). The 40 looks on from the carport!
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We had a failed night mission to sandblast the fiberglass with walnut shells. We quickly discovered that our gun wouldn't blast with walnut shells, so we just decided to resort to sanding with the electric sander.
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Bondo repair of the top in progress
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Dad's brazing set up and the reinforcing plate
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Windshield rail primed
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Inside taped off, ready for LizardSkin insulation
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Applying the LizardSkin
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After 1 coat. We ended up doing about 4 light coats, and used probably 80% of a gallon tub.
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Drying for the night! Thermal insulation goes on tomorrow.
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It's probably too late - but that windshield strip should be removed and re-riveted to make sure it's tight and seals . Mine had worked loose and allowed rain and snow to hit me in the forehead dead-center .
Sarge
 
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Thanks Sarge, we read that re-riveting the rail back on is difficult because you have to put the top back on the car to make sure you get the angle right with the windshield, so we decided to leave it on. I think ours has a good enough seal as is, but we might but an extra bead of seam sealer on just to be sure. Thanks for the advice.
 
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I had to inject mine with some sealer for now , and with the top still on the rig - it worked and no more snow-filled face when driving . I'd pay very close attention to the front side as it gets an amazing amount of wind pressure against the front from the windshield .
Sarge
 
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Haha unfortunately progress has been slow lately and it isn't much further along than the last pictures. We did do some repair to the fiberglass edge where it didn't match up to the drip rail, (not sure how that happened, we might have been a bit too vigorous with the belt sander) and we have sanded the top. Primer and paint to come soon. I'll post pictures on here once we finish, probably won't be for a month or so though (I'm in school right now...literally sitting in class actually :D).
 
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THE FRAME-OFF HAS BEGUN!!! My dad, uncle and I spent 4 days of my spring break tearing down the FJ to a pile of parts. We are working with a shop in Atlanta on part of the restoration, and they let us use some of their space to take it apart. It went very well, considering we have never taken a car off its frame before. We also feel like we were really lucky with rust, since relatively very few bolts snapped off/needed to be cut. Here is a time lapse video of the teardown .

And here’s a summary:


Day 1

We started by lifting it up and emptying the fluids. Next, the drive shafts came out. Front end body panels came off so we could start getting at the engine and disconnecting everything. Radiator was next. That about concluded day 2, which looking back doesn’t seem like we did all that much, but I guess we didn’t start early enough :) Anyway, onto day 2.
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Day 2

Continuing from the day before, everything going to the engine was disconnected, and engine and transmission mounts were removed. Emptied the gas tank. Doors off. Then after lunch it was time to take the engine out! The guys at the shop grabbed their forklift and we had it out in 30 minutes! A chain connected to a couple of headbolts was all it took. Once it was out, we set it down on a pallet and separated the transmission and transfer case so it would be a bit easier to move around. The forklift then set the pallet in our trailer to take back home.

Once home, we had to get the engine off our trailer so we could bring it back the next day to move the tub. And needless to say, we don’t own a forklift. So my dad and uncle (both Mechanical Engineers) devised a plan to put an eye-bolt through a support beam above carport and lift the engine using a come-along attached to it. I only learned later that the eye-bolt my dad found was only rated to 300lbs (the engine is at least 600lbs), but in their infinite engineer’s wisdom, the two of them agreed it was “good enough”. And it was, apparently.

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The engine hanging in our carport.
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Day 3

My uncle had to go home to Arkansas here, so it was down to dad and I. We took off the rest of the body panels, including the windshield frame and hardtop sides. Then it was just a matter of disconnecting everything from the tub. Steering came out, pedal assemblies and master cylinders, and all the switches and knobs in the dashboard. The wiring harness was wiggled out. We had gotten a late start since we had to take the engine off the trailer at home in the morning, and we had to vacate the lift bay (one of the guys needed it the next day), so we ran out of time to take the tub off.
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Day 4

Tub day! A few more random gas lines and wires had to be pulled out of the dashboard and disconnected, but otherwise we were ready! There are 10 tub bolts on a 40, for those who didn’t know. I got about 7 of the out with an air gun we borrowed (what a glorious tool that is) and then we cut one off with a dremel. The last two are wedged under the rear bumper, and are very hard to get at. So one of the guys at the shop helped out with the “blue wrench” (torch). Only one small fire ensued. But then IT WAS OFF! Three guys was enough to carry it to our trailer, and we were done!

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FIREEEE :D

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Dumping water on a burning rubber body mount. :doh:

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And the tub is OFF!!

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Aftermath

So here’s the plan. The shop we took the truck apart at is going to take care of the frame, including taking it for powder coating, rebuilding diffs and swapping the front knuckles for disc brakes, etc etc. All body panels that need paint and rust repair are going to a body shop nearby. We got a rear half tub to replace ours, since it is rusty in all the usual places, and this will be cheaper than having the body shop weld in new metal. It’ll be painted it’s OEM color, Rustic Green. We took the engine and basically all the other parts home. We’ll work with a machine shop to rebuild the engine, and then clean up and restore all the assorted parts. And hopefully, it will all start going together this summer. So stay tuned, its going to be a fun ride!

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Body parts at the body shop.

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