my hunt begins. (1 Viewer)

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Oct 22, 2014
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I have been obsessed with FJ40s since I was a kid. My dad bought a 68 when I was in high school from some college kid for $800. I wanted that truck so bad, and a few years ago he told me I was welcome to it if I wanted it (knowing I would not lug it and all of its rust from VA to CA).

After seeing the crazyness that has been going on with the price of FJs I have decided this next year will be the year that I will buy one. If I dont do it know I dont know that I will ever be able to afford one. I need to put aside a little more money, but I think in the next couple months I should have around $20k set aside for one. I have a garage and plenty of tools, and own a 1970 Porsche 914 that I do most of the work on, so I know my way around an old car (and am so looking forward to a vehicle I can crawl under without and hour of jacking it up and putting it on ramps / jack stands)

I am familiar with all the basics, and have been reading up on version differences and what to look for when buying one. Luckily I live in CA so there are a lot of pretty ones around.

Here is what I think am looking for something to cruise CA-1 and camp throughout North Cal. I want something I can drive for a couple days straight without worrying about, but nothing I am going to put more than 5k on per year, and it will live most of its life in my garage.

- My first priority is to find one rot free. There seems to be quite a few of them here in CA to work with.

- '74 or '75 seem like the years I should be looking at (smog is required in cars built after 1975, is that model year or manufacture year? Could I buy a '76 built in '75 and still be smog exempt). I really like the idea of a 2F engine, front disk brakes, but I REALLY like the old style doors and seats (general look) from the earlier FJs, so '74 seems like an ok options too. It does seem like a 4 speed is pretty essential. The other way I could see myself going is with a more modern CA original, with all the smog equipment. I would love to track down a BJ40 but they seem pretty rare, and the cost of rebuilding a diesel is a little worrisome over the long term.

I have a couple questions:

- Does my price range seem about right? (looking at Craigslist / etc it seems like its in the right range)
- Do the years seem to make sense? I imagine there is a substantial difference in the 3-speed vs 4-speed. I am not looking for a speed demon, but I would like to cruise 1 without a line of cars before me.
- In CA is a 1976 manufactured in 1975 smog exempt?

Thanks in advance.
 

Racer65

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I'm in your neck of the woods (Northern Cal) and I think your budget is fine. I'd even go 5 grand below your budget and use the funds for restoration work. Even the cleanest ones you find will need a decent amount of work. My understanding is that 1976 model year has to be smogged regardless.
It's important you find a vehicle that is complete. More and more parts are NLA, especially smog related parts. You need to be able tell under the hood what is hacked or missing. Earlier cars are easier to work on because the engine compartment has less stuff in it, but you'd be dealing with drum brakes. That's a lot of wheel cylinders, but then again the design of the Cruiser drum brake is very simple. If you've done one brake job you can do them all. Don't be concerned about torn seats. Unlike Porsches, seat covers are readily available and you can DIY.
 

ginmtb

'74 FJ40 - my first!
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Jan 26, 2014
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$20k can buy you a really nice one. Shoot I'd sell you mine for that lol.

The actual year the car is considered not when it was manufactured is the year they use for smog. So an early model 76 made say in August 75 still is considered a 76. At least that's how I know the rule.

Good luck in your search! You should have no problem finding one with that budget.
 
Joined
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yikes, a Porsche owner. There's perfectionists, and then there's Porsche owners (I kid, I kid)... actually, they're a bit worse - but it's understandable, on a Porsche, you get a touch of rust in the battery box and the next day it falls apart on the track (okay, now maybe I'm just bitter...)

Anyway, it's because I've lived in the Porsche world that I ask this question... are you looking for a showroom example of an FJ40 or are you looking for one to modify to zip over to the Rubicon to run on a weekend? If it's the 1st instance, any year is fine, and the closer you get to the last year, 81, the more refined (in a delightfully unrefined manner) you will get. 78 has 4 speeds, lower numeric gear ratios, more powerful engines - so your 5k of driving won't be as bad. I joke that all FJ40s are low-mileage version because no one drives them far in any one sitting... of course the Rusty story does create a point of difference.

Frankly, I wouldn't be afraid of smog stuff if you want a showroom-perfect-condition version of an FJ40 - especially since the older versions have less power, 3 speeds, no power steering. On the other hand, if you want something that's been modified, then the sky is the limit. In my area (Seattle), I saw several pretty solid FJ40s and none were more than 15k, most centered around 8k - of course, those all are 40 year old vehicles that do not lead pampered lives.

Another consideration, there are GM motors that are smog certified which can replace a non-complying motor. The benefits of a V8 are: better driving, better fuel economy, more power, and, with efi, you change the oil and that's it for maintenance for the first 200k miles. The point is, if you buy a perfect, non-complying vehicle for 10k, you can easily have a complying vehicle with a brand new, warrantied motor for 20k (motor costs 6500, plus install, of course). And to the purists (there is nothing wrong with them, I'm just not one of them), you can tell them that you replaced a GM motor with a GM motor because the original 6 cylinder was a design Toyota paid GM for the right to produce.

One thing to consider, MUD members are pretty nice folks and if asked would probably go put eyes on a FJ40 that you can't look at. I would, though, after having someone else look at the vehicle, still go look at it yourself....

As you said, you need to avoid rust (though its not as bad as a Porsche - an aside, I love Porsches but I also hate them... maybe you understand?) rust is expensive to fix.

good luck with your search!
 
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JohnnyC

Long ago TLCA# 2231
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the 76' model year started disc brakes 9/75 build date onward...

74 -75 are good models.... the 74 still had the lift gate and updated F155 engine.... the 75' had the ambi door rear and 2F engine... there are actually LOTS of differences between them... those are the ones that would probably most interest you

You can swap over a disc axle to either one
 
Joined
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San Diego
California is a difficult place to own a cruiser that you need to smog check. As the other poster mentioned, you can put a more modern engine in, but then you will need to go through the BAR process, which is not fun, and you'll have a LOT of extra steps, and then you will still need to smog the engine, just at the more modern year. You're on the right path sticking with a pre 76. You'll also want to look at the title of the rig, as generally speaking, the DMV goes by when the truck was titled/sold not when it was manufactured for smog exemption. For example I have a 1970, but it's titled as a 1971 due to being originally sold the year after it was built (not uncommon for cruisers to sit on the lot for awhile as they were pretty expensive back in the day).

The other things like discs, etc can be changed fairly easily for not a lot of money, so I wouldn't target a specific year, as much as a type of truck style that you're looking for. Most of the old trucks have been updated by this point. Mine had front disc brakes and power brakes added from a later year FJ40, but still runs the original drums on the rear.

Another consideration, is that if you're looking to garage it, you may have to look for a non-lifted truck. My truck with the 4 inch lift will not fit in a standard garage with the hard top on.
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
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Thanks for all the responses.

Yes, the garage thing is a concern, especially since it is one of those old San Francisco garages designed for Model-Ts. I am potentially thinking I may have to remove the roof to get it in there regardless. I need to get out the tape measure and see what my clearance is in the garage.

It seems like 74/75 are the years, although I would love to know what you all think of the imported BJ40s.

Not really interested in a 350 converted FJ, but also not looking for a show queen. While I do own a Porsche, its a 914, which is more VW than Porsche, and I am not too uptight about it. I am looking for a rig that has not been abused, with a solid body, but nothing too perfect to enjoy.

Thanks again.
 
Joined
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BJ40s.... I love the ads - every single one of them will say "not much rust" kind of like not quite pregnant. With that said, I've no idea what smog would look like in CA for the diesel - remember, they need to meet the emissions for the year they were built (unless there is an exception like I'm working with my Discovery 2 with a TDI).

for 20k you get can one that is done in the manner that builder wanted, for 20k you can build your own. I think with your desire to commute, you may wish to build your own. In your shopping, test drive several (stock suspension to fully modified with coil overs) to get a feel for what can be done...

it used to be that 914s were poor-man's Porsches, not anymore, a friend just bought one and I about fell over at what he paid for his.

With that said, power steering is your friend in places where parking is limited.
 

JohnnyC

Long ago TLCA# 2231
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a friend had a 914... very fun car... very easy to do donughts :)

his however had floor problems... and after two winters the sag was much worse and taking the top off probably would have folded it LOL

I remember the Hella Fog lights that it had were cool and small... I bought a set of hella fogs from a 914 for my Triumph spitfire long ago and the a set of Hella 500's for the cruiser when i got it... contribute my love and appriciation for Hella because of his 914 :)

BTW welcome to Mud !!

there have been many bj40's and other b's and H's imported... cant speak on laws with CA however
 
Joined
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3 or 4 speed won't make any difference in your overall cruising speed since the final gear (either 3rd or 4th) is a 1:1 ratio. The 4 speed has a better gear split but both get the job done. I drove my 40 with a 3 speed in it for years and my biggest complaint (besides the lack of low range gearing) was the non-synchronized 1st gear. Coming to an absolute complete stop before shifting gets old.

I'm running an SM420 (GM transmission) now and 1st gear is also not synchronized. 2nd gear is however it's a lower ratio than either 1st gears on the Toyota 3 or 4 speed transmissions.

I personally like the older (early-74') FJ40's and you can always swap disc brakes, etc from a newer FJ40 or FJ60. Just my $.02, probably opening :worms:
 
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I've only had the 3 speed in a couple of my FJ40s (I've owned 8) with the straight 6, the only one I was intimately associated with was a 57 (yeah, I know they didn't import them until 59, but you can argue with NV DMV) - anyway, climbing Mt. Rose with the 3 speed was frustrating because once you got past the Bar and Grill that's burned down - you had plenty of hp and torque for 2nd but not enough for 3rd.... thus it was a long, 35 mph climb in 2nd gear at redline.
 
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Ahh, I didn't realize the three speed had the same ratio in 3rd as the 4th gear. Makes sense. That opens up a few options, good to know.

And just to be clear, I am definitely not looking for a commuter, if I was I would be looking at a Camry that I wouldnt have to care about. I live in work in SF, so on the rare days I do drive its usually one of the motorcycles ('01 F650GS on bad weather days, '72 R60/5 on nice days).

As far as BJ40s go, it is my understanding that diesel vehicles sold before '96 do not need smog, but I am not sure what the import process is outside of smog requires. I will have to look into it.

With the exception of the cloth interior something like this looks awefully nice:
(i tried to post a link but I have not been a member long enough, search LA craigslist for a BJ40, someone is selling two on there, one of which being a '77 that looks pretty sweet)

I also realize there are a number of potential issue with south american imports.

I would love to meet up with anything in this general area to check out their rigs, and get a sense of what to look for. If anyone is doing any brake work I would love to offer a set of hands, my only experience with drub brakes is on motorcycles.

thanks again
 
Joined
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For $20K I would think you could get one in almost perfect condition.

But be very careful - there are LOTS of people that put lipstick on these pigs. Biggest red flags in my eyes - non-factory paint and/or bedliner rolled inside or out. Look for factory ribbing on the floors and wheel wells, as well as all factory lights and reflectors. These will tip you off as to if and how bodywork may have been done in the past.

Agreed with the above about a 4 spd. disc brakes can be swapped later if needed.

If you want a diesel, I would look at a BJ42. But chances are said BJ42 came from Canada, and there almost always will be (or has been) rust issues with anything out of Canada. But with a BJ42 you could get the bigger 3B diesel, could get factory power steering, could get factory 5 speed. Then slap a turbo on and you're golden.

Or call these guys up, cause 70 series are the new craze and you get factory power steering, factory air conditioning, cable lockers, 5 spd, turbo diesels, etc.:
http://www.landcruisersdirect.com/
 
Joined
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Being in cali like what has been said I would do as much as you can to stay away from dmv problems. The older fjs have thicker sheet metal so rust can sometimes not be as bad. In your part of the country rust free models exist and aren't just a fairy tale like out here. That budget you have is a good one, I would take time to research on here for what they have been selling for around your neck of the woods and figure out what type you want ie toyota vs big motor, bigger axles or wheels or something closer to what came from the dealers, well not the dealers that sold V8 swaps:rolleyes:.

Theres a big faq in this forum with tips on what to look for but like the advice above me says DONT be fooled by shiny new paint. If a truck has been repainted ask if they have pictures of the work as its being done or receipts, paint is the easiest way for a well intending person to cover up a problem that will just eat is way through causing more damage...darn rust. Weather striping on these can nickle and dime a person to death as well some other things if they have to be redone like chasing rust in a tub (1st hand experience here). If you are going for a stock hard top type keep in mind some parts are getting hard or impossible to find. I think wipers motors are worth there weight in silver at this moment

Dont let some things scare you like a leaking front axle, those are common on these and most people rebuild them once they get them anyone just for piece of mind its good bonding experience with your new baby, i mean truck.

At your budget you have lots of options, just take time and research on here (heres a tip, keep your phone screen dimmed more at night so your partner wont be kept awake as you read more about these new addictions)
 
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those are common on these and most people rebuild them once they get them anyone just for piece of mind its good bonding experience with your new baby, i mean truck.

(heres a tip, keep your phone screen dimmed more at night so your partner wont be kept awake as you read more about these new addictions)

'40 AND marital advice.... bonus :)


about California - they have an ocean next to them (hard to notice, but it's there).... and those things have water and salt. Rust free comes from Arizona, not so much California where their citizens have the audacity of taking their topless vehicles to the beach (I know, right, what are they thinking?!!!)
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
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Another consideration, is that if you're looking to garage it, you may have to look for a non-lifted truck. My truck with the 4 inch lift will not fit in a standard garage with the hard top on.
I measured my clearance last night, 81" and that might rub the rubber piece that seals the bottom of my garage door. Would love to know the height of a stock FJ.

you may want to post up in your closest TLCA club... clubhouse area...
This is awesome thanks.

about California - they have an ocean next to them (hard to notice, but it's there).... and those things have water and salt. Rust free comes from Arizona, not so much California where their citizens have the audacity of taking their topless vehicles to the beach (I know, right, what are they thinking?!!!)
I totally understand the anti-California sentiment, its ironic that the state that was the heard of so much car culture also has the most prohibitive emissions laws. But keep in mind 1/2 of california is 3-6 hours away from the ocean, and a good chunk of the state is a straight up dessert. I have always had good luck finding rust free cars here, I hope that will be the same deal for the FJ.


Just another $100k and you could get one of these:
I briefly worked with a guy in LA with one of these. Gorgeous powder coated body, perfect in every way, like buying a new car. I do feel like they are missing a little of their soul, def would not turn a free one down however :)
 

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