Builds My Tonka Truck

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Jun 18, 2012
Phoenix, AZ
Tonka was purchased in October, 1988, a month after I was born. A 1989 FJ62 in Champagne Silver, driven right off the showroom floor. My father wanted a strong, durable, reliable vehicle that would protect my family and keep us safe. Between Tonka and my dad's 1983 Toyota SR5 pickup, I've always been a Toyota kid. I remember a couple times when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, my dad putting me on his lap and letting me steer through our neighborhood. Because I was closest to the ground, I was always the one cleaning the steely rims and tires, as well as the running boards that came on the truck.
When it came time for me to learn how to drive, Tonka was the truck for me. I learned how to drive a stick in my mom's Scion XB, but Tonka became my daily driver from day one.

About a month or two after having Tonka as my daily driver, I was fortunate to have DPS (Arizona's Highway Patrol) advise me Tonka could go 87mph in a 65mph zone. A week later, I got in my first accident when a woman driving a '91 Chrysler LeBaron rear ended me at 60mph. She was DUI on drugs, driving on a suspended license, no insurance, and had many other legal issues. Her car was also totaled, evident by the passenger side wheel that had popped off and the front end that was touching her windshield. All Tonka got was a scuff on the bumper, some green paint on the tow hook, and a broken CB antenna mount.

In my high school, my truck was the oldest and "ugliest" vehicle in the lot among the BMW's and Mustangs, but I always loved driving my old truck, even if it died on the way to school, or on my way home, or all the other places it left me stranded.

The transmission was rebuilt in 2008 after the torque converter went out. Again in 2009 when that tranny died.

I had a month where I became intimately acquainted with the alternator install process after I got two bad refurbs in a row.
Now, the good stuff.

In April, 2014, I had an issue with the truck running hot. It wasn't consistent, and I had no clue what the issue was. I brought it to Camelback Toyota, where Copper State Cruisers take all their rigs. They replaced the radiator, since it was falling apart. They said if it gets back to normal, that was the issue. If it continues, then I had a blown head gasket. Things were fine for a couple weeks, then she was running hot again.

Since replacing the head gasket would be a big job and involve removing the engine in the first place, I had them replace all the seals. In AZ because of the heat and dry conditions, the seals and gaskets die fast, but bodies live forever. I had a pan under my truck that would always be full of oil, and I'd have to add a quart or two a month to keep the oil level showing on the dip stick. I asked them to take a look in the cylinders when they take off the head and see how things looked. I was at 311,000 miles, and the motor had never been through a good spa treatment.

After removing the head and looking in the motor, they called me in. Cylinders 1 and 6 were scored pretty bad due to blown seals. The cylinders were actually out of round due to the damage, and if I wanted proper compression again, it would need to be rebored to have a proper round cylinder.

(Sorry for the bad pic.....)

I love my Tonka, and reached deep into my pocket to show it. I had Camelback Toyota look for a new head, which they found. They sent the head and engine block to an engine shop to have it thermal cleaned, pressure tested, rebored and made new. With the rebored cylinders and head face shaved a bit, they "said" I'd have better compression. In any case, I was getting a new engine. Anyway, look at the pretty pictures.

So, after the engine was rebuilt, head replaced, fuel injection system reworked, new cameshaft, rod and bearings, valves, pistons, all new gaskets and seals, water pump, timing cover, and everything cleaned and repainted (including the valve cover a nice Toyota Red), my rig started up like a brand new truck. It put me back about $5,000, but it was a lot cheaper than anywhere else in AZ that I would trust (and I called around).
Now that you have the history, here is where I'm at now:
IMG_2598 (2).JPG

I am planning to add an OME lift by summer, add some 33" tires, and find the rear bumper of my dreams (something like the Slee bumpers for the 80's).

I currently have all the LED's to replace the dash and exterior lights except for blinkers and brake lights. I have a Pioneer AVH-X3600BHS coming in the mail. My big stopping point is finding the best power distribution setup for my lights, radios, etc. I know the Blue Sea fuse block exists, but has no relay spots. I'm planning on adding more lights, plugs, and things. I'd like to have an auxiliary power distribution system set up now, and build as I have time and money.

I'm still a noob at this, so anything you all have to add or suggest, please don't hold back!

Happy Mudding!
Nice write up!

That's awesome. I also learned how to drive on a 60 back home in Panama in the 80s. I'm with you all the way.
Nice 62, and cool parallel to my life. Why does it break down so much?
My biggest issue was the transmission. The torque converter kept failing. Idk why. I have stopped going to the shop I used to go to, and the tranny has been fine. Since then, its been things here and there that weren't buttoned up right since the rebuild. To be expected with how many times that engine compartment has been molested by so many dirty mechanics. Nothing is now how it was when it was new. A wire is shorting here, this vacuum line came off its nip, etc. The engine light is coming on now, but infrequently. It usually happens after the truck has been running for about 20 minutes, then its on anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds. I've noticed no consistency other than it p*ssing me off.....
How about a pic of the engine back in it's "home"? Looks great on the stand.
Alright, I've done quite a bit since my last post, so I'll have to catch you all up by installments........

First up, the requested under-the-hood shot (just for you dirty, dirty mudders)


I've LEDed the WHOLE truck, exterior and interior, installed an aux fuse block, upgraded my headlights, and replaced the transmission pump (not by choice). First, the dome lights!


It was a pretty easy plug-and-play setup. I'll use technical terms with this mod. The thing with the spring plugs into the light panel thing. Then you just shove it back together! Basically.


I unplugged the light assembly and worked with it on the tailgate. It made it a lot easier. This is what the cabin dome light looked like before throwing it back onto the headliner. I didn't use the adhesive pad that came with the kit, just carefully put the lense back on to hold it in place.


And now the world can see exactly how much change I have in the center console. The End!!! I took a lot more pics as I did it, thinking this would be a groundbreaking thread. If you need help, just message me.
I know you've already done it, but on my cruiser (not a 60), I attached my Blue Sea fuse block in the engine bay via an aluminum bracket, which I extended longer than the fuse block and I have all the auxiliary relays neatly placed right next to each other. A simple solution, plus I used pre-made wiring harnesses and I keep everything easily removable.

Your truck looks mint, im jealous
Now, the dash upgrade!

I got all my LED's from (duh), and went off of NomadSurfer's bulb chart ( It did not lead me wrong!!! The only bulb that wasn't on the list was the A/C button light.

Now, taking out the dash.


There are 9 phillips head screws that hold the upper portion of the dash in place. These need to be removed first. The screws are under the driver side vent, 12 o'clock in the gauge cluster and speedometer, three under the radio, then two above the radio but under the dash pad. You need to wiggle the dash a bit to get it loose, then squeeze our hands (or your kid's tiny hands) behind the gauge cluster to unplug the gauges. The one that scared me was the speedometer because I had little to no play in the cable. Just unplug and unscrew and you're good to go.


From here, you simply unscrew each light bulb holder, replace the bulb, then screw back in! I had issues with the high beam bulb fitting in the holder. I just sanded the edge down a touch with the dremel, and it fit perfect. After everything is replaced, plug it back in and check all the lights. I found out later they are polarized. Because I didn't want to deal with it at the time, or since, my tach gauge is still dark. Who needs the stupid thing anyway....


Also available to brighten your life, the switch lights for defroster, antenna, and others can be replaced! I unscrewed the black plug, replaced the bulb (which I never knew existed), and lit up my life! And my switches.

Other bulbs that I never knew lit up included the gear shifter! The two red lights above P were replaced, AND the green bulb that lets you know what gear you're in! What a funny concept! That was easy to get to, but a bit difficult to install due to playing with small pieces (BULBS) and a small work space. With enough patience, I got them replaced.


Since I'm here, I might as well replace the radio! ("Noooo waaaaaay, braaaaaaah?!?)

I chose a modest little 2 din unit that happened to fit the brackets PERFECTLY!!!!!!!

And a conversion harness that was pretty simple. I used connectors for the moment. When I tear back into the dash to replace the A/C bulb and some other items, I'll solder and shrink the wires properly.


Then just screw the radio in place, replace the dash, and all done!

In case you were jealous and wondering, I used the Pioneer AVH 3600-BHS radio. You can chose your own back lighting, color theme, AND background image!


The radio fits perfectly looks awesome, and sounds GREAT! It has Bluetooth, aux input, and hands free!!! My only complaints are the buttons are a little small and the Pioneer phone apps are useless. It could also be due to my phone being an iPhone 4s. We'll see what I can do with a new phone!
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