NOLA- A Build Story (1 Viewer)

SteelHunterFJ80

SILVER Star
Joined
Jun 17, 2016
Messages
556
Location
Seattle Area
NOLA; a build story

Hello Mudders! I have now owned my second cruiser for three years so I decided to finally put together a build thread. I'm writing one in part because this community is so freaking knowledgeable and has helped me fix so many things on my own truck that I would like to see if I can add to the great content if not fabbing skills and, of course, as a place where I can document my progress and keep track of the various projects and hopefully then next 30 years plus of travel and fun with this cruiser. I want to make sure an document all the trips I do in it as well because after all isn't that the point?

So how did I get here.....

In mid 2016 I bought a 1993 TLC with zero rust, a pretty good interior and a really smooth motor despite having over 300k miles. The truck had been in the Pacific Northwest its entire life and the body other than the one obligatory rear door rust spot and a poorly screwed on flare was as good as ever could be expected. All in all a good starting platform. And just as a disclaimer now, I practically knew nothing about vehicle maintenance or had any automotive knowledge other than how to change oil and break pads and rotate tires. I didn't even understand how a engine really worked and what each part did (ie intake and exhaust valves, crank, timing chain etc). I was no doubt, a one banana mechanic, maybe even negative bananas. Perhaps a plantain mechanic? Either way my knowledge was extremely limited.

I worked on it here and there replacing some worn parts (hoses, window runs, replacing broken switches etc) and put lizard skin sound deadening throughout the interior and doors which was a huge PITA but man what a difference in noise level! Afterwards, the car doors sounded like a Bentley when you closed them. Did a few oil changes and was looking at tires for a bit too.

But after a while I started thinking about all the things that I liked about my cruiser and all the places it could take me fishing and camping and thought this could be a truck that I keep for decades. And because I was thinking about owning this truck forever, I started wondering if this 93 was really the platform that I wanted to build off of. I decided it wasn't. Not because my truck wasn't a great vehicle but rather I knew I wanted to go the forced induction route someday which isn't possible on OBDI and I liked the idea of getting a OBDII truck so I could read codes easier, have better rear breaks, and air bags along with the more updated interior. One of my good friends was interested in purchasing my cruiser so I knew I could sell it to someone that would take care of it. He of course, was very interested in me getting a new rig so he could get my own rig, for weeks he would ask me "when are you going to NOLA?" and "whats up with NOLA, when was the last time you talked?" and "has NOLA sent you anymore videos?" I hasn't yet explained my plan to my wife and I thought my wife was might wonder if I was having affair the way I was wandering around the house answering these questions in hushed tones.

So I started looking for a a new LC and what I wanted was something that had a majority of the critical maintenance done so I could use it a lot while learning how to work on it a bit at a time myself. I knew I wanted a white or moon glow with tan interior that had all the hard to find or NOLA items such as headliner, carpet, doors in good shape. I figured any other things I could fix myself or better yet learn to fix myself. I also was more interested in building an expo rig than a crawler so lockers weren't critical for me.

I should also mention at this time that Toyota's tend to go for a higher price in the Northwest. Up here its called the Toyota tax. Just take a look at the Seattle craigslist for LCs and you will see many trucks going for multiples higher than what a lot of the parts of the country pay for their rigs. Its insane, a lot of sellers have unrealistic price exceptions or perhaps just list their trucks at ridiculously high prices to appease their spouse so they can say "See I listed it for sale but not takers yet." Meanwhile they plan to never actually sell. Smart strategy actually....

But I digress, after searching for a month or two, I found one that I liked. All the major maintenance items had been done (brakes, birfs, heater valve, PHH, seals etc). Only issue was that the truck was in New Orleans and I live just north of Seattle, WA. After emailing the seller back and forth some and getting some great videos of the truck I decided, Phuck it, I'll do a fly and drive thing. Never done that before but it seemed to line up with the idea of purchasing an adventure rig; why not go on adventure to get it too? I spoke to my wife and she was down with the idea. Only problem was that we had to wait until Thanksgiving week to go because my wife couldn't take any time off because her work was so busy. And then when teh week arrived, it turned out she couldn't go at all. So what to do? I certainly wasn't going to not go get the cruiser. But I have a spare airplane ticket and didn't necessarily want to go solo. All my buddies were spending time with family and they could go either.....I know! I will invite my 72 year old mom to go! She was thrilled with idea.


Hello NOLA!

So we fly down to New Orleans and the seller, a mud member, meets us at the airport with the truck. Saw the truck from a mile away and was super pumped. The seller was pretty cool and took us to a nearby parking lot where we did a walk around. I knew enough to look for major items and didn't see anything major (some oil leaks from the valve cover, clean knuckles but not dry and no coolant leaking). I did a test drive with the owner who physically recoiled when I floored it on the highway. I warned him before I was going to do but I had to work it out to see if there was any issues. The plus side was that kind of reaction told me he was pretty protective of his truck. The only downside was that the truck had a bit rougher body than I expected but I could fix that over time. The body panels still had matching VIN numbers so at least I knew it was all original. The seller did warn me about an intermittent starting issue where the truck wouldn't start once in a while. This had begun just recently and he had replaced the battery with a brand new one just before we got there and it hadn't happen since. More on that later......So after agreeing on payment we went to a local DMV changed title, dropped off the seller and took off!

The drive home was started a day after spending the night in New Orleans. We stayed at the Hotel Intercontinental and had an amazing dinner to celebrate. Being from Seattle we are big fans of seafood an was very surprised at the quality of the oysters in NOLA. They were on happy hour and I think we got 2 dozen of them. Great time and it was cool to have the cruiser parked right up in front of a pretty nice hotel. As people passed by I saw a lot of double takes which of course is awesome as a new owner.

Celebration Dinner

Celebration Dinner.jpg


Next day we rolled out of NOLA and had made about three hours outside New Orleans and stopped for gas. Filled up, went to start the truck, heard a click and that was it. Nothing. Sh*t I thought. Looked over at my mom and she said "uh oh, that doesn't sound right." Popped the hood and couldn't see any loose wires, battery terminals looked fine, what could it be? Doubtful it was the battery, it was brand new and had been tested by the previous owner. Plenty of power going to the interior electronics so wasn't sure what to do (as I said no mechanical knowledge whatsoever).

So I made contact with a friendly guy in the next bay who looked self dependent and automotively inclined and asked him for some help. He looked at it and after checking all cables etc thought it might be the starter. So he said lets rock it back and forth and see if the starter then gets contact. Sure enough it worked! He recommended getting it replaced as soon as I got home. He also explained how the contacts can wear and rocking it will get them to connect sometimes. Lesson #1 How a starter works!

After leaving New Orleans our next destination was San Antonio. Drive out across the south was uneventful, the motor smooth and the ride pleasant. Hit San Antonio and got a hotel right on the riverwalk. I was impressed with San Antonio, friendly people, great food and interesting city. We didn't make it to the Alamo, but we did make it to a beautiful church and watched a light show displayed on it. Later it was some great food and drinks on the riverwalk. After an early morning start, our next destination was New Mexico. After some debate and updates on the Colorado Rockies pass conditions we opted to go to Las Cruces NM and then through Moab, UT because why not?

Riverwalk

River Walk BLVD.jpg




Riverwalk Blvd

River Walk BLVD.jpg


San Antonio Light Show

San Antonio Light Show.jpg


Season Greetings
Seasons Greetings.jpg



On our way to New Mexico we passed through a town in east Texas by the name of Van Horn. Going up a small grade out of town, disaster struck. I started to smell the sweet smell of coolant burning, glanced at the temp gauge and saw the temperature gauge rising . I pulled over immediately in a slow down maneuver that would have impressed Ivan Stewart and I thought "s***, I either blew a head gasket or hopefully its just a coolant hose that cracked or popped off." See after reading Mud for two years I was preconditioned to head gasket failure at anytime followed by massive internal damage and warped heads. But then I thought there was no stumble in the motor driving up the grade because of a misfire so its probably a hose. Popped the hood and sure enough, upper radiator hose had failed. I was relived, my mom was pretty worried because we were out in the middle of nowhere. I told her relax, we got cell phones and some cash. Sit back and relax and stay in the moment as we will never be here again so might as well enjoy the moment. After all isn't that what a land cruiser is for? Getting you out there to see things and places your likely never to see again?

Relax enjoy the breakdown




Next step was to call an auto shop in the nearest town and see if we cold get some roadside assistance and a new hose and coolant. Got a mechanic to come out, confirmed it was just the upper radiator hose thank all that is holy, refilled on coolant and off we went.

Van Horn, TX




Out next stop was in Las Cruces NM, where it was Thanksgiving eve and the dining choices were few and far between. We found a Chilis or Applebees which all I can remember was how lousy the food was and then off to a Best Western for the night. Next morning after checking Oil and Coolant levels we headed out for Utah. The plan was to make Salt Lake and then stop off at the Land Cruiser Museum. Why not on the maiden voyage home stop off at a place that is mecca for all cruiser heads? Next morning we grabbed some breakfast and headed out to try and reach Moab by end of day but with a stop at 4 corners since it was on the way.

Money Shot




Las Cruces



At this point we were heading across Navajo reservation and gawd it was desolate. I admit after the radiator hose episode that I had a slight pucker factor looking out across all the land with virtually nothing in sight and the bars on my cell disappearing almost as fast as the gas in the tank. 12 mpg with a headwind what you gonna do?

The Rez





Rolled into a tiny town called Monticello south of Moab on a cold, crisp Thanksgiving evening. We had really pushed it that day covering 590 miles with a couple stops for gas and food and didn't have the energy to push on to Moab. So after checking in, we went to the nicest convenience store we could find, got some turkey and cranberry sandwiches, some beer and headed back to our so so motel. The sandwiches were actually pretty good and beer is always good so after about one and half sandwiches and beers I laid back on the bed and promptly fell asleep. I was awakened several times by the ancient heater in the room that sounded like a new blue clutch fan on startup that completely failed to match the ferocity of the noise with any real heat production.

Off to Moab in the morning and pushing on to SLC. It was uneventful except I would say that Moab was smaller than I expected and SLC had a lot more sprawl than I thought it would. Rolled up here and was virtually shaking with excitement.

Arrival



Suspicious Character



From Every Corner of the World


Drool


Land Cruiser means on every land



Best fishing and overland rig ever?



Wow





On the road again we aimed the cruiser towards Boise, ID and looked forward to our second to last day on the road. Got into Boise, enjoyed a fantastic dinner at great bistro and some really great ales and by the next day we were home. All in all almost 3,000 miles and 5 nights. The cruiser was dependable and thats about as a solid introduction you could ever want.



So what is the build gonna be like? I can only say my inspiration comes from many of the fantastic builds on "mud including but certainly not limited to @ZeGerman , @Lumpskie , @Box Rocket , @Luke111 , @IanB , @CaptBeardilocks , @SUMMIT CRUISERS Jr and many others, sipping whiskey (rye preferably), fly fishing for anything that swims in the northwest and a undefinable passion for this truck. One of the most important aspects in this is for me to learn to take care of almost anything on my truck. After all, I graduated from high school the year my truck was built and I know how I am holding up over the years so I know this 80 will need care.

I have already gotten great advice and help from many of you including @BILT4ME , @LINUS , @Kernal , and many others. I am looking forward to every little part of this build.
 
Last edited:

SteelHunterFJ80

SILVER Star
Joined
Jun 17, 2016
Messages
556
Location
Seattle Area
The goal for this build is a platform that will serve all my fishing, camping, overlanding and mountain biking trips throughout the Northwest and hopefully up to British Columbia. Main objectives include reliability, comfort, versatility (light wheeling, pick up a go capability, etc), comfortably fit 2-4 adults, keep the weight down as much as possible, and create storage solutions that retain the cabins roominess and offer a clean well thought out layout. In other words, I want to take my 80's technology, built to outlast the earth Toyota technology and upgrade it to 20th century comforts and options. I am lucky that when I bought this truck , the brakes had newer pads and the phh was done as well as the heater valve. This will be a running upgrade list and hopefully most of my attention will be in future upgrades and maintenance.


Current Issues:
Fix Front floor water leaks
Weak Parking brake
Crappy OEM headlights
Leak in left rear quarter panel sliding window
Sllllooooooowwwwww windows! :mad:
Crappy paint job on hood, front panels, roof and trunk
Sllooww seat belts
Carpet needs deep clean


Upgrades

The basics:
Wheels and tires
Suspension
Preventative maintenance (fluids, brakes, etc)
Replace rubber throughout while I am in there
CDL Switch
7 Pin Mod?


Comfort and Convenience Package
Cell phone holder
New Head Unit
Sound deadening
Upgrade seats with seat warmers for those cold steelhead fishing days
Wits End Center Console AP
Wits End Useless Cubby Insert

Engine
Wits End Turbo? Swap? TBD
 
Last edited:

Box Rocket

SILVER Star
Joined
Jan 2, 2003
Messages
4,786
Location
Syracuse, Utah
Cool story bro! haha. Actually it is really cool and I love purchase adventures like that. As I was reading your post it reminded me a lot of buying my first 80 in Houston, Texas back in 2000. My wife and I flew there and drove the truck back on a somewhat similar route. It just makes for a memorable purchase experience to have a road trip adventure. I'm 100% in favor of purchasing the "right" truck even if it's across the country. Don't limit yourself to purchasing local. Find the right truck and go wherever you need to to get it.

Looking forward to hear more updates!
 
Joined
Jan 10, 2017
Messages
1,669
Location
New England, USA
What a great adventure! I bet you and your mom will always remember that trip. I drove from Tacoma to Prescott AZ with my dad back in my college days and still think about the adventure. Great job writing the story out too.
 

SteelHunterFJ80

SILVER Star
Joined
Jun 17, 2016
Messages
556
Location
Seattle Area
First up on the list, new shoes! Wanted to go with some Duratracs for the snow and copious amount of rain that we get here in the PNW. @LINUS had made the initial recommendation to me as we both spent some time fishing on the Peninsula where 6 to 8 feet of rain per year is pretty common. Also liked the fact that reviews didn't mention a lot of road noise as capability and comfort are important to me.

Didn't want to spend $350 a tire so I hunted on Craiglist for a while and finally scored big.....got a set of 4 from a guy selling a brand new set (still had the manufacturers sticker on it and a recent manufacturing date. Picked up a spare from another guy and I had my set of 5. Took some inspiration from @SUMMIT CRUISERS Jr wheels and painted the FJ Cruiser wheels, added spacers, and got them mounted and balanced. I have had them on now for two years and gotta say they are a great tire. Only downside is that the reports of them chucking in rocks are accurate. I have one decent size chunk taken out in the tread. Hasn't been a huge deal but on the next set of tires I might look for something else as I can imagine going in rockier terrain on future travels.



Duratrac on new Rims.jpg



Duratrac mounted 2.jpg




Duratrac mounted.jpg
 

SteelHunterFJ80

SILVER Star
Joined
Jun 17, 2016
Messages
556
Location
Seattle Area
Alright going back in time here but after wheels and tires, it was time to do the obiligatory interior sound deadning. I haven't done the doors yet as I want to order new window runs, clean the switches and apply sound deadning all at once. Went with Dynamat Extreme and the 2nd layer foam for higher frequncies. I am debating getting rid of the OEM Roof Rack and am not sure if I will weld up the wholes in the roof or just use Wits End Nutserts to seal it up. Here we go with pics, 'cause everyone likes pics!

Interior 4.jpg


Interior 1.jpg


Interior 2.jpg
Interior 3.jpg
 

SteelHunterFJ80

SILVER Star
Joined
Jun 17, 2016
Messages
556
Location
Seattle Area
So cruising along one day and the motor starts to stumble. Its not smoothing out and the temp guage is rising slowly but surely. Yep, you guessed it blown head gasket. So this is good news and bad news. The good news is that I have been debating going with a Wits End turbo kit and ideally I would do a mild refresh on the motor before installing the kit. At the very least I would like to refresh the cooling system. So without further ado, here is a one :banana: mechanics first attempt a getting a HG done. The full thread can be found here but I'll post a few hight lights below:

A One Banana Mechanic Tackles the Head Gasket

*Disclamer, while I was able to do a lot of the work myself, because of time, I did have to have a mechanic wrap it up for me and do a proper run through. Next time though I think I could do it from start to finish in about 20 hours over a week. All in all, a fantastic experence that made me learn how an engine actually works and gave me the confidence to do more to my truck.

My while I am in there list included:

New OEM Water pump
New OEM Thermostat
Cleaned Oil Cooler and replaced hardware
New PHH hose with Hard pipe Delete
Honed Throttle body for better throttle response
New Wits End Blue Fan Clutch
New Radiator
New Radiator hoses
Rebuilt Injectors
Head hot tanked, decked, and valves 3 way ground with new valve keepers, stem guides and seals.
Replaced 3 Injector connectors that were brittle and I broke during removal
Finished off with Synthetic oil 0w-40 and Toyota Red Coolant

On a side note, I used all the same Vendors that Torfab uses; Dr. Injector for the injectors and their machinist for the head who I can't recall the name of right now but I will update later.


Here are a few photos but the thread above has much more detail. As you can see, it was cylinder number 1 that went (notice the steam cleaning of the cylinder head). Cylinders looked new with great cross hatching.

Block.jpg


Throttle Body.jpg




Cleaned up Oil Cooler.jpg


Head in.jpg


Getting there.jpg
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom