Pearl the Cruiser (1 Viewer)

Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
Hi all,

I am now back in a 60 series after a 6-year hiatus.

Some backstory- when I was a kid, my family rented a home on a few-acre plot, and slotted in the woods far behind the house was a white and red FJ40 - remembered by the "Land Cruiser" script badge on the hood. It was rusted and decaying, but as a young kid I would play in the woods, sit in it and pretend to drive it, and dream to have my own one day. Little did I know I was planting a seed that would last quite a long time. In 2014 I graduated college and began padding my measly savings account to try and get a vintage Land Cruiser. Living in Houston, while at work I would go on every major US city's Craigslist hub one by one, on the hunt. I had ambitions of doing a "Roadkill" style trip to fly in to a city to buy a beater, wrench on what's needed, and have an epic roadtrip home. One day I tried a new zip for Springfield, MO I found a candidate - a 1987 FJ60 with 280k miles. It had rust and had been sitting for years, but a good family story behind it. That weekend I rented a trailer, bought some load straps, cobbled together a roadside assistance and basic mechanic tool set, and hit the road on a Saturday morning. 11 hours later, I arrived to find this:

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The truck reluctantly started, I took it around the block, handed over some cash, and drug her home. After attempting to drive straight home in the same day, I grabbed a nap on a friends' couch in Dallas on the way back, dealt with a flat tire fiasco on the rental trailer, and despite the cheap purchase price spent 3/4 of my few months' starter savings on the Cruiser and the whole trip - but was amped up about the undertaking. I was making memories and loving it. Over the next year and a half, I tinkered with what I could and learned a lot, but when I had the opportunity for a career jump in a new city, I decided not to take the Cruiser with me. The truck needed some rust repair, was running on 5 cylinders, and as a 23 year old rookie with extremely low budget, little tools, working in an apartment garage, it became too much for me to do her justice. I posted for sale and within just a few hours, she had her new home. That home coincidentally was @HemiAlex , who has since given much love and care to "Mamabear" and returned her to glory.

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Fast forward to 2022, life has progressed. Now 30, married and a father, and finally a homeowner with some garage space, the Cruiser Gods were calling me back. I had several project vehicles in the interim, a 4Runner, bullnose Ford pickup, and a basket case 100 series, all of which helped me pick up new skills and knowledge in the wrenching game. Facebook marketplace now the ubiquitous classified site, I jumped on to find this a few hours away from my home in North Carolina (image from seller):

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Full of nostalgia I rented a trailer, woke up early on the weekend, and arrived to find somewhat of a basket case. Rust everywhere with lots of mechanical needs, some wayward rattle-can artistry, and questionable mods by the seller's early-20's son. But the pull was there - she drove, smelled, and felt like the 60 I used to have. I was preparing myself to walk away, but decided to give @HemiAlex a Facetime, since we had kept loosely in touch for years through the Cruiser-sphere. He helped me check on some basics and offered the encouragement to throw an offer and go for it. Crazy how the Cruiser community is a small world, and I was now getting valuable advice from a chance-acquaintance turned internet friend that shares the disease. I threw out a number, and after some waiting, got the keys to "Pearl":

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Pearl is a bit of a redemption story, as I always missed the 60 I sold and wondered what it could have been if I fought to keep it. Now being older, wiser (I think), with a little more budget, skills, and tools, is the chance to complete the journey of rehabilitating a 60 to her prime. I still have many constraints on the build with budget and time (young family and professional responsibilities taking priority), but I am ready for the new chapter.

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The goal for the build is hopefully to keep it long term and slowly build over time, ultimately being able to take it on 1-2 night camping trips a few hours from home, with the reliability to bring family (primarily my son) along for his first adventures. He is 18 months old, hopefully able to camp by age 3 or so, so that's loosely the timeline for stages 1 and 2 below. In between large adventures, I enjoy using it casually around town with its analog/mechanical driving experience as a fun vintage cruiser to take the bikes to the park, family to ice cream, occasionally to work, etc.

Preliminary thought map of build stages:
  1. Get sorted mechanically - starts, stops, turns, with reliability and safety. Having family on board, my tolerance for an unreliable vehicle and acceptable probability for getting stranded in either an unsafe or highly inconvenient situation is near-zero, especially compared to my last go-around at age 22.
  2. Decide on level of rust repair. It is extensive, so will need to prioritize cost, time, etc. I predict a couple of future options - tackle any frame/safety items and close up any holes to interior (corners of floor pan and inner rear fenders currently) as a "make it safe" option, or to commit to full teardown (interior and window removal, possible body-off) and extensive repair of every item to "make it nice". TBD here.
  3. Cosmetics - to repaint or not. If I successfully make it through stages 1-2, would be deciding on further investment to make it a long term member of the family with nice paint, trim, and interior.
Thanks for reading and hope to be posting semi-regular updates. I'm excited to be back in the Mud.

Cheers!
 
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Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
First up some quick fixes.

Previous owner threw in with the sale a replacement rear hatch, so I threw it on. Went from 0% rust-free to about 75% rust-free. Upgrade! First casualty of wrenching was breaking the rear wiper nut off with the stud while swapping to the new door.. Will worry about that later.

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The truck has two exhaust leaks - to fix the first was a new output seal. Check out the old one. Second leak is from the EGR block-off plate - ordered a new plate and gasket.

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The AC tensioner bearing was also seized up and screaming while running. This is my first Cruiser with functioning AC, so wanting to keep the overall system healthy as long as possible.

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Finally, previous owner's desmog idler pulley was ready to yeet itself - swapped in new one from TLC Performance.

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Parts on order:
  • Man-a-fre EGR blockoff plate and gasket. Not looking forward to putting torque on the rusty manifold studs.
  • Valve cover and oil pan gaskets.
  • City Racer Carb to replace this Weber nonsense. Assuming it lacks any form of ignition/fuel cutoff as the truck diesels for up to 10 seconds when shutting down warm.
  • Front brake refresh - City Racer Booster, Rockauto haul of master cylinder, replacement rubber lines, rotors/calipers/pads, front lug studs
  • CruiserTeq front axle rebuild kit with wheel bearings - to do when front brakes are apart
  • Will be doing full fluid and filter refresh as well alongside the above work.
Progress!
 
Joined
Feb 16, 2021
Messages
209
Location
U.S.A.
Little map gas torch and liquid wrench or wd40 will be vital tools in the rusty bolt and stud fight. Living that with the 80 I have. Heat it up hot as you can and spray it down a few times. Ih8rust more then mud.
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
Attempted removing the old EGR plate - previous owner has two allen-head bolts replacing the studs which weren't going anywhere after heat, PB blaster, and leverage. I'll be removing the manifold to have better access and try again on the workbench. Another attempt was full drivetrain fluid change, but rust and rounded bolts had other plans - may have to weld nuts on a couple of the fill/drain plugs in the future. Topped off any fluids for now and ordered all new plugs and crush washers for diffs, trans, and t-case. It's clear both t-case and trans will need to be removed at some point for a full gasket job and rear main seal.

Oil change, fuel filter, and valve cover gasket today successful at least.

About $15 in quarters at the coin op to use their pressure washer and Pearl cleaned up pretty decent - even some gloss left on the hood. May throw on a coat of wax, less for show than to prevent greasy fingerprints from embedding in the paint as I work around the engine bay.

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Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
Manifold off to tackle EGR leak and prep for new City Racer carb, and after heat, PB blaster, and slow leverage, snapped the PO's bolt. Dropped at a local machine shop today to hopefully get extracted this week.

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Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
After a few days at the machine shop extracting the broken bolt, got the manifold back installed with new gasket today.
The previous owner had taken the truck to a hot-rod style carb shop, who installed the Weber and did most of the de-smog. When blocking the EGR, they rammed 3/8-16 SAE bolts in to the manifold and then boogered the gap with RTV to close it up. No surprise a few years later this wasn't sealing. Because the hole was opened, a re-tap to M8-1.25 wasn't an option. I briefly debated heli-coils, but decided to concede to the SAE life and tapped the manifold to 3/8-16. New bolts with anti-seize and back in business.

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Still collecting parts to switch to City Racer Aisin carb, so hopefully last time the Weber drops back on. Truck runs fine when warm, but is tough to start either cold or hot, and diesels on every shutoff. In search of a factory 2F air cleaner and carb insulator, as well as an assortment of vacuum connections/caps to make the swap over.
 

HemiAlex

Long live the 2F
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I’ll send you the air cleaner for cost of shipping. It will be a heritage item.
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
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Finally have the front end buttoned up - was quite a journey.

Task list:
  • Front axle R&R, stripped and repainted all parts with black Appliance Enamel, process courtesy of @Hokie LX
  • Sumo hub rebuild kit with Timken bearings from @cruiseroutfit
  • 555 Tie Rod End kit from @cruiseroutfit
  • SOR backing plate eliminator kit with stainless outer lines
  • City Racer brake booster
  • Rotors, Pads, Calipers, master cylinder, soft lines (axle to chassis, front and rear) - all Centric brand parts from RockAuto
  • New rear bleeders and wheel cylinders
  • 3/16 NiCop hard brake lines anywhere I found a leak (or created one removing a seized fitting)
  • New steering stabilizer (cheap Monroe for now) - old literally fell out in two pieces once unbolted
  • New extended sway bar links from @orangefj45
  • New sway bar bushings to axle
  • New wheel studs and lugs
  • Diff drain and fill plugs to replace old stripped ones - OEM from Partsouq
  • New u-bolts from @Ironman 4x4 USA
  • Brake bleeding and booster rod adjustment tips from @roadstr6 and @JohnVee
  • Youtube education from @OTRAMM and Low Range Offroad
Crazy how these old trucks can give huge lessons in going for things that are new and intimidating, persevering through difficult and discouraging setbacks, and then emerging through the other end with new skills and knowledge with triumph. Rust is no fun, but had some Type 2 fun through a front axle rebuild, which I feel is a Cruiser rite of passage.

Time for a wrenching break and enjoy some driving for a while. Next item up is a cooling system overhaul for summer, and continuing to collect parts for the swap back to Aisin carb.

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HemiAlex

Long live the 2F
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Good work. We will have to trade back trucks one day.
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
Tackled a small project today refreshing the hood.

Threw in some gas struts from Amazon, the bottom stud uses a hole from the existing hood spring bolt, and drilled a hole in the hood and tapped with M8x1.25 for the top stud. Works like a charm and nice to ditch the squeaky old springs and crusty hood prop since I’ll be spending quite a bit more time in there.

I also swapped out the old insulator which was a torn up mouse house for a new-to-me one gifted from a fellow NC cruiser head. While out, I degreased the hood underneath and added a Dynamat Hoodliner kit for some thermal benefit down the road.

Satisfying transformation for about $80 all-in!

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Joined
Jan 29, 2015
Messages
157
Location
Charlotte
Lots of work to Pearl since last update, which I've been terrible about writing here.

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Overhauled the entire cooling system, after a slippery parts slope to cure a leaking stock radiator. Went with the below:
  • Champion 3-core radiator
  • OEM Water Pump, thermostat, and all hoses
  • FJ80 Fan Clutch
  • Rear heater delete
  • DIY 2-piece fan shroud
  • Oil cooler seals and oil filter housing gasket
I also had issues with power steering at low speed, and a weeping factory pump, so more below:
  • @orangefj45 Sagninaw Pump Conversion
  • New pressure and return lines with universal cooler (factory paper-clip was full of pinholes)
  • Magnefine filter on return line
Then went through ignition with:
  • Plugs
  • Cap and Rotor
  • Denso Wire Set
  • MSD Distributor Springs (poor man's re-curve, as documented by @roadstr6 and @77CruiserDog )
  • Timing help session from @roadstr6 and @HemiAlex - landed on 10.5 degrees base advance
Also cleaned up and painted lots of parts along the way, finished with a hot valve adjustment (all were too tight). I also swapped vacuum canister lines (got rid of fuel tank "whoosh") and new factory gas cap.

Since Pearl also came missing an AC Condenser, for the winter season I removed the compressor, lines, and drier to clean up the engine bay in the interim. May be deciding next year to go for functional AC, at which time those parts can be assessed and added back with new condenser. Removing the AC compressor required me to relocate the factory battery ground, and I now get a constant alternator whine from one of my speakers. Need to diagnose this.

Pearl was finally ready for Logan's Run with ONSC in the Uwharrie Forest, and she performed fantastic! 150 miles of highway and about 3 straight hours of warm dusty wheeling and crawling, without an issue. Starting the run home, the aftermarket cruise control module began to bug out and pull throttle, so disconnected that. Drove her to work today with the cool weather.

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Pictured with fresh Uwharrie dust:

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Left in the parts pile and to-do list:
  • City-Racer Aisin carb with new insulator - waiting on air cleaner courtesy of @HemiAlex
  • Horn pin and contact plate, with Hella dual horn kit (replacing botched aftermarket horn wiring)
  • Koito headlight kit
  • Spring bushings all around
  • U-joints (4)
  • Oil pan gasket (dreading this, will likely wait until if/when transmission is pulled)
  • Deep interior clean and clean/grease window tracks
  • Non-rust destroyed rear bumper, purchased from @LCNuts
At this point, I feel immensely more confident in the rig and have been putting more and more miles on Pearl. Will run in this config through winter, then make some springtime decisions about budget, time, and scope. The more I evaluate the rust situation, the less inclined I am to do any serious remediation and body work, and would consider swapping good parts to a new roller in better shape if I ever wanted a "nice" presenting truck. But enough of that talk, time to drive and enjoy.

Thanks for reading!
 
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