Rig of the Month-April 2008-65swb45

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Elder Statesman
Supporting Vendor
Apr 14, 2004
My Love Affair with the FJ45-Part 1: The SWB

Though I had owned and wheeled a K-5 for 10 years by the time I opened my shop, I had yet to own my own pickup truck. I had borrowed my father’s F250 4x4 enough to know that pickups had their own special unique quality to them. I had tried unsuccessfully to pry that pickup away from my dad, which was what resulted in my getting the K-5 anyways. That’s another story.

Shortly after I opened the shop, a customer informed me of a 45 lwb that was literally 5 blocks from my house. I approached the owner, and he offered to sell at a price that wasn’t unreasonable, but was more than I could take on in addition to the $28,000 in debt I had already accumulated trying to get my shop off the ground. I ended up buying that truck, but the struggle to get the money for it left such a bitter taste in my mouth, I never did anything else with it. That truck is now back east with 66lwb45.

I had made friends with a fellow named Jeff Holdstock, whose whole family were such longtime cruiser heads that he himself was literally brought home from the hospital in his dad’s swb45. Well Jeff also owned a 65swb [tagged as a 67] and kept bugging me to get my 45 going.

One fateful day he called to say that he had located another 65swb out in the desert of Riverside….for $800! No power train, but no rust either. Well, as the rest of us with this addiction have all learned, when you have a chance to buy a swb45, you don’t ask questions; you just buy it before the seller changes their mind. And so it was that I lucked into a hacked up, stripped hulk of a truck in February of 1992. To his credit, Jeff not only acquired the truck for me sight unseen, but had the balls to tow it on a tandem axle flatbed the hundred some-odd miles back to my shop behind his own f135 powered FJ45. What a sight that must have been!

[here's a pic of his swb45, circa 2004]
The front clip was sitting in the bed, the dash was completely gutted, the cowl and the floor had been extensively cut from a previous V-8 conversion, the cab and the bed were literally resting on the frame with no body mounting whatsoever, and the power train was long gone. The frame had been conveniently bead blasted owing to it’s desert location [you will note the pitting in the windwing and curved corner glass]. It seemed only natural to paint the truck, as it was already disassembled, and Jeff spent the next few months helping me do body work in preparation for paint. And then it happened.

I paid a fateful visit to my brother-in-law at his place of employment, a classic car restoration shop [keep in mind that I honestly had NO EXPERIENCE with the realm of classic cars or restoration whatsoever up to this point in my life]. I had only intended to ask some simple questions about painting options! He walked me into their showroom and opened the hood of a gullwing Mercedes. I commented to him that it looked like a brand new car, and he explained to me that THAT is what a restoration is supposed to be.

I mulled this over for the rest of the morning and that afternoon at the shop. I discussed my experience at the restoration shop with Jeff and my other buddy Ken Hastings [ both of who apparently knew a LOT about restorations and classic cars], and they both told me that if anyone was capable of restoring an old Landcruiser, it would be me!
So I threw caution to the wind and said since I had to build the truck from scratch anyways, I might as well use the best stuff I could get. In retrospect, I couldn’t have had better timing: I bought the last of so many obsolete parts that no one since has been able to produce the same level of restoration. [Note: since this picture was taken, I have replaced the valve cover with a powdercoated one with reproduction decals courtesy of GroundUp and have reinstalled the vacuum hose to the FWD control valve]
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Getting the power train was the easy part. I found a rebuilt F135 engine sitting on a trailer waiting to go to the junkyard because its owner pulled it for a V-8 conversion. It didn’t take much horsetrading to get it. The rest of the power train was easily pulled from my collection of parts. The body was a whole different matter.

I delivered the body in over 100 pieces to Steve Hodges at Classic Endeavors and entrusted him to start welding the damaged body back together. Holes in the cowl were filled back in. The bed separation was dealt with, along with Steve’s special touch designed to mimic the original spot welds. After a fruitless search to find a replacement for the badly hacked transmission tunnel, I paid Steve a fair price to weld replacement steel to the original one, and his finished product was truly remarkable, right down to the overlapping seams on the underside of the tunnel! The whole time, he kept asking me what the finished truck was supposed to look like, and the only thing that I had to show him was a sketch from an old Specter catalog. But I promised to return with the finished truck.

Summer turned to fall, and fall to winter, and in the meantime I had assembled a complete rolling power train in my one and only service bay in the shop. Somewhere I have a couple of faded photographs of the power train in the service bay that I took for posterity. I really didn’t think that much about the scope of the project I had undertaken. I was just building a truck after all.
By January of 1993, four months after I dropped the body off, I was pushing Steve to paint it. Problem was, January was a very rainy month, and the prognosis for February wasn’t looking much better. I pushed Steve to paint the truck anyways, and he finally capitulated, saying that he could put some special hardeners into the paint to compensate for the humidity. This is one of the few choices I regretted, and not just because it took 2 years for the paint to cure. As far as color goes, I couldn’t have given a flying rat’s a** about repainting it in any stock FJ45 color, and instead settled on the FJ60 beige.

Since I had never seen or owned the completed truck, many of the smaller parts dogged me for a long time. I took months to locate an original rear view mirror, glove box door and the dash control switches. I had to cannibalize the 66lwb for the the front seats and a gas tank [since these only fit the fj45s]. Then there were the numerous calls to Japan to see what I could still get.

On that count, there were several pleasant surprises. Those included an NOS fuel pump with hand primer, battery hold down [the end-mount vs. side mount type] bug catcher weatherstrips, windshield vent, and most importantly an NOS wiring harness! Plenty of other cool old-school part made their way onto the truck from other donors, including the radiator tanks [with emblem] oil and air filter cans with original decals, valve cover with original decals and paint, blue window Aisan carb, and the hard line vacuum advance to mention a few. A special thanks goes to Ken Hastings who, when he saw the level to which I was taking this project, graciously donated his cherry 1966 steering wheel and front heater with the original decals OFF OF HIS OWN RIG!
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In some ways, I guess I am still accumulating parts for this truck! The factory tire carrier didn’t make it’s way onto the truck until 4 years after the build [thanks to Downey Off Road owner Jim Sickles] and the pintle hook courtesy of Dr. Frank Arian [landcruisaholics.com]
Other parts I have yet to mount include NOS clear corner glass and weatherstrips, roof and back panel weatherstrips.

One of my first trips after putting the truck on the road was to see a professional appraiser who was an active Concours judge. I was pleased to have him certify that my 45 was a Concours level restoration.

[I have pics from the day of the appraisal. I will add a pic here with the Dunlop RK3s on the truck. One of only two times I have mounted them]
During the restoration, I made three significant changes that prevent this from actually being a true Concours restoration. The first and most obvious was installing a floor shifted 4 speed transmission. While I am totally sold on the superior utility of the 4 speed, now that I hardly ever drive the truck anymore, I have considered returning to the column-shifted 3 speed.

The second was the conversion to a dual circuit master cylinder. At the time I built the truck, my concern over the vulnerability of the single circuit system was stronger than my desire to retain a purely stock system. Even though I continue to daily drive a single circuit FJ45 truck, I do not think I shall return this system to the original, though the firewall has not been modified to preclude it.

The last modification was the elimination of the clamp-mounted steering box in favor of a 4 bolt pedestal mount. I had both mounting systems available to me at the time of the build, and the original mount was long gone, with the 4 empty holes in the frame equally capable of supporting either mount. Having seen the clamp-style pedestal break in half on the Rubicon trail was all the evidence I needed that I did not want this component on my truck. Again, the irony here is that not only have I have daily driven a clamp-style steering box in my lwb 45 for 10+ years now, but I have WHEELED THE PISS out of the lwb without incident.
In 2004, I finally made the pilgrimage to the Toyota Owner's and Restorer's Club car show. It was an awesome experience to meet so many other enthusiastic old-school Toyota owners and to display my work to people who understood what a clear plastic cover on a horn relay was!

I was also pleasantly surprised to come away with the first place trophy!
There are a lot of anecdotes that go with this truck as well, but I will save those for the infill. Thanks for reading.

OK, one for now.:grinpimp: [borrowed from an old Pirate thread}

Back in the day there used to be a service charge included with the sale of a new vehicle called 'new car dealer prep'. I always wondered what that meant until I got involved in the world of Landcruisers. It seems that what happened, AFAIK, was that the factory sprayed this stuff all over the engine compartment called cosmoline, to help preserve the parts during their ocean voyage here. Many aircraft parts manufacturers still use this stuff to protect everything from gears and sprockets to cylinder heads, so that they do not oxidize before they are needed. Back then, the US car dealers were supposed to take some sort of solvent and wipe all this stuff off again, for which they would charge the 'new car dealer prep' charge.

Well, as luck [or fate] would have it, my very first 45, a red66lwb had a filthy dirty engine compartment with 80,000 original on it when I bought it in 1990. I really didn't pay much attention to it until I started putting the swb together a couple of years later. I went thru all the used valve covers I had in the shop, looking for something worthy to put on the top of the F135 that was going into the swb. I decided to have a peek at the one in the lwb when I got home. Much to my surprise, once I wiped away the oily sludge that had built up on top, I discovered that the valve cover was covered in a thin, brittle film..... of cosmoline! Well, cruiser nerd that I am, I spent the evenings of the next three weeks with a pocket knife, methodically scraping away like an archeologist at the now hardened and brittle cosmoline to reveal the original paint AND DECALS as they had LEFT THE FACTORY!

This pic is of FACTORY paint and decal after 38 years!

Now that's a nice pick up! My jaw is still hanging about the interior. That is clean.

I could have just imagined your reaction to the scraping of the cosmoline. That must have been really exciting - well at least to us cruiser nerds.
Thanks all. Spent a little more time reminiscing today and remembered another tidbit.

FJ45Dude had made what I thought was a pretty cool headliner for his FJ40 using indoor-outdoor carpeting, and had done a pretty good job of cutting and rolling out the corners. I liked it so much that I talked him into coming back to the shop [even though he had left for college at that point] over the winter break to make a similar headliner for my 45. ;)
That's aweome Mark!

I was even in L.A. this weekend visiting my sister, and if it wouldn't have been a weekend, I'd have at least tried to drop by or something.

Next time.....

That SWB is wicked cool.

truck looks beautiful Mark, you could put those chrome split rims of this one to go with the bezel and sell me those hubcaps;).

Seriously, looks great.
Nice, Mark! :beer:
Actually having the time to really look over it now all I can say is, simply amazing and a true inspiration for restorers. I have never seen such a nice job done on a 45. You truly are a master man. I have got to see this thing in person.

That cosmoline preserved decal and paint is pretty cool too.

Don't stop the pictures now, we want to see every inch of this beauty.

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