ROTM May 2009: VTCruiser

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate
links, including eBay, Amazon, Skimlinks, and others.

Sep 12, 2003
Tacoma, WA
Sorry for the delay in getting this posted. To be honest, I'm out town right now and haven't had the time to prepare anything for this yet. Anyway, to get this going I guess I'll start with a little history. Here is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote a few months ago. I edited it slightly for the sake of public interest but please excuse any lack of context. This is all I can offer tight now, but I'll post more about the evolution of my cruiser in the coming week(s)...

"Over Christmas, my sister and I took on the project of sorting through chests full of old family photographs. The goal was to put together some family albums, but I realized I was looking for something deeper, answers perhaps, or meaning. Those faded snapshots of my childhood were memories, a record of my past, of me. If I could find the answer to who I am and how I got here, it would be buried in those piles of dusty envelopes.

I found part of the answer in a crumbled shoebox with “1980’s” scribbled on the side. In it were photos of my early years, those just outside my range of memory. I flipped through the photos, one after another sparing only a moment’s glance until suddenly, a flash of red.

It was a photo of my parent’s old Land Cruiser, a Freeborn Red FJ60. My parents remembered the purchase quite clearly explaining that they bought on a whim while driving through Pennsylvania on their way home to Vermont. The dealership had two that were identical, both bright red and parked next to each other on the lot. They stopped to take a look and before long they were on the phone with the bank to have the money wired down the following morning. My sister and I were born not long after.

I admit that I don’t recall my ride home from the hospital or those early road trips to visit family in Chicago, but I do have several fond memories of bouncing around in “Big Red” throughout my childhood. I remember the distinct smell of vinyl with a subtle undertone of gas and oil, and running my hand down the striped tan and brown upholstery as I climbed into the back. I remember shifting gears from the passenger seat for my mother – I used both hands and knew exactly where to find the gears as she shouted them out – and steering down the gravel roads on her lap when I was bit older. I remember that it was indestructible, that it could go anywhere, and that it made me feel safe.

My mother drove that Land Cruiser for over ten years, but Vermont roads are tough on a vehicle and she eventually decided it was time for fuel injection and something more suitable for the highway. Sometime around 1995 they parked it in the front yard with a sign in the front window. It sat there for a couple weeks and then one day, when I came home from school, it was gone. I was about ten years old.

To say that an old Toyota somehow changed the course of my life might be taking it a bit far, but it certainly made an impact. I attribute a lot to that old Land Cruiser, such as my lifelong fascination with cars and engines for example, which ultimately led me to a degree in mechanical engineering, and it’s definitely the reason that I drive one today. For a long time I wished my parents hadn’t sold Big Red and that it could have been my first car, but I wonder now how that might have changed things. Would I have the same affinity for old Land Cruisers today? Or would I have gotten tired of it and have moved on to something else? But those questions can’t be answered by digging through a chest full of old photographs."


And here are some of the photos I was referring to...






that's right, I'm the stud with the training wheels. :grinpimp:
Last edited:
Okay, I'm home...finally. So how about some tech? :idea:

The first incarnation of my Cruiser took place back in 2004. I was in the market for a college vehicle and bough an '86 HJ60 in Toronto with a blown engine for $1700.



The plan was to have the 2H rebuilt while I was away at school in the spring so it would be ready when I came home in the summer, but the initial $4000 estimate in January became $7000 by February and I simply didn’t have the cash. I took it back in pieces and put it into storage until spring. Meanwhile, I tried to figure out the next move.


Clearly, I couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do the work. I was going to be home for the summer but had a full-time internship so finding time to rebuild it myself was going to be difficult and unrealistic considering my experience rebuilding diesel engines. My only option was to swap in a used, running engine. I contacted G&S Cruiser Parts for some options, and luckily they had a complete 1HZ powertrain ready to ship for only a little more than I was planning to pay initially for the 2H rebuild.

The 1HZ arrived by July but my work schedule restricted me from making much progress until August. My window of opportunity was about two weeks at the end of the summer between the end of my internship and my departure back to South Carolina for fall classes. I cut it close but the cruiser was running and road-legal the day before it’s 1000-mile maiden voyage.





The trip was surprisingly uneventful. I was expecting the worst but it was made in good time and disaster free. I was finally back in a 60 after almost 10 years. It wasn't long before I put on some shackles, and 33" MTs. I decided that the body and frame were too far gone, but that was really just an excuse to wheel it.




to be continued...
Thanks fellas!


I drove the cruiser through college until I took it off the road in the summer of '07. By then, there was hardly a straight panel on it, and the rust had progressed beyond comfort. It was time to rebuild it.

The plan was rebuild the cruiser from the ground up: new axles, new suspension, new fame, and a new body. Only the powertrain and interior would remain. I had a good frame from a FJ62 I had parted out, but I still needed a solid body and axles. I found them both out west: a tired '86 FJ60 donor and a set of OE cable locking axles with 4.11's and disk brakes.

That summer I flew out to California and drove back the FJ60 picking up the axles in Colorado along the way.

(see "Sight Unseeing" in the May/June '09 issue of Toyota Trails)


The donor

I drove the donor for a few weeks but as fall classes began, so did the disassembly. I picked at it slowly over the fall and until the later half of the spring semester when the work really began.

The focus of the build this time around was overland expedition. I had gotten the more "hardcore" wheeling (mostly) out of my system over the previous couple years and I wanted something suitable for long distance off road travel, but also for day-to-day diving.

I have documented the build (which is still ongoing) quite extensively in the the "Project Overland" over in the Expedition build forum, so to avoid too much repetition, I'll just summarize it here.




Frame Swap


New Axles






Rust Bullet


Trans x-member brackets


Engine brackets


Powrtrain install




"New" suspension




Back on the road!


  • 1986 FJ60
  • Painted LC paint code 464
  • Underbody sealed with Rust Bullet "black shell"
  • 1990 FJ62
  • 1HZ/H55F
  • Vacuum shift 4WD
  • Carter aux pump
  • Racor 245R Filter with 12V heater
  • Re-arched HJ springs, 7 leaf rear, 6 leaf front
  • SOR "Performance" Shackles with greasable bolts
  • SOR poly bushings
  • Greasable pins
  • "GT Suspension" Sway bars, 21mm front, 27mm rear
  • MAF extended font swaybar links
  • Modified Ford F-250 front shock towers
  • Pro Comp ES9000 Shocks
  • 2"-3" of lift
  • Full float rear
  • Factory 60-series F/R Cable lockers
  • 4.11 gears
  • Stock front disks
  • Aftermarket Rear disks
  • SS braided lines
  • 15x5.5 late model FJ40 steelies, 33x10.5 BFG A/Ts (winter)
  • 16x6 OE Steelies, 255/85 BFG M/Ts (summer)
  • Rebuilt HVAC ducts
  • Cargo drawers (Gave them away!)
  • Passenger grab bar
  • Integrated wiring
  • Contour E-Fan Conversion
  • RoundEyes Headlights
  • Shifter-mounted Hand Throttle

Here is the direct link to the GALLERY

Last edited:
Lastly, here are my spring projects:
  1. Turbo - I went with a kit from All-American Imports out of the Netherlands. What I liked about this kit is that it uses a lot of Toyota parts including a CT26 turbo, HDT exhaust manifold, and boost compensator for the fuel pump all for a pretty fair price.
  2. BEBs - As part of the turbo install I plan to replace the BEBs as a precautionary measure.
  3. Oil bypass - Also related to the turbo install, I plan to fit an Amsoil oil bypass filter to help keep the oil extra clean for the engine and turbo.
  4. Dual Batteries - I just got my new SS battery trays for my dual battery set-up. Haven't decided on batteries or module yet.
  5. Cargo System - I gave away my old set of plywood drawers. They have served me well over the last few years, but it's time to change gears a little. This is still in design phase, but I am looking to integrate more storage, a fridge, etc.
  6. Armor/Gear - This is a long list of gear that I will probably be picking at over the next year or so as funds permit. It includes: recovery bumpers, winch, sliders, roof-rack, rooftop tent, long rage fuel tank, on-board water, on-board propane... You know, "the basics."
  7. Misc - As I type, I have a set of 16" wheels and a split rear bench on a boat from Australia (thanks jsaltlick!). The wheels will eventually get a some 255/85 MTs serving as my expo wheels, and the split bench with be installed to allow for the new, more modular cargo system.

Well, i guess that pretty much covers it... :wrench:
Ha, that was your article I just read in the new Trails this morning on the bowl? Nice to put a name with a MUD name with a face.
Very cool Gehn, very cool.
Those pics of your family with the red 60 are priceless.
They look like they came out of an old brochure.
Your new project is an awesome build.:cheers:
I dig it, nice build.
ESH got his 1HZ with a turbo on the road and those engines are pretty quiet. Nice rig.
A few years ago when i first found IH8MUD, I saw posts of your 1HZ swap.
It was what inspired me to do my first diesel conversion.

I still dream of a 1HZ.

The current reincarnation of your vehicle is amazing!
Great rig. I want a 1HZ now haha
Your making me jealous with that diesel. I may have to get one after my 3FTE takes a crap on me. You'll have to give me your schedule on when your gona be on the west coast. We'll be out there in august.

definitely, I'll have my plans squared away by July, so I'll let you know. Have fun on Kauai!

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom