The Road to a 100 and 2001 build thread

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I apologize in advance for the wordiness of the beginning of this thread. I had started writing some text describing my foray into the world of Land Cruisers for a personal Cruiser blog but never got around to it to starting it up. I figured my story might be helpful to anyone else thinking about Land Cruisers. Reading this forum is what got me hooked and I appreciated all the detailed descriptions of what, when, how, where, why for all variety of topics. So...Here it goes.

Background:

My very first vehicle was a 1995 Jeep Cherokee with 50,000, bought in 1998 or 1999. This truck took me all through high school and most of college but it was only a 2x4. After adding an additional 100,000 miles to the truck and running the Cherokee into the ground, in 2005 I bought another jeep; this time a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4 with 80,000 miles. The Jeep Grand Cherokee brought me into the wonderful world of off road driving. The inaugural off road trip in the Grand Cherokee was on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where I was able to drive out on the beach in some pretty soft sand. Since then the Grand Cherokee has taken me on trips through Death Valley, Moab, The Sierra Nevada Mountains, The Inyo Mountains, across the country twice, and up and down the California coast more times than I can count. With all that fun the fact that I owned a jeep couldn’t escape me. All the good times were offset by having to put in a new transmission, rear differential, transfer case, gaskets on everything in the engine, water pump, power steering pump, front drive shaft, and a tie rod. I bought the car with 80,000 miles on it and finally sold it in 2010 with around 190,000 miles on it. I had originally wanted to throw a bunch of money and overhaul the entire jeep into a custom expedition vehicle but with a new baby boy on the way I was in need of a new, more reliable and safer truck.

Car Shopping:

So with the Jeep gone forever the search was on for a new truck. The doors were wide open to any kind of truck. The only requirement was that it be 4x4. Right off the starting line my choices were pretty clear: Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner, Land Rover LR3 or Nissan Xterra. Before getting rid of my last Jeep I had fantasized about getting a newer Grand Cherokee but after a lot of research, reading forums and reminding myself of the headaches that come along with owning a Jeep I nixed the idea of ever owning a Jeep again. As much as I had with both of mine they were too much of a maintenance headache.

LR3 was way too expensive and way too much maintenance.

This left only two options in my mind; the Toyota 4runner and Nissan Xterra. I will start off with my thoughts on the 4Runner. I have never been a big fan of the way the 4runner looked. I knew that it has great off road performance but I also wanted a car that looked great. I would go back and forth on this truck. From time to time I would see one that was lifted and outfitted for serious off road driving and would ogle over it. The only other problem with the 4Runner was the cost. Even a used late model 4Runner was out of my price range. So with price being the killer the 4Runner was off my list.

The Nissan Xterra was the only truck left on my list. I was actually in love with the Xterra from the get go. It had the looks, the braun and the right price tag. I was a little hesitant at first because I had always wondered if the Xterra could live up to all its rugged off road hype or was I just being suckered in by fancy marketing geared towards active folks like myself. After joining a few Xterra forums online, watching YouTube videos of trucks at play and researching modifications other people had made to their trucks it was clear that the Xterra, with a little modifications could walk the walk and talk the talk. There was no doubt in my mind that the truck could provide me with everything I was looking for in an expedition vehicle. Now the search was on for the perfect Nissan Xterra. I narrowed down the search to 2007 and newer. 2005 was the year the body style was changed to the current look but I wanted to stay away from the first two years of a new body style. There were no lack of Xterra’s available used but it was certainly hard to find one that was 4x4. For every dozen that were listed maybe one would be 4x4. My wife and I test drove a few of them and liked the truck but we were not in the position yet to afford a new truck so we just kept looking and waiting. I can very close on a few occasions to buying an xterra but I am very thankful that I didn’t.

The Conversation:

My wife’s good friend was talking to her one day about the car buying decisions that she and her husband were thinking about. Kate’s husband Robby was potentially going to get a really good deal on a Toyota Land Cruiser. Somehow that sparked Lindsay’s imagination and she came to me one day and asked me “What about a Toyota Land Cruiser”. I had never even given a Land Cruiser much thought. In my mind they were big, expensive soccer mom cars or, in the case of older models, wannabe jeeps (way wrong here). I really had no knowledge about anything other than the old FJ40’s or the more modern Land Cruisers you see at the mall. After a little bit of research it was clear that the Land Cruiser was the kind of car that is a lifetime goal vehicle. It is the ultimate in luxury and off road capability. The Land Cruiser is used all over the world in various forms for utility trucks, military trucks and just plain awesome off road vehicles. I wanted to be a part of this legendary club immediately.

The ideas:

When Lindsay first proposed the idea of a Land Cruiser it was along the lines of getting an older series Land Cruiser and doing a complete restoration. We were tight on money so the thought was, spend $5,000 on the truck and build it up for off road use as we go along. I thought this was an awesome idea and I got super pumped up about it.
My first idea was to get a 60 series Land Cruiser. At the time I thought that this series Land Cruiser was just plain classic looking. I still think that they have great lines and would like to own one some day. I would buy the truck for $5-6,000 and put another $8-10,000 into it to bring it up to perfect running shape. The idea of spending $15,000 to get a completely trail ready truck vs. spending $18,000 on a stock Xterra sounded very appealing. Then reality set in. My wife and I were about to have a baby and had to remember the reasons we were getting a new truck in the first place; reliability and safety. As cool as it would have been to do a big restoration and build, I didn’t have the time, space or tools to do it all myself. The other issue was that the 60 series trucks are much older and don’t have modern safety features such as airbags, antilock breaks, locking seatbelts or a latch system for car seats. It didn’t take long for this idea to get panned.

So moving forward the next idea was to get a little newer Land Cruiser. The next one on the list was the 80 series. The 80 looked awesome. I started seriously hunting for the perfect truck. They were hard to find with everything I was looking for. Many of them were in poor condition with super high mileage. I still think they are awesome and would love to have one fully loaded. The one thing I really didn’t like was the interior; it screamed 1990’s. The car also lacked some modern safety features. With a new baby on the way I moved forward and started considering the 100 series.

It took me a really long time to come around to the 100. I was a little resistant to it until I went and test drove one and was blown away at how nice the ride was. After a little more research and a bunch of time reading John Schotts build thread I was convinced that I could have comfort and capability. The search was on. Eventually I found a nice 2001 Cruiser with 114,000 miles for under $20k. I didn’t want anything earlier than 2001 because of engine options and I couldn’t really afford anything newer than 2001, so I lucked out finding this one with such a narrow search criteria.

I got the truck home on July 4th, 2010 and immediately started the modifications. Without going into a lot of detail and deep philosophical discussion; I am trying to keep my truck as stock looking as possible and only making mods that are useful and necessary (i.e. I am not going to get front and rear bumpers until I absolutely need it, or I rip the stock ones off, or have more money than I know what to do with) I stick to a really good article on expedition portal describing vehicle mods for overland travel.

Vehicle Preparations for Overland Travel
Let the fun (and pictures) begin...........

 
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Joined
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Stock

Here she is. My new to me 2001 Silver Land Cruiser. Bought on July 4, 2010 with 114,000 miles. I am still trying to come up with a cool name for her. Everyone on here seems to have some witty name for their trucks that suits them perfectly. I have yet to come up with anything.



I drove the truck around like this for a few weeks. There were a few interior issues to take care of. Over the years the sun had degraded the faux wood trim. So the door panels and center console areas had to be removed. Pretty straight forward. I also ordered a bunch of replacement cover panels for the shifter release button and the spare tire tool access on the rear bumper.



After getting a feel for the truck and figuring out what was going to come first, I made the obvious first modification; getting rid of the running boards.



Already looks better



A few more weeks, a few more forums, a lot more research and I decided that the next move was to level out the truck by cranking up the torsion bars. I got rid of the Land Cruiser Lean to one side and maxed out the front height.

The Bolt


The Measurement


The results
 
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Leaving the pavement

The basic interior mods and torsion bar adjustment satisfied me for a good while. In September of 2010 my wife and I had a baby boy so my attention was everywhere but the Land Cruiser. After a month of being in the house with our son my wife, my mom and I all needed a change of pace. We decided to take our 5 week old son on his first off roading trip. Our destination would be Joshua Tree National Park. It was a quick day trip and we did the Geology Tour Loop Road. Nothing exciting as far as offroading goes but it felt great to get the truck off the pavement for the first time.

Goodbye Pavement


My Wife at the helm


The trip was a little nerve wracking for me. I had my 5 week old son, my mom and my wife in the truck, way out in the middle of Joshua Tree and I had no real clue what to expect from the terrain or the stock tires on the truck. I am writing this so we all survived and managed to have fun.
 
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Let there be Light

On my old Jeep I had a Yakima Load Warrior roof rack with 3 Hella 500 lamps attached. When I sold the Jeep I kept the rack and the lights. The 3 lights attach using the 3 bolts that hold the fairing on to the front of the rack. It was a super clean hack to get the lights on there. The bolts on the fairing just happened to be the same size as the ones that came with the lamps. I have a relay switch hooked up to my fog lamps and battery. The lights will only come on when the car is turned on and when the fog lights are on (little did I know that when the high beams are turned on the fog lights turn off, and so go my roof lights with them. I have to fix that at some point).

Spaceship


I have the wires for the light power running up the side of the window. There is a perfect size space for some that black plastic cable routing stuff to be pushed in securely. The connection to the roof lights is through a trailer hitch connector that I cut apart and re-wired for my needs. It gives me a nice weather proof quick disconnect to the roof rack. When I am not using the rack I just coil up the tubing and stuff it neatly in the engine compartment.

Routing
 
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Fun stuff.

The wife (5-month pregnant) and I have taken our 11-month old off road several times. My 12-year old son and I run local powerlines just about every weekend. Sometimes all three of us, soon to be four, make day trips here and there. You picked the right truck for family fun.

Good luck with your build. Post more pics when you have them.
 
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Pre-trip suprise

With less than a week until a big trip to Death Valley for a week I started doing my pre-trip check on the truck. One of the first things I did was to check the spare. I hadn't looked at the spare since I bought the truck, which in hind sight was kind of stupid. When I bought the truck it had 3 stock Michelin's and one off brand AT tire. Anyways, when I lowered the spare out this is what I found.

Carnage


In not so nice of words I effectively said "Are you kidding me?" No way was I going to spend a week in the backcountry of Death Valley with no spare. This set off a long discussion with my wife over what would be more cost effective in the long run, just buy a new stock spare or invest in a new set of BFG AT's that I had had my eye on. It made more since to get the new AT tires than to get a spare Michelin that I was going to replace in the near future anyways. The added safety of having a good set of tires of known capability made the sales pitch easy :) I had my eyes set on a set of 295/75R16 BFG Al Terrain's and I had to find them with less than 5 days until my Death Valley trip. This also meant I had to get the truck lifted in the rear if I was going to fit those tires under the truck with any kind of clearance.
 
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Rear Lift

I live about 45 minutes from Man-a-Fre so I made a quick trip up there to pick up a set of 30mm coil spring spacers for the rear and also placed an order from Slee for 10mm trim packers to give me a total of 40mm of spacing.

I had a friend of mine come over to help with the install. I am fairly new to doing any kind of serious work on my own car (even though I am a mechanical engineer) so I prefer to do this stuff with someone that knows more than I do. I have my truck parked in an underground parking area which made jacking up the truck high enough to drop the rear axle down a challenge. We made it work though.

going up



Tires Off


After a detaching all the various lines and cables from the rear axle we were able to drop it down enough to easily get the springs out so that the spacers could go in.

Spacers


All in all it only took us maybe an hour and half to do the entire job and have the truck put back together. The 40mm lift made a huge difference. The stock tires looked tiny afterwards.

Clearance


On the street it has a little stink bug going on. Once the new tires are on and the truck has even a little load in it and it leveled out nicely.

On the Road
 
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295/75R16 vs 275/70R16

BFG for the win. I really like the 295's. I thought about going up to the 315's but as John Schotts put it to me in an email, "making the step up is really not going to get you that much farther down the trail". I agreed, no need for the 315's.........yet.

Competition


No tires


New Tires


I had the tires installed at American Tire and I paid the $25 extra per tire for the insurance plan. It paid off, I punctured a tire in Death Valley. I am pretty sure that is outside the replacement plan of wording of normal use (I disagree, I wouldn't buy those tires for any other normal use other than offroad). They replaced it no questions asked. I had the alignment done at Firestone since I already had the lifetime alignment plan. They enjoyed working on the truck. They don't typically see trucks with that tire size in their shop. Took a bit of work to get it setup for alignment. They were nice enough to let me come back and work with them and see what they were doing. I needed the alignment since I had adjusted the torsion bars and added the new tires.

Alignment


Results




With two days to spare I had the truck lifted and a new pair of shoes installed. Ready for Death Valley.


 
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Maiden Voyage

Here are a few snap shots of the maiden voyage. I took off to Death Valley with two other photographers for a 6 day backcountry drive. It didn't really test the extreme offroading capabilities but it confirmed that I had made the correct choice in vehicle for long range backcountry travel. Way more comfortable than the old jeep. Plenty of room for 3 guys and all their camping and camera gear. We never felt cramped.

I am on the far left


Eureka Dunes


Lippincot Mine


Titus Canyon
 
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Coming up

That is it for major mods for the moment. Coming up soon will be a complete renovation of the sound system. I just need the 5-channel amp and I will be set.

Alpine


More suspension stuff

I am waiting on a reimbursement check from some travel I did for work. Once that comes in I will be placing an order for a Bump It Off Road Differential Drop, OME 860 rear coils and OME Nitro shocks. At the same time as I do all that work I will be doing most of a 90k service, minus the timing belt. Can't afford to do that part of the service just yet. The diff drop is the biggie for me right now. I want to get my CV's back to a normal angle. I had had grease spitting out all over the place under the truck. I am going to rebuild the CV's too.

The long term plan

After suspension I am going to put in a dual battery system. This then opens the door to my next two major additions to the car: the on board air compressor and ARB Refrigerator. Thankfully my wife loves going on the back country trips so the fridge is her one request, which I will gladly grant when I have an extra $1k to throw away. Thankfully my wife is awesome and loves this stuff. Sometimes I get carried away (like when I start talking about getting a snorkel) but I have to kindly remind her that she is the one that suggested we get a Land Cruiser so its her fault I am an addict :):):).

After the air and fridge I really want to do an on board water system. That would make life with the wife and kids in the middle of nowhere much more pleasant.

Thanks for reading my long winded posts. More to come soon. I expect the diff drop within a few weeks.
 
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I definitely wish I had more. The spacers were a quick, cheap and easy way to get the car up to get the tires on. I am going to remove them soon and put in OME 860 springs. I don't need a whole lot more lift as much as a need a stiffer spring for carrying more load.
 
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