IN THE SACK

Chev V8-powered Cruiser is a neat mix of old and new.

WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS PHOTOS TIM MCGRATH & MICHAEL BARLEY

New Runner

Original diffs rebuilt with ARB Air Lockers and 4:11 gear ratio, plus disc brake conversion front and rear.

THIS OLD-SCHOOL FJ45 STOOD OUT AMONG THE LATEMODEL WANNABES

FJ FRONTAL

Hanson Offroad bumper houses a Warn 9.5t winch and Rigid Industries LED floodlights.

AMONG the hundreds of Toyota 4x4s in attendance at the annual FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado, there was one Land Cruiser that really grabbed our attention. The FJ Summit is primarily an event for the FJ Cruiser crowd, but this old-school FJ45 stood out among the late-model wannabes. As we were checking it out in the street, we got to talking with its owner, Tim McGrath. Tim hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico, from where he runs a business called Sackwear (www.sackwear.com) that designs and sells T-shirts, patches and other cool 4x4 related gear. Like everyone else in Ouray that weekend, Tim was there for the FJ Summit as part of his travels in his super-cool FJ.

Tim and his wife Jennifer have children, and their old FJ40 shorty was getting too small for their needs. They also had what Tim calls an FJ45 Pick-Up (what we’d call a ute) and a plan was hatched to create a more family-friendly fourbie.

When you see the designs at Sackwear, you’ll see that Tim has some talent with a pencil. He penned a concept sketch and took it to Don Haywood at Wolf Creek Rod Works in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to turn his ideas into reality.

A 1966 FJ40 WAS SOURCED AS A DONOR VEHICLE FOR THE NEW PROJECT

Tim says the remade 45 is a Troopy, as it takes its style from the venerable Toyota Troop Carrier, but it differs from the norm with its custom bodywork and soft top. The cab and pick-up bed from the FJ45 were sold and a 1966 FJ40 was sourced as a donor vehicle for the new project.

It was cut behind the door pillars, retaining the forward portion, and a new rear section was custom-fabricated by PACOL, a Florida company that specialises in vintage Land Cruiser body panels. The body was remounted to a refurbished FJ45 chassis and completed with NOS front ’guards and the remaining panels from the original 45.

When completed, the body was painted in a metallic grey taken from the Porsche palette, while the soft top is a custom-made piece from TLC 4x4, the same company behind the ICON 4x4 vehicles.

The chassis refurb included the original differentials being rebuilt with ARB Air Lockers and 4.11:1 gears, with disc brake conversions both front and rear. The axles are slung under Alcan leaf spring packs with Bilstein 7100 shocks, while the wheels are Walker Evans Racing alloys with 37-inch BF Goodrich Krawlers bead-locked to them.

Steering

ididit Tilt Column, Momo Wheel and Saginaw power steering conversion.

Seats/ Interior

MasterCraft Rubicon pews with seat heaters and MasterCraft Rubicon Bench, with five-point MasterCraft restraints attached to custom Metal Tech roll cage.

Tuffy 8in centre console with stereo and kick-ass Lowrance GPS.

all that power

Chevy Ram Jet 350 V8, GM Serpentine belt system, Griffin crossflow aluminium radiator, dual Spal fans (independently controlled), and a 200amp alternator.

Transmission

The mighty Chevy V8 is mated to an NV4500 five-speed manual cogshifter.

Transfer case

An Advanced Adapters Orion 'twin-stick' transfer case with 4:1 low range gear set.

No old Toyota six-cylinder engine was going to turn those big tyres, so a small-block Chevy engine was the logical install, and a relatively stock Ram Jet EFI 350 was fitted. The V8 is backed by an NV4500 five-speed manual transmission and an Advanced Adapters Orion ‘twinstick’ transfer case fitted with a 4:1 low range gear set.

Tom Wood’s driveshafts feed the drive to the axles.

Inside this Land Cruiser is a mix of new tools with old-school charm. The rear section of the body was made with a flat floor, allowing Tim to fit a Mastercraft bench seat to match the buckets up the front. All the seats feature five-point harnesses, also from Mastercraft, while further protection comes from a roll-cage by Metal Tech of Oregon.

Up front, the dash continues the mix of old and new. The metal dash panel is retained, but the gauges have been replaced with AutoMeter units. Myriad switches are mounted below the dash and a massive Lowrance GPS unit. An aftermarket air-conditioning and heating unit keeps the cabin cool regardless of whether the Cruiser is in the Colorado Alps or the New Mexico desert.

Modern touches are few on the outside, but

Wheelbase

The FJ45 has a distance of 2950mm between the wheels.

Front suspension

Alcan leaf springs with Bilstein 7100 shocks.

Front shackle reversal.

Paint

PPG DBC two-stage paintjob with a Porsche Meteor grey metallic hue.

THIS FJ HAS PLENTY OF LIFE LEFT IN IT YET

include plenty of LED lights. The rock lights are from Vision X, Baja Designs supplied the back-up lights, and fitted to a Hanson Offroad front bumper are a pair of Hella Xenons and floodlights from Rigid Industries.

Mounted inside that bumper is a Warn 9.5t winch fitted with synth’ rope and a Factor 55 Pro Link. The rear bar comes from 4Plus Products and includes the tyre carrier which mounts another massive BFG, a set of MaxTrax and some Jerry cans.

With prices of the FJ40 and 45 Cruiser going through the roof in the USA, there would be plenty of purists who might scowl at Tim and Jennifer’s ‘Restomod’ Troopy because it wasn’t restored to original condition. That doesn’t bother the McGraths, and the vehicle has taken them all over the USA and caught the eye of fans on the way.

“We have gone to Colorado, the San Juan Mountains area two or three times a year, and to the Overland Expo in Arizona” said Tim.

“These have all been family trips, along with our two kids – ten and eight years old. It’s a tight fit but one heck of an adventure.”

With that tight fit in mind, Tim is planning to build a storage system for the rear of the Troopy to better carry cargo. Other changes include adding some skid plates to protect the underside, and fabricating an airbox to connect with the snorkel that is fitted.

With classic old looks and capable V8 drivetrain, this FJ has plenty of life left in it yet.

Vehicle history

IT STARTED its life as an FJ45 long-bed pickup.

Don Haywood with Wolf Creek Rod Works in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, built the conversion and transformed the Land Cruiser into a Troopy based on the concept drawing Tim provided.

Original FJ45 body/bed was sold. Donor 1966 FJ40 was cut behind door pillars, retaining the forward portion. Extended custom rear section was fabricated by PACOL, including custom flat floor for passenger compartment. The 1966 cowl was mated to the new rear section. Body length was adjusted to match the original FJ45 LWB chassis. Front fenders are new OEM. Doors, hood and front bib original from the FJ45. Doors have functional original “bug catcher” windwings.

rubber

BF Goodrich 37-inch Krawlers wrap around Walker Evans beadlocked wheels.

stoppers

Front and rear disc brakes converted via a Man-AFre conversion kit.