It seems that no matter what the vehicle, there will always be compromises in its design. Vehicle manufacturers typically have an intended market in mind when they design and sell a particular vehicle. As such, they engineer features into the vehicle to accommodate future owners the best they can. But with safety and emissions standards becoming more and more stringent, fuel prices on the rise, and the economy on the fall, auto manufacturers have been forced to make sacrifices for the greater good. It’s disappointing at times but it is reality so as consumers we’ve learned to live with it.
The FJ Cruiser does indeed lack certain luxury features, but despite its low introductory pricing, it comes very well equipped. With a focus on functionality instead of features, Toyota did a great job of determining what was needed in a vehicle aimed at the off-roading community. No doubt the lack of available luxury items is intended to reduce production costs. But based on the target demographic, Toyota was smart enough to realize that for many owners, features such as dual climate control would only add unnecessary cost. So by eliminating some of these options, Toyota was able to produce a reasonably-priced but very capable vehicle.
One of the sacrifices you do make with the FJ Cruiser comes at the cost of reduced cargo and storage space. The FJ is big in spirit but internal cargo space is somewhat limited due to the shorter wheelbase. With the rear seats folded down, owners gain roughly six feet of length in the rear cargo area which may sound like a lot but it disappears pretty quickly once the packing begins. I guess it’s just the nature of owning a smaller vehicle. Toyota designed the FJ to be nimble on the trail which typically results in a shorter wheel base, which of course translates to less internal storage. Luckily there are plenty of options available now to resolve this issue. One of the most popular solutions to this problem is to add a roof rack to the vehicle.
The FJ Cruiser comes with the option of a powder-coated aluminum roof rack. The design of the stock rack is very well thought out and the style of it complements the FJ’s body lines very well. The main problem with the stock rack is that being aluminum, it can only handle around 130lbs of distributed weight. By the time you get a full load-out of gear packed up, the total weight could very easily exceed 130lbs, making the stock rack somewhat useless. It was because of this that I began looking for an alternate solution.
I hemmed and hawed for quite some time, actually, before finalizing my decision on an aftermarket rack. Jumping back into the FJ Cruiser Forums led me to a half-dozen different options, all of which had their pros and cons. But among the choices, one manufacturer stood out above the rest… Gobi Racks. I particularly liked the design and look of the Gobi Stealth roof rack since it maintained a much lower profile than other styles. Another feature I liked about the Gobi roof racks was that they conformed to the body lines of the vehicle. Whenever possible, I prefer to have the look and feel of my aftermarket upgrades match the original style of the vehicle. Nothing looks worse to me than attaching some tacky piece of equipment to a nice looking vehicle, only to have it stick out like a sore thumb.
One of the big pluses to choosing Gobi Racks is that they will also customize a roof rack to fit your needs. In my case, the bright sunny view through my 40″x20″ Webasto sunroof would end up being obliterated by most roof racks. Not a problem for Gobi. All I needed to do was provide them with the location and dimensions of the sunroof and they were able to modify their standard Stealth design to accommodate it. All Gobi racks come with light-mounting brackets (lights are optional) and are pre-wired inside the tubing to make adding lights that much easier. They are also one of the sturdiest racks available with a weight rating of 300lbs and are fully powder-coated to avoid corrosion. Both the Stealth and the Ranger styles come with an expanded metal floor which means no more worries about cargo falling through the slats.
To gain access to your Gobi roof rack, Gobi also offers a rear ladder for the FJ Cruiser. The ladder is just as sturdy as their racks and is custom designed to fit right over the rear door with no drilling required. Getting cargo up and down is considerably easier using their ladder as it functions as both steps and hand-holds. The Gobi ladder for the FJ Cruiser only weighs about 30lbs and mounts on the driver’s side of the rear door to help reduce stress to the hinges.
Gobi also offers equipment mounting brackets designed specifically to mount to their roof racks. This is especially nice because an axe, shovel and hi-lift jack are quite bulky and clunky when stored inside. These mounting brackets are designed with large, easy-to-turn knurled knobs that allow equipment to be easily clamped down and avoid excessive rattling during an off-roading expedition. The mounting brackets are coated in a rubberized plastic which helps to prevent corrosion and vibration, as well as a better grip for your tools. Plus, each of the clamping knobs has a built-in locking mechanism with a key to reduce the chance of losing your emergency equipment to would-be thieves.
Because of the customizing required to accommodate the sunroof, it took Gobi a little bit longer to ship the parts. But even with the additional changes I still received my parts in about two weeks. I’d like to point out that installation of any full-sized steel rack does require a second pair of hands unless you’re particularly ingenious or don’t mind scratching your roof paint. All Gobi racks come packaged with the necessary hardware required to secure them to the FJ’s roof. Gobi racks mount using the stock roof rack mount locations which means no drilling is required (a definite bonus) unless you’re running light wires or other equipment into the cabin interior. The hi-lift, shovel and axe mounts simply bolt onto the roof rack once it’s secured in place. The rear ladder is secured using allen-head bolts and custom brackets. The bolts, which act as set screws, effectively clamp the ladder brackets over the top and bottom of the rear door. So again, no drilling required.
The end result after getting all the parts properly mounted is not only functionally more capable, but quite appealing visually too, in my opinion. I now have the ability to haul my hi-lift jack, shovel, axe and an enormous amount of additional equipment on the roof if I run out of room inside. The heavier-duty roof racks, such as Gobi’s, are designed to provide a great platform for securing extra fuel canisters, camping equipment or even a full-sized roof-top tent. After almost a year and a half, I am still loving all of my Gobi equipment and highly recommend their products to anyone looking for a great-quality roof rack, rear ladder, or equipment mounting brackets. I’ve included some pictures below to give you a better idea of what the Gobi Stealth roof rack looks like mounted to an FJ Cruiser. Enjoy!