The Coal Mine Cruiser Classic (CMCC), is an off-roading event for Toyota Land Cruisers held annually at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park (RCORP). Like the FJ Northeasters (FJNE) event, the CMCC attracts a wide variety of folks, both new and old to the off-roading community. The entrance requirements are a bit more stringent than some of the other sponsored events, but it’s still a whole lot of fun and a great way to meet people with a similar interest in this type of activity. It was during the second day of the 2010 CMCC event, when I discovered that heavy rain and Metal Tech tube doors should not be mixed. Having purchased my Metal Tech tube doors only weeks prior to the event, I decided it would be simpler to remove my stock doors, prior to my departure for the event. So with the stock doors tucked away safely in my garage and the weather forecast indicating only a small chance of rain, I drove the two hours northward to RCORP full of enthusiasm and excitement. In hindsight, I should have been a bit more prepared. Continue Reading →
Check out the newest footage added to the Videos section of the site. These latest videos were all shot during the 2011 FJ Northeasters event at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park in Pennsylvania. We spent two fun days running blue trails, many of which were overrun with water flow and mud. But despite the high water, drizzling fog, and lower-than-normal temperatures, it was still a great time with great folks. For anyone else who is interested in attending this event in the future, you can get more details at the FJ Northeasters forums. In my opinion, this is one of the best events to attend, whether you’re new to off-roading or an old-school rock crawler. Thanks again to Tony and Rich for all the video capture and a huge thanks to Pete, Jacques, Brian and all the other organizers who help put this event together every year! I hope to see many of you again soon at future Rausch Creek events!
As I head into year five with my favorite mechanical buddy, I am proud to announce that I have officially achieved my goal of bringing this site’s textual content and photos up to the FJ’s current status. I’ve scoured through nearly all of our photographs and can now confirm that I’ve completed documentation on all of the major modifications. There are still a few minor modifications, however, that have remained in hiding thus far. The main reason I have not yet addressed these items is that no one single mod was worthy of an entire article. But rather than just skip these upgrades entirely, I’ve decided to compile them all together into a single mini-mod article. Although a few of the below-mentioned items fall into the pricier category, most of these upgrades are either do-it-yourself type mods and/or modifications that fall into the quick and cheap category. In the end, whether your mods are major or minor in nature, it is the combination of the alterations that makes each person’s vehicle their own. So without further delay, here are a few of mine. Continue Reading →
Okay, so maybe the term “bulletproof” is a slight exaggeration. But sometimes it’s the small things in life that seem to have the largest impact. In the case of Ricochet’s lower control arm (LCA) skids for the FJ Cruiser, nothing could be truer. Like their name implies, Ricochet’s assortment of skid plates offer great deflection through light-weight protection. I originally purchased these skids back in November of 2009 and I’ve been running the same set since installation. They have taken a significant beating since they were installed and they have the scars to show for it. But despite the harsh environments they’ve witnessed, these skids continue to provide the same great protection they offered when they were first installed.
For the die-hard rock-crawling fanatics out there, I should point out that these skids, like most of Ricochet’s products for the FJ, are comprised entirely of aluminum. Some of the most popular skid plate vendors out there will tell you that when it comes to underbelly protection, nothing beats steel. And from my own experience, I’d have to agree. Steel is stronger, more pliable, and will slide off rocks and other hard surfaces much easier than an aluminum skid. From a material standpoint, aluminum tends to be more brittle than steel and is more prone to sticking on rocks than sliding. The malleability of steel makes it a popular choice for wheels, skids and other parts used in the off-roading arena, because these parts can be bent back into shape when struck and warped by obstacles. Continue Reading →
This article is actually part three in a series involving electrical upgrades to your FJ Cruiser. For those interested in adding a second battery to your FJ Cruiser, I suggest checking out part one, which details the installation of a Dirty Parts dual battery system. The second part provides detailed instructions and photos on how to add an auxiliary fuse panel to your FJ. The current article makes up part three in the series, and will cover the addition of 12-volt outlets to your FJ. In its stock configuration, the FJ Cruiser only provides its passengers with a single 12v outlet. The addition of more outlets gives passengers the ability to plug in extra accessories such as phones and portable media devices.
I spent more than a reasonable amount of time researching and experimenting in order to determine the best location for aftermarket outlets. It sounds a little strange I suppose, but any mod that requires drilling or otherwise modifying the FJ’s stock configuration, normally leaves me to pause a bit. For those keeping up with my previous articles, you’ll note that I prefer to keep modifications as close to stock, in appearance, as possible. It’s about blending in and avoiding the “sore thumb” syndrome. Luckily, there were quite a few folks who paved the road before me, so I was able to view photos of outlets installed in a variety of different locations within the FJ before I began my own 12v installation. When all was said and done, I came up with a perfect outlet location for my needs – the rear vertical face of the center console. Continue Reading →
I’m currently working on another update to the electrical system and hope to have the article up soon. In the mean time, I thought you all might enjoy a few videos from various excursions over the last few years. These are not professionally shot by any means, but a few friends were kind enough to hang back and take some shots while we played, so I’m more than happy with the results. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that one of the biggest challenges to writing articles is capturing events as they transpire. Whether the format is audio, video or still photograph, and extra pair of hands is usually required to ensure the time line of events is properly tracked.
In the case of installation, it becomes rather a nuisance to have to stop at every step in order to detail progress after the fact. So much of the time, my photographs only tell part of the story. When I have the privilege of participating in off-road events, event capturing will oftentimes translate to standing in the bushes, hanging from tree limbs, or sinking knee-deep in the mud if necessary, in order to do the shots justice. It also means hanging back from the group while everyone else gets to play. For those of you who are willing to go this extra mile, I extend my whole-hearted thanks. Without folks like you, I’d be left with only memories of events past. Continue Reading →
As I was digging through photos for my latest articles, I happened across an older directory that has not seen activity since early 2007. I’m speaking, of course, of an image repository that has remained largely isolated over the last four years. Like most things in life, memories fade all too quickly and in our haste to move into the future, we often forget to appreciate the past. I’ve spent the last four years performing a variety of modifications to my FJ Cruiser. Some were minor projects that I completed in less than an hour. Other upgrades required multiple days, even weeks before they reached a state of completion. And though I have yet to reach the solid axle conversion stage, I’d still rate the extent of my particular modifications somewhere between medium and high. It’s quite amazing how the FJ has transitioned over time.
For those of you who have yet to be bitten by the “mod bug”, these pictures might seem all too familiar. But for me, there are a pleasant reminder of where it all began. If the FJ had a story to tell, mine would have started here. I’d had the FJ less than a week when these photos were taken and it brings back fun memories when I browse through the photos. Quite frankly, I don’t remember another time when the FJ looked this clean. I’ve become quite used to the mud and dirt residue throughout. It’s part of history now and a big part of my daily life. From the day I picked it up at the dealer, my enthusiasm for the FJ Cruiser platform has only grown, and I have Toyota to thank for it. So here’s to Toyota for building not just a vehicle, but a legacy that will hopefully continue for years to follow! Continue Reading →
One of the more common complaints heard in reference to driving an FJ Cruiser is the lack of visibility from within the cabin. Sadly, many test drivers move on to purchase alternate platforms because of this very issue, never getting to experience all those other features that make the FJ Cruiser great. Admittedly, the pillars in the FJ are rather sizable. But the side visibility problem is easily eliminated with two $3 convex mirrors, and rearward visibility can also be somewhat resolved by selecting Toyota’s optional backup sensors or camera package. With these solutions in place, the average daily driver and commuter should not have any problems safely navigating most paved suburban streets. Mountain trails, muddy ravines and boulder-strewn rock gardens are a separate issue, however.
When venturing off-pavement, visibility becomes a key factor in determining the path your vehicle will travel to reach its destination. Although I believe Toyota did an outstanding job designing the FJ Cruiser in general, the height of the stock doors is simply not conducive to good visibility on the trail. One option would be to remove the stock doors altogether but this option leaves the front passengers somewhat vulnerable to branches and other flying debris and is actually illegal in some states for safety reasons. So the logical solution to this problem is to replace the stock doors with an aftermarket alternative – one that improves the view from the driver’s seat but still offers some amount of safety and protection. On that note, I’d like to introduce you to Metal Tech’s tube door for the FJ Cruiser. Continue Reading →
For those quick trips to the trail where you plan to return in a matter of hours, it is probably a safe bet to limit on-board recovery gear to the bare essentials. The story changes, however, when these two-hour trips become multi-day excursions. For longer trips or expeditions into areas devoid of the basic support elements, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and include additional gear for those unexpected events. As someone who hedges on the side of safety, I tend to carry more gear than I expect to use, but I’d rather “have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”, as the saying goes. But there are penalties to pay for this peace of mind – penalties paid in the form of increased weight and reduced storage space.
One of the best solutions for on-board storage in the FJ Cruiser is provided by a company called Springtail Solutions. I won’t go into too much detail here since I posted a complete review of their storage racks several months ago. Suffice it to say, their rear door storage rack is a life-saver when it comes to the wide assortment of smaller items that I require for longer trips. These racks, and the optional MOLLE bags that attach to them, have no problems supporting the weight requirements for items such as small tools, various camping supplies, and a well-rounded first aid kit. But by the time you add two of these racks, loaded with all the accompanying gear, to the FJ Cruiser’s rear door, the strain becomes somewhat noticeable. The weight of the internal gear, combined with the spare tire and wheel mounted on the outside of the door, is a bit more than the stock hinges can handle. This is especially true for those folks who have upgraded their tires and wheels to larger, heavier models, increasing the outside weight dramatically in some cases. Continue Reading →
When it comes to modifying the FJ my goal has always been to achieve increased capability without negatively impacting vehicle performance. There’s no doubt that a vehicle designed for hardcore off-roading is going to witness its share of bruises. And the greater the number of modifications, the greater the chances that the stock integrity will be affected. My FJ Cruiser began its life as a daily commuter that saw occasional off-road use. Over the last four years of ownership, the scales have definitely tipped in favor of off-roading. It’s still my daily commuter, but my upgrade priorities now lean towards off-road conditions, rather than worrying so much about what kind of mileage I can achieve. To that end, it’s time to roll back the clock once again, to retroactively discuss one of the best possible modifications available for FJ Cruiser owners.
October of 2009 was a great month for my FJ Cruiser, and probably one of the most significant in terms of upgrades. I had spent the previous month or so analyzing my FJ’s performance characteristics in great detail in an effort to determine my next upgrade path. One of the immediate drawbacks to note was performance on inclines. Although the FJ comes stock with a 2.56:1 transfer case gear ratio, the gearing even in LOW/LOW leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to steep hills. Extremely rocky terrain can also prove frustrating since drivers can find themselves in constant “brake” mode, where their foot never leaves the pedal. On flat terrain, riding the brakes can indeed be an effective method for controlling forward momentum. But on inclines where the surface is loose or slippery, hitting the brakes can lead to disastrous results. The question is, what can FJ owners do to improve this situation? Continue Reading →