At first glance you might think that this bright red LandCruiser is just another modified 40 Series, but then you notice it’s got four doors. A second, more studied look indicates that it’s running on coil springs, and that the dimensions don’t seem quite right; not just longer than standard, in the body and the wheelbase, but a little too wide as well?
Yep, this ain’t no ordinary 40 Series Cruiser. It’s an FJ-Ute from Redline Land Cruisers based in Colorado, USA. And that bright red bodywork is manufactured from aluminium… and it’s been dumped on an 80 Series LandCruiser chassis… and you can buy your own for $US50k… or build one yourself with an 80 Series donor and a $US15,500 body kit!
Imagine that! All of the retro cool of a 40 Series LandCruiser, combined with the practicality of four doors, as well as the relative modernity of an 80 Series chassis and running gear, including that plush long-travel coil-spring suspension, an automatic transmission and decent power and torque for touring and off-roading.
Redline Land Cruisers specialises in products for Toyota off-roaders, fabricating its own parts as well as selling top-shelf components from other companies. Redline is also well known for restoring and modifying vintage LandCruisers, and it’s not unheard of for customers to drop a lazy $US100k on rebuilding an FJ40 from the ground up.
In this context, the FJ-Ute gracing these pages is exceptional value for money. Of course, you can option the FJ-Ute to your requirements and spend well over the $US50k asking price, but even in base specification this is one very special vehicle.
Restoring and modifying old LandCruisers is one thing, but building what is essentially an all-new hybrid production vehicle takes things to a whole new level. Justin Robbins, the man behind Redline Land Cruisers, explains why his company has followed this path: “I have always owned and loved the 40 Series LandCruisers. The fact that Toyota never made them in a four-door version is beyond me, and with a growing family, this fits right into our business and personal goals.
“While my primary business is restoring and resto-mod’ing LandCruisers, I wanted to make an attempt at a production vehicle with all of the ‘family’ features I wanted in a modernised utilitarian vehicle. Melding family creature comforts with a proven Toyota chassis that already exists [was] a no brainer.”
The standard FJ-Ute featured here was unveiled at last November’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas on the Radflo Suspension Systems stand. It was only three months prior when the team at Redline really got stuck into the project by removing the original body from the 1995 FJ80 donor vehicle. The engine, transmission and driveshafts were the next to come off the chassis, as everything had to be shifted rearwards 180mm to allow the new 40 Series aluminium body to fit over the top.
Prior to fitting the new body, the FJ-Ute was given a 2.5-inch lift, courtesy of OME springs supplied by Cruiser Outfitters. The springs were complemented by Radflo high-performance remote reservoir shock absorbers that feature 23-stage compression adjusters. Other suspension modifications include Slee Off Road front and rear adjustable Panhard rods, while the rear upper and lower suspension arms were built in-house by Redline.
The next step was to fit the new body on to the chassis and then refit the freshened-up driveline components onto the new mounts. Other than a rebuild and “a little head porting”, Justin says the factory 1FZ-FE 4.5-litre DOHC petrol six-pack is standard. The four-speed auto was completely rebuilt, as were the stock driveshafts. The original front axle shafts were replaced by RCV units made from 300M alloy steel while the rears are now Nitro Gear Cro-Moly units. Both diffs are equipped with the factory Toyota lockers and the front-end is now equipped with Aisin free-wheeling hubs. In other words, this driveline is bulletproof.
Overall gearing has been significantly reduced thanks to the fitment of Sierra 4.88 ring and pinions (in place of the standard 4.1 diff ratio) and a Marlin Crawler 3.0:1 low-range ratio in the transfer case (in place of the standard 2.488). This results in an overall low-range reduction in first gear of 43.188:1 compared to the standard 30.092. Who says you can’t go rock crawling with an auto?
Work on the interior layout could then begin, with an eye to linking the appearance to the past while giving the FJ-Ute a modern feel. “The interior… we chose not to get out of touch with the simplicity of the LandCruiser’s past design,” says Justin. “So we custom-fit DynaDeck on the floor areas to reduce noise and heat; this material works great for that and to boot it has a 60’s era tuck and roll carpet look.”
DynaDeck is a three-part composite carpet replacement that is claimed to combine “the high thermal insulation capability of Dynaliner with the low-frequency exhaust noise rejection of DynaPad”. Oh, and the top layer has an embossed vinyl grain that matches the textured floor pattern of vintage cars. It’s even waterproof.
Detail touches on the interior include a Dakota Digital gauge unit in place of the factory Toyota unit; it features a silver face and red lighting, and there are extra gauges for transmission temperature and gear selection. This is framed by a neat three-spoke Nardi leather steering wheel that suits the perceived vintage of the vehicle. The standard Toyota auto tranny shifter would look too out of place in this 40 Series interior, so it was flicked in favour of a Lokar automatic shifter which has the appearance of a simple manual gearbox shift lever.
Seating is by way of four Baja RS reclinable suspension seats from Corbeau Seats; their black vinyl finish perfectly suits the look of the FJ-Ute. Although this example is only fitted with four seats, Redline claims there’s room in the rear for optional third-row seats. Instead, this example has a National Luna stainless steel fridge affixed to an easy-access slide.
This first-built example of the FJ-Ute is equipped with half doors and a soft-top, giving occupants that full immersive experience that only an open-air four-wheel drive can provide, but that means there needs to be some serious protection for occupants, so the next stage of construction involved manufacturing a custom-built roll cage from 1.75" x .120 Wall DOM Tube. Redline will also offer a hardtop version of the FJ-Ute for those after something a little more insulated from the elements.
Once the interior fit-out and the roll cage were all sorted, the next stage was to undo all that hard work and pull everything back out so the body could be powder coated in a Sherwin-Williams Red, which is a match for the original Toyota Freeborn Red. It then copped a clear powder coat over the top, which results in an incredibly glossy finish.
Complementing the bright red paintwork are 17-inch Level 8 Guardian wheels with a bronze finish. The trick-looking rims are shod with 35x17x12.50 Cooper STTs. “I chose the Cooper tyre for its overall performance,” says Justin. “It is a fantastic tyre in every condition you throw at it. The added bonus is they look great on the bronze Level 8 Guardian wheels. These wheels make this Cruiser look really good from both standpoints of retro and modern.”
As you’d expect from a company that specialises in old LandCruiser builds, there are a hell of a lot of neat detail touches on the FJ-Ute, such as the front bar with Comeup winch, steel rock sliders, Vision X Low Pro 3 LED light bars, tidy fender-mounted indicators, polished door handles and much more. When asked about the FJ-Ute’s total build time and estimated cost, Justin says: “Build time was four months, cost was priceless.”
Justin is obviously very pleased with the end result, too. “I actually don’t think I would change anything,” he says. “That’s rare coming from a guy who crafts custom Cruisers for clients.”
Of course, this example of the FJ-Ute – build #1 – is destined to spend a lot of time on the show circuit drumming up business, but Justin also plans to use it as much as possible out on the trails with family and friends. And that’s really why the vehicle has been built as a production model, so that anyone can buy it complete or build it for themselves as a kit.
“Our main goal was to produce a four-door Cruiser with the intent of keeping the 40 Series lines, using existing components that have been proven to be reliable and producing that concept in-house for clients to enjoy,” says Justin. Redline Land Cruisers certainly looks to have achieved that goal.
Redline Land Cruisers
P: 0011 1 (719) 210 0101
FJ-Ute in Oz?
Before you get on the blower and call Redline Land Cruisers to order an FJ-Ute kit, you’d better check out the process for registering such a vehicle in your home state or territory.
Although based on an 80 Series LandCruiser chassis, once you rip the old body off and drop on the new one, you’ve essentially created a kit car, which means that you’ll have to prove that it complies with all the relevant ADRs (Australian Design Rules) and motor traffic regulations.
It’d be nice to think the rules on modified vehicles were the same across the country but that’s not the case. Despite the existence of the National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (VSB14), the methods for complying a modified vehicle vary from state to state, but in most states the vehicle must be certified by a recognised engineering signatory, who will examine the vehicle (sometimes while it’s being built) to ensure that all of the changes made to it continue to meet ADRs and related local motor vehicle regulations.
Of course, you can attempt to tackle this potential bureaucratic nightmare yourself, but you’d be better off speaking to a specialist company in your state that deals with such matters on a regular basis. A company such as this will be able to advise whether the FJ-Ute is likely to pass registration on your state or not, before you hand over your hard-earned. If they give you the green light, then they’ll be able to help and advise throughout the whole process, which can be quite involved.
In Queensland for example, you’ll have to send an “Application to Modify” form to Queensland Transport (QT) with details of the build. Based on this application, QT will respond with either an approval to build, a request for more information or a rejection of your submission.
If approved, the vehicle must also be inspected by an Approved Engineer throughout the build process and then, at the end of the build, you’ll have to contact Queensland Police to have a surrogate VIN allocated. You’ll then need to submit an engineering report to QT, who will then have their own Transport Inspectors take a look at the vehicle.
If you’re in Victoria, the process for Individually Constructed Vehicle (ICVs) involves bending and torsional tests, emissions tests, brakes tests, noise tests, issuing of an engineer’s report, issuing of a VIN and more.
In NSW, kit cars or individually constructed vehicles are not required to have a compliance plate fitted but, according to NSW Vehicle Standards Information, a suitably qualified engineer must certify that the vehicle meets all applicable ADRs. This concession is for owner-constructed vehicles only.
Regardless of where you live, modified vehicles such as the FJ-Ute can be registered in Australia, but it’s best to seek expert advice to smooth the way.
Oh, and if you do get a Redline FJ-Ute on the road in Australia, let us know… we want a drive!
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