Introducing The Trailhunter FJ60
Don’t Call Me

We were rolling back into Phoenix after a grueling day of driving to the far Southeast corner of Arizona. I had dropped my wife and kids off halfway to visit family, then made my way to the small border town of Douglas to see a ‘can’t miss’ FJ55. I’ve been on a perpetual search for a Land Cruiser project ever since I sold my mustard yellow ’75 FJ40 nearly 10 years ago, and had hoped this Iron Pig was the one. I just wasn’t convinced though.

With my wife behind the wheel and kids asleep in the back seat, I pulled out my iPhone and searched Craigslist for ‘Land Cruiser’ one last time, just to see if anything had popped up while I was on my FJ journey. As fate would have it, something did pop up…


‘1987 FJ60, 454 Big Block, Turbo 400, NP205, 14 bolt rear, spring over axle conversion, 37″ military tires, runs and drives but needs work. In fact, I’ll only feel comfortable selling it to you if you’re a fabricator or a mechanic,’ the listing read.


The seller didn’t know he was writing the ad specifically for me, but he was. Within 24 hours I was there, cash in hand, ready to drive it home. The last thing I heard as I drove away with the windows down in 100 degree summer heat was “Don’t call me!”


I finally had a Toyota station wagon of my own, and the previous owner had even given me a head start on the build. While the upsides were certainly there, I couldn’t wait to change things to better suit my personal taste, starting with the monster truck stance.


A spring-over conversion places the leaf springs on top of the axles when they used to be below, resulting in a big lift with flat springs and better articulation. Usually this makes a truck plenty high, but mine also had a two-inch body lift installed at some point. Look at the difference between the rear bumper and the reveal on the body. It was all wrong and it had to go.

Unraveling The Past

A 454ci Chevy Big Block had replaced the wheezy 2F tractor engine that propelled the Land Cruiser for the first 240,000 miles of its life. This was all great, but I soon realized that the engine had been installed after the body lift. The resulting challenge was that the exhaust manifolds were routed right under the firewall, meaning the body would hit them on its way back down to stock height.


Then I went to pull the FJ into my standard two-car garage and found another issue.


No worries though, I just pulled the valve stems and aired down. This will be happening routinely once I start taking this thing wheeling.


With the FJ60 on my lift, I could inspect the body lift and see how this was going to go. Pretty janky, huh?


Peering through the front wheel well I could see how close the exhaust manifold was to the firewall, and also noticed that the collector wasn’t even close to tight. So that was the exhaust leak I was hearing then.


These are Ford F-250 shock towers, a common sight in the off-road world. At less than $20 each they’re a quick and easy way to hang shocks on your rig. Mine were right up against the inner fenders, meaning they would need to be relocated before the body could come down.


With the shock towers hacked out, I had better access to plugs, wires and exhaust bolts.


Nothing was tidy, so I didn’t mind tearing into it knowing I would put things back better than I found them.


The plug wires were burned and brittle.


Despite weighing a ton, the manifolds came right out.


The paper gaskets stuck to the block so I was able to observe the many sources of exhaust leaks. It was leaking horribly at every cylinder! I used a tap to chase the threads so the install would go smoothly.


I have a friend at Holley, which also owns the Flowtech brand. After consulting him on my multiple dilemmas – exhaust leaks, firewall clearance and my thirst for more power – he advised that I switch to a block hugger header. These are commonly seen on hot rods, V8 swaps and anywhere you have tight clearance between the engine and frame rails.


Even still, it wasn’t until the ceramic-coated Flowtech headers were installed that I knew they would fit. It’s a beautiful sight, isn’t it?


I also rang my friends at ARP looking for a set of nice header bolts. I was pleased to learn that they sold an entire bolt kit specific to the Big Block Chevy.


ARP include an assembly lubricant to ensure that the fasteners are torqued properly.


I spun the bolts in with a ratcheting wrench, but torquing them was a little more tricky. Here you can see the stack of adapters needed to make it work. I wrapped it all in electrical tape to protect the finish on the header and also keep the wobbly adapter from folding over on itself as I applied torque.


With my shiny new Flowtech headers installed, I just had to reconnect them to the existing exhaust. After some searching I realized I had the perfect mandrel bent tube – it was part of a stock FR-S muffler. Fortunately I had two lying around, and they’re virtually worthless anyways.


Flowtech also hooked me up with a set of their upgraded Real-Seal collector gaskets. These are thick, ‘dead soft’ aluminum gaskets that simply will not leak. I also have a set of Earl’s Pressure Master header gaskets waiting on the shelf in case the stock ones start to leak up top.


With the Flowtech headers installed and the exhaust reconnected, I turned my attention to the roasted plug wires and old, oily plugs.


If I was going to install a nice set of wires I didn’t want them to get crispy again though. I picked up this wire routing kit, but didn’t like all the hardware required to secure the wires.


Instead of trying to line up a machine screw with a washer and a nut on the backside, I drilled out the holes and pressed in self-clinching nuts.


This will make them much easier to install.


With the plug wire rails installed, I could lay out the trim-to-length MSD plug wires.


I borrowed some expensive terminal crimpers and proceeded to make eight plug wires that were just the right length.


This is something you get the feel for as you go – how much to strip back, how to hold the terminal in the crimper, and most importantly remembering to slide the boot on first!


It sure is satisfying when you’re done though.


With all that work done, I could finally do what I set out to in the first place – remove the body lift. I was able to do this by myself by carefully using my lift and these tall stands to lift the body off the frame. Once the two-inch spacers were removed I simply bolted the body back in place using shorter, Grade 8 hardware.

Hanging Shocks

I had the truck running again, and I couldn’t resist driving it even without front shocks. This also gave me an opportunity to flex it out and measure for the correct shock length and mounting position.


This is pretty much ideal for being flexed out. A flat leaf spring on the compressed side, fully drooped on the other, and all four tires on the ground.


With my measurements in hand, I trimmed a little off the shock tower.


They looked like they came from the bottom of the ocean, but a quick clean-up made the towers much more presentable.


When I went to weld in the passenger side I discovered some cracks in the wheel well that would be covered by the shock mount. Might as well fix them now.


I used a piece of square tube with holes drilled in each end to make sure the shock towers were properly aligned and located the same on both sides.


The old shocks were nothing special and I could easily compress them with one hand. I treated the FJ to a pair of Fox 2.0 smooth-body remote reservoir shocks instead.


These are fully serviceable and can be re-valved as needed. This will come in handy once I get the rest of the suspension sorted out and it’s time to dial in a nice ride.


With the Fox shocks mounted up front, the ride is much smoother and more controlled. Now I need to find some that match for the rear though.


I left some shock travel at the top and bottom, so they’re not actually controlling bump and droop. SPC has already sent a full set of Light Racing Jounce Shocks for that, and I’m really looking forward to getting them installed so I can precisely limit travel and also have a second stage of damping to tune.


So how does the truck look sitting two inches lower? Much better if you ask me. It’s still a little high, but now I need to decide if I’m willing to cut into the rust-free sheetmetal to go lower. Considering how modified the truck is already, I probably will.


I’m also considering a new set of wheels and lighter 35-inch tires to replace the 100lb 37s. Of course, I’ve been gathering smaller parts too, and I can’t wait to go wheeling again.

Stay tuned for plenty more on the Trailhunter!

Keith Charvonia
Instagram: SpeedhuntersKeith



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It looks so much better than it did in June. Great job Keith!




Man, I love getting a new project and then replacing all the nearly-dead parts.

The contrast of the New against the freshly-wire-brushed Old is one of my favorite parts of building a car.


Maart3n Thanks! Hope you're well my friend.


Ice Age Fun, isn't it?


Will Kei Miura design some Rocket Bunny overfenders for this ride too?


Ahhh, I love the project car posts! I sure wish some of the other projects would get updated though!


Love this project. These are great trucks. 
Would love to see some more offroad vehicles and 4x4 inspired by the japanese scene. 
Like those trucks in the neo classic post.


Looks like you got your work cut out for you, good luck!


Nice. 4 wheeling is good stuff. I have a 4wd vehicle that is in desperate need of some tlc.


Whats needed to do an over-under leaf spring conversion? I'm considering it for an easy lift on my '61 Cj5


mlc5309 It's a bunch of fab parts - spring perches, shackles, u-bolts etc. Check this out:


Bad @SS


"I’ll only feel comfortable selling it to you if you’re a fabricator or a mechanic"


And I only feel comfortable that you got this truck away from that guy


KeithCharvonia Maart3n I am thank you! Got my first speeding ticket today haha, one more step into the bottomless pit that is the car guy lifestyle.


im not in to lifted trucks, but god this is amazing. I live in the south where jacking up a truck, putting neons on them is the norm. i have yet to see something simple like this. just a simple trailrunner. why is there not more of these around


DRiFTaddict You need to come to Arizona then. Real offroad vehicles everywhere, especially in the Fall when the weather gets nice.


@Brynjar I loved that 4Runner on Volks. I've been eyeing those wheels for a long time!


@Phil Dirt Which ones?


Looks cool Keith.


Freaking awesome! I love Toyota Rigs! :D


You should take this to King of the Hammers. Take this to King of the Hammers. Do it. Do it. Do. It.


Keith I think you and I could be friends.  Subarus, Toyotas, and making cool things.  Be my friend? 

Here's my little truck when it was not more than 2-3 weeks in my possession.  Flew down to NC to buy it and drove back to PA.  29 hour round trip! :)  It was a deal I couldn't pass up.


zephoto Nice! Great minds think alike? 

I used to have an '01 Tacoma that was long-travelled. Still miss it. 

Are those 255 or 285s? Looks really good.


LouisYio Ugh, that would be soooo fun. Never been and always wanted to. I would probably have to trailer it though, gas mileage with a BBC and a three speed = not so good.


It seems that the truck culture down here is taking after the F&F rice movement


DRiFTaddict There's a lot around in the South.  There everywhere, you just haven't found them.  They don't grab attention, and are often tucked in people's garage except for weekend wheeling trips.


Love your work Keith!


KeithCharvonia Two words dude: Gear Vendors

That or NV4500...


I'm subscribing to this build! I envy your talents in fabrication!


Looks great you know Ive been wrenching on my 78 Ford...slow going but itll get there eventually...Whats your belly height on this thing?


Keith, too cool!  I've always wanted to pick an old Cruiser, I drive by this place :

on a daily basis. If I had the extra space, I so would! Look forward to seeing this project develop!


KeithCharvonia zephoto Thank you!  I went with 265/75/16 Toyo RT's on FN Wheels Konig produced TE37 clones in mag blue 16x8 +0.  It seems to work well with the Pyrite Mica.  Didn't want to chop up the frame and just did Bilstein 5100's for now as this is my work truck I'm not trying to go crazy with it.  I'm looking forward to seeing your continued updates on both your projects.


Hopefully I catch you at Butcher Jones, Four Peaks or Box Canyon. So many good places out here to go out for a rip!


KeithCharvonia That images is actually my backround right now. Great looking truck and awesome wheels.


TylerHorne KeithCharvonia Or get a Brit to fly over and pay for the gas, it always seems so cheap it would take a couple of 1000 miles to realise how painful it is! :0


The only travesty in all this is we don't live near to each other. I would literally be knocking on your garage door every day. 

You know I'm a fan Keith. Top work!


Here was my '83 BJ60. Great truck but had to sell it. Currently somewhere in Oregon. Yours is a bit too big for my tastes but looks good. Keep bringing it back. Some people should not have been allowed to own tools. There should be a test you have to pass before being allowed to buy them. The PO is one of them.




"Dont call me", part was hilarious.
Satisfaction on getting the job done is what is all about. subscribed.


Now I'm normally pretty repellant to lifted trucks, but since I've been gently teased by photos I've seen taken by you and various Hunters on the media outlets of these models, I've certainly embraced them. Love the project Keith, and great work so far!


Love it (Apart from the dirty V8!). As a fellow Landcruiser owner (80 series) and IH8MUD member, good to see some of this type of content in SH.


You brought it up this time. I have asked a couple of times for a piece about them. Is Cruiserheads (as you can see mine above) would love it.
You mentioning it means you are working on it, right?


speedhunters_dino Yeah these guys are the LC Kings in Japan. Their cars seem  veryyy clean, but also very expensive!


Green with envy!


Something different, I like it.


I've always wondered how people manage to get into these high riding 4wd's. How tall are you Keith?


Thanks for mentioning the make and model of those shock towers. I might actually be able to use that info really soon!


Man, this car is so cool! To many Chevy and Ford parts for my liking, but still cool. I dont understand the need for a big Toyota car if you secretly dream of Ford parts. I would never put an engine that is not from Japan in this car. And yes, is too high. Level it a bit


3nigm4 It is not as hard as you might think. Especially if you are running sliders, which I assume are his next major mod. Or at least, one I would advice if he is actually going to wheel it.


Don't see too many nice rust and dent free FJs up here in Seattle; most have been destroyed by the rain, rocks, trees, and rednecks.  One thing going for ya is the inexpensive to repair running gear.  Side note, I forget how small a 14-bolt axle is compared to the Dana 80s I've run in the past.


3nigm4 I'm 5'10". It was a pain to get into with the body lift, but much better now. Hoping to bring it down even lower still.


Hydrolastic I bet. That's one reason I jumped on this rust-free FJ. Funny to hear a 14B called small. I can't wait to convert the rear to disc brakes and shed the weight of the massive drums.


GISupra Cool! I've been reading mud for years, from Tacoma, 4Runner, and FJ40 ownership to this latest rig. It's a great community.


Derelict Nice FJ! What size tires were you running?


Speedhunters_Bryn Seriously! We need a Speedhunters garage, don't we?


Corbin I can't wait to hit all those spots and more, it's been too long. What are you wheeling?


speedhunters_dino Thanks Dino. I would really enjoy a look inside that shop too.


@chris chabre Yeah your '78 will be a beast. I haven't measured belly height, but now I'm curious.


Blake Jones Thanks Blake Jones


zephoto KeithCharvonia Ah yeah the 265 is a perfect size for that gen. Had them on my 4Runner and dad's '06 Taco.


TylerHorne KeithCharvonia Gear Vendors costs as much as the truck, but NV4500... I'm liking that idea A LOT! Should even bolt up to the NP205, and this truck was a stick before the conversion. It even has the skinny brake pedal still. Off to do my homework now...


KeithCharvonia TylerHorne They were behind 454's for years. Check the yards for 2500-4500 HD trucks.


Awesome article Keith, can't wait to see more of this on Speedhunters.
I bet it sounds fantastic with the new set of pipes on it too.


Great Read Man. Respect.


Perfect, just perfect Keith!


Nice rig man! I also own a FJ60 w/ a 454 BBC, welcome to the club!
Got a question! Are you experiencing any overheating issues? Ive read plenty that say these 454's run hot. Im not seeing a big issue with my rig as of right now, but when it's warm, 85 deg. and up i do experience some over heating. Just wondering if you have see any issues with your truck. What kind of fan are you running?


Thank you, Thank you,  Thank you, and Thank you again.  Idk if people will agree with me on this or not, but a huge base of the automotive culture loves the process even more than the results. That's why people always push for the next modification and the next upgrade. And when you actually show those steps or that process they follow you on that journey and it hits home. New techniques can be picked up or learned, different approaches to getting a task done are seen, and we all gain from articles like this.

So please, all Speedhunters, give us more.


RBJET Yeah, the headers did give it a new tone, which I'm currently enjoying.


@K3113n Awesome! I would love to see pics, please shoot me an email ( if you have time.

Mine runs right at 190 F with the Chevy radiator. It has a mechanical fan and a small electric fan that kicks on with the AC. The only time I've seen it get hot was sitting in a long line of traffic and it got up to 210-220. I was getting a little nervous watching it climb, but in the end it was fine. I have a big electric fan that I'm hoping to install soon.


E2419 I completely agree. I love learning new tips from articles and build threads, and always try to share in these stories with the hope that it will help others.


elvexilix It's an inside joke with my friends now. It was so funny that I wasn't even offended.


My God Keith! This is perfect!

Great find, yet another great project! Can't wait for more updates!


Looks like a great vehicle, and a fun one for trails. I think it's smart to have 35 inch tires because vehicles that skinny can roll fairly easily, but that doesn't seem to be a problem when the tires protrude like the ones in this article's picture. If I had a vehicle like that, I'm sure I'd be hitting the trails a lot more than I do.

Patrick Kilcoyne

More, more, more, please. This is tied with project GTR as my favorite speed hunters project car. I'm 15 and trying to convince my dad to buy me one, yay for not having a job, and then swapping a cummins 12v into it so I could have something cool to drive to school instead of my mom's old Lexus rx350.


Patrick Kilcoyne Many a teenager has been given a Landcruiser as their first car. They're big, slow and tough as nails!


greenroadster Except that the Toyota F series was based entirely on the Chevy 235, so putting a 454 in a FJ is just the FJ finally coming out of the GM closet.


the car was very good 
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