Acquiring a classic
Soon after acquiring a well-restored FJ40, my son Aden and I continued to give the colossal classic the TLC it deserves. With the amount of care and attention to detail that went into restoring it, we wanted to extend that legacy for as long as it was ours to enjoy.
The first few upgrades on our list were:
• Old Air Products complete aftermarket A/C kit
• Killimat & Noico Sound deadening products
• BedRug waterproof, UV resistant floor lining
• Rear jump seat sourcing, restoration and upholstering
• Replace all lights with LED bulbs
• Custom 6×9 stereo speaker enclosures
• Custom leather steering wheel wrap w/color-matched stitching
• September of ’73 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 Hardtop
• 3.9L inline 6-cylinder gasoline engine, 125 hp
• 3 spd. manual transmission w/stock transfer case
• Toyo 31×10.5R15LT tires, Open Country M/T
• Classic Warn 8274 winch
As the work progressed, miscellaneous repair scenarios kept raising the inevitable burning question… whether to keep the vehicle all original – or to consider “the swap”. We weighed the pros & cons for months, with the most common reason to NOT do a swap was how it would affect (resale) value.
Knowing this truck would remain in our family for at least another generation, we decided to do the swap – specifically an LS swap. A few reasons that fueled our decision were:
• The swap is so common, there’s a wealth of content available
• Proven reliability and power:size ratio
• TONS of aftermarket support/specialty parts/adapters, etc.
• Parts are easier to source, not as expensive, more options
• Drivetrain gets a 30 year facelift
• 3X Horsepower/mpg improved
• There’s wealth of mechanics that know the platform
Once the decision was made to pursue the swap, we moved-on to the next logical decision… who to hire. I started contacting local mechanics, some who have done this exact swap before, others who have performed portions of it, and others that were confused when asked about it. What became clear early in the process, was that you definitely want to hire someone who’s done this same swap before – or as close a build as possible.
What also became apparent was that this would be quite an undertaking from a time, effort – and more importantly – cost perspective. Mechanics skilled in this exact swap have provided time estimates of 40-50 hours minimum, with bare-bones cost estimates starting at ~$16 – $18k. Faced with a double dose of sticker shock, our ambitious LS swap project was just about over before it started… or was it.
After all, we live in the information age. And with the power of Google, YouTube, niche communities of crowdsourced content, and the generous support of those who have been in your shoes and shared their experiences,there just may be another way. And after our initial projects were successful, we were starting to believe – maybe, just maybe we could do this… ourselves.
Thinking of a master plan
Now before we get too drunk on our own Kool-Aid, we need to acknowledge one very important detail – WE HAVE NO MECHANICAL TRAINING WHATSOEVER. I can hear the commentary already… we’re crazy, or naive, or stupid, or all of the above, right? Well that’s a matter of perspective, and confidence in one’s ability to improvise, adapt & overcome.
As I stated, there’s no shortage of information available online for those who search hard enough, and no shortage of kind, experienced people willing to share their experience out of sheer benevolence for those who take the time to engage them. And while we acknowledge that this is a bold endeavor, with the right preparation and guidance, anything’s possible.
One person that I can’t express enough praise for is Matt orver at CruiserMatt’s Off-Road & Performance in Winter Park, FL. (@cruisermatt on Instagram). Matt has been wrenching on all makes & models of Land Cruisers for years including repair/maintenance, engine conversions, fabrication and custom off-road builds. Without Matt’s deep subject matter expertise and innovative approach to problem-solving, I’d still be scratching my head wondering if I’d ever save-up enough lunch money to make my swap a reality.
We spent nine months researching what would be involved, leaving no stone unturned, triple- and quadruple-checking our findings before committing them to a master plan. Along the way, we collected a list of the parts, processes, vendors, gurus, reputable sources and niche communities that were necessary to get this done, and done well.
Within the overall swap project, some of our jobs to be done were:
• Remove old engine assembly, transmission and transfer case
• Remove existing cooling system
• Remove existing fuel lines
• Spec and source parts to convert fuel system to electronic fuel injection
• Spec and source parts to upgrade cooling system
• Spec and source replacement engine
• Spec and source parts for engine/fuel management system
• Spec and source replacement transmission and transfer case
• Spec and source specialty/adapter-type parts
• Spec and source parts to replace suspension system
Next came the process of removing the original engine, and hunting down the new parts we needed. Since budget was a huge factor, this part took the longest. But in the end… it couldn’t have worked out better.
>> continue to part 2