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Confessions of an 80 Series Owner

The Toyota Land Cruiser is vehicle that has become a legend in the 4x4 community. Over the years, their track record or unmatched reliability and superb off-road prowess has become a benchmark for many. I am a lucky owner of such vehicle. My vehicle is a 1994 FZJ80 Toyota Land Cruiser, or commonly known as an 80 series. I purchased this vehicle right before the prices of old Toyota’s sky rocketed. I was just at the right place at the right time.

The build for my Land Cruiser was simple, I wanted to build a truck that was the Swiss army knives of 4x4’s. I didn’t want the most capable rock crawler, and I also didn’t want to have a museum piece. My build started off with a bone stock 94 cruiser with 144k miles. This cruiser lived most of its life in side of a garage or being used a family hauler. I slowly started modifying. I read all the forum posts tryin to figure out what direction I wanted to go with this build. The following modifications are the result of tried and true products that have been used by many.

The first modification I got for the cruiser were a set of Nexen Roadian MTX mud terrain tires. Nexen was the first sponsor of the show and to be honest, I had never run a set of their tires on any vehicle and to be honest I was a little apprehensive. Once MTX’s touched first dirt, I was amazed of the versatility and capability of these tires. Next on the list were white knuckle sliders. White Knuckle Sliders have become the industry standard when it comes to sliders. They are overbuilt pieces of kit. Any vehicle would benefit greatly from having a set on their vehicle. Next, I got the Icon stage 3 kit for my truck. Stage 3 means that I am running Icons 2.5 diameter shocks with external reservoirs and adjustment levels. I only want to put quality parts on my trucks and Icon are some of those parts. Next was a regearing of the differentials to 4.88 gears and a spartan locker in the rear. Although some land cruisers come triple locked from the factory, my land cruiser only came with the center lock differential. Regearing to 4.88, the rear locker and 35” tires were a game changer. It really enhanced the capability of the vehicle. The final piece of the puzzle was getting my rear dual swing out steel bumper from AOE4X4. This allowed my to carry my spare and my extra fuel tanks on the outside of the vehicle and also provide massive protection and better departure angle.

Now that my vehicle is at a place where I feel I can go most places I want to go and get into situations that far exceed my driver skill, I want to go explore as much as I can. Why did I take all these words to tell you about how great land cruisers are and how great the aftermarket support is for this vehicle? Because there is a flip side of owning an 80 series Land Cruiser. That flip side is the cost of ownership. 80 series cruiser are some of the most reliable vehicles ever built. But this aging platform also has its draw backs. The first and most major shortcoming is fuel range and fuel consumption. My cruiser has a 24 gallon tank and on a good day I can get a max range of 250 miles. If you do the math, you can see how things get very expensive very fast. Especially when a land cruiser is your trail rig and commuter. At the rate of current gas prices, I spend a small fortune every months driving this old hunk of metal around.

General maintenance is term that is definitely subjective when it comes to an 80 series. A simple oil change is not simple on an 80. Sure the process of changing the oil is straightforward, but its all the other stuff that most people are unaware of for a vehicle like this. Greasing drive shafts, checking and retorquing nuts and bolts, and making sure wheel bearings are well greased are normal items on the routine to do list. Brake pads are point of contention. 80-series land cruisers eat up brake pads like there is no tomorrow. The stock braking system had a hard enough time bringing this overbuilt truck to a stop in stock form. Now, add all the stuff that off roaders and overlanders add to trucks and brakes become another consumable item. I keep a set of spare brake pads because going to local parts house is a crap shoot on whether or not they will have any in stock. That brings me to the item on the cost of ownership, that is maintenance/replacement parts availability. Most things you can find online or a local parts store but there some parts that are no longer made for these trucks and are important parts to keep the truck running. There are countless forum posts of part numbers and alternatives to those part numbers to to try and source what you need. All and all, there has to be some foresight when maintaining an 80 series.

You are probably asking why I would choose such a fuel inefficient, labor intensive routine maintenance, hard to find or irreplaceable spare parts, just everything else that comes along owning a 27 year old vehicle? I put up with all this because I own a real piece of automotive history. These trucks were world renowned and still are for a reason. I have 215k miles on my 80- series and it doesn’t miss a beat. It has never given me any major engine problems. I do a lot of preventative maintenance but its well worth it. I get thumbs up almost on a daily basis when I am driving around. I still look back every time I walk away from the truck. When you come across another 80 series owner, you know that they go through the same struggles you through to be part of the niche automotive subset. I love the look, versatility, and capability that is the 80 series. I don’t take my time for granted because with the 80 series because I know this is limited time experience. Limited in the fact that I drive this on a daily basis and abuse it on the weekends. I will keep my 80 alive for as long as I can and will and will continue to enjoy this experience of ownership.

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