My FZJ80 Overland Build


1997 FZJ80 40th Anniversary #0411

I started my search for an 80 around a year ago after juggling between my Tacoma and then FJ60. Different trips warranted a different rig longer trips on the highway went to the Tacoma and shorter day trips to the 60. I always had dreams of building up the 60 to go anywhere off highway or on, but I just couldn't pull the trigger on the build. I got to thinking that a more modern and capable rig was in order. Enter the FZJ80, with a heavy duty frame, coil suspension and straight axles front and rear. This platform allows comfort on the road and gobs of off road capability. I narrowed it down looking for a 1996 and 1997 model for the OBDII and newest available years, lockers would be nice but not required, but most of all good service history.

The plan would be to build a dedicated overland/adventure rig that would be ready to go with out a lot of prep work or loading. I'm not talking fully loaded and ready for an expedition to Chile but, load the cooler and pack a bag and go. Drawers would be built to hold cooking and camp needs and for the most part be kept loaded in the truck, I would leave the tent on top since it would only see highway time if we are using the tent so MPGs are out the window anyways. The truck would be capable enough to go any were I would want to go in a fully loaded overland truck with a RTT and higher center of gravity. Tire size in the 285/75/16 range in a AT or MT, lockers would be great but not required for the build's goals. If the truck didn't have them then they would be a ways down on the list.

The FZJ80 the day I handed over the money

The truck you see above fit all of my search requirements and even better was found locally. 175K on the truck with a folder full of records, factory Diff locks front and rear and in a color I was a fan of. SOLD!
It was also fitted with an ARB Bullbar, Old Man Emu Low Lift kit (861 and 862 springs .5" -.75" over stock) and Yakima cross bars. I was able to mount my RTT and hit the trail "right out of the box" so to speak.

After a base line check and mounting the RTT we made a quick weekend trip up to Monticello Box, a classic Southern New Mexico rout in a tight canyon with lots of water.

The road fallows a running creek all the way through the Box.

The road is always changing with every flash flood.

The following post will cover:
Suspension and Tires

Roof Top Tent and Rack

Cargo Storage

Other Items

Suspension and Tires

The truck had P275/70/16 Goodyear Forteras when I got it, the tread was OK but I was leery of hitting the trail with a "P" rated tire. New tires would be the first on the "To Do" list. I have always been a BFG guy but after some searching around town a good deal was found on Toyo Open Country MTs in LT285/75/16 E. I did some research at home and read good things on them so I figured I'd give them a try. Went back to the tire shop had them mount four of the Toyos and ordered up a fifth for the spare.

First test of the Toyos: Dona Ana Mnts local trails.

I have been very pleased with the Toyos. They have been very reliable and predictable on both the trail and the highway. Not as noisy as other MTs I have ridden around with. I really like the side walls, good protection wile still forming to the terrain at pressure.


This is actually the most recent mod I have done on the truck. The Low Lift OME springs were nice to have with the RTT and Bullbar but it was soon apparent after our first trip to Utah that the rear springs were maxed out with the tent, rack and gear. So an order was placed to Sierra Expeditions for OME 850 and 863 springs.

The nice part of this has been that the Nitrocharger shocks are the same for both the old and new spring and were reused. The 850 is the same spring rate as the 861 just with a 2.5" lift. The 863 are the heavys rated for 400lbs constant load not the heaviest one OME offers but better suited for my set up then the 862. It was a simple pull out the old and put in the new. I also got a set of caster correction bushings that I'm working on now.:sombrero:

Driveway shot after new spring install.
Do you notice any new vibrations in the front end with the new 850s? I have some sagged 851s and would like to go to the 850s. I have a Bump it off road tube bumper but will have an Engo 12k winch with syn line soon. Hopefully I will not be too light for them.

Kick *** rig btw!!!! Getting sliders soon?
Very nice 80... I am enjoying the build and looking forward to your progress. Keep the pics coming. Out of curiosity, What tire pressure are you running your Toyos at for on road use?
The Dude,
Nothing yet in the form of shakes or vibrations. But I haven't driven it much, just a few dirt roads, still need to get the bushings in. Sliders are on the list just haven't made it that far yet.
Very nice 80... I am enjoying the build and looking forward to your progress. Keep the pics coming. Out of curiosity, What tire pressure are you running your Toyos at for on road use?
Thanks for the compliment, yours has been one of my favs on here. Iv been running 45-35 on the road for the Toyos, seem to work well so far.
Howling Moon RTT and Gamiviti Roof Rack

I spent a long time looking at tents, a really long time, but when the time came to buy I chose the Howling Moon Stargazer Touring. Once I learned of the Stargazer option on the Howling Moon tents I was pretty much sold. Being able to unzip the roof and look up at night is the best. Once you open up all the windows and roof you really feel like you are just out in the open, but on a comfy bed of course! The quality is top notch, very heavy poly cotton canvas and good construction through out make me feel this tent will last a LONG time. Set up and take down is that of an average ground tent and a bit faster with out the rain fly witch is how I usually roll with it, the canvas is very water proof on its own so the fly is only used when I know it is gona open up on us. The only thing slowing down the set up and take down is the cover. While the cover is very heavy duty and dose an excellent job of protecting the tent on the Cruiser, the zipper holding it on the base can give you a fight every now and then. It is only really bad on cold mornings when the cover is stiff and your fingers are cold. It looks like Easy-Awn has that figured out with the ratchet strap system they use, but that's my only complaint.

The tent deployed with out the rain fly. This is how I normally go unless it is going to really dump or snow.

The inside all opened up, lots of air flow and views!

Laying down and looking up through the Stargazer roof.

The truck came with Yakima cross bars that I originally used to mount my Howling Moon Stargazer roof top tent, the bars worked good for the tent but it became clear that more roof storage would be nice for longer trips. The rack would also be a good place to store fuel cans and the random fire wood bundle. So after lots of looking around at all the different racks on the market I put in an order for the Gamiviti Expo rack with the low mounting feet.

I picked the Gamiviti for its low profile railing and low weight for a steel rack. I like that it flares out a bit to add to the volume it can hold, and it just plane looks sharp. The mounting feet are super nice and very stout. I also like that it was built be a fellow Cruiser enthusiast in Colorado.

Detail of the feet. With smooth looking allen head hardware.

The feet mounted to the rack.

The factory roof rack must be removed for the low feet to work. Higher mounting to clear the factory rack is possible with the taller feet.

Image from the field with the naked roof.

The Howling Moon mounted to the new Gamiviti Expo rack.

The Gamiviti has been a great investment it is very sturdy and well built. I really dig the low profile railing up front it gives it just a bit more versatility for lashing stuff down then the flat rack. This has been one of my favorite mods to the truck so far very functional and gives the 80 that classic look with the basket up front. Next up for the rack will be a shovel mount and also a holder for my Scepter fuel cans. More detailed pics of the Howling Moon Stargazer to come!

Mounted the Mojave Off Road fuel can holder and two Scepter MFCs

Info here: Post # 33
Last edited:
Trips in between the mods

I'v been trying to get out as much as possible with the truck since day one. So in between mods and buying more stuff for the 80 we'v been taking it on all our adventures and just working with what we got. (I can believe how much easier it is for me to pack and stay organized with dedicated drawers.) Here is a set of photos from a trip in October we did traversing from Moab UT to Ouray CO. The weather was perfect we did miss out on some fall color in the higher country but there was still lots down lower.

Basic rout was Moab, Top of the World, a bit of Kokopelli Trail over to the La Sals then down to Gateway CO, then a little hwy south to Telluride and finally Imogene Pass over to Ouray. The trip was a blast and was an awesome way to break in the new rig!

Classic Top of the World shot.

Top of the World was a great place to stretch the 80's legs a bit and get familiar with the new truck.

More fun on the trail.

Driving up Onion Creek Rd.

Starting up Imogene Pass, lots to stop and look at.
Last edited:
More pics...

More from the UT and CO trip.

The tunnel heading up to Imogene Pass out of Telluride.

Classic mailbox shot.

Another classic.

Our final night camped at Little Molas Lake brought sleet and snow in the night. This was the view out the tent in the morning.

It look all day for my fingers to warm up after packing up the frozen tent. We did stay warm and dry all night so it did it's job!
Great job so far! Looking forward to you thought's on the 863's on the back with your weight. I have the 860's and with the addition of the rear bumper/ tire swing and 3 jerry cans I can already feel they are not up to it. Have not even fitted the drawers or RTT yet.