New Project: Family Wagon! (part 1)
These three Land Cruisers are the subjects of our most recent conversion! On the left is a 1986 Hj60 from Canada. It has the diesel engine with an automatic transmission. It will be the "doner" for our new family wagon (the Red 1983 FJ60 on the right). In the center is the "free" 1985 FJ60, sans motor. Our plan is to build our Red '83 truck into a diesel rig, then install the gas motor from the '83 into the '85, giving us a free Land Cruiser! How cool is that?
My wife and I, after living in Costa Rica for a couple of years, have experienced the generally poor condition of both the roads and the vehicles, particularly out in the country where we live. The combination of bad roads, wet weather, developing nation economics, high import taxes restricting access to quality goods and services around vehicles all affect the vehicles. As a result, vehicles here are generally damaged, worn out and inadequately repaired and maintained.
Heidi, and I are in the process of adopting children and we were looking forward at our vehicle needs. We decided on the Toyota Land Cruiser, specifically, the 60 series for a number of reasons.
- You sit nice and high in these trucks with great visibility
- You’re able to tell where the corners of the car are giving you the ability to maneuver the vehicle, although large, in tight places
- 4 X 4
- Absolute simplicity and durability of diesel power
- Efficiency of a diesel vs. gas motor
- Mechanics know these engines well in Costa Rica
- The early 60 series had manual windows, less electronic gadgetry = less overall failures and expenses in maintenance
- Toyota diesel engines can run up to 300-500,000 miles
The 60 series trucks exist here with the diesel engine, but for the above-stated reasons, almost all are both very expensive and really torn up! Always looking for a solution, I came up with the idea of purchasing a clean, straight, rust-free California Toyota Land Cruiser truck and converting it from an FJ (gas motor) to an HJ (diesel motor) and shipping it to Costa Rica.
On a recent family visit to San Diego, California, I made a special one-way trip to Santa Cruz, where I purchased a Red 1983 FJ60. I had been searching Craigslist for weeks looking for this opportunity: This truck had some great features already installed: it has a 4” suspension lift; aggressive 33” tires; 4.88 differential gears; front and rear ARB differential lockers, Warn winch and more. As a bonus the seller included a complete second vehicle for parts: A stock 1985 FJ60 Land Cruiser, missing its engine. I drove the ’83 with the ’85 in tow from Santa Cruz back down to San Diego and left them with my family. This purchase would be the basis of our new family wagon.
After returning to Costa Rica, I started researching where and how to obtain a diesel engine for this potential project. Motors here are hard to find, as resources are so precious that there are really very few recycle yards. The worn out trucks are just patched and patched over and over! Australia is a better potential resource, but after shipping and taxes, it’s no bargain.
It turns out that on the west coast of Canada there’s a 6 cylinder diesel Toyota Land Cruiser for sale, almost every week of the year. I kept searching for a reasonably priced “donor” vehicle. Something I could get at the lowest possible price, yet obtain all of the running gear that I wanted. I wanted a whole truck so I would have every nut, bolt, and piece to do a complete conversion. However, the Canadian 6 cylinder diesels were all unfortunately delivered with an automatic transmission. So I would have to buy some pieces to adapt the diesel to the gas truck.
1) Project Commencement
For a few months of checking Craigslist and reading about this particular type of engine conversion on an internet forum called: “IH8MUD.com” http://forum.ih8mud.com/ , I was ready to purchase a donor vehicle. I contacted two diesel Land Cruiser owners in Vancouver, British Columbia. I let them know I was planning to come to Vancouver specifically to buy a vehicle. My wife booked me a one-way flight and on November 6th, 2007, I flew from Costa Rica to Vancouver.
I stayed in a hotel and negotiated a purchase the next day. What I bought was a 1986 HJ60 with an automatic transmission. I spent the next two days driving through Washington and Oregon and all the way down to southern California. On the drive down, I stopped at Specter Off-Road in Hawthorne (Los Angeles area) http://www.sor.com/ Where I met Marv Specter and his team. We toured his facility and I purchased a flywheel, bell housing, clutch kit, and all related nuts, bolts and pieces to make a complete conversion kit for adapting the diesel automatic engine to mate to a standard 4-speed transmission.
My former employee and friend, Walter, was kind enough to allow me the use of his work space for this conversion. I can’t say enough about the generosity of Walter and his family. I had given myself from the 6th until the 20th of November to do the conversion. As I had some rather large objectives, I did almost no socializing and worked late hours. Walter was informative and generous with his tools, space, home and helpful suggestions, all of which provided a improved process and final product. Thanks Walt!