As a city dweller in a survival scenario, you need to get out of the city quickly. You need a vehicle that can break free from the panicked masses and is equipped to survive the harsh conditions of a city that is falling apart around you and the wilderness that lies beyond. But even if the plan is to keep to the back roads and head to a remote spot north of the Arctic Circle, trips out of (and eventually back into) town are most likely unavoidable. Supplies don’t restock themselves, so a ride that can storm into the burbs, swallow a whole lot of stuff and quickly get back out into the far-flung wilds is ideal. (And for those of us fortunate enough to live a long, peaceful, uneventful life, having something that can conquer those potholes the city never gets around to fixing would be awesome, too.)
No matter what life ends up throwing at us, what we’d all want is something like Nick Fousekis’ 1994 FZJ80 Toyota Land Cruiser. Nick spends his days working as the motorsports director for Falken Tire, and he’s known throughout the auto industry for building incredibly well-thought-out, top-notch rides. Nick initially chose this Land Cruiser because, well, it’s built like a tank and is very reliable. And it’s cheap, too. This is the ride that helped win wars all around the world, after all, and this cherry example provided the perfect platform for an off-road dream ride.
What’s surprising is that Nick initially bought this Toyota to serve as the Family Truckster (never go full Griswold), but given his access to the world’s premiere aftermarket companies, what started off as a mild tweak here and there turned into a full-on, two-year build.
As capable as the Land Cruiser is in stock form, it can always be made just a little bit better. It is a 21-year-old SUV, after all. Nick first tore into the suspension, upgrading the tired stock Toyota struts with heavy-duty components from ICON Vehicle Dynamics. With their robust construction and remote reservoirs, these upgraded shocks help this Land Cruiser stay in control even when the terrain gets hectic. And as those of us who know our cars understand, the right stance can make or break a vehicle, which is why Nick fitted his FJZ80 with a set of Metaltech leveling spacers.
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Rolling on stock rims just wasn’t going to cut it. Nick wanted a far more capable road-grappling setup for weekend off-road trips or the end of the world as we know it. Of course, working for one of the world’s leading tire companies brings some huge benefits in this department. The 17-inch beadlock-style wheels that grace the truck come from Walker Evans Racing, and wrapping said wheels is a prototype set of Falken WildPeak AT3W 35×12.50R17 tires, which will be available to the public in early 2016.
But just because this overlander-style truck was built to both dish out and take a beating, that doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty. Nick took his Land Cruiser to the team at San Diego Collision Specialists to spray it in the same Desert Sage Metallic hue found on the Lexus IS 350.
Helping keep this paint looking good is a coterie of armor-tough components, courtesy of the folks at ARB. This company’s accessories are engineered Down Under and built to withstand the harsh environments of the Australian Outback, so Nick knew that these pieces were durable enough to survive the deserts and chaparral found throughout Southern California.
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The stock Toyota front bumper was quickly swapped out with a heavy-duty ARB bull bar. Equipped with a WARN winch, this was an easy upgrade that took Nick and his team less than an hour to install. Installing the ARB rear bumper presented a whole host of challenges, taking a full day and a half to equip. But Nick is more than satisfied with the results: “I know it could outlast the vehicle itself. Also, if anyone rear-ended this thing, they’d be having a bad day.”
A Baja Rack roof rack sits up top, ready to carry everything from the Hi-Lift jack to the roof-mounted ARB Series III Simpson Rooftop Tent. The tent is quick to deploy, similar to a pop-up book, and sleeps his family of three perfectly. Gear inside this Land Cruiser stays organized and secure thanks to an ARB drawer system, and the ARB fridge ensures that perishable food, supplies and medications stay properly chilled for maximum freshness. Up front, Nick and whoever gets the privilege to ride shotgun take control of it all while sitting comfortably in a set of MasterCraft Sahara seats. If you’ve ever had to traverse rough, rocky ground for hours on end, your back end will thank you for this upgrade.
Powering it all is the stock 4.6-liter, inline-six that came from the factory, with the only upgrade being a K&N filter. While its 212 horsepower and 275 inch-pounds of torque were respectable numbers in 1994, it’s struggling with the added weight of all of Nick’s new modifications. Mileage and overall performance are suffering, so the next big upgrade for this Toyota will be the installation of a Chevy LS3 small block V8. With its combination of power and durability, Nick’s Land Cruiser will then be nearly unstoppable.
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In the meantime, Nick has transformed his Land Cruiser into a ride that brings off-road enthusiasts together, all of whom give the truck a big thumbs-up when not inquiring about the luxury paint and hardcore mods. Best of all, it’s ready to go as-is when Nick and the family decide to get out of the city for a camping trip or two. And, if necessary, it’s tough enough to give Nick and his family the confidence to quickly get out of town and to safety, no matter the terrain.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
ICON Vehicle Dynamics
Walker Evans Racing
WARN Industries, Inc.
Hi-Lift Jack Company
ARB 4×4 Accessories
This article was originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of BALLISTIC™. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.