Recently I had an opportunity to tag along with onX Offroad on an incredible off-road trip through the Rocky Mountains to test out new features of the off-road maps and take the long way to Overland Expo Mountain West. So what better way than to bring people together from all over the industry and test out new features of the onX Offroad app. Among the vehicles brought on the trip was a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80 rolling on 40-inch tires owned by Go Fast Campers co-founder Graeme MacPherson. A 80 series on 40s is a combo that is undoubtedly magnificent, but what makes this Land Cruiser special is not just how it looks. But because not everything has to be a race truck or rock crawler with bypasses and that is the point. Simple is good.
Before we dive deep into Graeme’s 80 Series, let’s discuss the legacy and heritage of one of the toughest vehicles on the planet. Since WWII, Toyota has always had a need to build a light-weight off-road vehicle similar to the Jeep, and sure enough, they did it. Years later, this utilitarian offroad vehicle became more and more road-friendly and consumer-focused as a luxury vehicle. In 1989 Toyota halted production of the larger boxy 60 series and released the 80s series. As it became less utilitarian and more luxury-focused, this did not compromise the Land Cruiser’s capability. Solid axles, a tried and true straight six, and by 1995 the truck came optioned with all-time all-wheel drive with triple lockers. By 1997 it was arguably the most capable off-road vehicle you could buy at the time. Jeep didn’t introduce lockers as an option on their Jeeps until 2003.
Unfortunately, the 80 series finally seized production in 1997, being replaced with a more modern 100 series Landcruiser with a V8 and independent front suspension. To this day, the 80 series would be known as the last true great off-road Land Cruiser and can still be seen roaming across the globe today, gaining instant classic status. The more modern Land Cruiser would focus on Luxury but can still be extremely capable; it just shied away from being a rugged do-it-all vehicle.
So, who is Graeme MacPherson? Well, he is a co-founder of Go Fast Campers; he isn’t just a guy with a cool land Cruiser. He has deep roots in off-road racing as his Grandfather is the legendary Joe MacPherson. You may remember the class 7 Chevy S10, affectionately known as “Little Mac” and one of the first four-wheel-drive Trophy Trucks known as “Big Mac” amongst others; they were a vital part of MacPherson Racing. We featured Little Mac years ago, and you can check it out here. As Joe had many great accomplishments in the industry and advocated so much to off-road racing, Graeme continues his legacy in Baja. A main objective of Go Fast Campers is to create a light-weight camper, so light that they strapped their Superlite Tent to the roof of a race truck, raced at the NORRA 1000, and slept out of it the entire time. While MacPherson Racing is no longer around, it is great to at least see a small involvement in off-road racing from a MacPherson.
Ok. Back to the Land Cruiser, the reason why you are reading this. It is a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser Triple Locked with 213,000 miles. Why the heck are 40″ tires on a Land Cruiser? Graeme bought the land Cruiser from Swag Offroad in Oregon; their goal was to build a fun Land Cruiser on massive tires with stock suspension.
So using the term “build,” I mean leave the suspension alone cut inches out of the fender wells. Fabricate new exterior wheel wells, move the door jamb’s a few inches, reattach the C pillar, relocate the gas tank filler location, all courtesy of a Clackamas Community college to do all the bodywork for it. A combined 420 hours went into this to achieve this goal. The rest? Wheels and tires it is that simple.
Since purchasing it, he installed a Dobinsons MRR long travel kit and plans to leave the stock axles in it, upgrade to Nitro Gears and chromoly Axles. Many would replace the stock axles with one-ton super-duty axles, but that isn’t the point of this truck. It is supposed to be a no-fuss and no-hassle truck. After all, this is Graeme’s daily driver as he plans on taking to Baja and going on local adventures around Montana. He even drove it to Colorado just to go on this adventure with onX Offroad to Overland Expo. That is more than a lot of people can say about trailering their pre-runner truck everywhere.
While we were shooting this we were using onX Offroad Go & Track feature because it was one of the most beautiful trails I had ever been on. I was actually able to save our route for the next time I visited Colorado.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, 40-inch tires on stock axles are not ideal but, Land Cruiser axles are built stronger than typical Toyota Axle. The front uses Birfield axles with high pinion 8-inch third member, and the rear uses full float 9-inch ring gear. Without getting too nerdy on the subject of axles, these Toyotas can handle a lot of stress.
There is something special about a silly Land Cruiser sitting on 40’s seemingly having basic modifications to it. But underneath, there is more than meets the eye that seemingly goes unnoticed. But overall, it is simple, and oftentimes we get wrapped up in the endless pursuit to build the biggest and baddest machine out there. Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics and have fun with it. That is what this Land Cruiser is, and it is ready for a good adventure.
As Graeme told me, “It is a ghetto, wannabe, Ultra4, it is fun,” and that is perfect for us. Life is too short to drive boring cars.