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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

"Armadillo" - spanish for Little Armored One. Prolific diggers, armadillos have a preference to reside in moist soil near creeks and streams. The are also said to have poor vision but are not blind (FJ pun intended). The armadillo is an animal common to my state of birth, Texas. Growing up, I've always held this small animal with high respect for its habitat and resiliency.

Now, on to the buildup...I have put off creating one for a fair amount of time, mainly out of sheer laziness. However, I've found the constant modding to dictate the need for a journal or record keeping of the Armadillo's progress. She has been purpose built - for years now, I've been trying to convince my wife to move out of SoCal. Specifically, the Pacific NW. Family commitments have made this difficult, and the FJ has served as a blessing. With her, like the armadillo, I practice the art of escapology, eluding predators (the grind, city, pollution, traffic) by scurrying into thick brush, rocks, or digging in mud.






The Purchase
After a grueling decision between another 4Runner (wife drives an 07), a Tacoma, and the FJ - between new versus used, I found the perfect vehicle in November 2007. A Certified Pre-Owned FJ, with all the features I wanted (rear diff locker, side curtain air bags), and none that I didn't. She had 40K on the odometer, and a thorough inspection showed that she had never seen anything but pavement. That changed quickly, as well as her transformation.

Engine
AFE CAI w/standard filter, plug, and pre-filter (sound clip)
AFE Catback Exhaust (pic) (sound clip)


Suspension
OME 886 w/N140S
All Pro Sway Bar Links
Fastenal SS Sway Bar Collars (details)
OME 895 w/N71E
All Pro Ultimate Lower Control Arms

Tires and Wheels
Pro Comp 7089s
Hankook Dynapro MTs 285/70/17

Lights/Switches
PIAA 580s (x2) on All Pro front bumper (pic)
PIAA 540s (x4) on All Pro Air Dam w/Light bar (pic) (pic)
Northern Tool 55W (x2) for front rock lights (details) (pic) (pic) (pic)
Northern Tool 55W (x4) for rear roof rack and rock lights (TBI) (details)
Sylvania XtraVision headlamp
Hella Tacoma OEM switches (details) (pic) (pic)

Armor
Rasta 4x4 full aluminum skids
All Pro front bumper w/large hoop - Line-X'd
All Pro rear bumper w/hitch
All Pro rock sliders
All Pro lower link skids
All Phase rear differential skid
Overland XT (Cowboy4x4) rear lower shock skids

Electronics
Midland 75-822 CB w/Walcott and Bandi mount setup
Radio Shack 72" CB Whip Antenna
12v outlet in center tray
12v outlet on passenger side of center console
12v outlet (x2) in rear cargo area where power invertor would be
Waeco CoolFreeze CF-50 portable fridge/freezer (pic) (pic)
Blue Sea 5025 6 circuit fuse block in passenger kick panel
Blue Sea 5025 6 circuit fuse block in rear cargo compartment
Blue Sea 9004e w/AFO for winch power disconnect
Dirty Parts dual battery kit w/Optima Yellowtop
Master Flow MF-1050 portable air compressor
Viair 450c constant duty on board air w/2.5g tank (pic) (pic) (pic)

Recovery Gear
Warn M8000 winch
100ft Viking Trail Line 5/16" w/safety himble and 10' line protector
Aluminum hawse fairlead
48" Hi-Lift
Hi-Lift base
Hi-Lift isolator
Wab Fab Hi-Lift tube adapter
ARB Bushranger X-Jack (pic)
ARB snatch block
ARB tire deflator
ARB tire repair kit
3/4 ton d-shackles (x3)
12' tree saver
30' snatch strap

Trail Gear
Fire Extinguisher
First aid kit
Tire gauge
Heavy duty gloves
Tool set
Spare Fuses
Duct tape
Zip Ties
Hose Clamps
Heavy duty knife
Rope
Flashlight
Engine Oil
Brake Fluid
ATF
Jumper cables
FRS/GMRS
Toilet Paper
Garbage bags
WD-40 or equivalent lubricant
Emergency window breakage/seatbelt cutting tool
Fuel Cans
Quicksteel or JB Weld
Blankets
Axe/Shovel
Gear oil
Grease
Brake cleaner
Goop/Hand cleaner
Signal flares
GPS
Compass/Maps
Waterproof matches/lighter
Ratchets/tie downs
Additional tools - Breaker bar, Torque wrench, slide hammer, 35mm socket, Hacksaw or cutting device, vise grips, etc
Spare parts – CV axle, CV boot, tie rod, sway bar link, rear LCA

Misc Mods
Euro military surplus fuel cans (x2) mounted on rooftop
1.75" clamps for Hi-Lift mount
1.75" clamps and u-bolts for Coleman Safari basket mount (pic) (pic)
1.75" clamps and quickfists for axe/shovel mount (pic)
A-TRAC button
A-TRAC and Rear Diff hack
Rear Diff and E-Locker breather scuba mod
2008 Side Visors
Black Tundra door handles
Painted front bezel black
BD Hood with lower TI trim
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
As mentioned, in mid Nov 2007, I picked up my new (to me) FJ Cruiser. I knew the modding would come quickly, but didn't have a real set direction on components as I was still digesting the vast amount of information this forum held.

And, so it begins...

December 2007, Week 1
Terry from All Pro posted up a FS thread on JonB's used, silver front bumper, rear bumper, and rock sliders. Apparently, they were no longer selling the silver powder coated ones, and Jon wanted to represent his vehicle with the black sets. There was some surface rust on the rear bumper, powder coat was bubbling a bit, some dents and dings on the sliders, but the front bumper looked essentially brand new. The price was good, and there was nothing that some elbow grease couldn't fix. I struggled with whether or not I wanted to keep the silver powder coat, or go with a different finish. Ultimately, after doing much prep work, grinding away rust, sanding, etc., I decided on contrast (silver/black) - bedlined the rear bumper and sliders, and sent the front bumper to get Line-X'd. I chose to Line-X the front because it would see the most wear from bugs, debris, and the like...wanted a finish that could withstand it. Decided to bedline the sliders for easy touch up when necessary.
Hindsight - No regrets, got a solid deal, and Terry and Jon were courteous and professional throughout the smooth transaction. Drove out to Hemet on a weekend to pick up. Met Jon and saw his SAS FJ. I still find myself battling with the grass is greener deal, and lust after Metal Tech's tube bumper. But, I'm quite content with All Pro's product...even though they're rather popular and I see them EVERYWHERE.

January 2008, Week 1
Timing wise, I really wanted to get my lift, 33" tires, and All Pro armor installed around the same time. I purchased OME mediums w/shocks all around, and after some research, picked up a set of 5 Hankook Dynapros. I also decided on a Warn M8000 with synthetic wire (for safety and weight concerns). So, everything was sitting around the house, pissing my wife off, waiting to get installed. Unfortunately, I had orthoscopic surgery near the middle of December (20 too many shoulder dislocations), and was slated to be in a sling for a good 6 weeks. The surgery certainly put a damper on the modding, but it didn't stop avalanche that was already taking shape.

With my right arm in a sling (I'm right handed), I finished up the prep work and bedlining on the bumper and slider, as well as performing the actual installs by myself. Not fun with one arm. I contemplated performing the lift myself, but better sense got the best of me. My ortho would have had a fit had he known what I was doing a couple weeks post op. With the lift and tires on, attention now migrated to the front bumper and Warn winch. Folks, don't be cheap, get the Warn 9.5XP. The time and frustration involved in modifying the M8000 to work with the All Pro front is just NOT worth it! Once the winch and control box was mounted on the bumper, the actual install onto the FJ came next. With one good arm, aided by 2 ratchets hoisting the bumper from a ceiling beam, the All Pro went in with relative ease.
Hindsight - Should have gone with adjustable coilovers up front to begin with. Went from OME mediums up front to heavies (too much sag in the front), and now the heavies are too stiff for my liking. I still have a bad taste in my mouth with the M8000 winch. I love ratchets, almost as much as zip ties and duct tape.

January 2008, Week 3
The dual battery kit I ordered from Cruiserlarry and Dirty Parts back in December finally came in! The install was pretty straightforward with the instructions provided. The Midland CB and 4 extra 12V outlets were all installed and wired to a Blue Seas 6 circuit fuse block around this time as well. This fuse block is also housing the rooftop lights, and is wired directly to the Optima Yellowtop using 8 guage with a 60amp inline fuse. Since the picture, swapped out 4 of the 15amp fuses for the 12V outlets, and replaced them with 10amp fuses.

Hindsight - not the cheapest dual battery solution around, but was well worth it for me, and would do it again! Yes, I learned from the Warn M8000 debacle. One of my favorite mods to date, and I have just about all my electronics running on this one as my preference is to not touch the OEM electronics and wiring.

January 2008, Week 4
With an upcoming Mohave Road trip in the works, I wanted to make sure I had a few essential mods and pieces of equipment in place. I installed and wired a set of PIAA 580s, mounted on the All Pro front bumper. Used the existing wiring harness and switch for ease of install, changed out the switch later. Speaking of Mohave Road, here's a shot of the 580s on Soda Lake (a dry lake bed), one of the scenic stops along the trail.

Shortly after, I tapped the resources from this forum again, and fabricated some mounts for the Hi-Lift Jack and Fuel Cans. For the Hi-Lift mount, used 1.75" clamps purchased from eBay, 1/2" steel rod cut to fit, plastic spacers, and wing nuts. The fuels cans were purchased from a military surplus shop, mounted using gerry can holders and u-bolts, and held down with ratchets.

Hindsight - I purchased PIAA 580 Xtreme White Driving lights, wish I went with the Xtreme White Fogs. With the set of 4 PIAA 540 driving lights up top, I'd rather have the wider beam pattern. I'm hoping to find someone down the road who would like to swap. As far as the mounts, they aren't pretty, but they work, and it's hard to beat cheap. I hope to get a swingout system soon to rid myself of the rooftop carriers, and lower my center of gravity.

March 2008, Week 2
Fabricated mounts for the Coleman Safari basket and Axe/Shovel. I originally used U-bolts for the basket mounts, but found they didn't hold the basket up as well as I would have liked. I kept the rear as the basket is already wedged, and not much support is needed. However, I created some brackets and with the help from those trusty eBay clamps again, built a solid mount. Similar setup with the Axe/Shovel mount...eBay clamps, bracket, and quickfists.


March 2008, Week 3
All Pro air dam w/lightbar arrived along with 2 sets of PIAA 540s. I found it to be the only rooftop lighting solution available at the time that met these criteria, 1) round lights, 2) worked with stock roofbar, 3) did not increase overall height/clearance. The physical install went rather smoothly, and All Pro's instructions were sufficient. Did not do wiring until late April.

Hindsight - 100% satisfied with the air dam light bar. The PIAAs are doing their thing as well, but a part of me yearns for some Soltek HIDs in black with the red ring.

March 2008, Week 4
Undercarriage armor/skids had been on the to mod list since late 2007. All Pro's lower control arm as well as LCA skids were installed. I was waiting for Budbuilt to run a group buy or do their "free gas tank skid w/full set of skids" deal that I had missed out on. Unfortunately, I soon realized it wasn't going to happen, at least not anytime soon enough. It just so happened that Rasta 4x4 was running a GB on their full set of aluminum skids. After carefully weighing many factors, I decided to pick up a set. Two major things going for Rasta, weight savings and they won't rust...no need for painting and touching up. I have no illusions of sheer durability of aluminum versus steel, but for my purposes, the 2 positives of aluminum "outweighed" and won out.


Hindsight - long term usage will ultimately dictate if the Rastas or any aluminum skid will stand up to heavy wheeling. I've definitely put the skids to use, with the weight of the vehicle resting on them. Sliding off rocks hasn't been an issue thus far. Fit and finish, as well as Rasta customer service has left me with a fuzzy feeling thus far.

April 2008, Week 4
After waiting from November 2007, All Phase Off Road's rear differential skid (the one that actually fit...sort of), finally arrived. After painting red, I ended up having to bend the driver's side leg of the welded on U-bolt in order for it to install properly. The axle U-bolts still touch the rear sway bar, but it is what it is. The mounting plates also touched the brake lines, so I used some fuel line to get rid of the metal on metal contact.

Hindsight - you lose clearance at the rear diff, as the skid does not completely sit flush with the housing. I find myself having to pick a slightly different line to avoid the skid, if possible. It has seen action, and there are battle wounds. I'm waiting in eager anticipation for Bud's alternative if/when it comes out, and will most likely swap if it's a better solution.

May 2008, Week 1
PIAA 540 rooftop wiring. With the assistance of Tim (FJVP), we removed all necessary items, grab handles, rearview mirror, ceiling light, visors, etc., and pulled down the headliner ever so slightly at the passenger side. A hole was drilled, elbow tube attached and sealed with polyurethane sealant. Wires run down the inside of the A-pillar with the relays attached to OEM Tacoma switches. Left one controls the outside set, right one controls the inner.

Purchased a set of rear shock guards from Cowboy4x4 at Meet & Greet IV. Installed them just in time for the Big Bear Trail Teams Invitational. Glad I had them because they were put to good use.

Hindsight - again, wish I went all out and got Soltek Fuego HIDs...still may.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
May 2008, Week 3
Originally, I had no intentions to touch the FJ's intake or exhaust, short of installing a snorkel. I've been back and forth about that mod, so let's not go there right now. Opportunity called when Oscar (FJFlow) offered up a good deal on an aFe cat-back exhaust and CAI w/plug and pre-filter. Bit the bullet, trimmed the dual battery tray, got rid of my battery disconnect for the winch, and went to town on the section of pipe aft of the muffler. I have 2 things that I can say with relative confidence about these mods...1) I will either LOVE or HATE the sound, 2) That tail pipe is going to crushed soon. Word is that aFe will be coming out with an alternative, non-bling pipe aft of the muffler that will provide the necessary clearance for off-roading.


May 2008, Week 4
I can see rocks at night! Purchased a set of 55w lights from Northen Tool earlier in the month. They were ~$10 a piece, and for that price, they do a fine job. I've seen the same lights in different packaging at Harbor Freight and Walmart (yeah, yeah). At least I'll have easy replacements when they burn out. They are completely enclosed, so if they bulb dies, you have to swap the entire unit, housing and all. Cut pieces of steel, drilled holes, painted, and installed the lights onto the body mounts pictured. I built on Tim's excellent wiring guidance, and ran, soldered, crimped, heat shrinked, relayed, switched, and wire loomed everything. Was quite proud of myself.


July 2008, Week 2
Picked up a FJammer and BD hood from another forum member. Swapped out the BD and TI hoods, as well as the lower section with the faux vent. I must admit that I quite favor the look, and will be trying to source a BD rear door as well.


July 2008, Week 3
Spent a few days after work installing a Viair 450c w/2.5 gallon tank onboard air system.



July 2008, Week 4
It's been a month of modding, and got around to installing some rear rock lights. Had a few brackets lying around, and they worked perfectly for this application. No pictures of the wiring run, but there's a short ground run directly to the frame. The positive is run through some extra air line tubing I had after the onboard air install to help protect it from the elements. Lights are setup so that the passenger side will illuminate the driver's side, and vice versa. Yes, the bolts could be shorter, was too lazy to make a Home Depot run.


September 2008, Week 2
Body mount chop - long overdue. I had only a slight rub on the driver's side, but it was enough of an annoyance, especially on the trails. Thought about just leaving the body mount exposed, but I had some extra metal scrap left over from a previous project. One day I'll learn to weld, but for this project, I used Quicksteel.
 

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Dam Bro! I've never met ya yet, but that is one Hella equiped rig ya got! Very Impressive! Nice write up!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
as a way to offset the rising cost of gasoline, i've contemplated trolling around my neighborhood and selling ice cream from the back. at 12mpg...that's going to be some expensive ice cream.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
still not sure what i think about the look. different may not always be good, but at least it does change things up.


 
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