Where to begin... At the beginning I guess! We decided on the Land Cruiser HJ47 Troop Carrier for a number of reasons after much research around the internet on overlanding, old ‘Cruisers and through talking with folks in person and online.
Here’s what we we’re thinking to make our decision:
- We love old Land Cruisers. ‘Nuff said on that one... They have a solid worldwide reputation, including in Africa (despite Land Rover’s marketing), and almost bullet-proof performance and reliability. Sorry Land Rover - there’s really no comparison in reliability, reasonable cost, parts availability (especially in Asia) and overall adaptability. I’ve owned both vehicles - Landy marketing is impressive, I will give it that! As for Jeeps - well... they’re American. Go overseas and you won’t see many. We owned a Jeep Liberty in Alaska - its a great truck - but we never even considered packing it in a container and driving it through Asia or Africa...
- The standard FJ/BJ40 series (BJ is a diesel variant mainly sold in Canada) has very limited space to store the equipment and supplies needed on a long overland journey. However, we love the look of the “classic” 40 series. 60, 70, 80, 100, etc. series are fine, but we like the 40’s looks and rugged reputation. So, we gravitated towards the “station wagon” version of the 40 series for the extra room. Plus, we like the idea of cruising around in a vintage 40 series. It’s really as simple as that. I guess it boils down to primarily a personal choice more than anything else. There are certainly as capable or more capable vehicles out there for overlanding - but they don’t have the charm and charisma of an old ‘Cruiser - at least to us!
- We didn’t want to haul a trailer, particularly overseas due to container loading limitations (for a 20 foot container), weight and country restrictions, engine wear and tear, extra fuel costs, etc.
- A diesel was the engine of choice for many reasons including ease of repair, reliability, low-end torque off-road, and superior mileage compared to petrol. Unfortunately, diesel ‘Cruisers were never actually sold in the U.S. due to EPA and whatever else restrictions (very short sighted), so sourcing a stock model from overseas was really the only choice for us.
- With long wheel base “station wagon”-type 2-door series 40’s only sold overseas (Australia and South America, primarily), we started looking on the internet and gravitated towards the 40 series Troop Carriers (designated with an HJ model number for diesels). We steered for those 45/47’s sold and designed for use in the Australian Outback. They have a great reputation and have many interchangeable parts with FJ40s and FJ45s (pick-ups or “utes” in OZ), not to mention that they come from a relatively dry climate (at least in South Australia) and don’t suffer from rust like those we saw from South America. We located a Troopy that was a late year model with a 2H diesel (great workhorse motor - See Engine Page), front discs and power steering. The body was straight and had very little rust. The price was a little high, but what the hell... Sold!
So - we drove the Troopy home to our backyard shop in interior Alaska - 350 miles north of Anchorage. Now what? First of all, we educated ourselves thoroughly online about common restoration items. See the Links page for selected websites dealing with mechanical and restoration issues. Everything we read indicated we needed a good preliminary plan to map out our strategy. After much research and thought, our overall plan for the vehicle emerged as a restoration to a solid, reliable and tough condition but without doing a complete frame-off resto. We call it doing a “practical restoration.” Frame-off restorations are beautiful but exceedingly expensive and our budget won’t quite fit one. And - it takes a long time! Besides, we weren’t after a Concours condition for shows. We were after a solid restoration so that the Troopy would survive the punishment of overland travel and carry all our stuff without taxing the suspension with our gross vehicle weight (GVW). Specifically, we wanted the running gear and body to be as beefy and rust-free as possible to give maximum reliability to the vehicle, good handling/clearance characteristics off-road and overall a truck we could be proud of driving around the world. We decided to break the restoration process into some large “chunks:”
- Suspension/chassis/running gear
- Wheels and tires
Each of these categories we broke down further:
- Suspension: Remove-and-replace all the leaf springs using aftermarket heavy duty springs, greaseable shackles/bolts and new urethane bushings for maximum cargo carrying capacity while maintaining good manners on and off-road. Suspension lift, so popular in the off-road community, was only a factor in that we wanted to run slightly larger tires than stock (see Parts List), but not large enough to significantly change the gearing ratio (critical on a small diesel).
- The chassis would be further inspected for excessive wear including tie rod ends, steering components, etc. The Plan was to replace U-joints with heavy duty units, install new wheel bearings at each corner and new locking hubs up front. Additional upgrades would include a rear differential locker, a heavy duty rear differential cover and skid plates at the front and on the corners, if they could be reasonably sourced. With the Troopy’s smallish fuel tank, fitting an auxiliary tank would be almost mandatory for extended range - a great accessory that alleviates the need for fiddling all the time with extra fuel cans (kind of a pain). Long Ranger from Australia manufactures a bolt-in auxiliary tank model for the HJ47. We also decided on the addition of an H55F 5-speed transmission to ease the engine’s RPMs at highway speeds and improve fuel economy. Luckily H55Fs (from B and F series engines) are available through a number of sources, either stock or rebuilt/refurbished. We sourced ours through Specter Off-Road. They take a number of mods but otherwise mate up well with the 2H. A major mod is cutting the floorboard to accommodate the shifters moving rearward about 2 inches or so then repositioning the shifters, boots, etc. A little bother, but well worth the effort. The other consideration is shortening the rear driveshaft and lengthening the front driveshaft, but this was in the plans anyway to take a look at when replacing the U-joints with heavy duty units. I think the whole effort will be worth it when driving long distances at highway speeds.
- We decided on white wagon spoke steel wheels for their reliability and ability to be repaired should they become slightly damaged. Alloys have a bad reputation for cracking around damaged or bent areas - no real way to repair them in the field. For tires we wanted a triple-ply sidewall, multi-belted radial in an all-terrain or mud-terrain pattern that was quiet on road (where the vast majority of overland travel takes place - we didn’t fool ourselves) and still had reasonable traction off road, particularly in dirt and gravel. We did a tremendous amount of research in our decision for Troopy’s tires and finally settled on a brand with superior reliability, solid on-road and off-road handling, and great durability. See the Suspension page and Parts List page for our decisions on all these items and WHY we picked them. I’m sure they’ll spark endless debate and emails!
- The Engine was pretty easy for restoration - we weren’t planning on any! We decided on a complete fluids change, install new filters (oil, fuel, air), new hoses, flush the radiator and add new antifreeze. Winterize (very important in Alaska - where we live it gets -40F in the winter!). Check glow plugs and relay, check injectors for proper operation. Look for cracks, leaks, excessive corrosion, loose parts or wires, and fix all known issues. No further modifications or resto was anticipated. Already done.
- The Body was going to be a challenge - to do a good resto on an old ‘Cruiser, which are known for rust problems, we’d need to take off all body parts except for the tub, remove the glass, hand sand/blast, repair rust spots then shoot all parts in original factory color (our Troopy is White - Color Code 033). Then we’d re-assemble all body parts with new weather stripping and window rubber, installing new stainless hardware outside.
- The Interior was also going to be a challenge. For maximum durability we wanted to re-paint the interior it’s original color then shoot the front and rear floor panels with Rhino Lining or similar urethane product. This would require removing the front 60/40 bench seat (which we planned to replace with buckets anyway), rear seats (we need them out for the rear storage drawer system and fridge slide), all floor mats (they were in bad shape after years in the Outback), dismantling the dash, clean/prepping all surfaces, repairing rust areas, sanding, priming surfaces and shooting paint. Many of the dash knobs would have to be replaced, as well as the ash tray (missing), and some dash panels (Troopy doesn’t have a factory radio or tachometer). While we were at it, might as well replace the old dash lamps too!
With all this work done we’d have an almost-fully resto’d ‘Cruiser, ready for all the expedition parts and equipment we’d be installing for our travels. Please see the following pages for more detail on each stage of Troopy’s restoration.
Troopy’s Firewall ID Plate (See below for code info)
ID Plate Codes:
As you can see by the firewall ID plate photo above, there are a number of numerical codes for the Land Cruiser that you can decode to let you know paint colors, rear end gearing, part numbers, etc. Here’s a quick run down from the top:
- Model - The first characters indicate the model number - “HJ47” - “H” is the engine type, “J” is the production line, “47” is the series. The next code is - “RV-KCQ” - “R” is right-hand drive, “V” is a hardtop, “K” indicates a 4-speed, “C” are swing-out “ambulance doors,” “Q” is for Australia. This is called the model code, which will also indicate a parts diagram and associated parts list. See toyodiy.com.
- Engine - Self-explanatory. Troopy has a model 2H diesel engine with a displacement of 3980cc (approximately 4 liters).
- Frame No. - This is the VIN. Notice that this is a “short VIN,” common on earlier vehicles. It causes some fun at the DMV and with your insurance carrier - DIY VIN decoders online don’t work either! Using this VIN we can see that the Troopy was made in September, 1984 based on the number of vehicles produced.
- Color - “033” - white.
- Trim - “LM11” - Standard trim level, grey, 60/40 bench seat.
- Trans/Axle - “H41” - 4 speed transmission, 4.843 (first), 2.619 (2nd), 1.516 (third), 1.000 (4th); 4.843 (Rev), 1.963 (T-case low), 19 (T-case splines); “K” - 9.5” ring gear size; “08” - 4.111 ring/pinion gear ratio - HD, 37 ring teeth, 9 pinion teeth; “2” - 2 spider gears - open differential.
- Plant - A11 - Honsya (Honsha), Japan - see the “40 Series History” page for a picture of the Honsha Plant.