Custom Overlander LA SPORT’S TOYOTA FJ CRUISER
In the American market, where Toyota’s FJ Cruiser has been on sale for five years, the only standard FJs you’ll see are the brand new ones on the Toyota showroom floors. A stock-standard FJ Cruiser – well, it’s just so “not on”. This is LA Sport’s in-your-face FJ Cruiser, kitted out in “Cavalry blue” and with a whole lot of extras added. We took it to Mozambique
Text: Danie Botha
Photography: Jannie Herbst
A dancing pole, with international star Angelina Jolie in her skimpiest bikini embracing said pole right next to the N1 highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Or what about anti-Green lobbyist and controversial Top Gear television presenter Jeremy Clarkson doing a “why we need gas-guzzling, smoke-belching and ozone-killing cars” presentation at the recent COP17 climate change conference in Durban?
Wait, got it! Our own Project Navara! Yes, that will do it!
We’re driving on the R23 between Balfour and Standerton, and discussing possible scenarios, events or products that could upstage the ride we’re in. It is LA Sport’s latest crowd pleaser, the FJ Cruiser, kitted out in a striking “Cavalry blue” jacket.
It also has enough aftermarket muscle and accessories fitted to it to make even the most ardent and loyal Land Rover Defender enthusiasts and anti-Toyota diehards give an appreciative nod of the head.
The basic Toyota FJ Cruiser package is not half bad, to start with. However, its retro-style looks are controversial, to say the least. Some punters love it. Others call it bad names.
The Cruiser is a four-door vehicle, but the rear doors are hinged on the trailing edge, so they open the “wrong way” versus the traditionally opening front doors. These doors are commonly referred to as suicide doors, but we’ll just stick with “impractical doors”.
Yes, the doors are most certainly cool. But the coolness wears off very rapidly when one has to open the front doors first (they latch onto those rear doors) to get to the rear seats, every single time. It’s a bit of a schlep, really.
The boot itself is not exactly massive, either. And the retro dashboard and some of the slightly outdated features clearly suffer from an over function ethos.
Still, even though the cabin doesn’t get climate control and windscreen wipers with an intermittent function, it’s still acceptably plush and comfortable.
Driving the FJ largely makes up for the impracticalities. With 200 kW of power, a smooth-shifting and responsive five-speed automatic gearbox, and a dynamic on-road driving experience, the FJ is a pleasure on the road. On gravel, the tail does tend to get a bit wayward, especially at speed. But 4WD high range offers an instant fix for this.
From a 4×4 point of view, the FJ seems to have all the answers. Even in standard trim it is a highly impressive machine.
With nearly 250mm in ground clearance, low range gearing, active traction control (A-TRAC), a rear differential lock and a 200 kW V6 engine under the retro-styled bonnet, the FJ is probably the best 4×4 all-rounder in the current Land Cruiser wagon line-up.
Right, so let’s move along to the LA machine. Even before leaving the concrete jungle, a certain pattern started to develop. No matter where we parked, the crowds gathered.
“How much is it? What engine? What is this, what is that…?
The questions didn’t stop. So we can tick the crowd pleaser box, for sure. This FJ looks the part of a 4×4 that can conquer anything, anytime.
For starters, this FJ rides 80mm higher than a standard FJ Cruiser. It features a complete TJM XGS suspension upgrade, which includes springs and dampers. The XGS suspension system is designed in Australia and serves not only to improve off-road ability but also increases load-carrying capability.
A colour-coded TJM bull bar, armed with a TJM 9500 winch using plasma rope, does duty at the front, improving the FJ’s already impressive approach angle.
Two state-of-the-art Britax Xray HID spotlights are fitted to the bull bar, hailing from Australia.
A locally developed LAS Pro rear replacement bumper with double jerry can holders – colour-coded in that striking Cavalry blue – take centre stage at the back. Well, kind of. The big 33-inch XD Series rims, shod with Cooper STT mud terrain tyres, really grab all the attention in that area. These tyres are serious off-roading items with an 80% mud and sand application, and 20% road application.
To round off the picture, LA Sport added Bushwacker fender flares, made from plastic and imported from the US.
Lastly, the interior was kitted out with Takla Cantech seat covers. There’s also a Takla load liner for the boot.
All in all, the upgrades added R110 650 to the FJ Cruiser deal. Is it worth it?
Jannie Herbst, who drove the LA Sport FJ Cruiser in Mozambique, writes:
If you plan to use your FJ almost exclusively for serious off-road conditions and rough terrain, I’d say it certainly is worth the extra investment. But, if you also want to use the FJ on a daily basis around town, the bigger wheels and extra weight do have a negative effect on performance. It’s just not so dynamic and lively anymore. And the fuel consumption will also increase if the FJ is modified in this fashion.
In the sandy tracks in Mozambique, one had to keep a wary eye on the FJ, with the wider track causing it to want to jump out of the existing (and narrower) tracks.
Those rear doors eventually got to me, since we regularly stopped to take photographs, and had to retrieve cameras from the back seat. But that’s an FJ characteristic, and it probably won’t affect Joe Public as much.
The attention this FJ Cruiser got, both in SA and Mozambique, was unbelievable. People, young and old, and of all denominations, loved it. So if it’s attention you’re after, this upgrade certainly does the trick! As a bonus, it is rather amazing in a tough off-road environment, too.
The TJM bull bar is fitted with a mid-range TJM OX 9500lb winch that runs plasma rope (instead of metal cable). It is also fitted with a pair of state-of-the-art Britax XRay 6-inch HID spotlights.
The TJM XGS suspension upgrade includes dampers and springs, and increases off-road traction and load-carrying capability. It also adds 80mm more clearance to the FJ Cruiser deal, which is quite a lot!
The Bushwacker fender flares hail from the US. The company has been in the business of producing plastic fender flares for more than 40 years. It has won numerous international awards for its innovative products (it also does a range of other plastic accessories). Paying almost R10 000 for four pieces of plastic seems excessive – but they sure add a Chuck Norris feel to the deal.
The mud terrain Cooper STT tyres feature Armor-Tek3 carcass construction technology. In plain language, this means the STT tyre is now 33% stronger in the sidewalls and 2,5 times more resistant to tearing. They are also cut and chip resistant, and the specialised tread is said to offer amazing traction in difficult of conditions.
The KMC Wheels’ XD Series rims hail from Canada, and are imported by Autowiel. The good looking and stylish 17-inch rims fit the FJ Cruiser rather well.
The LAS PRO rear bar is a local development, and features two funky jerry can holders and a spare wheel carrier bracket. It boasts a removable tow bar, power connections and a really sturdy look and feel. This colour-coded bar looks the off-road business.
ON THE INSIDE
Takla pull-over seat covers protect the standard seat trim from the elements in an overlanding environment. LA Sport also added a Takla load liner to the FJ, which protects the plastic surface of the Cruiser’s loading area from scratches and damage.
1x TJM bulbar R16 995
1x TJM 9500 plasma winch R10 995
TJM XGS suspension upgrade R12 330
2x Britax XRay 6-inch HID spotlights R11 990
1x LAS rear replacement bumper R8 995
1x LAS wheel carrier with double jerry cans R4 450
Bushwacker wheel flares R10 995
5x XD series black rims (17×9) R14 250
5x Cooper STT 33×12.5 R17 tyres R9 750
Takla seat covers R4 950
Takla load liner R4 950
Total: R110 650
Basic price for the FJ Cruiser R435 500 – R457 300
MORE INFORMATION: Phone LA Sport 4WD Megastores’ Louis van Niekerk at
012 808-9951; [email protected] or contact your nearest LA Sport branch. Find out more at www.lasport.co.za