Land Cruiser de-evolution

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    Land Cruiser de-evolution

    I decided to take care of some lingering issues with my Land Cruiser UZJ100, by making it less complex and refined—in the form of a solid front axle.

    A little back story: a couple years back we acquired a ’93 80 series Land Cruiser, and fell in love with most aspects of it. The failings of that truck are the lack of power, and associated terrible fuel mileage. So I started looking at wrecked vehicles to be a drivetrain donor to do a V8 swap. While I searched, I realized how much work that swap would be (and the type of work I do not enjoy)…but I also came across a 2002 100 series, which already comes with a V8. It wouldn’t be as powerful as the GM V8’s I was originally looking at, but still a nice improvement over the I6.

    So…I got the 100 for a good deal, I thought. The repairs (naturally) cost more than I was hoping, so my “good deal” at first wasn’t so good in the end, but still OK. I replaced the spindle, upper and lower control arms, fender, hood, headlight, bumper, valence, and had the A-pillar fixed along with the new paint and windshield. The frame was also straightened…as much as it could be. The body shop that was doing the work couldn’t get it quite straight, and bent their frame rack trying.

    So…with the frame not-quite-straight, my alignment was always just a bit off. There was some negative camber on the passenger-front, the caster was near zero and the wheelbase was shorter on that side. Some of that could have been remedied with some adjustable upper arms, but overall my wife and I were just not happy with how well it drove. I can fix it!

    Here’s the “before”. 30mm rear spring spacer, torsion bars cranked to match, 18” 200 series wheels.

    You can spy my beloved 80 in the background here. 

    I started collecting parts a couple months before beginning any surgery on the Cruiser. I started with a couple of Super Duty Dana 60’s.
    Ruined the first one.

    Ruined the second one.

    Clean brackets off both long sides. (the short side knuckles went to a friend who is building an axle)

    Cut to length, and bored the end out a bit on both sides.


    Took the unit bearings apart to access the ABS tone ring hidden between the bearings. Ford uses a 60 tooth ring, Toyota uses 48 teeth. You can see the original on the right half, in this pic. I don’t have any pics of the new one, but trust me…it’s in there. I still don’t know if it will work as I hope it will, but we’ll find out once it drives again.

    I welded closed some of the original stud holes, and had the flange machined with the new 5x150 bolt pattern using the original studs—since they are the same 14x1.5 as the Land Cruiser studs. Here is is with the wheel pilot machined to 110mm, but before the stud holes were machined.

    Since then the outside diameter has been reduced, and the brake rotor pilot also reduced…both to fit some 14” Tundra rotors. With some custom brackets, the original 100 series calipers fit.

    Rusty/crusty high pinion Dana 44 center section—I left 3” of axle tube sticking out each side. This is the only picture I have of this part. The D60 tubes that were machined earlier, will press onto the stubs of axle tube.

    Pile of goodies from @cruiseroutfit Cruiser Outfitters; 4.88 gears, install kit, and pinion flange for my 100’s rear axle, and D50 4.89’s and 35 spline ARB for the front. Not shown is the Jantz Engineering kit to make the D50 gears fit inside the D44 housing.

    Along with lots of grinding inside the housing, the carrier needs to be machined also—I took .045” off the face of the ring gear flange. It was a little scary putting a brand-new ARB in the lathe, so I took my time and made sure I didn’t mess it up. I also had to drill the ring gear bolt holes to 7/16”.

    With the axle mostly worked out, it’s time to get going on the truck itself. Remove all suspension parts.

    Remove all suspension and steering rack brackets, and buckle down for lots of grinding.

    After it’s all smoothed out, plate the frame for both strength and beauty.


      Axle housing under the frame, located with custom-length flexible control links.

      Also got some frame-side radius arm mounts started. These will need a bit more work and gusseting before they’re done.

      After that I was able to get the caster set and the axle tubes welded solid. I made the radius arms also.

      Welded up and bushings installed.[/URL]

      The axle-side radius arm brackets are built to allow caster changes. Rather than using a cam bolt and a slotted hole, I did it this way—just a rectangular “washer” to keep it located between the tabs. I made 2 sizes for now—one with the hole centered, and one with the hole 1/8” offset as pictured. Each 1/8” change is approximately 1 degree of caster change, so these 2 will allow 3 positions of caster (by turning the pictured ones upside down)—and if I need to adjust further, I can make new washers with the holes wherever I need.

      You can see in this pic why I put that bend on the frame end of the arms, to clear the frame on full compression.

      Sorry for the dark pic…but you can see the axle welded up, as well as the axle-side coil spring mounts on the knuckles.

      And that brings us to where it sits now. Next step is to finalize the axle’s location for wheelbase, and get the spring and shock mounts on. The upper spring bucket is just sitting there for now, until I can get back to it in a few days. I’m using factory 80 series upper coil guides and bumpstops.

      More to come later…..


        Today I finished up the frame-side radius arm mounts.

        Installed the knuckles, unit bearings, and tie rod. I'm going to do the drag-link-attached-to-tie-rod "inverted T" steering...which I don't like as much as other options, but it is simple, works decently well, and keeps everything out of the frame.

        Made some spacers to go between the axle and frame, and set the thing down on its wheels to measure the wheelbase more accurately. The height shown is about 1.5" higher in front than it was in the "before" pics. Actual ride height will probably end up a tiny bit taller. Wheelbase in the pic is 113.5", which is 1.25" longer than factory. (in my case, I measured 112.625 on the driver side, and 111.875 on the passenger) I think I'll pull the axle back .5" that should be about .75" forward from factory. Anyone have any input on that dimension? I can still change it easily, since I haven't welded the upper coil mounts on yet.

        And lastly, here's a pic showing the pinion/driveshaft angle. This is the factory front shaft, which is a bit short. I have a CV shaft that will be going on there eventually.


          Only one pic from today...but I shortened the radius arms 1/2", put the upper coil buckets in place, mounted the steering box (welded sleeves in the frame), reamed the tapered hole in the pitman arm, and made the drag link.

          Good news: I was worried about the oil filter, but the drag link will go under it no problem.

          Good news #2: Drag link tube is 38.5". I win!

          Good news #3: I do NOT have to relocate the passenger side engine mount to clear the pumpkin...which also means I do not need to make a new oil pan.


            The last few days I've been able to get the panhard bracketry figured out and made, as well as the bar itself.

            Frame side. This will get more welding and gusseting after the steering box comes off again.

            Axle side was a bit trickier. I was able to get the panhard straight, but the bracket had to stick out pretty far forward, as well as above the axle tube. (and still leave room to get a wrench in behind, to tighten the nut)

            For the track bar, I used 80 series bushings, machined tube to press them in, and some 7/8-14 B7 allthread.

            Same thing on the other end, but not adjustable.

            Angles match pretty well between the drag link and track bar. This is approximately ride height.

            Full Left steering lock, the tie rod comes close to the bracket.

            Full compression, panhard comes close to the frame. Less than 1/4" of clearance...but the bumpstop would be metal-to-metal, as if the rubber were completely removed.

            Full compression on the steering box side, at full lock. This is where I was initially worried about the oil filter--turns out it's a non-issue.

            Full compression, panhard gets close to the oil filter tubing, the oil pan, the passenger side frame...everything is tight. But fits!

            I made some axle-side shock mounts that turned out pretty nice...but these will go in the scrap bin. I had to made new ones that drop down 1" to clear the radius arm bolt.

            The new ones installed. Upper shock mounts will wait until I'm done with the steering stuff.

            Steering shaft is cute. Combined parts of the 80 intermediate shaft with parts from the 100, and a little chunk of 1" tube.

            Installed. I need to add a bearing to the's on order.

            And resting on it's own suspension for the first time. Using stock 80 coils. It's a bit lower than my target, which is fine--lift springs are easy to source. The front end is only about 3/4" taller than when I drove it in.


              While I was waiting for the firewall bearing to arrive, I put together the upper shock mounts. I also modified the splined coupler from the 100, turning part of it down to 3/4" OD. That smaller section will act as a bushing inside the firewall bearing which is 3/4" ID.

              The bearing installed at the firewall. There is very little room way I could have gotten it in there if the shock mount were in place. (at least, not without removing other components)

              But with that installed, I felt OK about installing the shock mounts.

              I just need to decide where to mount the brake line tabs, and the frame will be ready for paint.


                Some time-consuming work done today, but it's the kind that isn't very picture-worthy. I got the brake line brackets welded on up front, and cleaned up/painted everything.

                Took the rear axle apart and installed 4.88's and all new bearings.


                  Productive day! I started by finishing up the rear axle...OME 860 springs, Tough Dog shocks, and I made the rear panhard bar adjustable.

                  Then moved to the front axle. Installed the 35 spline ARB and 4.89 gears for the final time, and routed the air line in the corner of the diff cover.

                  And buttoned it up with the Blue Torch Fab diff cover and a Lube Locker gasket.

                  Mounted the steering box. For the high pressure line, I had Hose and Rubber Supply braze on JIC fittings, then a pretty-standard hydraulic hose can connect the 100 pump and the 80 box. (you can see one of the fittings on top of the box in this pic)

                  Swung the housing underneath again, and started connecting things.

                  Pretty much done! Just waiting on front springs, and to connect the new soft brake hoses to the hard lines. (I didn't connect them to allow the axle to droop farther and make installing the springs easier) Soft lines are supposed to be for a 2001 Corolla.

                  Capped off the end of the hub with these AWESOME drive flanges from Summit Machine. Just the caps for now, since I have no axleshafts yet.


                    While I'm waiting for my springs to arrive, I took today to take care of some of the time-consuming, but necessary items.

                    Plumbed the power steering, and added in this cooler from an Expedition. (there is no cooler from the factory, just the hard lines to the steering rack) Had to build a little bracket to hold it in front of the aux fan.

                    Installed my steering intermediate shaft, which had mysteriously turned itself pink.

                    Plumbed the ARB and diff breather.

                    Changed the plastic heater T's to stainless ones, with upgraded clamps.

                    Trimmed and reinstalled the inner fender shields. I don't have the rear one for the passenger side, maybe I'll try to find one of those.


                      It's out and about. 35/12.50 18's and new wheels will be here this afternoon, but I'll leave the 200 wheels/tires on until after it gets aligned tomorrow morning. It's sitting a little higher in the front than I was hoping, since it's basically level right now--I was shooting for a little bit of rake like "normal" for 100's. I'm not sure if the OME 851 springs will settle any, or not...I'd love for them to sag 1/2" or something. Hub-to-fender measures right about 24" F&R. The rear is OME 860 + a 30mm spacer. Those springs are used, so I'll be surprised if they sag.


                        I had this thing aligned, and got the bad news that my caster measurements didn't match side-to-side. Apparently I missed matching them up when I assembled the axle, by 0.4 degrees. That would have been great if my passenger side were the one with more caster...but naturally it was the driver's side. So, I now have a caster-correcting bushing in the upper ball joint on that side. No big deal, but a little disappointing.

                        I bought a pair of used 35x12.50-18 BFG AT KO2's, so that made my decision easy for what tire I want to run. I bought two matching new ones and had them all mounted on the 18x9 +25 MB Wheels I purchased a couple months ago. Here's what it looks like with them on it:

                        There is some tire rubbing at times that I'll need to address. I suspect it's hitting the bottom corner of the front bumper, so that will be easy to trim. They also rub the plastic inner fender where it goes over the pinch seam--but there seems to be a lot of room behind the plastic, so I might try to heat/shape the plastic for more clearance. Failing that, it will also be an easy spot to trim.

                        Turning, at full lock the tire blocks just touch the radius arm. Not very hard, they aren't crammed into it or anything--so I'll leave that one alone for now, rather than limit the steering. It does make me glad I inboarded the radius arm mount though.


                          I forgot the best part! With the rain today, I was able to (easily) lock up the front tires...and get the ABS to activate. That wouldn't normally be any big deal, but that confirms my custom tone rings/Ford ABS sensor/Toyota wire hybrid conglomeration works as it should I have no ABS warning lights either.

                          And, these big front brakes are pretty ridiculous. They work REALLY well.


                            Getting back to work on this--I sent both of the long-side inner axleshafts to Dutchman Axles to have them shortened and re-splined. The top one is how I received them, the bottom one is after I cut down the O.D. of the shaft to better fit through the oil seal I'm using. A side benefit of this is having a slightly more "flexible" axleshaft; it will act a bit more like a torsion bar, which can improve the durability of the shaft, as well as things like the ring and pinion gear. The shaft can absorb some of the shock that could otherwise damage other parts. (it can also absorb shocks that could twist/break splines too)

                            That said, I'm an idiot for not just having the D44 center machined to accept standard D60 axle seals while it was all apart. Oops. I tried to think of everything I wanted, and that one slipped my mind.

                            And here are both shafts machined, and assembled with the original outer stub shafts, with new Spicer U-joints. The long side didn't get cut down its full length, just 8" or so on each end. The middle section I turned down some, but it still remains larger than the ends. That's for two reasons--for one, that more or less gives me the same length of "small" shaft as the short side, and saves me time machining. (the hardened steel takes FOREVER to machine)

                            Installed shafts!

                            Since this will still be full-time 4WD, I needed a drive slug to fit the D60 wheel bearing. Nobody makes a 30 spline drive slug, and I'm not feeling the need to upgrade to 35 spline stubs, so I made my own. I gutted one of the sets of Ford hubs, welded the sliding gear to the inner splines, then placed them into the aluminum outer splined piece, bedded with JB Weld. The teeth are fully engaged, so the epoxy just has to keep the inner steel parts from coming out of the outer aluminum part--it doesn't need to take any driving force.

                            On my initial test-drive, my VSC light came on and started beeping at me on a sweeping turn. I couldn't make it do it again, and it never happened on any other parts of my drive. What does that mean to me? There are no ABS lights or anything, and I've been assuming I would see something like that if a sensor isn't working or whatever...any experiences with that kind of behavior? Since I've been driving with the CDL locked until now, my VSC has been off--this is a new problem for me.


                              Driving it in 4WD wasn't as wonderful as I was hoping. Despite the center differential relieving drivetrain bind, the front axle U-joints are pretty noticeable, especially accelerating around a corner. That could be cured by using axleshafts with a CV joint in it--RCV or similar. Those are a BUNCH of money...and combine that with the little driveline vibration I have, made the next choice easy. The driveline vibration is because I totally nailed the pinion angle when assembling the axle. It's perfectly wrong for both a standard U-joint shaft, as well as wrong for a double cardan driveshaft.

                              So, part-time 4WD here we come! @cruiseroutfit had the kit in stock for me, which I picked up yesterday at the BBQ. Here it is after I pressed the bearing onto it:

                              Installation is pretty simple--basically, take the back half the transfer case apart to access the center diff. Replace the rear half of the differential with this spool. Reassemble. This pic is as far as it gets disassembled...ready to start putting it back together.

                              Here it is with the spool bolted on, ready to put the case parts back:

                              All buttoned up. I'll give it overnight for the silicone to cure before filling with oil and getting it back on the road.

                              Now, the former Center Diff Lock button on the dash will engage front-wheel-drive instead. Hubs are easy on this axle--for now I have the stock Ford locking hubs on it, but they're pretty ugly so I'll replace them soon.