FJ45 rebuild; bringing a 47 year old 4WD back to life

8 years ago I followed a good mate of mine around the back of his shed with a glimmer in his eye. He’d picked up an original 1973 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ45 from some friends on a farm down in Katanning, and had grand plans to rebuild it.

It still ran, but was in need of some major attention. All I could see was a giant pile of work, but this wasn’t the first rodeo for Clayton, and I knew it was in good hands.

Way back in the past he’d picked up a short wheel base 40 Series Land Cruiser and done something similar, before trading it in a direct swap for an 80 series Land Cruiser. 

Before we go any further, this is the finished product, with a serious amount of time, effort and money gone into getting it completely restored from the ground up. This was one major FJ45 restoration. If you’ve ever seen a FJ45 for sale that has had any major work, you’ll know they sell for a small fortune.

They are as classic as it gets in the 4WD world, and are highly sought after world wide. When it comes to comparing old vs new 4WD’s, this is about as old as you can go!

Full rebuilt FJ45
Clayton’s completely rebuilt FJ45, in pristine condition

Obviously, the way it looked when Clayton first got the vehicle was vastly different, but he wasted no time in stripping it down and starting the rebuild process.

What took place over the next 8 years was nothing short of staggering, with every single nut and bolt removed, and a full rebuild taking place. Everything that was damaged or tired was replaced, with genuine parts where possible.

The FJ45 Landcruiser came in a number of different variants; short wheel base (FJ40), single cab ute, and troopy style, but this single cab Ute was the choice of project!

FJ45 after years of farm use
The FJ45 not long after it arrived, being stripped down
FJ45 Chassis repairs
Everything was stripped down right to the chassis
Chassis repairs
Full rust removal, clean up and re-painting
4.2L FJ45 motor
The 4.2L Petrol motor, removed and pulled apart
FJ45 inspection
The motor was in reasonable condition, all things considered
FJ45 motor rebuild
The basics for a tidy up of the motor
FJ45 bore honing
A simple honing of the bores was done
Motor back in the FJ45
All coming together
FJ45 gearbox
Re-assembling the gearbox and transfer case
FJ45 Tray
The tray was rebuilt and re-painted
FJ45 new radiator
New virtually everything
FJ45 rebuild coming along
From the side

A full respray of every panel happened after he’d found decent panels for everything (going through 4 doors in the process) and it was slowly put together.

You’ll find a lot of FJ45 restoration projects just cover anything dodgy up, but Clayton was determined to do everything to 100% perfection.

FJ45 with new panels
Absolutely incredible transformation
FJ45 Respray
Every panel was sand blasted and professionally powder coated, before being re-assembled
Interior rebuild
The interior was fiddly, and took a very long time

Clayton made his own canopy, from a steel frame and aluminium panels.

FJ45 in Perth
Custom steel frame canopy with aluminium panels
Custom exhaust
Complete with a custom exhaust that has a very nice note

Every time I visited there was some small, but impressive progress made and the excitement grew as it got closer to being able to put it back on the road.

A visit to the pits landed a couple of minor fixes needed, and then it was registered, and I’ve never seen Clayton’s smile so big!

FJ 45 off road
Time to hit the road, Jack
FJ45 in Perth
Exploring some WA 4WD tracks close to Perth
FJ45 off road
It goes well, and gets used too!
Rebuilt Land Cruiser
What a weapon
Toyota Land Cruiser
New badges, and heaps of other things you’d have to look closely to see

All in all, an absolutely incredible project that gets used all the time today, and realistically is a work of art. To finish, here’s a few more photos of it in use!

Beach near Wedge Island
Kicking back at Wedge Island
Launching at Lake Kepwari
Launching and towing a jet boat to Lake Kepwari

Have you done any major rebuilds of old 4WD’s? Let us know below!

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