Toyota’s “FJ Bruiser” is a mean, green rock crawler built from a worn-out FJ45

The over-the-top builds from SEMA keep on coming. Toyota’s centerpiece vehicle this year is the FJ Bruiser, a beast of an old Land Cruiser built to take on grueling rock crawls like King of the Hammers. The one-off started as beat-up 1966 FJ45 pickup, but has been thoroughly reconstituted with a tube-frame chassis and a Toyota Nascar V8.

When the FJ45 that formed the basis for this build rolled int Toyota’s shop was already wearing evidence of a well-lived life, showing several different paint colors, all faded. After taking it down to metal and fixing dented body panels, the team decided to go with a tube frame chassis. “There are so few of these original frames still left, I didn’t want to chop one up and take one more of them out of the market,” said the project’s team manager Marty Schwerter.

Since they were starting from the ground up, it would have been tempting to widen or chop the body to make everything fit. But the crew really wanted to preserve the body and look of the FJ45, so they had to build the frame within the constraints of the original body while squeezing a 5.9-liter, 725-horsepower Toyota Nascar V8 under the hood. Not to mention, exhaust, roll cage, transmission coolers, and so on.

The drivetrain is tailor built for the purpose of rock crawling. Power is put down through a 3-speed automatic Rancho race transmission, front and rear Currie differentials, and an Advanced Adapters Atlas transfer case that has four 2WD speeds and four 4WD speeds.

In practice, this means that at its lowest gear, revving the engine to its 7,000 rpm redline results in a 12 mph creep. That lets you put down power to crawl over the steepest of obstacles. In its highest gear, that same 7,000 rpm would be shuffling the rig along at 165 mph.

The suspension is equally impressive. A full trailing arm suspension and 42-inch tires mean that at full bump travel, the top of the front tires extend about halfway up the windshield line. But even despite that, the FJ Bruiser’s neatest party trick is a tank tread on its belly. Located where a center skid plate would be, it lets the rig push itself off any rock should it get high-centered into a situations where none of the wheels can get traction.

With the launch of the new Land Cruiser this year it only makes sense for Toyota to go all-in on the nameplate for SEMA. It even brought back the 1999 Retro Cruiser, a J40 series body stretched over a J100 chassis (more on this later). Both vehicles and more will be at the Toyota booth at the SEMA Show, going on right now in Las Vegas.

Additional Images:

Images courtesy of Toyota.

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