Landcruiser 70 series Rust-o-Mod: "OLBETSY ZX"

After years of wanting one of these, I finally found one locally, that was imported to Canada 14 years or so ago. The seller bought it from the original importers, friends of his, 5 years ago. He was in the process of restoring it when I convinced him to sell it to me. Had he completed it, it would’ve been out of my price range.

It is a 1991 JDM-only Landcruiser HZJ77 with 1HZ in-line six cylinder 4.2L diesel and 5 speed manual trans. This 4door wagon came on front and rear leaf springs, solid front and rear axles and disc brakes all around. It is a 24v electrical system using two batteries in series.

This is the ZX trim, and so came equipped with sunroof, power windows, and A/C. The factory PTO winch option was also fitted, along with fender flares. These are currently sitting in the boot, for reasons which I’ll come back to.


So what did I get?

Interior needs a cleaning and tidy up, but is complete, aside from a broken speedo needle and some wear on the driver’s seat.

Exterior has clear coat peel on all horizontal surfaces. It also has rust through on rear quarters and front fenders, hidden for years by the factory flares. Door bottoms, rockers and floor are solid.

Exhaust has some pinholes. Radiator needs a closer look. Condenser may need replacing. Windshield is FUBAR.

To get one, even in this condition, was SPENDY. Being used to the relative bargain that is the Mitsu 4WD, this took some soul searching. Incidentally, this is the first non-mitsu EVER to sport the OLBETSY tag, which has been worn proudly on 5 different Mitsubishi Pajeros/Montero/Pickups in the last 14 years.


What came with it?

A Kenwood double DIN is in the dash, and factory cassette deck is in the back in a box. An older 24->12v converter sits on the floor, condition unknown. Additionally, it has a complete Old Man Emu suspension, including lift springs, and Nitrocharger shocks. It is currently riding on 33x12.50s on factory 15 inch wheels. The PTO winch and bumper is sitting in the back.

I got it with 239,000kms.

Perhaps the most redeeming quality of this old rig’s condition is what you can’t see at first glance: the chassis, indeed the whole underside, has been media blasted, and coated with POR15.


The seller is a meticulous restorer, and intends to make a business from his passion of restoring classic 'Cruisers. I just happened upon him at the right time, and made a sufficient impression that he was willing to let the truck go “early”, so to speak. His application of POR15 was extremely thorough.


This gets me up to date, and the truck into the garage. The day I picked it up, winter weather came suddenly, and we’ve gotten snow every day in the last week, with colder than seasonal temps. So my progress has been limited. Which is okay - this project is a long termer, not a quick fix.

From this point forward, I’ll be moving back and forth between the interior and the exterior, depending on the weather, and what I’m in the mood to work on. It really looks like a POS right now with the flares and mudflaps off, and the rusty bits exposed. But the bones are good. So that’ll have to do for now. My daily driver is shiny, if that’s important? :innocent:

So at this point I can take this truck in two directions:
A. Do a “proper” restoration of this truck, which will take a while, cost a pile and increase it’s value exponentially?
B. Get it back to solid, learn some bodywork techniques in the process, then take it out on some adventures and not worry about the occasional scar?

I’ve been down this road with the pajevo, which I enjoyed immensely, but which ultimately felt like too much of a liability to use the way I should have. Parts for this one though, while not pick-your-part ubiquitous, are none the less still available if you know where to look. So purists be damned, I’m taking option B. I’ll make it look nice, and eventually would love to paint it T87 mitsu blue, but this one will not be another museum piece.

Meanwhile, here’s the front fender close up: “warts and all” as they say…

I WILL be buying new lower fenders obviously. That’s a given.


I concur on Option B. Nice thing about this one is, if mint condition would mean big, stupid money, keeping the mechanicals in top shape will preserve a lot of your investment over time.

My old neighbor here in Phoenix had a J40 soft top when he moved here in 1983. It failed emissions immediately and he parked it in the garage. (Had Starion front seats, by the way.) He said he used to start it and take it around the block a couple times a year, but then just let it sit.

I never saw it outside in the 10 years he lived next door until the day he listed it for sale. He offered it to me for $10k, good neighbor discount. I couldn’t do it, and it left on a trailer for $15k less than an hour after he put it on Craigslist.

So, you know, mechanically sound, well loved FJs hold their value.


Option B all the way!

Drilled out the rivets on the flare hangers. Looks 1% better maybe?

I also swapped out the wheels. This came on 33x1250s fitted to the factory 15x7s. Not a great combo clearly. Way too much differential in widths between the wheel and tire. So I thought I’d try the wheels and tires from the Prado…

Interestingly, they were taller at 275/75R17 than the 33x1250s were. And narrower too. We’ll see. These wheels came with the other truck. Wasn’t a big fan of them then. Maybe under this truck they’ll grow on me?


OMG. Those wheels are MUCH better. Wow. I love it!


The bumper is on. I absolutely HATE it. It’s awful. If I hadn’t already blown my whole pile (and then some) on the truck itself, I’d have an ARB on order. The “front porch” as its known, is way off the front. So far that if I parked on the border, the end of the bumper would probably be somewhere in southern Montana.

Yes, it has a PTO on it. Uber rare and uber cool. But WTF Toyota. Did you have to make it look like such a friggin… Chrome Underbite? OMG!

So I may just have to run it with NO bumper for a while. I dunno…

Along with the outside, I’ve also been working on the inside. In here its a matter of tidying and refreshing. Othewise its pretty nice inside. But it can always be improved, right? I pulled the dash apart to fix the speedo needle that had been broken for years and was lost in the bottom of the cluster.


While I was in there… the hvac foam was looking like it was 29 years old. Which of course it is. So I peeled off the remnants, and replaced it with brand new foam. Much better…

Currently I’m sorting out some wiring for a new head unit. There was a kenwood deck in there, along with the factory cassette deck in a box.

I wasn’t super satisfied with the way it was installed anyways. So first order of business is to buy a reverse factory harness, so that one can plug in an adapter without hacking the factory wiring again next time. Here’s what I’ve got to work with…

The fact that the truck is 24 volts makes one very careful when installing new electronics…

I do like modern in that department, so a while ago, in anticipation, I went out and got a nice Sony Android Auto double DIN when it was on sale. Very similar to the one in the Prado. It’ll be going in soon… I have some soldering to do first.


Pros and cons of 24V?

And can we get a profile of the chrome underbite? Maybe we’ll all love it and convince you to take the easy route of keeping it. Then again, park it at the border and let me know. I’ll see if I can spot it from my place.

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A large diesel starts up fast. SUPER fast. Like half a turn fast. Think about starting it, and its already going.

24 volts EVERYTHING. ALternator. Starter. HVAC system.

Headlights (all bulbs actually). And while this all sounds super inconvenient every time you stop by the nearest road king and get in line with the Peterbilts and Kenworths, its really not a big deal anymore. Much of the LED world is compatible with 12-24volts. Not to mention 12v fridges are mostly 12/24 volt fridges, and run more efficiently on 24v.

Dual batteries are in series. So that means replace both at same time otherwise one drags the other down. Can’t run a fridge off one, start with the other. And jump starting isn’t nearly as easy. Possibly dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

12V accessories? Yeah. You need a voltage reducer. 24>12v buck converter. All the cool landcruiser kids run em. They usually even come from Japan with em.

The power feed for my stereo is showing 14.6v or so, so I’m pretty sure there’s a doodad behind the dash that gives a little low down for the musical showdown?

12v winch? Nope. 12v foglights? Nope? Lightbars? Nope, but because they are uncool on something this cool, LOL.

UNTIL you see the bumper in profile. Def un cooler.


Brings back memories of the 2-door HEMA Prado I built with Chris Cordes. It was a real nice wrap job, but underneath the vinyl hid many an adventure much like what you’re going through. It too had the chrome underbite and 24 volts, though we ended up converting it to 12 volts and an ARB bull bar. Personally, I would have kept it 24v and dealt with the minimal extra hassle—there’s just so many benefits (including efficiency).

You might see me talk bad about Toyota elsewhere, but, those thoughts do not apply to the 70 Series. I absolutely frikin love old iron of just about any flavor…Toyota included. (They stole the axle design from Land Rover by the way… :sunglasses:)


The way it starts all by itself is reason enough to put up with the idiosyncrasies.

Today’s progress was all about lights…

I put an LED maplight in the roof that is brighter than anything that came from the factory - it was rated 12-24v. The old one was done for anyways, so upgrade time! (The lunette style goes in the two roof dome lights - they should be here Monday, in LED configuration.)

One headlight was cracked but worked. The other was intact but the bulb was done. But it came with replacement lights and bulbs, so new IPFs are now good to go!

Brake lights didn’t work. Tracked it down to a blown fuse. Then tracked further to a short circuit that was tied to a third brake light someone had added, with a wire following the loom going through the back door. So I removed the add on, and the wires. Now have brake lights!


Oh, I forgot yesterday’s addition! ANDROID AUTO!
Similar to what I put in the prado, the Sony XAV-AX3000 is a 7" double din (mechless) with AA/Carplay, wired.

But before I could put it in, I HAD to do something with the wires. Someone in the last 29 years had cut the factory harness off, and grafted the aftermarket stereo harness right onto it. Obviously that couldn’t stand. So I did some cleaning up, soldered in a reverse plug set, and she was back to factory fresh.

Then I took a proper Toyota factory adapter and soldered it to the Sony harness. Now if the stereo ever needs to be removed, what’s left behind is exactly what was there in the first place. Here is how it sits…

Its my one concession to modernity. Does this make the truck officially a resto mod? Probably not. More like a RUST-O-Mod. Oh! I think I just came up with a catchy new build thread re-title! :rofl:


Aw, man. I just remembered I was -this close- to replying to the very first post in this thread with ANDROID AUTO IN 3, 2, 1… but I got distracted and forgot.



So the wheel swap experiment was a bust. Turning the wheel all the way is pretty important, and the offset on the AR wheels was way too positive (which means inboard relative to the mounting surface). So I had to switch back. Which was great, since I had just done winter tire swaps on my daily, my wife’s 100, and my father in law’s car. Groan…

Anyways, my second front fender should be here anytime now (coming via courier). The factory toyota fenders appear to have a light primer on them, if that, so I’ll need to coat the insides before I install them. Meanwhile, I swapped my platform rack over from my 90, since it is my daily, and this 70 will be the adventure rig once it’s ready… (required mitsu content LOL)

Yes, it is super close, but this rack won’t be seeing any real weight, so flex and vibes aren’t a worry. I may shim it up a little anyways, just in case? I’m planning on using it for solar panels, an awning mounted off the side, and some max trax.

At this level, it just clears my 7 foot garage door.

This is one of the few drives she’s seen so far, and the clutch pedal felt a little low to the floor. There was also what felt like too much freeplay before actual engagement, so I had AJ help bleed the slave cylinder, and then I adjusted the pedal stroke and height when I got home, to get it closer to factory specs. Haven’t tried it since, but garage shifting feels much better.

And it was a good chance to do some maintenance. Clutch fluid was nasty nasty… that is not soya sauce in the bottle! We sucked most of it out with a pump before pedal pumping the rest through until it was virtually clear. Much better.

Better pedal height too…


I love progress. I hate curve balls. Sorry to hear your wheels aren’t ideal. :frowning:

Next time you’re hanging with @8jvega remind that fool we’d love to see what he’s up to 'round these parts. I mean, is that a freaking LEGNUM I’m seeing there next to a glorious, white Delica? C’mon, man! We gotta see what’s up with those (and the Gen 1 that will never die, of course)!

PS: Any way I can score a Mitsu-Maple for Fezzik? It’s probably the one decal I miss from Rocinante.


I’m completely out of those and no idea where to source more. Booo

What a great looking rig, these are becoming extremely hard to find in Japan in good shape like yours. I’m glad to see you are fixing it up, best of luck with the wheels next time around.


HEY! You just made my freaking day, dude. Thank you for joining us.

My day has been a stack of meetings, but I was going to reply to your last email suggesting you check out Phil’s column, JDM Journeys. Like you, Phil’s been importing his daily drivers from Japan for a few years. Methinks you two will get along just fine. :slight_smile: