September 08, 2020 By Francis G. Pallarco Photos: Joey Yepez

Tuner: Back 2 Back

Having won Best FJ twice says a lot about this modded FJ Cruiser

Twice. That’s how many times this FJ Cruiser has won the title of Best FJ in the competitive Manila Auto Salon and Sport Truck Show. A feat which says which says a lot about the mods and its overall build quality. It’s not just all about putting together a suspension lift kit and some wheels either. The owners planned and took the time to address every aspect of the FJ. As proof, wherever one looks, there’s bound to be something interesting and not stock. It may look like it needs nothing, but according to Russel Ong, “For us, we can’t say that it is a complete build, because setting up or modifying a vehicle is a never-ending process. Aftermarket companies continue to release new products every now and then. So for us, the most important factor is to consider what suits your style and taste. After all, modifying a vehicle is an expression of oneself.”

Let’s start with the FJ’s engine and the mods they did to get more performance. Enabling it to breathe better and get cooler air into the engine, a TRD cold air intake kit replaces the original unit. For the exhaust, a pair of JBA “Shorty” headers was used coupled with a cat-back TRD full exhaust. This collectively replaced the restrictive factory exhaust system for a more free flowing exhaust that’s not obnoxiously loud.

Up front, an Opposite Lock (OL) non-loop, front bumper provides ultimate protection and a solid mounting point for the winch, tow strap rings, and auxiliary lighting. Underneath, the FJ also has ARB Under Vehicle Protection Panels (UVP). Don’t forget the requisite Bushwacker flares as well that make up most of its body armor. As far as lighting goes, this FJ shows how to properly add lighting upgrades. A CREE LED light bar sits above the roof while a pair of LED fog lamps sits on the front bumper. All the factory lighting has been upgraded with Brightstar LED bulbs.

When it comes to choosing aftermarket suspension systems, Russel has a few pointers, Coil springs – “Make sure to get the correct coil rating as it varies from light load to heavy load. Be specific about the coil ratings to avoid getting a stiff ride quality.” Shock absorbers – “Make sure the shock absorber is not too short or too long as will greatly affect the play of the suspension.” Leaf springs – “Make sure to choose the correct rating of leaf springs as these also vary from light load to heavy-duty load.”

In this case, this custom FJ relies on Dobinson’s MRR struts with a remote reservoir coupled with Dobinson’s coil springs that can take on the toughest terrain with excellent on road characteristics. To get the suspension geometry correct, it was fitted with upper A-arms from Hardrace. A Dobinson’s Panhard bar also allows the differential to be centered correctly due to the suspension lift.

With the added weight and the larger diameter wheel/tire, the brakes needed upgrading. Peering in-between the spokes of the TE-37 wheels is a Maxspeed big brake kit with a 6-piston caliper and large diameter cross-drilled rotor discs. To get maximum traction, Nitto Trail Grappler Mud Terrain tires are used with aggressive tread blocks and dual sidewall design. Unlike other mud terrain tires, these are designed to be quiet on paved roads.

The interior is highlighted by a pair of Recaro SR-7 seats for better driver comfort and support. Apart for the carbon fiber sport steering wheel, this FJ also houses a complete audio system upgrade with Focal speakers, Rockford Fosgate amplifiers and a Pioneer head unit. Overall, this one nicely built FJ Cruiser with more than enough aftermarket upgrades and lots of attention to detail. Something that explains why it has won twice and perfectly sums up this show n’ go off-road build.


2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Richmond and Russell Mike Ong


TRD cold air intake, TRD full exhaust, TRD oil & radiator cap, Password JDM battery tie down, Cusco strut bar & Cooling Plate, JBA Shorty Headers, Nitro re-gear set,


Dobinsons MRR shock absorbers, Dobinsons coil springs Dobinsons differential drop kit and Dobinsons Panhard Ba

Brake Mods:

Maxspeed Performance BBK (front) 6 pot calipers 356mm rotors, Maxspeed Performance BBK (rear) 4 pot calipers 330mm rotors,


Volk Racing TE37 Wheels 18″ 5 pcs (sticker decals rare), Nitto Trail Grappler Tires 34″ 5 pcs, Maxspeed Hubcentric

Interior Mods:

Recaro SR7-F sport seats & railings, JDM shift knob, Pioneer AVH 8750, Focal separates, Rockford Fosgate amplifiers, Focal 8″ enclose subwoofers, Weathertech floor mats, Luz LED emission dome lights, Toyota A-trac switch Carbon fiber sport steering wheel, Toyota OEM rear cargo tra

Exterior Mods:

Dobinsons 12,000 lbs winch, Opposite Lock OL non-loop front bumper, Toyota trail team rock rails, Rear bumper with swing out, FJ OEM door moldings, ARB roof rack, JAOS mud flaps, Buschwacker flares, Stubby short antenna, FJ Cruiser OEM tow hitch receiver, Trail team taillights, Hood cowl light bracket, Toyota 4wheel drive emblem, TRD front badge, Gas tank cover with lock (USA), Brighstar LED hi/low 40 watts (headlamp), Brightstar LED fog lights, 42″ CREE light bar and square lights 2 pcs, Toyota OEM door hinge protector, 2 pcs 10″ 225 each watts round fog lights, Toyota OEM foglight switch, Toyota OEM trail team edition black door handles, TRD door stabilizers, ARB UVP (under vehicle protection panels), JAOS rear spoiler, PIAA Horns,

Kudos To:

Dr. G’s car clinic (Mr. Gp Gamilla), Jc Car Audio (Mr. Jc Cristobal) Class A Motorcraft (Mr. Robert Ong), Autojunction performance (Mr. Ted Ong) Big and Small prints (Mr. Dexter Tang), Xteam detailing

Car Show Awards:

2014 Manila Auto Salon 2nd Place Best FJ Cruiser 2015 Manila Auto Salon 1st Place Best FJ Cruiser 2016 Manila Auto Salon 1st Place Best FJ Cruiser

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