July 07, 2020 By Francis G. Pallarco Photos: Randy Silva Netto

Tuner: Classic Appeal

A BJ-40 blessed with modern mods

One of Toyota’s bestselling vehicles of all time, its popularity is undeniably massive. So much in fact, that I’m pretty sure most of you probably know someone who owns one, used to, or those that are still yearning for one. I mean, who wouldn’t want to own an iconic four wheel drive vehicle that’s still up to the task of hauling ass on any off road trail. A huge chunk of its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it embodies what a four wheel drive should be and have which really matters most. Stout credentials such as, short wheelbase, robust chassis, a seemingly indestructible suspension with solid differentials, manual locking hubs and a hardworking gasoline (F-Type) or Diesel (B-Type) engine sums up what a 40-Series Land Cruiser is all about. In fact, Toyota churned out a number of J40-Series for decades without any significant changes is a testament to its timeless design coupled with simple yet effective mechanicals. A huge fan base of dedicated enthusiasts along with a worldwide network of aftermarket parts companies explains its longevity. Something that in the process has made it a perfect candidate for restoration or resto-mod builds. Sort of like a universal tuner platform, but entirely for off road use.

So it comes as no surprise when Sammy Liuson of the Wheel gallery who’s successfully modded several late model FJ Cruisers took interest in a classic 40-Series as soon as he found one and immediately saw its potential as he recalls, “The build came about when I saw this particular classic Land Cruiser for sale and it appealed to me because it was very basic and retro. Whenever I see a vehicle like that, it’s almost like a blank canvas.” What he refers to as a blank canvas in particular is a BJ40 Land Cruiser that had already received a recent resto-job. This was actually a good starting point as most of the work including the running gear were already repaired and in place. Not much of a fan of stock vehicles closely adhering to his mantra that “Stock vehicles don’t rock” Sammy focused his attention on the exterior. Together with the help of his friend Jaykee Evangelista of Rocketpunch Graphics they conceptualized on a modern and eye catching exterior as Sammy explains, “I told him what I had in mind and he gave me some different ideas. When I had decided on the final design, we sent the vehicle to CKT in San Juan to execute the paint job.” The end result is a unique take on bringing color to select key exterior panels coupled with the contrasting gray exterior which projects an urban yet strong outdoorsy vibe.


After going over the entire mechanicals of the Land Cruiser including the 3.0-liter diesel engine, Olson Camacho of Project O Automotive Parts & Services fabricated a custom 2-inch suspension lift including custom leaf spring shackles that allow more articulation and flex to go over rough terrain. The stock oil filled shocks were ditched and upgraded with Bilstein 5125-Series gas-filled shocks designed for custom lifted applications and large diameter tires. In this case 33-inch Nitto Ridge Grappler tires featuring the latest Grappler tread design that fuses both traits of an all-terrain and a mud-terrain tire. Don’t let the intimidating tread pattern get you thinking about road noise as Nitto tires are known and proven for bringing a quiet and comfortable ride. For the wheels, the military inspired Armory from Black Rhino wheels in gun black finish really sets the overall tone and feel of this build. Details count no matter how small, most especially when viewed as a whole that truly make up a build such as this. Stuff like the ComeUp winch up front, the PIAA fog lamps, and Sammy’s Concept One Seats, Black Rhino wheels and Nitto tires complete the exterior looks that’s very much functional like the entire vehicle.

By now you’ve probably come to realize that it doesn’t take much to modernize a classic four wheel drive Land Cruiser. It’s wonderfully simple yet it has everything vital to go off road. So it comes as no surprise that it’s commonly associated with words such as tough, adventure, reliable, indestructible, workhorse and so on. Downsides you ask? Well, this one’s built for the rough outdoors so there’s a basic diesel engine, no air conditioning, no ABS nor airbags. But then again, a classic Land Cruiser isn’t all about that.


Toyota Land Cruiser BJ40

Mr. Sammy Liuson



Toyota B-Series

Engine Type

3.0-Liter, Inline-4, Diesel,

Suspension Mods

Bilstein (5125-Series) Shock Absorbers, Custom leaf spring shackles, Custom (2-inch) Suspension Lift,


Black Rhino Wheels Armory (20×9) Nitto Ridge Grappler Tires (33×12.50R20LT)

Interior Mods

Concept One Bucket Seats, Safety Harnesses, Restored Gauge Cluster,

Exterior Mods

Rocketpunch Graphics design, CKT Painting, JAOS Mud Flaps, Custom “Bikini Top” Roof Cover, PIAA Fog Lamps, ComeUp Winch,

Mechanical & Suspension Work

Olson Camacho of Project O Motorworks

Land Cruiser Factoids

The “Land Cruiser” name was conceived in 1954 by Toyota technical director Hanji Umehara.

The “F” refers to the Type F inline-six engine while the “B” refers to the Type B Diesel engine

The J stands for jeep.

The “40” refers to the displacement of the inline-six engine

It was available either as hardtop, soft top, station wagon or pickup form

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