Honor Thy Patina: Subtle Spring & Shock Job for a 1972 Toyota FJ40

How not to ruin a lifetime of 4x4 soul with silly, overbearing mods

Oct. 20, 2017 By Justin Fort

You don't modify things if you're not seeking a change in function. However, some modifications need to be less - less conspicuous, less invasive, less complicated - because there are times when the changes you want are simple, subtle, and shouldn't interfere with more important factors. In the case of this ancient FJ40, its well-preserved originality - both equipment and appearance - might be the linchpin of its value. Alter its aged determination and a patina that only Father Time could impart (or how it drives) and you undermine that value.

So. If it would be a four-wheelin' sin to restore this old-paint Arizona-original Toyota FJ40, to erase its patina and the fine Toyota-grade aging that's a huge element of the truck's appeal, what do you do when parts wear out? If this old FJ, so perfectly worn, was going to continue tromping around the western sands in all its faded glory, its springs and shocks needed to be replaced. Could it be done subtly? Why not R&R them with improved replacements (plus the matching bushings and fittings), and net a subtle, functional improvement in ride-height while honoring this old truck's vintage functionality?

Read More on Off-Road.com: Test Your Off-Road Knowledge: Name That Toyota Land Cruiser

To use the factory mounting points and installation methods (and in turn, preserve the idiosyncrasies of driving a 1972 FJ40 off-road - ahem, wheelies), the replacement suspension needed to be an honest bolt-in: no fabrication allowed. OME (Old Man Emu, now a property of ARB, if you were not aware) has been retailing this sort of suspension for decades - heavy-load and heavy-duty replacement components designed for the outback/expedition/adventure set. OME has an off-the-shelf leaf and shock package for the FJ40 with a mild lift (necessary - the old girl's rear had sagged) and improved damping, as well as a replacement steering damper and Zerked "greaseable" spring shackles. Simple, subtle, and not silly - perfect. A representative of Off-Road Warehouse in El Cajon (where it was installed) was overheard saying, "The OME kits are simple bolt-in replacements. They're fun to put in because even the challenges are simple."

Follow the install in photos:

One of those FJ40 idiosyncrasies: the full frame is so small (in comparison to modern trucks) that an FJ40 can be a little tipsy on a full-size frame rack. ORW used screw stands under the front and rear bumpers along with the four-points of the rack to keep things still.

Some old-truck charm for you: 30 years ago, when the muffler brackets failed somewhere between Point A and Point W, bailing wire was used to reconnect the collars. 30 years later...

The old spring-to-body bushings.
Very little rubber was left in the original spring-to-body bushings. The OME replacement shackles are shamelessly beefy (and zinc-coated), and the through-bolts can be injected with grease to keep the poly bushings moving (though we would have requested they were black). ORW recommends Swepco Moly 101 for these.
The original leaf shackles on this FJ40 were heavily pitted, which allowed corrosion to set in (and further the death of the OE rubber). These should be removed when they get to this point, then put on a shelf to be fondled admiringly.

Some blessings carry a curse. Greaseable shackles are a good idea, but these had manufacturing issues. The holes milled in the shackle plates were not aligned (which ORW solved with an eyecrometer), and the threaded receivers for the Zerks were not tapered (so be careful not to over tighten the Zerks, and even if you get 'em tight, their threads might bleed).

You're going to reuse some factory fasteners, such as the original through-bolt and hardware for the front shock (but not the cotter pin - duhh). ORW mechanics complimented OME for their shock-rod shrouds, which they said were of better quality than many competitors.

OME’s greasable through-bolts were also provided for the leaf-to-frame mounts. That there was any part of the original leaf bushing left at the frame or shackles is a testament to the quality of the original materials used by Toyota when building these FJs.

The factory (and probably original) retainer bolts for the pin plates are too long for the OME plates, and should be shortened or replaced to fit properly. None were included in the OME kit. The leafs and bushings were a tight fit at the frame, and required some leverage to align.

Old Toyotas have lots of Zerk fittings – we counted seven in the steering linkage alone. These wagons were built to last, and meant to be field-serviceable: don't worry about replacing things, just grease 'em up and fish on. THIS is why new truck parts don't last (and why throwaway parts are losing their luster): no Zerks.

Speaking of old trucks, when you're working on an old Toyota, bring your old tools. 45-year-old FJ, say Hello to a 100-year old pickle-fork.

Front and rear components are not interchangeable. OME leaf springs had the same number of leafs as the original in the rear, but one more in the front. Thickness and architecture were different, but this had no effect on the OE-style installation. Arrows on the springs, however, did not necessarily point toward the front of the FJ... We decided it was because they were manufactured in Australia, which also appears to be upside-down on the map.

The result of all this? Behold.

Off-Road.com Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!