Old Man Emu FZJ80 Land Cruiser Suspension Review

Jun. 30, 2011 By Jaime Hernandez

In the Land Cruiser community, it’s a known fact that the 80 Series has a very plush factory ride. Sometimes it’s too plush, like when driving curvy mountain roads, towing or doing high-speed off-roading on dirt roads. The stock suspension can’t keep up with the whoops, and at times has excessive pitch and roll that makes it unpredictable.

In order to firm things up, aftermarket coil springs and shocks can be used to help gain control.

We set out to find a quality suspension kit that would not only give our Land Cruiser better on- and off-road handling, but would also give it a mild lift for overlanding. In our search we found that Old Man Emu (a.k.a. OME) is one of the more popular suspension setups for the 80 Series Land Cruiser because of its different spring options and high quality.

Many Toyota Land Cruiser owners swear by OME. Reputable companies like Man-A-Fre and Slee Off-Road that specialize in Toyota Land Cruiser also recommended it; so we decided to give it a shot.

Old Man Emu is made by ARB, best known for it’s differential air locker and off-road gear. ARB was started in Australia in the early ‘70s when founder Anthony Brown came up with the brilliant idea to manufacturer quality off-road products that could be used in the unforgiving Australian Outback.

An idea born in the Outback and fabricated in the family garage, and today ARB has grown into a respectable international off-road manufacturer and distributer that does business in over 100 countries worldwide.

Old Man Emu for 80 Series Land Cruisers
Our vision is to convert our 80 Series Land Cruiser into an all-purpose adventure overland 4WD. That said, we wanted to stay conservative on the height. Talking to the folks at Slee Off Road we learned that the medium OME springs would be our best bet. The front springs would give a 2.5” lift with the extra capacity of 110 lbs. (OME 851). In the rear, we would also get a 2.5” lift, with an extra capacity of 200 lbs. (OME 860). The added weight capacity will come in handy when we add a cargo drawer system and full-size tire carrier.

For those looking to add even more extra carrying capacity, Old Man Emu offers coil springs rated up to 700 lbs. Our Cruiser is still a daily driver, so we wanted to stay with a lower spring rate.
Old Man Emu designs a range of coil springs for each vehicle, enabling the installer to match the most appropriate springs to the intended application. While ride height increases are attained, emphasis is placed on ride control improvements.

Some of the features of Old Man Emu coil springs are:

• Springs are formed on precision mandrels
• Scragging before and after shot-peening to prevent sagging
• Constant and variable rate coils available for multiple applications
• Coil spring end configurations designed to exact specifications guaranteeing perfect fit to your vehicle
• Durable powder-coat finish

When choosing our shock absorbers, we found out Old Man Emu had a new line called Nitrocharger Sport. OME uses cutting-edge triple-stage valving that is claimed to be better than two-stage valving on a monotube shock. The monotube style main-piston valving improves transition and direction changes while the extra base valving provides more fine-tuning for comfort and control. So, the new OME Nitro Charger Sport feels like a monotube without the vulnerability (exposed shaft).

Nitro Charger Sport shocks from Old Man Emu are the latest addition, featuring some of the latest shock valving technology to achieve a whole new level of ride quality.

Some other added features are:

• Engineered for both on- road and off-road drivability
• Dramatically improved low- and high-speed control for increased comfort and control over all road surfaces
• Fully compatible with OME’s extensive line of springs, bushings and hardware for a complete integrated suspension system
• 3-year/35,000-mile warranty

One thing we learned while ordering our new suspension kit was that Old Man Emu does not market their suspension as a “lift kit,” per say. It’s an off-road performance suspension system designed with extra carrying capacity. The lift is just a by-product from the added spring rate. It’s a different concept than what we’re used to here in the U.S., but it makes sense if you’re building your vehicle for overlanding.

We ended up ordering the following parts:

• OME 851 Front Coil Springs (0 – 150lbs)
• OME 860 Rear Coil Springs (0 – 200lbs)
• 60018 Nitrocharger Sport Shocks (front)
• 60020 Nitrocharger Sport Shocks (rear)

Once we got our parts in hand, we were ready to start our Land Cruiser’s transformation.

It’s recommended that only one side be done at a time to keep the axle under control. It also helps to have the other side complete to use as a reference. To do the suspension job, we referenced our Haynes repair manual. It gives detailed step-by-step instructions on taking the front and rear suspension apart. Best $25 we ever spent.

The job can be done either at a shop using a lift or on a level concrete floor using tree shade mechanic tools. We took the DIY route to better understand our vehicle. It’s a straightforward modification: replace four coil springs and four shock absorbers—done.

The installation of Old Man Emu coil springs and shock absorbers can be done by DIY. All you need is a hydraulic jack, quality jack stands, metric sockets and wrenches and some patience.
We attacked the rear suspension first, as it seemed to be the easiest to do since there is no spring compressor needed. Just loosen the panhard bar and sway bar brackets and shocks, the axles will lower down enough to allow the coil springs to just slide out.
Side by side, there seems to be little difference in spring height and number of coils, but the OME 860 coil springs (left) are designed to hold up to 200 lbs. of extra weight capacity as a pair.
When putting in the new Old Man Emu springs, re-using the top rubber rings from the factory springs is recommended. In order to hold them in place while putting the new coil spring in we just used black electrical tape and it worked fine.

The rear Old Man Emu shock absorbers have a bottom eye bushing that needs to be pressed in. Using a vise to squeeze it in worked just fine.
The factory Toyota shock absorber is shown next to the new Old Man Emu Nitrocharger Sport shock absorber (yellow). The Old Man Emu shock is compressed with a wire band until it has been installed. Since it’s charged with nitrogen, it will expand as soon as that band is taken off  These shocks are specifically designed for our 80 Series Land Cruiser and the OME 860 rear coil springs.

Once the OME rear coil springs have been installed, and the panhard bar and sway bar have been fastened again, installing the shock absorbers is much easier. We put the tires back on while working on the shocks just for peace of mind. There is plenty of room under there to comfortably work on the rear shocks, especially if you take out the spare tire.

The front suspension swap is similar to the rear; only difference is that a coil compressor is used to remove the factory coil springs. You can either buy or rent a coil compressor to get the job done. Make sure the kit has two compressors, typically used on the outside of strut suspension.

When installing the new coil spring, having the shock absorber loosen from one end or completely removed works best. It allows the axle to get full droop, allowing more room for the coil spring to slide out.

The bottom nut on the stock was easily removed, but the top was a different story. The shock kept spinning, so having a buddy with big 16.5-inch Channel Lock pliers to hold it in place came in handy.

Using a wrench, work both sides evenly until the coil has collapsed enough to take it out. Carefully point it away from your body when removing, just in case the compressor fails and the spring shoots out. It can happen, we’ve witnessed it and it wasn’t pretty.

Here is a comparison of the factory coil spring and the new Old Man Emu 851 front spring (right). Again, not much difference in height or number of coils, but the Old Man Emu coil spring is rated for an additional 110 lbs. of capacity.

Old Man Emu front suspension, including new OME 851 medium coil springs and Nitrocharger Sport shock absorber.


So far, we really like the Old Man Emu suspension system. The Land Cruiser handles much better than stock and has great control on- and off-road. It doesn’t have a squishy feel anymore; it also doesn’t roll from side to side on curvy highways. It keeps constant control and predictability. Ultimately, it feels much safer.

We gained ground clearance, which also works better with our 285/75R16 all-terrain tires. The vehicle was lifted about 2.5 inches all around. It doesn’t sit perfectly level like most suspension kits found in the U.S., rather, the OME suspension keeps a rake with added height in the rear to help with suspension sag when carrying a load.

The Aussie suspension look takes some getting used to, but we are building this for purpose, not looks. The added height in the rear will come in handy down the road when we start adding overlanding accessories and gear.

The OME suspension has worked flawlessly. We really like the new Nitrocharger Sport shocks and their tuned valving. It matches up well with our springs and type of driving.

Off-Road, the added 2.5” height from our new OME suspension is great. We’ve also noticed more articulation as well.

So far we’ve put on over 1,500 miles of mixed on- and off-road driving with loads and no loads visiting places like Anza-Borrego Desert Park and the Eastern Sierras. The OME suspension adjusts beautifully to different driving conditions.

We traveled with about 300 pounds or gear, and had no issues bottoming out while traveling off-road. We’ll see if that changes once we add a drawer and full-size spare tire to the mix.

Overall, we feel more confident driving the vehicle on- and off-road than we did before. The OME springs and new Nitrocharger Sport Shocks are highly recommended for anyone looking to spruce up their 4x4 with a quality suspension that will improve handling and increase carrying capacity.


ARB – Old Man Emu Suspension

Slee Off Road


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