Slee Off-Road Land Cruiser Bumper Review

Dec. 11, 2012 By Jaime Hernandez
Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series equipped with Slee Off-Road ShortBus Bumper. On display at Lucas Oil Off-Road Expo in Pomona, CA.

As you spend more time on the trail venturing into tighter and more difficult terrain, chances are good you will eventually kiss a rock or ledge. Even the best drivers can only push their off-road rig so far before something hits. Dodging damage over the last two years, our stock bumper finally fell victim to the terrain and driver error. We had managed to get away with only rock rash and dirt scuffs until this point. This time it was deeper.

The plastic corner quickly caved in, then the bumper brackets gave way—leading to slight body damage. We were able to straighten out the bumper so it wasn’t shoved into the grill and fender, just enough to get us by the rest of the trip.

It was a bittersweet moment, but it made getting a new off-road bumper that much easier. As soon as we got back home and had approval from the lady boss—a new off-road bumper was ordered. We put a call into Slee Off-Road and had a bumper built and shipped to San Diego within two weeks.

Wheelin’ our 80 Series on Poughkeepsie Gulch in Colorado. Damage to bumper is clearly visible on driver side.

Over the last few years of owning our 80 Series Land Cruiser, we’ve looked at pretty much every off-road bumper available in the US market. Price has kept us from making the jump, as high-quality ones tip the $1k mark with shipping. If you haven’t figured it out already, Land Cruiser parts aren’t cheap. That said, we are enjoying our Bruiser too much to stop building it.

The best off-road front bumper we could find that had a balance between function and design was the ShortBus bumper from Slee Off-Road (Part #: SOF1080). The ShortBus fits 1991-1997 80 Series Land Cruiser and Lexus LX450. This is not your ordinary bumper, as it comes from a stable of the best Land Cruisers in North America and also has the trail creed to back it up. Having roots from the original Slee ShortBus truck used in the Ultimate Challenge, it has been been put to the test on some of the hardest trails including the Rubicon, Moab and several in Colorado.
The Slee ShortBus during the Peterson’s 4Wheel & Off-Road Ultimate Adventure (Photo Courtesy of Slee Off-Road).

Slee took the original ShortBus design, improved on it and now offers it as a production bumper. The idea behind the design was to have a lightweight bumper with excellent approach angles, can accommodate a winch yet be super strong.

The bumper is formed out of 3/16" steel with 3/8" plate used for the integrated frame mounts/recover point brackets. Slee uses 1.75" and 1.5" DOM tubing for the tubular protection. The bumper weighs in at just under 90 lbs. without a winch, making it one of the lightest available for the 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

Besides being hand built with quality craftsmanship, the Slee Off-Road ShortBus has some unique features, like two recovery points that transfer load directly to the frame rails, two sets of light tabs, and front place designed for Hawse Fairlead or roller. 

The Slee Off-Road Bumper is MIG welded, bead blasted, then phosphate washed and powder coated black using a two-step primer and topcoat process.

We had our Slee Off-Road ShortBus bumper shipped from Colorado to Off Road Warehouse (ORW) in San Diego, Calif., where the installation would take place. ORW continues to provide quality work and the expertise needed to make sure the job gets done right the first time.

The following is an overview of installation for the Slee Off-Road ShortBus Bumper on our Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series.

First things first, remove the factory bumper to make room for the new Slee.

There are two brackets that also act as frame end caps that will need to be removed, as these are not needed with the Slee bumper. Makes sure the threads for mounting holes are clean. If needed use a 12mm x 1.25 tap to clean the top and bottom bolts and a 10mm x 1.25 tap for the side bolts.

The winch is optional, but if it is being installed, it will need to be bolted down to the bumper before sliding onto the frame. The winch is installed with the feet down. Two bolt holes are under the front lip of the bumper, and two are under the mounting plate inside the bumper. Torque bolts to winch manufacturers spec.

Slee Off-Road now offers a billet hawse fairlead for those running a synthetic winch line.

Doug and Jason then slid the bumper over the frame rails and aligned the holes. Install all bolts before tightening. The bumper uses six JH 8.8 metric bolts and attaches to frame at 12 spots for an extra strong fit. 

The hardest bolts to reach will be the top 12mm rear ones, as they are set behind the grill. After trying different angles, Doug had some luck using a really long extension and socket knuckle joint from behind the core support.

Once everything was aligned and bolted, Doug proceeded to tighten all six bolts to the frame. Slee recommends each bolt be torqued to the spec in the following order: Bottom 12mm bolts – 100 ft-lb Top 12mm bolts – 100 ft-lb, Side 10mm bolts – 60 ft-lb.

The last step is to finish wiring the winch if one has been added, and the same goes for off-road lights. Aside from that, you're ready to hit the trails with confidence.

The Slee Off-Road Bumper equipped with Superwinch Tiger Shark recovery winch and LightForce 170 Striker off-road lights.

Fitment of the Slee Off-Road ShortBus bumper was dead on. We had no issues with holes or bolts lining up. Since the bumper is tucked so close to the body, we did have to re-locate the winch solenoid box on our Superwinch. Jason and Doug at ORW were able to quickly fabricate a bracket that was attached to one of the light tabs already on the ShortBus bumper. We’ll follow up with an in-depth Superwinch Tiger Shark review in the near future.

The bumper really compliments the lines of the 80 Series, and it just plain looks awesome! It gives the Land Cruiser a more aggressive stance and increases the approach angle dramatically over the stock bumper.

We’re enjoying our new Slee bumper and are getting a lot of compliments and thumbs up on the road. The confidence on the trail is also much better knowing that we now have steel corners on this wide-body rig.

The only complaint, if any, is the fact that the AC dryer is now exposed with the new bumper. It’s not Slee’s design that is bad, it’s the US 80 Series spec design by manufacturer. For some reason Japanese models have the AC dryer inside the engine compartment, away from the bumper. In the US we got this funky set-up. For most people this will not be a problem, but if you find yourself hitting black diamond trails, relocating the AC dryer can be done. There are a few ways of going about this, but that’s another story.

Since the bumper and winch did add another 160 lbs. to the front, we decided to upgrade to Old Man Emu Heavy-Duty springs for more support. The OME 850 springs are rated to provide up to 250 lbs. of additional weight support up front, and the sprints actually give it a taller stance over the medium OME springs. We drove it a week before installing the winch with the heavies, and that was too bouncy. After adding the winch and bumper, the front settled nicely, and it drove straight down the road.

The Slee Off-Road ShortBus bumper can be used to lift the vehicle using a Hi-Lift Jack and a special Slee Jac-Kof recovery tool.

We’ve played around with the recovery points, just to see if they can in fact hold the weight of the vehicle. We were able to use the winch and also lift the front of the vehicle with no issues. The bumper did not come flying off the frame.

Overall we are really happy with our Slee Off-Road bumper. We held out for what is the best and are extremely satisfied we did. If you own an 80 Series or LX450, this is the one. Slee Off-Road also has some nice applications for the 100 and 200 Series Land Cruiser.

Slee Off-Road
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