Icon Vehicle Dynamics Land Cruiser 100 Series Stage 3 Shock Install

Nov. 15, 2016 By Josh Burns, Photos by Carlos Lozano and Josh Burns
Looking to take the performance of this 100 Series Land Cruiser to the next level, we turned to Icon Vehicle Dynamics for its Performance Shock System upgrade.

Off-road project builds are never easy, and sometimes itís not until you get into the build do you fully understand what you want Ė or better yet, what you need. That is the case with this 1999 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser, as the time had finally come to step up the shock performance of the LC.

This 100 Series is a daily driver and a consistent weekend trail rig. Quite a few upgrades have already been made to the suspension components, such as Old Man Emu suspension, Total Chaos upper control arms (UCA), Sway-A-Way torsion bars and Slee Off-Road heavy rear springs (upgraded from OME 863 medium springs after the addition of the rear bumper).

The Stage 3 Performance Shock System from Icon Vehicle Dynamics features a remote reservoir front shock that, when paired with an aftermarket upper control arm, can provide up to 3 inches of lift. Both the front and rear shocks in this system feature remote reservoirs with Iconís CDCV, or Compression Damping Control Valve, to fine-tine the suspension to one of 10 levels of compression damping force.

Now it was time to make the jump up to a high-performance shock setup, so we looked to Icon Vehicle Dynamics and its Stage 3 Performance Shock System for the 100 Series. The Stage 3 shock system consists of front and rear 2.5-inch diameter shock bodies, both of which feature remote reservoirs for additional shock damping and the ability to maintain fade-free performance under intense off-road use. The shocks can help provide up to 3 inches of lift, though the use of a uniball aftermarket UCA is required for the front shocks. The shocks are constructed with a lower spherical rod end bearing and feature a heavy-duty upper stem bushing for added durability.

Out with the old and in with the new. The Old Man Emu shocks served this 100 Series well, but the remote-reservoir Icon Stage 3 shocks will offer a much higher level of performance and additional suspension travel.

The shocks are tuned specifically to the 100 Series platform, but the key difference on the Stage 3 shocks is the addition of Iconís CDCV (or CDC Valve), which provides a simple way to adjust the shock from soft to firm in 10 different settings depending upon the terrain or intended use. The CDCV is controlled via an externally mounted dial on each of the shocks, so adjusting the firmness is as simple as twisting the CNC knob. No cutting or welding is required for the shocks, and the only additional step beyond securing the shocks in place is mounting the remote reservoir in the wheel wells.

The 100 Series already had a set of Total Chaos upper control arms on it, so no additional components are needed to upgrade to the Icon shocks. For those looking to increase ride height from stock and fully use the additional travel provided by the Icon shocks, a uniball UCA is required.

Since the Icon shocks are direct replacement parts and require no drilling for installation, other than for the reservoir mount, the installation is something the competent garage mechanic can tackle in the garage or driveway with the proper tools, jack and jack stands, in roughly half a day. These installations are something your local off-road shop does all day as well, so if you want the professional to tackle the job it shouldnít take them more than a few hours.

To get things started, we loosen the upper (left) and lower (right) shock mount locations on the outgoing shock. The Icon shocks are direct replacement parts, so no modifications to the shock mounts is required.

Hereís a comparison between the Icon and Old Man Emu shock. The Icon Stage 3 front shock provides additional travel along with a higher performance threshold thanks to its remote reservoir that helps replenish the oil in the shock itself to keep operating temperatures down for sustained performance when the going gets rough.

When installing the front shock, itís a good idea to keep the padded cover on the reservoir to avoid it getting banged up during installation.

The only minor modification needed is the drilling of a hole for the remote reservoir mount. We marked the location prior to drilling. Note: We initially were going to mount the remote reservoir for the front shocks horizontally on the frame, but we opted to instead mount the reservoir vertically (see the following photo).

Mounting the reservoir vertically keeps it higher off of the ground to prevent dings and nicks on the trail, and it still allows easy access to tweak the CDCV settings.

Moving to the rear, itís a similar process for replacement Ė remove the previous shock, install the new Icon unit and mount the reservoir.

Hereís a comparison between the OME and the new Icon Stage 3 shock. The 2.5-inch Icon shock features a CAD-plated shock body and 6061 aluminum components.

If youíre doing this job in the garage or at home in the driveway, one way to help compress the Icon shock and line it up for installation is to use a jack. Of course, make sure you have the vehicle properly and safely secured with jack stands!

This sleeve slides in place (left) prior to securing the base mount of the rear shock.

We marked the mounting location for the remote reservoir for the rear shock, but we noticed something at the same time Ė thereís no way we can drill a hole with the sliders in the way. Icon suggests installing the reservoir mount along the frame toward the rear of the vehicle to avoid hitting the sway bar in extreme flex situations.

It took a few extra minutes to pull the sliders, but we were happy we did because it made drilling our pilot hole simpler and mounting the reservoir far simpler.

We drill a small pilot hole for the remote reservoir mount.

After drilling our pilot hole we secured the reservoir mount in place. Itís best to leave a little slack on the mount so the band clamps can be slid into place.

Put both of the band clamps in place and leave them loose enough to accept the reservoir.

Once the reservoir is in place, tighten the band clamps.

Once the shocks were on the rig, the change in the feel of the Land Cruiser was immediate. In spite of all of the upgrades, added weight from the front and rear bumpers, sliders, and larger spare tire, with the Icon Stage 3 Performance Shocks the vehicle handles everything around town so smoothly it reminds us of how plush the ride was when it was in stock form. Getting out of town and onto the trail is where the Stage 3 Icon shocks truly shine. Every little bump or rock is far smoother in comparison to the OME nitrogen shocks. One of the biggest benefits, however, is the additional travel of the Icon shocks. In many instances the rear differential lock wasnít needed to gain traction on a challenging climb, because the extended travel of the shocks helped keep two wheels on the ground in most situations, even during extreme articulation.

The CDCV adjustment is truly this simple Ė just twist the dial to adjust the softness or stiffness of the damping force.

The CDCV valve is also makes tuning the shocks extremely simple. When loading up with gear for a day in the desert, the Land Cruiser was weight down so much the suspension felt just a little soft, but all it took was a quick stop to adjust the knobs for additional stiffness and the ride quality improved immediately. The simplicity of the CDCV system makes the move up to the Stage 3 system very worthwhile, and one of the best features of the shocks is they are fully rebuildable as well.

The 100 Series Land Cruiser fitted with new Icon suspension leads this pack of Jeeps on the trail. The performance benefit of the Stage 3 Icon shocks is noticed both on and off the road.

The Stage 3 Performance Shock System from Icon Vehicle Dynamics is a high-quality upgrade for this 100 Series rig, but Iconís suspension kits arenít only available for Toyotas, as they offer kits for just about about truck and SUV on the market. At $2,600, the Stage 3 System isnít exactly cheap, but the quality and performance benefits are definitely worth the extra coin.

Icon Vehicle Dynamics

9 New Off-Road Products from the 2016 SEMA Show

5 Great Toyota Off-Road SUVs

What is Overlanding?

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