Birth of an Icon

Overlander 4WD 9/07

Want a brand new FJ40?
California’s TLC can do it for you with its Icon.

Think of iconic American vehicles and our mind swings toward the classic muscle cars. Shelby Mustangs and Corbars, Hemi Mopars, Camaros, Corvettes and GTOs. All the stuff of legend. Checkout the website for North Carolina’s Trent Performance and you’ll see some of these collectibles all available at prices many times the original sticker price. The surprise among these big block muscle cars it the number of stock looking FJ40 Land Cruisers with equally huge price tags.
In the USA, the humble FJ40 has also gained iconic status and in original condition is a much sought after vehicle. So much so that Van Nuys, California company TLC Inc, does a good trade in restoring and dealing in classic Cruisers.
Business at TLC became so good that company director Jonathan Ward soon faced a problem. Like many old classics, parts for FJ40 Land Cruisers – body parts in particular – were becoming harder to find. And with rarity comes expense. So Jonathan set about creating his own FJ40.
“Back in 2000 Toyota come to us at TLC to design the first prototypes for what would become their FJ Cruiser,” says Ward. “When I saw the direction Toyota was heading with the cool FJ Cruiser it kind of begged the question of me: if I were to revisit the classic FJ myself, how would I do it?”
For Jonathan and many of his customers, the key attributes of the original FJ were its aesthetics and simplicity and he wanted to keep these factors in any recreation of it. Hence the reason the TLC Icon bears such a resemblance to the classic Toyota. But while many people love the look of the classic FJ, they wouldn’t appreciate the archaic driving experience.
TLC effectively recycles original vehicles, retaining only what is salvageable (only the original frame rails and tags are saved for an Icon) and recreates the rest using modern components. Many retro items like the original wing mirrors are refurbished and refitted on an Icon or Land Cruiser restoration.
Some of the modern components used in the Icon’s drive train include a choice of fuel injected Chevy small block V8 engines or an International 2.8L turbodiesel, NV4500 five speed gearbox, Atlas-II dual-stick transfer case offering 87:1 low ratio (optional 5:1 low range give 105:1 overall reduction), Dana 44 and 60 axle assemblies and power steering There’s an Australian connection too, with Old Man Emu shocks and ARB Dakar leaf springs used and ARB Air-Lockers and compressors available on the options list. The front bumper is also from ARB while the rear is a Kaymar unit.
“The Australian aftermarket 4x4 products have long been valued as some of the best in the world because the design and utility values are all tested and used in the bush,” Jonathan Ward explains. “TLC has been using ARB and Kaymar products for many years in our work and nothing else comes close in product quality and design”.