Nelson Calle grew up driving his grandfather’s FJ Land Cruiser in the Colombian Andes so his passion and knowledge of the FJ run very deep. What started as a passion project has grown into the FJ Company, where he and his crew work to restore these legendary vehicles into collectible works of art. Indeed, each FJ functions like a piece of personalized, polished sculpture: “We cater to people who want a spotless FJ, whether it goes in their living room or they want to go and drive the hell out of it.”
Though authentic, cruisers from The FJ Company aren’t strictly blasts-from-the-past; these retro-looking beasts remain faithful to the original but are upgraded with the high-performance and high-quality conveniences of modern day automobiles. They are restored collector’s items that you can go off-roading in, but they also represent an important slice of automotive history. “The Toyota Land Cruiser was the Japanese answer to the American Jeep and British Land Rover. They became much more popular because of their superior reliability, since they were built on the Japanese philosophy that machines should not break if they’re properly maintained. These cars were made to last forever.”
Each FJ is a beautifully restored version of the original, due in no small part to Calle’s clear mission: “We build them like they used to. We specialize in 100% full nut-and-bolt restorations – we’re not a repair shop and don’t do partial or half-restorations. No matter the combination of year, model or color, we always deliver a concourse-quality car. However, since most of our clients want to have fun in their FJ’s, we also offer many modern features to increase the comfort of the ride, such as a smoother suspension and power steering.”
If you take an inside look at the restoration process unique to each vehicle, you will see that it all begins with a curative eye for quality FJs. “Sometimes people come in with the cars that their parents or grandparents had. But more often we will hunt for a specific model on behalf of a client.” Thus, The FJ Company is constantly on the hunt for working cruisers. “Unless the client really wants a very old model, we like to look for cars that are still running. It makes the search more specific and more fruitful. We source most of our cars in South and Central America because that’s where we find cars that run regularly.”
The 1974 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43 profiled here was “a special order for a die-hard Land Cruiser fan from Abu Dhabi. The Land Cruiser is huge in the Middle East, as well as Asia, South America and parts of North America because it can handle higher temperatures and desert drives.”
After obtaining a classic Orange FJ43 for the client from Abu Dhabi, the client requested that the final delivery be done in Toyota original White – a request that The FJ Company happily delivered on, as it maintains the essence of the FJ given that it’s an authentic, period-correct color.
The first step in the restoration process is to fully disassemble the vehicle: body, engine and transmission. “The powertrain is overhauled to guarantee correct operation,” Calle explains, “and is given a cosmetic restoration so it looks the way it originally did. Then, the chassis is sandblasted and powder coated with a factory finish.” The FJ’s are rebuilt with as many original parts as possible—indeed, only FJ’s with their original engine and transmission are taken in. “Anything with a welded chassis isn’t acceptable; it’s a sign something bad happened to the car.”
Though this FJ43, like all the others restored by The FJ Company, is an almost perfect replica of its original version, Calle and his team added several integral upgrades. They gave it an original Toyota 4-speed transmission, front disc brakes and a top-of-the-line Old Man Emu suspension system. According to Calle, his team “usually puts in a 4 or 5-speed transmission so that it rides much better on the highway.”
After the powertrain and body are worked on by the crew, they turn their attention to the interior. This buyer asked that the FJ43 be given a tan leather interior, which, as Calle, says, “is a striking color combination.” Though retro, the car looks brand new—it’s as if you’re stepping back in time, but taking the best of modern convenience with you. This FJ43 was also fitted with an LED headlight upgrade and a new vinyl top that was hand sewn by the company’s crew of artisans. All hardware is zinc plated, a level of attention that’s given to every single piece of every FJ they produce.
While this FJ43 will soon be on its way to Abu Dhabi, Calle is happy to help all the FJ lovers out there find the car of their dreams.