Doug’s FJ40 STORY:
In 1970, three of the Muir brothers, Tony, Neville and Guy, started developing a 121-lot subdivision in Ngaio, Wellington. Tony initially owned a 1965 Land Rover and in 1968, he and Guy purchased two new Austin Gypsys. In 1976, the brothers sold the Austin Gypsys and purchased two new Toyota Landcruisers (these days referred to as FJ40’s). In 1978, the three brothers formed a new Company, Ridvan Garden Developments Limited.
The FJ40s proved to be the most reliable, capable, toughest vehicles the brothers had ever had, and they kept them for more than 20 years. Both Muir families travelled all over New Zealand towing caravans, travelling thousands of kilometers, getting off-road whenever they could and generally using the vehicles as they were intended, long before the days of mainstream SUV’s.
Throughout the 70’s and 80’s Tony and Guy were heavily involved as volunteers in Civil Defence. Tony was a Warden for One Mike [the Ngaio area] and later northern suburb controller at Sub-area One. On a number of occasions, Tony organized Civil Defense exercises and demonstrations at School Fairs, Wahine commemorations, and emergency services training exercises where both cruisers were front and centre, kitted out with sirens and beacons. It was during the floods of December 1976, when a Civil Emergency was declared, that the FJ40s were put to work doing what they do best.
Over the years these vehicles proved their worth time and again, unfortunately, their only flaw was their tendency to rust.
In 1990 Doug purchased a 1981 BJ40 (the diesel version of the FJ40) using it as his daily runabout for more than 15 years. After many years, due to rust issues, the Landcruisers were eventually all sold.
When Guy and Neville retired in the early 80’s Tony and Judy became sole owners of the company, and after several years had employed their sons, Ant, Doug, and nephew Gary. In 1999, Ridvan Garden Developments Ltd began developing a new 78-lot subdivision in Crofton Downs. The terrain was rugged farmland and they needed a vehicle to get down into the deepest, darkest gullies on the Downing Street property. As luck would have it, one of the earthworks operators was selling his 1977 FJ40.
It was a no brainer… Ridvan purchased the vehicle! Changed to mud tires, pulled out the front and rear seats, leaving only the driver’s seat (so more gear could be loaded) and the vehicle was put to work loading pipes, cement, mortar, tools and even drainage metal all over the subdivision. It was a demanding role. Diggers would make a rough track through the bush and, loaded with materials and equipment, the FJ40 was driven down into the gullies to start sub-soils and drains.
As the years passed, the FJ40 would start first time every time, although the bodywork had taken a pounding and rust had set in. Then TRAGEDY – the FJ40 was parked on a vacant section surrounded by finished and half-built houses when it was stolen. Police were informed, but the chances of recovery were virtually nil.
On Father’s day 2009, a friend was at his local Church when he looked over the fence into the neighbours property and saw, partially hidden under an old tarpaulin, an FJ40. After closer inspection, he rang Doug who went around to the Church and verified it was Ridvan Garden Developments missing cruiser. Police were informed and the vehicle recovered, starting first time with a new battery. The stolen vehicle had been driven from Crofton Downs to Titahi Bay. For 2 years, it had been unknowingly parked under a tarpaulin 800 metres, as the crow flies, from Doug’s back door.
With earthworks on the subdivision completed, the vehicle was no longer required for its workhorse capabilities. Ridvan Garden Developments Ltd decided to restore the FJ40 to its former glory. Doug sourced body panels and many other parts from all over New Zealand and overseas, often dropping in on a Sunday evening to show Tony and Judy the latest find. Finally, all the parts were located and The Surgery in Tawa went to work.
THE SURGERY STORY:
From the start of this project, we definitely knew that the FJ40 was something very special to Doug and the rest of the Muir family….it may have been just an FJ40 to most people, but to the Muir’s it may have well been an “F40”!!!
The initial brief from Doug was….”can you bring her back from the dead and make her like a brand new vehicle, or better?”
The answer from The Surgery ….was a definite “yes” ….we would love to take up that challenge.
The only changes or improvements from the original vehicle were that we designed and installed remote central locking, GPS alarm, changed the finished colour to the factory option colour “Freeborn” red (with the help of Union Hardware and PPG we managed to track down the original factory formula). We also carried out a complete and comprehensive rust proofing treatment (that the FJ40’s never had from new, which is why they rusted so badly!!) and to top it off, all off the finished painted surfaces have been coated with CarPro’s ceramic paint protective coating, so 20yrs from now it will still take pride of place in the Muir family garage
When the Land Cruiser initially arrived at The Surgery it was in an extremely sad and rusted state….some would call a “basket case”.
Every panel on the vehicle (including the chassis) had severe rust so the decision was made to completely disassemble the FJ40 down to every last nut and bolt and then completely acid dip strip all body and loose panels back to bare steel.
While the body stripping was underway the engine and running gear were removed from the chassis and these were disassembled and reconditioning started.
Very early in the project, we discovered that there were very few new steel panels available for the many rust repairs needed.
So our mission was to fabricate 99% of all new panels required for the restoration.
Below is a breakdown of what was carried out by The Surgery on the FJ40.
- The vehicle arrived at The Surgery and we carried out a complete disassembly down to every last nut and bolt.
- Engine, driveline, suspension and brakes removed from chassis, complete
body removed from chassis.
- Bare metal strip chassis (sand blast)
- Bare metal strip all of body and panels (acid dip strip)
- Complete restoration of chassis and painted in high gloss black using all PPG two pack products.
- Complete restoration of body, with new panels, either purchased or manufactured.
- Full repaint in factory formulated colour using all PPGtwo pack products.
- Complete overhaul of braking system with new parts.
- Includes master cylinder, booster, brake lines, wheel cylinders, callipers, discs, drums and fittings etc.
- Complete overhaul of engine, gear box, clutch and diff.
- New carburettor.
- Complete new exhaust system.
- Overhaul and fit factory winch assembly.
- Overhaul and fit power steering.
- Complete new springs and shock absorbers fitted.
- Overhaul of cooling system and heater.
- All new rubber seals.
- New glass.
- All new chrome work.
- New wire loom.
- Overhaul dash switches and gauges.
- New lights.
- New catches and latches.
- New badges.
- New Tyres. 7.50-16 Dunlop.
- Complete new interior upholstery to factory spec’s.
- New seat belts.
- GPS alarm fitted.
The completed vehicle would be rated “concourse”
Today Doug’s FJ40 is fully restored and back at work, now used as a promotional vehicle for Ridvan Garden Developments Limited.