Project Chronicle

Author: Jeff,

The LX450 has been a long project, with the biggest curve ball being the unforeseen headgasket leak that prompted an engine rebuild. I had my patience tested with wanting to see this truck through, and I'm still a bit shocked I kept with it. The main driving factor was I've always harbored some regret when I sold my E36 M3 with a bad headgasket, largely out of frustration. I felt the 80 Series trucks had good potential for positive ROI and didn't want to make the same mistake twice.

So, we persisted, and it got down to Maryland about 2 months ago with a healthy motor. Of course, nothing is ever done, and all of the basic needs that come with a project I suddenly realized still needed doing. The biggest was the brakes: the stopping power was weak at best, and as this is the vehicle I transport my kids in, bad brakes were not an option. 

I bought a "performance" brake kit from Rock Auto consisting of huge vented rotors and carbon-ceramic pads. This made a nice improvement, and as an added bonus - when you remove the rear brakes - the parking brake cable is accessible, and since my original cable was seized, we could finally get this job done as well.

However, in inspecting the truck, it was discovered that the lift kit had seriously stretched the OEM brake lines, so those were tossed in favor of extended stainless steel lines from Slee Offroad. A simple brake job turned out to be anything but; however, with all of this work done, the truck brakes very well and it's one more step closer to using this like the daily I intended with full confidence in putting it through the paces of everyday use. 

Author: Jeff,

The Lexus LX450, after missing in action for over a year following an unplanned engine rebuild, finally made its way down to Maryland after its final stop at my faithful stereo shop back in Rhode Island (more on that later - I'm not a tech guy, but I am psyched with what got installed). I was overjoyed, as the truck drove pretty decent for a rig with the 3-inch lift, and it felt like the four-door anvil I always knew it could be.

Now, I'm prone to ignoring warning signs when I want everything to be perfect, so when I filled up the tank for the first time in over a year, I didn't pay much mind to the heavy smell of fuel. And when it required $89 of premium fuel to fill up the tank, I wrote it off to not knowing exactly how large the tank was. And when I blew through that gas in about 4 days of fairly normal driving, I figured it was due to the engine stlll breaking in. 

It wasn't until I stopped to fill up a second time and take some pictures of the truck from a ground-level angle that I noticed a heavy drip off the rear suspension that seemed to coincide with the fuel nozzle I had jammed on autopilot and stuck in the filler neck. Cease fueling immediately and drive off with my $60 for 3/4 of a tank of mid-grade. 

So, we have a new problem. The homecoming queen has herpes. I suspect (and hope) we are just looking at a spent gasket around the top of the tank where the sender resides, which would make sense for a truck that hasn't seen much use and zero fill-ups since sometime around December 2022. My new shop in Annapolis conveniently has a few Land Cruisers in its customer fleet, so off it goes after a mere week in operation. Tell me again how charming old cars are?  

Author: Jeff,

My LX450 has finally left Jay's 4WD following the unplanned engine rebuild, and is now at my secret lair of a bodyshop to fix the rust in the rockers and mount a heavy-duty rear bumper.

The LX really has been a bigger project than expected. I knew it had rust in the rockers; I didn't know the rear cross member was held together via an aftermarket tow hitch. The engine rebuild, as previously discussed, was a complete surprise, so I'm nearing the end of my rope with delays and added expenses, but at least we're on the downward slope. 

The bodywork will consist of repairing both right and left side rockers, and patching together the rear cross member so the bumper can be mounted. The cross member isn't all that essential to the structural integrity, so we're not going to spend a ton of money and time fixing it. 

Final stop will be my trusted stereo shop in RI to update the headunit and then - after last driving it in February of this year - it will hopefully make its way down to Maryland. 

Author: Jeff,

My mechanic Jay called with the good news recently that the long-standing (and unintentionally long) Lexus LX450 / Toyota Land Cruiser project has finally hit its point of substantial completion - from the mechanical side, anyway.

The rebuilt engine has been turned up and run, with no apparent issues. Jay claims it runs well with no obvious issues arising from being torn down and rebuilt piece-by-piece after the long-festering headgasket issue revealed that the internal coolant intrusion has led to corrosion materializing between the head and the block. 

Jay has not only mated the decked and refreshed head with the cleaned-up block but also installed an Old Man Emu lift 3-inch lift kit, which looks fantastic in the photos he sent me. There's also a new ARB brush guard as well. A Gobi-X rear bumper is en route, and some IPF driving lamps will also be installed. Then, we kick it over to my body guy Nelson to fix the rust in the rear inner fenders; I may have him stick a slab of metal in the back to replace the rusty rear cross-member, but not sure if it really matters with the monster rear bumper on there.

More to come, but big time milestone days, for sure. 

Author: Jeff,

One of the better updates I've gotten lately from Jay is that the engine is back in the LX450. Which means we're:

- a few days closer to it being fully tethered to the car and getting its first start (right now, the bellhousing is loosely attached, but that's it);

- a few weeks closer to it going to the bodyshop for rust repairs in the rear door inner fenders;  

- and then off for a quick stereo install, and hopefully, headed down to Maryland to resume daily driving duties. 

I haven't driven it since January, so yes, I'm excited to see it comes this far - but we're not home yet. 

Progress is progress these days, no matter if it's an inch or a mile. 

Author: Jeff,

I swung by Jay's 4WD today to leave my beloved Trooper RS with him while we move on down to Maryland. Jay will fix the leaking headgasket and button up a few other details while it's there, which hopefully won't be for an extended stay.

In addition to dropping off the Trooper, I also checked out the LX450 which is getting closer to completion. The engine is reassembled and awaiting installation. Jay also installed the three-inch lift kit I bought from Old Man Emu, so plenty of other work is getting down while he prepares for the labor-intensive aspect of dropping the engine back in. Jay recommends getting a different caster kit than what came with the kit, along with longer rear sway bar brackets. 

Jay removed the full wiring harness to make egress easier, and also cleaned up some old heater hoses that serviced the now-inop rear seat heater. The truck still needs a good deal of sorting before it's running and driving, but at least we can see some major work has been done and that we're on the home stretch. 

Author: Jeff,

The Lexus LX450 project is one of those unfortunate scenarios where things have definitely gotten out of hand. As mentioned previously, a long-festering headgasket leak left unabated by the previous owner resulted in the inline-six going from a basic gasket job to a full-on rebuild. 

This was obviously an unplanned level of expense, as this truck was supposed to be the most reliable vehicle in the fleet and been pressed into daily duty after I sold my 2010 BMW 328xi wagon. We're well past that plan coming together, but the good news is Jay has at least crossed the Rubicon as it relates to progress on re-assembly. 

While the truck has been a relative kick in the gut as it relates to the disappointment of discovering an issue like this, it is at least rewarding to see the engine cleaned up and looking quite tidy. I try to remind myself that as it relates to this level of investment in a vehicle, an 80-Series Land Cruiser is one of the more rewarding options out there in terms of ROI. 

Hopefully, we're on target for the truck to be ready by Labor Day, at which point I'm going to have to manage rust repair and a stereo refresh from across the miles. 

Author: Jeff,

The list of projects I'm attempting to get done before we move to Maryland in a little over a month has me feeling overwhelmed, to say the least. Nothing is done to the level that I'd like it to be, and given I will be starting over with establishing new shop relationships, I'm feverishly trying to get as much done in the time I have left in Rhode Island as possible. 

Sadly, the LX450 will likely not be making the trip down with us, as backlogs in the machine shop delayed the project by several weeks. At this point, Jay Gaston is putting the engine back together when his schedule allows, which is not easy considering his full-time work is in full swing as boaters race to get their vessels back in the water.

He's been cleaning all of the removed components and painting the engine before putting it back together. While this adds time, it also makes sense to do before re-assembly, especially since we hope to not be taking this engine back apart again any time soon. 

Author: Jeff,

Great day in the morning: the block for the long-sidelined 1997 Lexus LX450 (fancy Land Cruiser) is done, and Jay Gaston of Jay's 4WD has already snagged it from R. Johnson & Sons Engine Repair in Warwick, RI. The head was previously cleaned up and refreshed by Johnson's and Jay had retrieved it; the block then had to go over to the machine shop due to corrosion found on the deck. Jay had viable concerns about the head mating with the block and the visible corrosion leading to future issues. 

The team at Johnson's asked me to track down some oversized pistons, rings, a full gasket set, main bearings, and rod bearings. We went with .020 oversized components, mostly from DNJ. Remember, this is not a power build but rather just a reliable, stock setup that will allow this engine to go another 250K (or more.) 

From here, Jay will reassemble the engine and also replace the timing chain and pan gasket while the engine is out of the truck. We also plan to install a three-inch lift kit and refresh any other wear items, including hoses and belts. I may also replace the new-ish but cheap aftermarket radiator with a genuine Koyo unit, so there may be more opportunities to make improvements while we're in the re-assembly phase.