One of the happy corollaries to the recent increase in value of classic 4x4 vehicles such as the FJ40 and other Land Cruisers, first-generation Broncos, Series Land Rovers, and others, is the increased availability of both new old stock (NOS) factory parts uncovered by enthusiasts and parts suppliers stacked up on dusty shelves in dealers’ warehouses around the world, as well as re-created parts made by aftermarket suppliers.Sometimes the NOS searches turn up gems, such as the never-installed H41 transmission and split transfer case I recently scored for my FJ40, courtesy Johnny Schaefer of Overland Cruisers who got four sets from a guy in Germany who found them in France. Shopping for aftermarket copies of factory parts is much more fraught. Some are excellent, some okay, and some downright criminally shoddy. I’ve had some re-created door weatherstripping that didn’t come close to fitting or sealing. Many hydraulic parts from China (clutch master and slave cylinders, specifically) seem to last a fraction of the originals.One bright spot is a company with a name you’d never associate with Land Cruisers: City Racer. Roger Peng started with a small selection of items, very carefully curated, and has slowly expanded the range. As yet I have had nothing from the company that did not meet or exceed factory quality, and he continues to unearth NOS parts as well. My FJ40 rides on a set of his 16x6” steel rims with hubcap clips, possibly the perfect combination for an FJ40 not intended as a rock buggy. I’ve also installed his disc brake booster and numerous other bits.One City Racer part that most definitely exceeds factory specs is a fully molded front floor mat for the FJ40, made to the exact size of the original but of vastly superior injection-molded PVC, which will not only far outlast the thin stock material but will dampen sound better as well. It’s wincingly expensive at $450—shocking unless you know that the original, when still available, retailed for nearly that much, and Toyota must have made zillions of them. With tin snips and a box cutter, it took me about 15 minutes to make the few modifications I need to the mat, to fit around my aftermarket front roll cage and the safe I have bolted under the front seat. Otherwise the fit was perfect, even molded around the small protuberances on the edge of the transmission tunnel. I was surprised at how much it improved the looks of the entire interior. Of course, what does one do with a handsome expensive floor mat? Why, cover it up to protect it, of course. Seriously, the City Racer mat, like the original, would not be very good at containing mud from boots, so I bought a set of universal-fit mud mats from husky, which are easily trimmed to suit most applications. The combination looks great, noticeably reduces road and transmission noise, and should last long enough to fully recoup the investment.
Can a tailgate latch with one moving part qualify as a pinnacle product? Absolutely. In fact, that’s exactly why it does.I’m not sure when the “Antiluce” (get it?) latch was invented—Google suffered a rare fail in not finding me something like an Antiluce Appreciation Society with monthly meetings at the Queen’s Head in Tunbridge Wells. I know they were on Series II Land Rovers because I’ve seen them. Photos of JUE 477, the very first production Land Rover, seem to show a type of Antiluce latch, perhaps refined as production progressed. For all I know it could have been invented decades before that. A small British company named Burrafirm, later purchased by Albert Jagger Limited, seems to have held the patent for quite some time.The Antiluce is so simple that it would take the proverbial one thousand words to describe it, so if you’re not familiar with it look at the photos and it will be clear. It’s essentially a toggle latch—flip it horizontal to close the tailgate and the hole in the hasp fits over it. Then flip it vertical, push in on the tailgate to snug it against its weather strip, and the stepped opening in the Antiluce automatically takes up the slack and ensures a rattle-free fit. With new weatherstrip the latch might only drop down to the first or second step, but as the weatherstrip beds in or wears, the latch simply drops down a step at a time to maintain consistent tension. Brilliant. Its natural tendency is to obey gravity, so if the tailgate flexes over rough roads the pin will only snug itself, not loosen or come unfastened.The drop-down tailgate on my FJ40 closes with over-center draw latches, which are bulkier, heavier, fiddlier, and no better. If I ever do a complete restoration on the Land Cruiser I plan to convert it to Antiluce latches. They’re available from numerous sources including all the major Land Rover stores, and could easily be adapted to other uses on custom trailer compartments or cabinetry. The threaded shaft can be had in several lengths, and there are weld-on versions too. At around $30, it’s possibly the cheapest pinnacle product on earth.
The only car I’ve ever owned that had decent factory horns was a Porsche 911SC, which was equipped with proper Autobahn blasters to move inattentive slower cars into the right lane right now. All others—and especially all the Japanese makes—needed serious upgrades to perform at a level I consider acceptable. I don’t use my horn very often, but when I do I want it to capture its target’s undivided attention. This has become significantly more important in the age of texting—which studies have show to be more dangerous than drunk driving. Why? Drunk drivers, at least, are generally paying attention because they know they’re drunk and they don’t want to alert the police. Texting by definition requires one to remove all one’s attention from the road.Thus all of our vehicles carry Hella horns of one model or another. They’re affordable, starting around $20 or so, and all have an authoritarian tone. My favorites are the twin or triple-trumpet air-powered models, which have a lovely teeth-on-edge screech, but the lesser models such as the ones here are still excellent.These went on Roseann’s mother’s RAV4, which we have taken over since she gave up driving at 90 and is now allowing us to chauffeur her around town. The stock horn on this vehicle was even worse than most Japanese horns, which tend to sound like sheep bleating. This one sounded like an asthmatic sheep bleating. Of course, being a modern vehicle, removing the “grille” on the RAV to access the horns actually involved peeling off the entire plastic front end of the thing . . . . . . which, thanks to a helpful YouTube video describing the location of the hidden fasteners, only took about ten minutes.After that it was easy. The Hellas require a separate ground wire, which I simply connected to each horn’s mounting bolt. The result is a huge improvement. I’m going to go hunt for texters.
As I mentioned here, LiFePO4 batteries have a different charging profile than lead-acid batteries. For one thing, they can take a much faster charge. However, they also don’t like to be constantly trickle-charged. Thus for an installation that replaces an AGM auxiliary and starting battery system, as I’m doing with our Troop Carrier, I also needed to replace the existing charge controller. The choice was pretty easy. The Australian company Redarc, while fairly new to the U.S., actually has a 40-year history in its home country, and thus extensive experience building vehicle electronic systems capable of surviving hostile Outback conditions. I know a half-dozen people personally who rely on Redarc charging systems in their vehicles, from a Hilux to a Mitsubishi camper, and none has had a failure.After a consultation, the company sent me one of their BCDC1240D controllers, an RK1260 relay, and all the necessary connectors and fuses. This system will be able to integrate the input from the Land Cruiser’s alternator along with that from its two 100-watt Renogy PV panels, to keep both of the Antigravity batteries properly maintained.I’m very close to tackling the installation; just waiting on a couple of custom cables and an aluminum heat shield.
An impressive difference—a friend noted that the standard battery for a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle weighs 13 pounds.
If you research LiFePO4 starting and deep-cycle batteries beyond the glossy ads, you’ll soon uncover the two major types of component construction used in their manufacture: cylindrical cells or prism cells.Cylindrical cells look just as their name implies. Cut open a battery built with them and it will look like several dozen standard D-cells, connected end to end and arranged in rows and columns. Prism cells for automotive use are larger and look more like flat bricks; typically such cells are 3.2 volts each, thus four of them connected in series create a 12.8-volt battery. (This is how Antigravity Batteries builds their LiFePO4 units.)Which is better? Not surprisingly, manufacturers using cylindrical cells say cylindrical cells are better, and those using prism cells say prism cells are better. In truth, a high-quality battery can be built using either construction. The difference is in details, and the emphasis each manufacturer places on the respective characteristics of each type.Cylindrical cells are more amenable to volume production, and are thus less expensive. They handle internal pressures well, and the multiplicity of cells in a typical battery means that if one cell fails, the battery can continue to operate. However, they take up more space, and are more quickly affected by temperature swings—since each cell is small and has an air space around it, they will heat up more quickly or drop below a critical lower temperature more quickly. (On the other hand, of course, they will recover from over- or under-threshold extremes more quickly as well.) A battery made with cylindrical cells necessitates a multitude of mechanical connections to build the completed unit, increasing the potential for internal structural issues due to vibration and impact.Prism cells are more difficult and thus expensive to manufacture. Their chief advantage lies in a greater ability to tolerate over-charging as well as over-discharging. Thanks to their configuration they also boast superior energy density compared to prism cells, which means greater flexibility for the manufacturer, and potentially lighter weight in the completed battery. In terms of thermal management, their compact form means a prism-cell automotive battery will take significantly longer to reach either a high or low temperature threshold—and, of course, longer to recover from that threshold. Several configurations of prismatic LiFePO4 cells According to Scott Schafer at Antigravity, the company’s first LiFePO4 batteries were cylindrical-cell models—but they switched to prism cells some time ago. Why? “Reliability,” according to Scott. He noticed that the higher-end manufacturers of cells were using prism technology more and more, and indeed, since switching their offerings, Antigravity has experienced a drop in warranty claims, which he attributes largely to that greater tolerance for over-charging and over-discharging. That was enough to convince me.