"RavenFJ" — an engineer's build


New member

(photo credit rwdunn)

Been building up "RavenFJ" since 2015, and feel like we're finally ready for an attempt at a proper build thread, so here goes...

(click any photo for hi-res)

• Daily driver
• Toy hauler (windsurfing/paddling/skiing/etc)
• Occasional off-road/overlanding adventure platform

I've never been a "car guy" (never even used to change my own oil) but I always had a background fascination with rugged 4x4s, and FJs in particular. So when I needed a new vehicle to haul more water toys and such than my AWD BMW 3-series wagon could handle I decided to go with an FJ Cruiser, and to build it up a little to explore where it could take me. And since I'm an engineer (electrical, but pretty mechanically inclined too) – with perhaps slightly beyond a healthy dose of OCD – I decided to do as much of the build-up as possible with my own two hands.

Turned into a little more than I'd initially planned... ;)


THE BLANK CANVAS (purchased Feb2015 @~16Kmiles)

2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser, Black, 4x4, 6-speed
• Convenience Package (remote lock, cruise, rear camera, etc)
• Upgrade Package (A-TRAC, rear e-locker, inclinometer, etc)
• nothing else! zero aftermarket mods, certified pre-owned, superb condition


THE WORK IN PROGRESS (as of May2018 @~45Kmiles)

• BFG T/A KO2 285/70R17 (33"×11")
• SPC front UCAs*
• ToyTec Boss 2.5" coilovers*
• ToyTec Boss 2.5" rear shocks*
• ToyTec "HD" rear coils*
• Metal-Tech offset rear lower links
• Timbren bump-stops front & rear*
• MOOG greaseable cam bolts*

• Demello aluminum bumpers front & rear
• Warn M8000-S winch + "Splicer" thimble
• All-Pro Heavy Duty rock sliders
• BudBuilt steel skid plates (4-piece set)
• BudBuilt stainless rear diff skid
• Icon "shin guard" rear shock protectors
• OPOR "link guard" rear LCA bracket skids
• breather mod for rear diff & e-locker

• semi-custom BajaRack
• full-custom MAXTRAX mounts
• full-custom DIY cargo drawers
• full-custom "2up" rear bike/cargo rack
• full custom "belly stash plate" for RotopaX
• Demello steel hitch receiver
• brake controller + trailer connectors

• Rigid SAE LED fog lights & backup lights
• cheapo chinese flood-beam drive lights
• Sylvania SilverStar Ultra headlight bulbs
• switch-controlled DRL-disable + "BLINK" mods to factory lights circuits

• Odyssey 31M-PC2150ST dual-terminal battery
• full-custom "BatTerm" battery terminal distribution blocks
• full-custom "AuxPower" relaybox / switchbox aux power system
• Anderson PowerPole distribution block & outlets for interior 12V power
• Anker 5-port USB power hub

• Midland MXT115 GMRS radio
• Midland MXTA10 GMRS antenna on NMO mount
• Midland 75-822 CB radio
• FireStik FS-3BK CB antenna at OEM radio antenna location
• antenna diplexer (one antenna for both CB + AM/FM radio)

• Wet Okole front seat covers
• adhesive fisheye blind spot mirrors
• fresnel lens windshield add-on for traffic light visibility
• custom machined dash device bar w/ magnetic mounts
• custom laser-cut "MAX A/C STOP" plate

*ToyTec/Timbren/MOOG suspension upgrade is a recent addition (May2018) installed by the good folks at the4x4center, replacing some Daystar "budget boost" PU spacers I had added to the stock suspension. Everything else installed (and in many cases designed from the ground up) by yours truly.


CORE USE MODES (versatile "transformer" vehicle)

LOCAL WHEELIN' MODE (armored, and stocked with recovery gear etc, but otherwise stripped to the basics):

(photo credit Mike Hecht)

WINTER MODE (skids off, FluidFilm coated below, and Packasport System115 roofbox up top for skis etc):

OVERLANDING MODE (with James Baroud Explorer Evolution RTT + FoxWing awning):


WATERSPORTS MODE (with custom-machined Yakima cross-bar mounts on the BajaRack):


TLC (fall routine)

Vermont winters are Raven's enemy. Every fall I provide some serious TLC (thorough deep-clean, wire-wheel off any visible rust, rattle-can paint touch-up, thorough Fluid-Film professional application) in an effort to keep rust at bay.
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New member
Some mod highlight photos...


• BudBuilt steel skids, 4-piece set

• MetalTech offset rear lower links + OPOR "link guard" rear LCA bracket skids
• ToyTec Boss 2.5" rear shocks + ToyTec "HD" rear coils
• Icon "shin guard" rear shock protectors (visible far side)
• BudBuilt stainless diff skid

• SPC front UCAs
• ToyTec Boss 2.5" coilovers
• MOOG greaseable camber adjuster bolts

• All-Pro Heavy Duty rock sliders (high-grade bolted + tack welded to frame)


• Demello aluminum front bumper
• Warn M8000-S winch + Factor55 "The Splicer" thimble
• Rigid SAE LED fog lights (in bumper recesses)
• cheapo Chinese flood-beam drive lights (on top of bumper)
• Sylvania SilverStar Ultra upgraded headlight bulbs

• Demello aluminum rear bumper
• Demello steel hitch receiver
• 7-way trailer connector (mounted high&tight to maintain departure angle)
• in-bumper backup lights are Rigid SAE LED fogs (same as in front)


• semi-custom BajaRack (rear bar omitted, angle-supports added instead)

• full-custom Yakima crossbar mounts (details to follow)

• full-custom MAXTRAX mounts (details to follow)

• full custom "belly stash plate" for RotopaX (details to follow)

• full-custom DIY cargo drawers (details to follow)


• Odyssey 31M-PC2150ST dual-terminal battery
• full-custom "BatTerm" battery terminal distribution blocks (details to follow)

• full-custom "AuxPower" relaybox (details to follow)

• full-custom "AuxPower" switchbox (details to follow)


• custom machined dash device bar w/ magnetic mounts
• Midland MXT115 GMRS radio
• Anker 5-port USB power hub

• Wet Okole front seat covers

• Midland 75-822 CB radio
• Anderson PowerPole outlets for interior 12V power
• connector to FireStik FS-3BK CB antenna (at OEM radio antenna location, diplexed to FM radio too)


• DIY custom UV/road-debris protective winch cover plate

• DIY custom laser-cut acrylic "MAX-A/C-STOP" plate
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New member
A few select "action shots"...

A little peek under the skirt:

Dipping the toes:

Finding the bump-stops (old factory suspension w/ "budget boost" lift spacers):

In good company:

Light it up:

Transporter to magical places:
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Full Time Traveler
Great build! Nice and clean. I appreciate the engineering approach to vehicle builds. I also really like your fall TLC approach.


This is an awesome build!

As soon as you mentioned being an electrical engineer, I knew there would be some sweet wiring pics and was not disappointed- please post up details when you have time. Also, I am sorry for missing this when you posted in May (it probably got buried by one of those threads that are just a constant back-and-forth).


The Credible Hulk
Good stuff... engineer overkill in a few cases, but hey whatever works. My approach is more minimalist (my solution to the AC Max delete was to put a glob of hot glue on the back of the temp knob :LOL: ) but we have made some of the same choices.

Have you found much utility from the rear bumper? I haven't found a compelling reason to replace it.

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