WINCH truck competitors are a special breed. They want to drive their 4x4s at tremendous speed, through insane obstacles, only to finish the course by running up a giant hill to see who can winch up it as fast as possible.
On paper it sounds sort of weird, but I can assure you it’s one of the most exciting forms of off-road motorsports out there.
The owner of this custom works-burger of an FJ45 LandCruiser, Scott Alison, is one of those special breeds, who would prefer to be knee-deep in mud on a weekend.
RESTO-JOB: 1966 FJ45 Troopy
As Scott is a vehicle body builder, he came up with a plan and was able to use his skills and those of mates in the industry, to create one extraordinary vehicle. One that’s as visually appealing as it is competitive, thanks to a long list of high-end components he’s grafted on to it.
Scott is no stranger to 4x4s, owning an FJ40, GQ and GU Patrol and a PX1 Ranger previously. We had to ask why go back to an FJ, though?
“They are my favourite 4x4,” Scott replies. “The years of thought I put into making this, means this vehicle is unique … it just looks cool.” We can’t disagree with him there; this is one mean comp truck that goes as good as it looks.
LS1 GM V8 ENGINE
THE factory engine offerings from Toyota were never going to be enough to be competitive in the winch competition scene. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Scott went down the path well-trodden and had a 5.7L LS1 GM V8 engine built to suit. While it’s nothing too crazy in the scheme of things, Scott tells us the motor produces a healthy 400 to 500 horsepower at the flywheel.
J&S Engines were given the nod to handle the build, which has been tickled up in the interest of reliability. The standard crankshaft remains, but H-Beam conrods, forged pistons, a Comp Cams camshaft and pushrods get the party started. Upgraded valve springs and LS7 lifters were also installed, with the stock LS1 engine management system left alone for now.
RESTORED: 1984 FJ45
A Bosch 044 fuel pump feeds the beast go-juice, with a twin 2.5 to 3-inch exhaust system fabricated to let you know Scott is coming. As this is a hard-working off-roader, Scott also had Patrol Doctor supply a four-inch snorkel mated to one of its high-flow air boxes.
If you look closely at the pictures, you might notice something a bit different at the top of the engine bay. Yep, there are two alternators bolted to the motor. This is due to the high demands of Scott’s Red Winch used in competitions. These winches need to work fast, and they suck plenty of power from the electrical system as a result. Scott has the option to run either 12 or 24V depending on requirements and how much he wants to win the race.
IT’S common knowledge that Nissan knows how to build a strong differential. Rather than throwing time and money at the factory Toyota diffs and axles from 1976, Scott decided to switch to Nissan Patrol units. The front end incorporates a H233 differential in a 4.3 ratio. RCV axles and CV joints have been installed as well, creating what is essentially a bulletproof combination.
The rear end sees what Nissan folk dub the big diff; parts interpreters call it the H260. Stock axles in the rear have been retained, because, well, they are bloody massive. Both diff centres have ARB Air Lockers installed, allowing Scott to select what diffs he wants locked, and when.
Custom driveshafts from GJ Drivelines have been bolted in, built tough to handle the demands of a lively V8 and 37-inch tyres. To slow things down, which is important when racing, Scott decided on GU callipers from Road Runner Offroad, as well as rotors from DBA and RDA heavy-duty extreme brake pads.
A STANDARD low-mount winch isn’t going to be up to the task of a winch challenge. Heck, even a decent stock high-mount isn’t going to be terribly competitive at lugging a few tonnes of 4x4 up a steep-arse hill quickly. Scott spared no expense when it came to winch selection, opting for a twin-motor unit, with +150 drum to house additional winch rope, from UK-based company Red Winches.
CRUSHED: Winch crushes Rodeo
One look at the fairlead on his custom bullbar, shows you this is a serious piece of kit. As mentioned before, it can be run on 24V and, in the heat of the moment, will pull the ’Cruiser to the top of a near-vertical gradient quick smart. Just what you want when the aim of the game is to get to the top first.
TO be competitive in off-road racing, there’s no way the factory leaf springs would cut the mustard. While the grinder and welder were out for the diff swap, Scott pieced together a high-end suspension system designed to absorb the biggest of bumps. In the front, Kings 10-inch coil-overs have been adapted, with Superior Engineering 2.0-inch hydro bump stops. This provides decent wheel travel, while riding as nice as an FJ45 can.
The rear end sees similar treatment in the suspension design with Kings 10-inch dual bypass shocks and hydro bump stops. Rounding out the suspension package, speciality sway bars from Design Fab work off a torsion bar design and have massively reduced body roll on fast corners without limiting wheel travel when the going gets rough.
AS mentioned, Scott is a vehicle body builder by trade. So, there’s no way this area would go unnoticed from his evil eye. The rear tray is all custom and has been designed to be as light as possible, while housing key essentials. We’re talking an ARB twin compressor, the radiator, some space cases for tools and parts as well as the spare 37-inch tyre.
You might also notice the body looks different to most LandCruiser utes. Scott has gone for a custom extra-cab design, which allows for more interior space, with an additional window on the side for extra visibility.
As safety is important when racing, Scott had High Country Off-Road build a custom roll cage to protect occupants in the event of a roll over. The team there designed and fitted the cage for Scott, and he’s stoked with the outcome. The team at High Country Off-Road also handled paint duties, splashing a few litres of 2K Pro Tech Blue on the previously tired FJ45 body.
For such a custom build, you’d have to think this would be a nightmare to piece together, but Scott is more upbeat about the process. “There were days where things did not go to plan, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed,” Scott tells us. “Overall, watching the progress each time I had time to work on it and seeing the finished result was extremely rewarding.”
After taking two years to build his LandCruiser, Scott reckons his only plans now are to keep racing and having fun. So far, he has already nabbed a second-place position in the Highmount Guy Ultimate 4x4 Challenge, so he is certainly a name to remember in the future of off-road winch challenges.
TYRES AND WHEELS
MAXXIS has gained a reputation as creating solid-performing tyres in the off-road competition scene. From rock crawling to high-speed endurance racing, it’s a fair chance you’re going to see a set of Maxxis tyres strapped to the vehicle on the podium.
Scott saw no reason to buck this trend and had a set of 37x12.5R17 Maxxis Razr mud terrain tyres shipped out. “Those tyres were the best option available for my requirement,” Scott tells us. “No regrets either, they have done everything I’ve asked of them so far.”
As this is a comp truck, there was no point mucking around in the wheel department. Scott chose the popular (and downright sexy) Walker Evans bead-locked alloy wheels. These suit the FJ45 perfectly, and are a perfect balance between low weight and high strength.
WE all know it can take a small army of helpers to get a build like this done, and Scott’s ’Cruiser is no exception. Thanks must go to High Country Off-Road, Maxxis Tyres Australia, Yukon Enterprises, JTX Lighting, Road Runner Offroad, Swat Suspension, Red Winch, Grant Fowler Signs and NJV 4x4.