Whether your experience with off-road rigs comes from tooling around at an off-road park on the weekend or from high-performance competitions like King Of The Hammers, you know there are uncountable numbers of modern 4x4s out there. That doesn’t mean the vintage stuff isn’t just as relevant or maybe even a bit cooler than the new stuff though.
One ride putting this fact into perspective is owned by Colorado’s Trevor Ritch, who we recently met at the Colorado Springs W.E. Rock Live Dirt Riot event held at RAM Off-Road Park. Check out Ritch’s awesome vintage 1976 Toyota Land Cruiser that still stands its ground at competitions!
While Ritch’s passion for off-roading is not only apparent by the way he built his rig, it’s also obvious by how he drives it during competition. His four-wheeling interests started out a bit unconventionally. Rather than falling instantly in love with souped up, stacked 4×4 rigs, Ritch found his passion for the off-road scene thanks to his older brother’s 1979 Toyota mini-truck.
Not surprisingly, Ritch’s off-road flirtation turned into a full-fledged love over time, resulting in the purchase of his first 4×4 rig in 2003, this 1976 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40.
An uncle once owned a 1977 FJ40 that Ritch was fond of, so the ’76 Land Cruiser was the perfect build project. While going to school, Ritch worked part time and purchased the Toyota from the original owner in $200 increments every pay period. When Ritch had paid a total of $1,400, the Toyota was officially his.
Once Ritch finally took possession of his Toyota, he found it was in pretty rough shape and hadn’t run in 10 years, so the first step was to make it roadworthy. This entailed a tuneup, steering upgrades and new brakes.
Now that the truck could be driven on the road, Ritch began replacing components that were beginning to fail or reach their limits based on the way Ritch was using the rig. After all, it wasn’t just a road-going Toyota, it was meant to be used off-road as well.
Since the project initially was to be a daily driver and weekend wheeler, Ritch progressively made more modifications to the Toyota, like swapping out the stock axles and then eventually going to a full fuel-injected setup in place of the stock carbureted powerplant.
When everything was said and done (at least as done as the rig is now), Ritch had turned his Toyota not just into a weekend wheeler, but a race and weekend crawler.
What motivates him to build? “Enjoyment of the outdoors and the thrill of competition,” Ritch told us. “When you’re crawling, it’s battling your machine against the terrain. While racing, you add your fellow competitors into the mix for one amazing experience!”
Just like any competitive off-road machine, the Land Cruiser’s suspension has been modified to take a serious beating. This starts at the frame, which had the inner and outer “C” sections stitch-welded together, as well as notched to fit the front track bar. In the front, Ritch runs a three-link with a track bar, RuffStuff heims, brackets, and limiting straps.
This setup is matched with a Dana 60 kingpin front axle, ARB locker, 35-spline Yukon outer shafts, drive flanges, and 4.56 gears. This is topped off with a RuffStuff differential cover. Out back, Ritch’s FJ40 runs a dual-triangulated four-link with RuffStuff heims, brackets, and limiting straps. A GM 14-bolt axle with a Detroit Locker ties everything together.
A RuffStuff shave kit, disc brake conversion for the standard Chevy disc brakes, and 4.56 gears are the icing on the cake. The 1-ton axles came out of a Chevy military truck which had done some time in Afghanistan.
The FJ40’s lower control arms are made of 2-inch OD, ¼-inch-wall DOM steel tubing with 1-¼-inch heims while the upper control arms are made of 1-½-inch OD, ¼-inch-wall DOM steel tubing with 7/8-inch heims. The shocks used on Ritch’s rigs are 2-½-inch coilovers from King Off-Road Racing Shocks featuring remote reservoirs and 14 inches of travel.
The Toyota also makes use of 2-inch King air bump stops with three inches of travel. Swaybars are set to be the FJ40’s next modification. A stock Saginaw box remains the Toyota’s steering setup and is working just fine.
Pushing power through the FJ40 to the dirt is a stock 1987 Chevy 350 ci fuel-injected engine backed by a mildly built 700R4 automatic transmission and stock Toyota drivelines attached to a rear-output, 32-spline Dana 300 transfer case.
Ritch told us. “Of all the mods, the 1-ton axles and coilover suspension have become my favorite. Not being afraid to fly through the air in a vintage vehicle that you built is an amazing feeling!”
All of the modifications have been done by Ritch under the Crawlorado, LLC. brand. But Ritch isn’t done. With dreams of larger coolers, hydraulic-assist steering, and more horsepower, he will continue to put blood, sweat, and tears into making his FJ his perfect off-road machine!
Moving away from the mechanics of Ritch’s FJ40, you probably noticed the rig’s unique color scheme. That is none other than the Toyota’s original Mustard Yellow paint that shows the patina of its age (spawning the rig’s nickname: Rusty Mustard), and blacked-out doors
This is topped off with stickers from Ritch’s sponsors, such as King Shocks, Raceline Wheels, PRP Seats, and Cruiser Outfitters. Of course, you’ll also find Ritch’s Crawlorado Racing logos and decals on the rig.
The body work the Toyota has seen over the years consists of a bit of rust removal “so that the tires would fit,” the implementation of a full cage for safety reasons, and the complimentary dings from rocks overtaken in many crawling adventures.
A true representation of what vintage-based off-road machines are capable of doing, Ritch has secured some pretty respectable awards behind the wheel of his classic FJ. Those include first place in the Mod Class for the 2011 and 2012 Colorado Springs W.E. Rock Live Dirt Riot event, and second-place honors in the Unlimited Class at the 2014 Moab and Colorado Springs W.E. Rock Live Dirt Riot events.
For his successes and support of his off-road hobby, Ritch would like to thank his friends, family, and everyone else who supports Crawlorado Racing. Of course, we would like to thank Ritch for allowing us to feature his ride! Be sure to check out more photos of this amazing vintage off-roader in the Off Road Xtreme Gallery below! (Vintage images provided by Trevor Ritch.)