SEMA 2019: Long Live Neil Tjin’s 1994 Land Cruiser

Neil Tjin is a gearhead that never sits still. Even at this year’s SEMA Show, where his excellent 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser was sitting pretty in Shell’s booth, he didn’t rest on his laurels. Instead, he worked on the next developments for his famous Tjin Edition Roadshow, and even planned what to build for the 2020 show.

From the time it was announced in an email to actually seeing it in person, we had a good deal of anticipation about the SUV. We caught up with Neil after the show to get the inside scoop on its background, the vision Neil had for it, and what he wants to do with it. Oddly enough, the story began with a second Land Cruiser.

Neil and his team took 12 weeks to build this Land Cruiser. "The hardest part was finding the OEM parts and replacing the engine," said Neil. "It sounds straightforward taking one motor and putting it in another vehicle, but there were so many little things, like the A/C and EGT valve."

“I bought a clean one and a not-so-clean one,” said Neil. “The first was near-mint condition, and I bought it for $6,000. The day after I bought it, a guy at the shop told me there was another one for sale. It was $400 and had a blown motor. So I decided I would take the clean inline-six from the first one and put it in the second one, while the first one would get a totally different engine and everything.” And just like that, Neil and his team built two Land Cruisers for SEMA.

The Shell booth version – done up in old-school Toyota Sandstorm Beige – received all-new internals in its 4.5-liter inline-six. “We totally redid it,” said Neil. “New gaskets, new seals, a new starter. The 4.5-liter is a tank to begin with, but I wanted to make sure this one was solid.”

The Glasurit paint is modeled after an old Toyota paint code, Sandstorm Beige.

As was a common motif for off-road builds at this year’s show, Neil went for an overlanding theme on the Land Cruiser. “We worked with Eibach to supply a three-inch lift kit, which was a prototype kit,” said Neil. “The kit makes the SUV drive like a million bucks, even with the bigger 35-inch Falken Wildpeak tires. Eibach made the sway bars as well. Helping that is the Delta suspension arms, along with new steering and Panhard bar.”

Along with this overlanding theme came the all-important back-half modifications. “We installed a Wilco Offroad spare tire carrier, Tepui tent, and a Thule rack and awning,” said Neil. “It was definitely something different for me, a guy who usually lowers his vehicles.”

Neil kept the ’90s aesthetic as true as possible, sifting through hours of web searches and junkyards to restore the SUV to its former glory. “We replaced all of the trim and moldings,” he said. “It got all new carpet, new door panels, and finished the interior with Roadwire leather and Kicker audio with Bluetooth. We did the best of both worlds, keeping the 1994 styling cues and adding some 2020 flavor to it.”

The Land Cruiser used a prototype Eibach lift kit, raising its overall height by three inches. The back half features a Tepui tent, Wilco Offroad spare tire carrier, spare fuel jugs, off-road jack, and more.

But unlike so many other SEMA builds, Neil puts his Land Cruiser to work. “It’s kind of my daily driver now,” he commented. “I use it a lot – getting to basketball practice, going to church.”

Of course, being an off-road SUV, Neil has put it through some paces. “I took it to Zion National Park, and I’m going to take it all over pretty soon,” he said. “I want to take it to Joshua Tree Park and eventually the Grand Canyon. It’s going to a big overlanding show as well, as part of the Tjin Edition Roadshow.”

Neil and his team certainly have some exciting ideas for 2020, which we don’t want to spoil here. But you can follow along with the Tjin Edition Roadshow on its Instagram and Facebook page, and don’t forget to check out Shell’s website and Facebook page.

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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