CAtuned Off-Road’s Mercedes Diesel Motivated Japanese 4×4
This truly one-of-a-kind Mercedes diesel-powered Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 lives its life in Sacramento, California. It is daily driven by Max Polishchuk, the owner of CAtuned Off-Road. It wasn’t built to be a SEMA show vehicle, but ended up in the Toyo Tires booth at SEMA 2017 anyway.
Daily Driver to Show Truck
The idea for this project was born when Polishchuk needed a daily driver that would showcase the capabilities of his shop CAtuned Off-Road. This new off-road build would need to be able to tackle any environment, as there are rocky, muddy, snowy, sandy, and so on, off-road trails all within close proximity to Sacramento. It not only needed to be fully off-road capable, but also fun to drive and a reliable daily driver.
“It not only needed to be fully off-road capable, but also fun to drive and a reliable daily driver.”
Polishchuk isn’t exactly easy on his vehicles, and likes to properly use his vehicles. His previous daily driver was a custom ’76 BMW 2002, with a S2000 VTEC engine that put out 404 hp to the wheels. The bar was set high.
There were no initial plans to have this Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 go to SEMA, but that all changed when Toyo Tires got wind of the build. When the vehicle was first coming together, Igor, Polishchuk’s brother and owner of CAtuned Motorsports, a tuning shop that specializes in BMW restoration, shared some photos of the build with Toyo. Toyo loved the build and decided that they wanted it in their outdoor SEMA booth. The rest is history.
Max Polishchuk started CAtuned Off-Road as a part-time hobby in 2013. He has always loved working on cars, but found his true passion in restoring and enhancing classic trucks, turning them into unique off-road vehicles—from rock crawlers to overlanding trucks. With the encouragement of friends and family, and plenty of long nights and weekends, Polishchuk’s passion turned into a full-time job, then a successful business.
CAtuned Off-Road is located in North Highlands, California, and does everything from fabricating custom three-link suspensions to performing solid axle swaps to installing aftermarket lifts kits and the full gambit of off-road accessories. They put unique challenges that they can learn and grow from over profits. While Polishchuk needs to be in the office running the business, you’ll more often than not find him welding or wrenching away in the shop. His passion lies with unique builds and interesting challenges, especially engine swaps.
The Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62
Polishchuk has always been a fan of classic square-body Toyotas. He came across a Craigslist post for a Land Cruiser with a blown engine but the body was in good condition; he just couldn’t resist the purchase. This 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 was completely stock when purchased. It then found itself inside CAtuned Off-Road’s shop, and things changed quickly.
This Land Cruiser can comfortably rumble along at 75 mph on the highway, even though it’s loaded down with off-road accessories and powered by a relatively small diesel motor. The Mercedes OM606 3.0L diesel underhood is the hidden gem in this build.
Polishchuk wanted something that was reliable, had plenty of torque, was fuel-efficient, and fun to drive. That left him with only one option, a diesel engine. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to find Toyota diesel engines in the United States.
Choosing the right engine is very important, especially since an engine can make or break a build. Polishchuk turned to previous builds at CAtuned Off-Road for inspiration, specifically a 1988 Isuzu Trooper diesel, named “Big Red,” which is very reliable, has plenty of torque, is super fuel efficient, and is a lot of fun to drive.
“This 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 was completely stock when purchased. It then found itself inside CAtuned Off-Road’s shop, and things changed quickly.”
The Mercedes OM606 is the right engine for this custom Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 build. It was chosen because it has the perfect balance of power and weight for the FJ platform, and makes a ton of power. A big benefit to this engine option is that there are plenty of available parts on the U.S. market.
The Mercedes OM606 engine has been converted over to a fully mechanical injection pump, and was upgraded with a Holset HE341 turbo and a 3-inch stainless exhaust. While this engine is capable of reaching 500 hp, while keeping the red line at only 5,200 rpm, it has been tuned to about 350 hp on this build.
“The exterior of this land cruiser has a truly exceptional shine, and is accented with some impressive custom graphics.”
Polishchuk went with the Holset turbo versus the stock small Garret turbo on the original donor engine, because he has extensive experience with Cummins engines and wanted to use something he was familiar with. He also knew it could help the engine reach the next level of performance.
A key to this engine’s success in the Land Cruiser is the use of the stock Toyota five-speed manual H55F gearbox and transmission, which required CAtuned Off-Road to make a custom transmission adaptor plate. The rear axle is also set up with 4:10 gearing, to help create that right balance of on-road speed and off-road crawling power.
Lifted & Rolling
The first things to tackle on a build like this, besides the major motor swap, are the suspension, wheels, and tires. That combo of products will greatly change the on and off-road performance of the vehicle, as well as the looks of the vehicle.
This FJ62 has been lifted with an Old Man Emu (OME) 3-inch lift kit. Polishchuk and his team at CAtuned Off-Road knew from experience that an OME lift would be the perfect setup for this build. It gives them increased load carrying, better articulation, improved handling, and the ability to tackle off-road terrain just as well as paved roads.
“To cap off this retro cool off-road cruiser, Polishchuk imported a slim, simple, well-designed roof rack specifically built for this application.”
With the lift, Polishchuk was able to squeeze big 35×12.5 tires into the wheel arches. This fresh new Toyo Open Country R/T rubber was then wrapped around a three-piece custom wheel from Rotiform. Good looks and durability, you just can’t ask for more than that.
In order to tackle proper off-road terrain and still look pretty this FJ needed to armor up. Polishchuk and his guys at CAtuned Off-Road designed and built a custom front bumper, rear bumper, and rock sliders. All of this heavy metal is used to protect this Land Cruiser’s gorgeous body.
If Polishchuk ever finds himself stuck in his Land Cruiser, something that is pretty unlikely, there is a 9.5K Smittybuilt winch mounted in the front bumper.
The inside of this classic Land Cruiser was brought back to life with a full custom interior. This new interior was designed to replicate the factory interior from 1988. New carpet, seats, headliner, and so on, were all updated with a very factory-fresh look. The original gauges were kept and work perfectly with the new motor.
“The Mercedes OM606 is the right engine for this custom FJ62 build. It was chosen because it has the perfect balance of power and weight for the FJ platform, and makes a ton of power.”
Leo’s Woodwork upgraded the interior style points on this build with custom-made English walnut shift knobs. If for some reason you grow tired of hearing the OM606 diesel sing, you can crank up the tunes on the full Alpine modern stereo system.
To cap off this retro cool off-road Cruiser, Polishchuk imported a slim, simple, well-designed roof rack specifically built for this application. The rack is from the Venezuelan company Ecotechne, and called the C.A. Roof Rack. A full row of four Hella lights are mounted to the front of the roof rack to complete that simple retro cool look.
“Polishchuk and his guys at CAtuned Off-Road designed and built a custom front bumper, rear bumper, and rock sliders. All of this heavy metal is used to protect this Land Cruiser’s gorgeous body.”
The exterior of this Land Cruiser has a truly exceptional shine, and is accented with some impressive custom graphics. That shine is courtesy of a Ceramic Pro coating that was applied, which not only brought life back to the original paint but helps protect it from the elements. The custom vinyl graphics by FXD&WLD truly help accentuate the lines of the vehicle while also giving you a hint at what is stuffed underhood.
Max Polishchuk wants to send a special thanks out to his brother and the entire CAtuned Motorsports family. He also wants to thank the companies that truly made this rig possible: Toyo Tires, Rotiform, FXD&WLD, and Thule. And, of course, without his family and friends, this build and his thriving company CAtuned Off-Road wouldn’t be possible.
1988 CAtuned Toyota FJ62
Platform: 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62
Engine/Drivetrain: Mercedes 3.0L Inline six-cylinder Diesel, Toyota five-speed H55F transmission (with Custom CAtuned Off Road Adaptor)
Suspension: Old Man Emu 3-inch lift kit
Wheels & Tires: Rotiform LAS-OR three-piece forged wheels that were converted to Beadlock Wheels, Toyo Open Country R/T 35X12.5R17 tires
Accessories: Fully Mechanical Injection Pump, Holset HE341 Turbo, 3-inch stainless exhaust, BD Diesel exhaust brake, upgraded clutch, full-custom upholstery to look original, Leo’s Woodworks Custom English Walnut shift knobs, Alpine stereo system, CAtuned Off-Road custom front and rear bumpers, CA Tuned Off-Road custom rock sliders, 9.5K Smittybilt winch, Venezuela Ecotechne C.A. Roof Rack, Hella lighting, custom vinyl graphics by FXD&WLD
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in a print issue of Tread Magazine.