Story by Kelly Nomura
Photos by Leo Cuomo

Solid Axle Swap FJ Cruiser

There’s no terrain too tough for this 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

For many who off road and overland, all it takes is one time out on the trail and that person is hooked. A new found hobby is formed and many adventures soon follow. Once that trail-seeking bug bites, many of us see various iterations to their beloved 4×4. That is exactly what happened with this extreme rock crawling FJ Cruiser. After only one trail ride with a friend, a new hobby ignited and the desire developed for owner Sean Voruz to push his trail running limits.

With an SAS FJ Cruiser like this one, you’d be amiss to not get the most bang for your buck on a several-state-spanning trip.

The front end of a blue FJ Cruiser flexes, showing off suspension.

The solid  axle up front combined with the King  2.5 coilovers give this blue beast flex for days.

The 2007 FJ Cruiser started out as a 4WD option to get around the snowy streets during Wisconsin’s winters. However, after a move to Colorado, the FJ Cruiser started a whole new life as an off-road adventure machine. Voruz took the FJ on a trail run with a friend who owned a Jeep. From that point, Voruz was hooked. Inspired by the trip, he Immediately decided to lift the FJ and installed a 3-inch Toytech lift. He also added a 1-inch body lift, a full set of skid plates, aluminum front bumper with a winch and a roof rack, all within a 6-8 month period.

A blue FJ Cruiser drives on the red rocks of Moab, Utah.

Hitting the trails in Moab is exactly where this FJ Cruiser is meant to be.

This rendition lasted about a year until Voruz wanted to go on more difficult trails. He took the FJ Cruiser out on most weekends and got plenty of time behind the wheel. The more he left the pavement for dirt, the more he felt the need to challenge himself. One harder trail lead to another harder trail, and Voruz knew it was time for another upgrade to the FJ Cruiser.

“It’s that attention to detail that caused him to do most of the custom work himself.”

The rollcage inside the blue FJ Cruiser is covered in blue pool noodles.

Voruz custom fabricated the rollcage, compelte with pool-noodle protection, to keep his family safe.

Seeking advisement from professionals in the off-road community, he was originally talked out of a solid axle swap (SAS) and installed a long travel suspension setup instead. That didn’t last long. Along with a Total Chaos suspension, he added an ARB air locker and took out the FJC’s A-trac. He also installed a Dana 60 in back. The upfitted FJ Cruiser rode like this for about a year until a torn CV boot convinced Voruz it was time to do the solid-axle swap.

Voruz has always been very involved in the FJC’s build. If he didn’t do the work himself, he was definitely there helping out. He completed the SAS with Rock Solid Toys in California, making several trips from Colorado to California to help out and learn how to perform the swap. After it was finally finished, Voruz jumped in the SAS FJ Cruiser and drove straight to 2017 FJ Summit to put it to the test.

Three gear shift knobs are seen inside a blue FJ Cruiser.

All the gear shifters can not be missed when climbing into the passenger seat. They control his front and rear axles, plus a lower gear option that changes the gear ratio of both axles.

Tackling trails with this setup was thrilling, and Voruz kept it this way for three years. During that time he experienced one of his most memorable trips. In 2018, Voruz and his friend drove the SAS FJ Cruiser on a trip that marked over 2,000 miles out to the Rubicon in California. They pit stopped in Tonopah, Nevada, to pick up his friend’s father and some guys from his off-road group. Together they all drove out to Rubicon Springs and did the famous Rubicon trail in two days. After a couple more days of camping out in Nevada, Voruz and his friend headed home, but not without a quick stopover in Moab to run some hard trails on their own. With an SAS FJ Cruiser like this one, you’d be amiss to not get the most bang for your buck on a several-state-spanning trip.

One harder trail lead to another harder trail, and Voruz knew it was time for another upgrade to the FJ Cruiser.

A blue FJ Cruiser climbs the rocks of Moab, Utah.

The unique front end of this adventure rig stands out in a crowd and proves its off-road prowess.

The weekend trail warrior drove this build version for a few years until he eventually modded it some more. At the time, there wasn’t enough up travel with the larger 40-inch tires. They were hitting the fenders, much to the dismay of Voruz. So back under the knife went the FJ Cruiser and the front and rear fenders were removed.

“My whole thing was to only cut off the front end and get rid of the fenders. Nothing else, just that.” Voruz shares. “But I got the tube cage in the front started, built the frame, and since I had it all torn apart, figured I might as well just strip everything out.”

He then removed the entire interior, took out the insulation and rubber matting and cleaned it up. Then he sprayed the interior with a ceramic heat barrier and lizard skin, a sound deadening rubber spray. At that point, he also fabricated and installed a roll cage since everything was out and he wanted one eventually.

A blue FJ cruiser climbs Hell's Gate in Moab.

The FJ climbed Hell’s Gate with ease, while a local tour guide driver helped spot.

We got the chance to ride in this blue beast out in Moab. Not only did it make an impression on us, but also on others we ran into on the trail. Onlookers had to get a closer inspection no matter where we stopped. All were impressed with the hard work Sean Voruz has invested into his off-road rig. Impressing the Moab locals and those who also build their own rigs is exactly what Voruz wants. Mission accomplished. One Moab trail guide even commented, “He did it right,” A nod to the dedication and attention to detail used on this extreme rock crawling FJ Cruiser.

At dusk, the blue FJ Cruiser still stands out. A lightbar up top help light its way.

A KC Hilites C-series light bar, Cyclone LEDs, and Flex Amber LEDs light up the trail at night, while the Genssi Demon Eye headlights add a personal touch.

It’s that attention to detail that caused him to do most of the custom work himself. When asked to name his favorite modification, Voruz replied, “The tube chassis and cage because it looks crazy and I love it. It makes it unique. There’s not another FJ out there quite like mine.” Definitely the attention grabber of the build, people always ask him about it, and Voruz proudly gets to tell people he built it himself.

Voruz took the FJ on a trail run with a friend who owned a Jeep. From that point, Voruz was hooked.

A Super Winch is available for use when the FJ gets stuck, or to help others on the trail.

Finally at a point where he’s happy with the capabilities and proud of his work, the only thing he would change now is adding fender tubing armor on the rear quarter panels. And well, that would have been a solid addition for the exciting tip over we experienced with him in Moab. Experienced driving got us back upright and damage was minimal. However, the rear quarter panel armor may have saved his rear window. Should he have another sideways incident or possible rollover, Voruz doesn’t mind. He told us, “And if ever it rolls, the FJ top comes off.” At that point, the SAS FJ Cruiser would mirror the Jeep that started it all.

On it’s fourth iteration, this rock crawling FJ Cruiser is always ready for an adventure.

You can see more of the SAS FJ Cruiser build and the Sean Voruz’s adventures on Instagram and Facebook @seanvoruz


2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Suspension: King 16-inch 2.5 body coilovers with IBP and adjustable remote reservoirs (front); King 12-inch 2.5 body coilovers (rear)

Wheels & Tires: Pro Comp Beadlock wheels 8.5×17, 4/5” backspacing; Nitto Trail Grapplers 40×13.5×17

Additional Modifications: Dynatrac Pro Rock D60 differential (front); Currie Rock Jock D60 (rear); 72 inches wide, 5.38 gear ratio; ARB air lockers; 2.75” PSC full hydrallic steering kit; custom transmission; custom transfer case; RCI aluminum fuel tank;

Interior Accessories: custom rollcage; PRP suspension seats and bench seat; Cobra CB; Optima D27F; ARB twin compressor; custom air conditioning lines; 8 camera HD DVR recording system and 4 cameras; custom fuse box in 50 CAL ammo can

Exterior Accessories: stock modified custom grille; stock modified hood; Genssi Demon Eye LED headlights; KC Hilites 45-inch C Series, Flex LEDs, Cyclone amber turn signals, Amber C3 spot lights; Super Winch 12K Talon Series; custom sliders; custom fenders; custom tube frame and tube cage to replace front clip; custom rear trailer hitch skid; rear tire carrier swing down/out bumper; King 2-inch adjustable hydralic bumpstops; Kartek off-road limit straps and adjustable clevis mounts, custom battery box; Griffin alumuniun radiator; 2 10-inch electric fans; 150AMP Bluesea fuse box; 2.5 gallon air tank in rear cargo area

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