Author: Anna Lewis
My name is Anna Lewis and I am the driver to Team Vagabond (#148) competing in the 2017 Rebelle Rally with my navigator/friend, Morgan Lytle. The third member of our team is my 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser. I have been offroading for 3 years (I started a month after buying the FJ) and have had the opportunity to take my rig all across the United States wheeling (Tennessee, Colorado, Utah, California and in-between).
My vehicle has taken me to some of the most beautiful places in the country, as well as provide a common bond to life-long friends. While the FJ Cruiser is very capable as a stock vehicle, I caught the “mod fever” very early on in my off-road adventures. I started out fairly slow, by upgrading the stock horn to a 139 decibel Italian motorcycle horn that would make the horn more noticeable in Atlanta traffic. Then came the upgrade to the front bumper. I did a lot of research and fell in love with the look and quality of the Metal Tech 4x4 Tube Bumpers. I upgraded my front bumper first but later added their rear bumper to the rig. After that upgrade came the winch and recovery gear from Southeast Overland. They are located in Seneca, South Carolina, and are one of the finest offroad/overlanding shops in the country. They do all of their splicing in house for their synthetic line. Next was the suspension system and tires. I knew I needed to raise up my differentials in order to clear more obstacles. I chose to go with the Icon Vehicle Dynamics 3” 2.5 Coilovers in the front paired with SPC upper control arms and in the rear I have 2.5 Icon Piggyback Shocks with Icon Expedition springs. I have recently upgraded the tires again, along with the wheels, to a beautifully, rugged set of Bronze Overlander Spec B wheels from FN Wheels and 305/70/17 BF Goodrich KM2 tires (true 34”). My rear suspension is also paired with Metal Tech 4x4 Rear Lower Links which are twice as heavy duty (at least) as the stock links and also have zerk fittings and Dirty Parts Sway Bar Links (since I had torn up my stock ones). I have a heavy duty set of Orange Boxx Fabrication Kick-out Sliders that I keep coated in bedliner after they have been roughed up by the rocks. The FJ is also designed to pull the air from the wheel well which can be quite dusty and hot, so we also installed a TJM Snorkel (as well as a full scuba modification on the vehicle) to bring the air intake up higher for cleaner/colder air. It is also equipped with a full set of Ricochet Offroadarmor and on-board air.
What I have stated so far has mainly been around the functionality of the vehicle, not necessarily the creature comfort, and I like having those too. I’m not a fan of not being able to see well at night, and the stock lights on the FJ were not very good. I upgraded the headlights (and added extras) to the High Output LED lights from Lifetime LED. Not only do these lights give out amazing white light, they have a lifetime warranty. I also have two light bars from Lifetime LEDand am about to install some brand new fog lights that we will be testing out for them on the Rebelle Rally. I also like to be warm and toasty, so we installed heated seats in the FJ. The Toyota engineers wanted to make the FJ very utilitarian, so some of the standard things you would be able to get in 2014 in other vehicles were not an option for the FJ, meaning we have to add them as modifications. I also have an ARB Awning mounted to the roof rack along with my jack, MaxTrax, and a shovel all using GZila Designs mounting brackets. They come in a range of sizes and are able to fit most rack and tube dimensions. The rear of my FJ has a custom drawer system that my husband built that houses my tools as well as some stock camping/survival gear that we keep with us at all times. It also has our Dometic refrigerator mounted on top of it. We have a drop down table on the rear door to use for prepping dinners while camping as well.
While most of the vehicle was built prior to the start of the planning for this year’s adventure in the Rebelle Rally, I decided I wanted to do several things to make it stand out and function at its best. Here are the items that were modified or updated for the Rally:
- FN Wheels Overlander Spec B (5)
- BFG KM2 305/70/17 (5)
- Icon 2.5 Piggyback Rear Shocks
- Factor 55 Rear Hitchlink (Orange)
- Lifetime LED Fog Lights (So new they don’t have a name!)
- MaxTrax (4)
- GZila Designs MaxTrax Brackets
- Custom Wrap with Retro Toyota Theme
- Terratrip Installation/Calibration
- Storage Solutions by Step 22 Gear
- Kinetic Rope by Southeast Overland
- Deadman Anchor by Deadman Offroad
I am excited to take my rig and utilize it to its highest potential during this competition. We will be traveling for 10+ hours a day on back roads and will need to have a vehicle that can put up with the abuse and not abuse us too much while we are doing it. I am happy to be taking our 3rd team member with Morgan and I on this epic adventure!
4.0L V6 260hp Automatic 5speed 4x4
TJM Snorkel/Air Intake
Full Scuba Modification
MBRP SS High Tuck Cat-Back Exhaust
Engo 9500lb Winch
Hi Lift Jack (Extreme) w/ Offroad Plate
Step 22 Gear Jack Cover & Gear
Factor 55 Orange Flatlink & Hitchlink
Author: Anna Lewis