Old and new OME


My FJ40 Land Cruiser has been riding on an Old Man Emu suspension for about eight years now. It’s OME’s standard kit for the FJ40, comprising a useful but easy-on-driveshaft-angle two-inch lift (which gave me enough room to install 255/85-16 BFG MTs), and low-pressure nitrogen-gas-charged shock absorbers. It’s been flawlessly reliable, and does wonders for the short 90-inch wheelbase of the 40; in fact it rides better over the rough seven-mile dirt and rock approach to our desert cottage than our 2012 Tacoma (128-inch wheelbase) did on its stock springs and shocks, which were far too stiff.

The suspension is still perfectly functional—there is no obvious sagging and the shocks aren’t leaking—but it’s been looking tired. The shocks are faded and sand-blasted, and in photos I was amazed to see how rusty the springs looked; something I’d apparently become used to in person.

The 40 spends its time at the Overland Expo front and center—it’s either ensconced outside the Overland Oasis tent or used as a winch platform for the Camel Trophy team—and apparently ARB USA, the importers of OME suspension, felt that their springs and shocks shouldn’t be the rattiest looking component of the vehicle, because they supplied me with a replacement kit.

I spent the last couple of days removing the old suspension and installing the shiny new stuff, and it’s clear the FJ40 is feeling chuffed. It always runs a little better after it gets a spa treatment.

But here’s the amazing thing: When I pulled off the old front springs and set one of them next to one of the new springs, the height was . . . close? No—it was identical. Same with the rears. As far as my eye can tell those rusty old springs hadn’t lost a millimeter of height.

Not impressed? Consider this: I bought that original OME kit used. It had been on an FJ40 that was part of a fleet running guided 4WD tours in northern Arizona, and had several years of daily commercial use on it before I gave it a new lease on life, courtesy a local Land Cruiser scrounger who bought the entire fleet, if I recall correctly. 

There’s one caveat: Those first OME springs were manufactured in Australia. The replacement set is from their “Dakar” line, which is manufactured in Malaysia (I guess calling it the “Malay” line just wouldn’t have the same cachet). The Dakar springs are made to OME’s specifications, have all the same construction features, and carry the same guarantee as their Australian predecessors, but they simply have not been around long enough to determine if they’ll prove as durable.

Expect an update in 2024.

Cascade effect: I guess I need to paint my axles now . . .

Partial non sequitur: Among the myriad animals hanging around our place in the desert (see HERE) are small lizards whose common name is lesser earless, due to the logical fact that they have no external ear openings and are smaller than the greater earless lizard. I suspect lesser earless lizards evolved to follow large herbivores to catch the arthropods they kick up, because they are utterly fearless around humans and often get dangerously underfoot.

While I was replacing the suspension, I somehow lost one of the dished washers that compress the shock absorber eyes. I’ve no idea how I did it; it was simply gone when I went to install the new shock. I must have somehow flicked or kicked it into the gravel next to the concrete, but no amount of searching could unearth it. The washer is a dull gray, as is the gravel. It was maddening. 

As I searched, the lesser earless that had been hanging around while I worked kept darting so close I was terrified of stepping on him. Finally, as I was making one last desperate effort to find the washer before giving up and ordering a new one, I again caught in my peripheral vision the lizard darting toward me. I looked down, and it had stopped and was looking up at me—with one foot on the washer.

If it had spoken aloud and said, “Here’s your washer; can I have a bug now?” I wouldn’t have been the slightest bit surprised.