As a general rule I’m not a big fan of non-factory-original engine swaps. I’ve seen the results of way too many back-yard hackers bolting Chevy 350s into FJ40s, and Ford 302s into Land Rover 109s. (Not to mention American V8s implanted in Jaguar sedans and even vilely stuffed up the rear of Porsche 911s.)
Even when it’s done well, the result in an FJ40 seems less a Chevy-powered Land Cruiser than a Toyota-bodied Blazer, at least in my book—especially when the engine is coupled to a Turbo Hydramatic auto transmission. Yeah, more power and better fuel economy, supposedly, but the fuel economy often turns out to be chimerical from what I’ve heard first-hand, and unless you want to tow a boat or something, 250 or 300 horsepower in a 90-inch wheelbase seems like overkill. The torque curve winds up in the wrong place. And the lopey firing order just sounds wrong compared to the smooth burble of an inline six.
With diesel swaps my other-maker prejudice diminishes somewhat, since we’re now looking at potentially significant fuel savings, and a torque curve working in the same region (2,000 rpm) as the gasoline F or 2F. True, I’d still prefer a factory Toyota engine—a 1HZ or 13BT would be a tempting replacement in my 40. However, I’ve seen other options done well.
All this is leading up to the photo you see above. It’s a 1977 FJ40 belonging to Steve Sency of Durango, Colorado, who accomplished one of the most strikingly clean engine swaps I’ve ever seen. Steve sourced a Cummins 3.3BT four-cylinder diesel that had been powering a generator at a cell tower site, and coupled it with an Orion 4:1 transfer case and an NV4500 five-speed (manual) transmission. Notice the braided stainless hoses where a vacuum booster for the brakes would normally be. Since diesel engines do not produce the vacuum inherent in a gasoline engine (because the air intake tract is always wide open), Steve installed a Vickers hydraulic pump on the accessory port of the Cummins. The hydraulic boost system now services the brakes and the power steering.
Steve reports up to 23 mpg at 60 mph (@2,000 rpm), which, given the roof tent, dual 12-gallon water tanks, and auxiliary fuel tank on the vehicle (not to mention the drag coefficient of the FJ40, roughly equivalent to that of a three-bedroom house), is pretty impressive.
Update: After several requests from readers, Steve sent a few more photos of the engine.