|The Official Publication of the Toyota Land Cruiser Association.
Since 1976 and Still Going Strong.
by Paul Williamsen
In the entire Toyota production system in Japan, the word takumi applies to just a handful of people. People who are highly respected not only for the manual dexterity, skill and the sensitivity they apply to their part of vehicle assembly, but who are also esteemed for their spirit and passion and for modeling the ideal behavior that others should demonstrate. They are respected not only at the plant in which they work but at other plants as well.
As one of the judges for the annual Toyotafest car show—hosted by the Toyota Owner's and Restorer's Club (T.O.R.C.) in Long Beach, California—I am always on the lookout for a takumi who shows up with a beautifully maintained or restored Turbo Supra or AE86 Corolla. This spring, at the seventeenth Toyotafest, a true takumi was revealed by his work on a Land Cruiser.
As I was parking my nothing special but completely original FJ40 in the Land Cruiser row at Toyotafest, I heard the smooth, healthy sounding throttle response of a sharply tuned motor and was surprised to see an FJ40 at the origin of the sound.
The workers directed this unfamiliar Land Cruiser to park between my blue 1973 FJ40 and Dave and Mamie Warrick's green 1976 FJ40. This was our introduction to Chris and Lynn Millard's immaculately restored 1972 FJ40.
Dave said that when he first saw Chris' tan FJ40, he thought, "The only contest in the Truck and SUV category today is for second place." We both thought it looked like a TLC special by Jonathon Ward.
To the contrary, as we chatted with Chris, we learned that he had done it himself. He'd worked on it for eight months prior to its debut at this, his first ever Toyotafest, and he had only started and driven it for the first time the week of the show.
It was the cleanest FJ40 many of us had ever seen—"clean" as in spotless, shiny, wiggle free, not a speck of dirt, drip or gasket goo anywhere. Land Cruisers couldn't have been this clean when they left the Araco plant in Toyota City four decades ago.
Closer inspection revealed straight panels, perfect wiring, a precisely aligned suspension and original yellow zinc chromate plating on all the undercarriage fasteners. All of the plastic bits glowed. Even the labels on the gauges and knobs were surprisingly readable.
As one of the judges for the show, I was relieved that I wouldn't have to judge Chris and Lynne's truck. My draw this year was old school Corollas and Celicas. That said, all the judges would be selecting their choice for Best Restored/Original and Best In Show.
Reviewing the nearly 400 entries (Toyotafest opened up to Lexus and Scion models in 2005), I looked for examples of the restorer's art or cars I'd want to own if I could afford them. Ryan Bacsafra—a prominent West Coast Toyota blogger and photographer—said it best: "This FJ was impeccable inside, outside and underneath. It really represents the heritage behind all the Toyota SUVs to date." It was clear that Chris and Lynn's FJ40 was the best restoration many of us had ever seen on any car outside of Pebble Beach.
After completing judging duties and turning in my clipboard, I made my way back to the shade near the FJ40 row to chat with Chris and Lynn about their truck. Chris bought this Land Cruiser in the 1980's when he was a student at Long Beach State University. It had been his beach and mountain truck, and later his daily driver as he began his career. Like many Land Cruisers, it had been used very hard and put away very wet.
Around 1998, Chris thought it was time to freshen up the engine, maybe do a valve job on the top end. His dad, an old school hot rod guy, suggested they might as well do the whole engine together. His contribution was to supply a garage, pull up a chair, open a beverage and watch the work begin.
With the engine out at the machine shop, Chris realized that the engine bay wouldn't do justice to the new power plant, so off came the Land Cruiser's body and the real work began.
Chris had learned to weld as a teenager, so he bought a new TIG welder and dove right into the cutting, grinding and welding needed to freshen up the body. During a period when he and Lynn lived in an apartment in Long Beach, Chris was able to rent three garages: one for sandblasting, one for painting and one for vehicle assembly.
Eventually family and career got in the way of the Land Cruiser restoration, in the form of a new house in 2001, so the still disassembled FJ40 went into hibernation for a decade.
Chris and Lynn were finally motivated to restart the restoration in 2011. Garages across California were cleaned out, boxes were opened, trailers were borrowed and memories of incomplete processes were dredged up.
Some panels that had been painted a decade earlier needed to be repainted and as things came together, some additional work was needed: the dysfunctional speedometer was rebuilt, wiring harnesses re-taped by hand, rubber door seals replaced.
As each aspect of the FJ40 was brought to a new level of quality, Chris looked for original twisted wire hose clamps, stressed over the new Toyota logos on the fresh seatbelts and worried about whether to use chrome or zinc chromate plating on the door hinge bolts (zinc chromate was correct).
Chris had become a self-taught takumi in nearly every aspect of Land Cruiser restoration. His love for the vehicle and respect for the brand was manifest in his ideal of what a Land Cruiser could be—and with 2,100 hours invested in the restoration, what his Land Cruiser became.
As the afternoon wound down at Toyotafest, I filled Lynn and Chris in on how the show worked and hinted that they would want to be near the stage at 2:00 for the awards ceremony. To no one's surprise, Chris was called to the stage to pick up the First Place medal for the Trucks and SUV category, but at the end of the awards, his hours of work and fanatical dedication to perfection were recognized with two more medals: the Best Restored/Original award and Best In Show for all of Toyotafest 2012.
As Toyotafest producer Terry Yamaguchi reflected on the impact of Chris' truck besting a huge selection of rare Crowns, smoothed out Celicas, slammed Lexus sedans on 20s and wild Scions, he noted that, "Chris was not aiming at winning, he simply came to share his restoration work with fellow Toyota enthusiasts. His restoration work was done with Toyota spirit and passion. It is a guide and inspiration to all who love their Toyotas."
Lynn and Chris Millard proudly display medals for First Place in the Trucks and SUV category, Best Restored/Original and Best In Show.
Photo by Dave Warrick
Ryan Bacsafra is the creator and writer at the Lexus enthusiast sites, ClubLexus.com, KaizenFactor.wordpress.com, my.IS and LexusFforum.com. Ryan also has a day job in the automotive service industry.
Chris Millard is an audio engineer working in broadcast television, currently responsible for the sound of the Conan O'Brien show on TBS.
Dave Warrick and his wife Mamie own a nicely restored 1976 FJ40, which they bought in 2010. This is their first FJ40 but probably won't be their last. They also own a 2012 FJ Cruiser and a 2006 Lotus Elise.
Paul Williamsen is the national manager of the Lexus College of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, responsible for education and training of all Lexus dealer staff in the U.S. He co-drives a Stock Full Size Lexus LX 570 with Joe Bacal in SCORE desert racing, where they've earned victories in the Baja 500 and Baja 1000. Paul drives an FJ Cruiser Trail Teams special, owns an ex-USMC FJ75 Land Cruiser pickup truck and is currently working on a 1973 FJ40.
Chris and Lynn Millard's impeccably restored FJ40.Photo courtesy of Chris Millard
Chris and Lynn's 1972 FJ40 was a prime candidate for restoration—complete and largely unmolested.Photo courtesy of Chris Millard
Chris and his father with what would become a nearly fifteen-year project.Photo courtesy of Chris Millard
Reassembly began with the engine but became an often-delayed process.Photo courtesy of Chris Millard
Ten years later, much of the previous paintwork had to be readdressed. Photo courtesy of Chris Millard
"As long as we're going to freshen up the engine, may as well do some body work." Photos courtesy of Chris Millard
Easily the cleanest engine bay at Toyotafest. Photo by Dave Warrick
Showing less than nine miles since the restoration was completed, the gauge cluster is flawless. Photo by Ryan Bacsafra
"Impeccable inside, outside and underneath." Photo by Ryan Bacsafra
The results of 2,100 hours of passion devoted to a Land Cruiser. Photo courtesy of Chris Millard