Home » A Detailed Look At The Insane NASCAR-Powered Toyota FJ Bruiser And Its Tank-Track Undercarriage

A Detailed Look At The Insane NASCAR-Powered Toyota FJ Bruiser And Its Tank-Track Undercarriage

Toyota Fj Bruiser Sema
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Toyota has built the ultimate off-road buggy — a vehicle that doesn’t have a winch because Toyota reckons it will never get stuck. How’s that? Well, it has humongous 42-inch rock-crawling tires, a flexy triangulated four-link coilover suspension front and rear, and a tank track on its belly. Yes, a tank track. Here’s a close look at Toyota’s ridiculous off-road creation.

To drum up hype for the new Land Cruiser, Toyota has gone mad and built a custom off-road menace called the FC Bruiser. It’s got some 1966 FJ body panels here and there (Toyota was careful to point out that it only used a few panels; it didn’t sacrifice a whole vintage FJ for this), but otherwise this machine is basically a hodgepodge of deeply badass parts like Currie solid axles, an Atlas transfer case, a custom tube chassis, a NASCAR cup-series 358 engine, and… a tank track.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

OK, let’s get straight to the powered tank track, shall we? Look at this thing:

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You can see that the tank track is flanked by some seriously thick (ABS?) plastic sliders. The idea with the whole system is to get the vehicle off of a boulder that might prevent the wheels from gaining traction (i.e. it gets the FJ Bruiser out of a high-center situation). Here’s some info on the Tank Track, via Toyota:

Should ground clearance ever become an issue, the team replaced the center skid plate with a tank-like track system that can be used to power out of any high centered situation. The CAMSO® track is controlled from the cockpit, so the driver can stay securely seated; no need to unstrap and find something to tie off the winch. Tank mode can be activated with the push of a button.

Ahead of and behind the tank track are triangulated four-link coilover suspensions. What this means is: There are two lower arms and two upper arms, like what you see in a Jeep Wrangler. But unlike a Jeep Wrangler, there is no track bar to limit the side-to-side motion of the solid axle — instead, the upper control arms (which, together with the lowers, help prevent the axle from rotating/twisting) are pointed inwards on the axle side. There’s one upper control arm on each side of the vehicle, pointing towards the center of the axle to create a triangle; this works to limit the lateral motion of the axle.

Here’s a look at the front suspension, with a triangulated upper control arm pointed out (the triangular shape of the rear upper control arm orientation is obvious on the left side of the picture above):

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And here’s the rear suspension:

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Here’s a hydraulic jounce bumper from the bottom (this is the reflection from a mirror on the floor).

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Here are some huge, long-travel coilovers, using Eibach springs and Fox dampers:

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And here, below a hole in the trailing arm (note that the trailing arms are quite a bit different than the front lower control arms, but they do largely the same thing) on the driver’s side, there appears to be a chain and sprocket, presumably for the tank-track mechanism.

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This triangulated four-link is a fairly typical suspension for an off-road buggy, though the way Toyota has built it appears to be beefy and quite expensive. Luckily, Toyota seems to have worked with a number of brand partners on this build.

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Up front is a NASCAR 358 cubic inch, 725 horsepower V8 jammed in the center of a tube frame that holds the tops of the long-travel Fox/Eibach coilovers. (We’ll be embedding a video of the engine revving through its MagnaFlow exhaust shortly after this post is published).

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Toyota Motorsports Garage replaced the FJ’s original bench seat with buckets. I dig the plaid, but I’m a bench-seat man, even if I realize that in a King-Of-The-Hammers type build like this, a bench seat would be a nightmare.

Notice the automatic shifter. Bolted to that NASCAR motor is a three-speed automatic racing transmission by Rancho Drivetrain Engineering. That’s hooked to an Atlas transfer case that lets you use low-range (actually, four unique speeds) in either two or four-wheel drive. “This set-up allows FJ Bruiser to crawl at 12 mph revving to 7,000 rpm in the lowest gear and all the way up to 165 mph at that same 7,000 rpm engine speed in highest gear,” Toyota writes in its press release.

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Toyota calls the FJ Bruiser “an unstoppable rock crawling beast that can go virtually anywhere.” I think that’s mostly true; I mean, 42-inch BF Goodrich Krawlers on Method Beadlock wheels, a ridiculously powerful engine, Currie diffs, an Atlas transfer case, a flexy triangulated four-link coilover suspension, tons of ground clearance, basically no overhangs, armor, and a tank track? That’s a great recipe for unstoppability.

I do think the tank track seems a bit narrow; I could imagine the truck getting stuck on those wide plastic sliders and that small tank track not getting enough grip to pull the truck out (especially since the track doesn’t appear to protrude far below those sliders). I also think the biggest thing holding the FJ Bruiser back from going “virtually anywhere” is its size. The thing is huge!

But for the most part, all the hardware is there to make this thing virtually unstoppable. And also badass. By the way, if you want to watch the build series for the FJ Bruiser, here’s a look:

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Waremon0
Waremon0
8 months ago

Absolute shame if they don’t bring it AND drive it in King of the Hammers. Even as an exhibition and not a competitor.

Torque
Torque
8 months ago

I 100% Love that Toyota built this even if it will be nothing more than a marketing stunt. Bring on more unique engineering solutions. I’d love to see Toyota or Any automaker make their version of the “Rock Dawg”.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5PS5l9U6JO4

I despise that same Toyota mkt people are claiming it can’t get stuck & therefore doesn’t need a winch. Unless this thing has flight capabilities that are being kept secret for now… ANY offroad vehicle no matter how capable can get stuck

Ben
Ben
8 months ago

a vehicle that doesn’t have a winch because Toyota reckons it will never get stuck.

And the Titanic was never going to sink. 😛

Still, very cool build!

Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago

Youtuber “Fab Rats” pretty much built this same vehicle (less tank track) but he DID cut up an original FJ, and it performs great.

Phuzz
Phuzz
8 months ago

Reminds me of the Soviet BDRM armoured car, which had four ‘belly wheels’ (2 per side), which could drop down under the centre portion of the body, and were chain driven. So it could cross trenches and berms without getting high-sided.

Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago

I love that it’s essentially factory LS-swapped. I’d love to see this thing in action, “unstoppable; goes anywhere” is a bold claim.

What me?
What me?
8 months ago

Cool idea, but I would still rather have a crawler-truck used for subsurface investigations. It can actually lower the tracks on the ground. I keep dreaming of converting one to a camper RV* which can go anywhere.

picture of one
link to more info

* In Dutch a camper is an RV, and a caravan is what you tow behind the car. A truck (or vrachtwagen) is a semi or box truck. What’s called a truck in the US is called a pickup here.

Last edited 8 months ago by What me?
OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
8 months ago
Reply to  What me?

Funny story about that word pickup. My dad used to drive nothing but single-cab 8-foot bed two wheel drive pickups. I’m not sure how it is now but back in the day all full-size pickups (F-150/C10/D100 and up) carried a Commercial license plate in the state of Pennsylvania. As a result when Dad would drive out to Wyoming for his hunting trips apparently this meant he was supposed to stop at weigh stations (this was probably around 1970 or so?).

Well, on one of these trips my Dad was definitely over legal payload for a half-ton pickup so he went tooling by some truck stop in Nebraska or Iowa and got pulled over. Apparently the conversation went something like this:

Officer: You were supposed to pull into the weigh station.
Dad: I was?
Officer: All trucks are required to be weighed. Didn’t you see the sign?
Dad: Yes I did, it said “All trucks proceed to weigh station” (or something to that effect)
Officer: So why didn’t you stop?
Dad: Well, it said all trucks and that means semis and box trucks and such.
Officer: And you’re driving a truck.
Dad: I’m not driving a truck.
Officer (starting to get steamed): What do you think you’re driving?
Dad: It’s a pickup.
Officer (getting more agitated): It’s a pickuuuuuuuup WHAT?
Dad: It’s just a pickup.

At that point the officer threw up his hands a warned dad sternly that he’d better stop at the next weight station. My dad left the highway and drove two-lanes the rest of the way through the state. Admittedly I have no clue if the story is fully true or embellished or what but I always thought it was entertaining.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
8 months ago

I know some mud holes and some log staircases that may get this stuck. Just toss on a winch bumper.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
8 months ago

Tank tread = Needlessly complicated solution, but also tank tread = totally awesome. My 10 year old self would have been looking for a poster of this to put on my wall.

Spectre6000
Spectre6000
8 months ago

Why can’t Toyota design/engineer anything new and interesting that might actually make it to production? The Tacoma is half the truck the Colorado/Canyon or Gladiator are (the only hint of innovation being weird seats that I don’t imagine making it to a second year of production). The sports cars have as much to do with Toyota as my last bowel movement. They haven’t even innovated on the beige front since the Prius came out. Toyota is just a sad sack of number crunchers clad in whatever boring people wear these days… I loved my old 4Runner and my FJ-40, and their 90s sports cars were epic, but it’s been down hill since.

Who Knows
Who Knows
8 months ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

Yep, I feel like they haven’t done anything useful in 20 or so years since the prius, they seem to be more interested in whining about the shift to EVs than doing anything new, when they haven’t even built the production capacity to keep up with current hybrid demand. Congrats, you are one of the largest automakers in the world, and the best you can do is some SEMA one off that probably any number of small custom shops could have produced.

Spectre6000
Spectre6000
8 months ago
Reply to  Who Knows

I was a huge Toyota fan for years. My dream throughout college was to buy a brand new Tacoma courtesy of “the Top Gear episode”. Then I graduated and needed to make enough money. By the time I was making enough money, I also understood enough about the engineering side to be genuinely insulted when I saw videos where Tacoma press teams would try to convince gullible auto journos and stans that a “truck is better with rear drum brakes” with a 4Runner and a Tundra (both with the obvious rear drums) sitting right next to the Tacoma being discussed. There were other thin, lame, dubious excuses, and flat out lies for why they couldn’t manage to get the Tacoma halfway to where any and all of the competition was (even when it was just the Frontier). At this point, as an automotive enthusiast, I feel so personally insulted by Toyota (never mind the veil of industry leading reliability crumbling) that they’re pretty much at the bottom of my list.

Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

I’m convinced that the 3rd gen Taco was a half baked placeholder. The 3.5L has been nearly universally hated by Taco owners, my theory is that Toyota knew all along where they were going with the 4cyl/turbo/hybrid drivetrains, they just weren’t ready in 2016, so the grabbed the 3.5L out of the parts bin.

And the drum brakes, SMH. Even the Frontier had drum brakes since 2006-ish. Listening to fanbois try to explain why drums are superior was always laughable. Once to troll, I asked about drum swapping the rear of my 4Runner.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
8 months ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

Twenty years and 150 thousand miles from now the Tacoma will be running like new and the Colorado / Canyon will be sitting in someone’s backyard on blocks.

Last edited 8 months ago by Farty McSprinkles
Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago

I still see plenty of 20 year old GM trucks running around, even in New England.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike B

Sure, but if you go to FB marketplace and type in 2003 Tacoma and compare the trucks you see to the ones you see when you type in 2003 S10, there is no comparison. There are exceptions that prove the rule, but the overall condition and value comparison is no contest. The Tacomas last longer and hold their value longer.

Last edited 8 months ago by Farty McSprinkles
Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago

No question about the value. 1st gen holds its value irrationally well. Unfortunately, in road salt states they’re likely to have a chassis that resembles Alpine Lace cheese.

Paul B
Paul B
8 months ago

Toyota: It can’t get stuck:

Me: Here, hold my beer.

A. Barth
A. Barth
8 months ago

Tank mode can be activated with the push of a button.

I love that, both as an idea and as a collection of words.

Xmas is coming up soon. If Toyota wanted to make a really good car-with-a-big-red-bow commercial this season, the Bruiser would be the right (and hilarious) choice. It’s not production, of course, which could make things a little awkward, but if nothing else it would poke a few holes in other such commercials.

Tech question: is the tank drive electric, and is it reversible? It makes sense that it would be both, but it could also be a discrete output shaft from e.g. the transfer case. OTOH it’s a SEMA build so it could be powered by small woodland creatures. (Apologies if that’s covered; I haven’t watched the build videos yet.)

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
8 months ago

Tank track belly is a great idea! That set-up looks very prototypie though. I know those are serious competition seats, but damn, don’t they look like oversize kiddie seats.

V10omous
V10omous
8 months ago

Build it, cowards!

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
8 months ago

I mean, its a tube jeep with some Toyota parts, but it’s a pretty build and looks super capable.

CuppaJoe
CuppaJoe
8 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

LOL – A truggy! I do wish they would have at least used some Toyota mechanical parts, and not just body panels. I mean, a NASCAR engine gets headlines, but the big T has plenty of great engines to choose from. And Toyota solid axles are known for taking a pounding.

Mike B
Mike B
8 months ago
Reply to  CuppaJoe

Yeah, a Toyota 5.7L could have been cool. RSG Offroad in CO built a 5th gen 4Runner with a supercharged 5.7L, 1-Ton axles, and 40″ tires. I think that vehicle 4R is arguably cooler than this buggy.

DysLexus
DysLexus
8 months ago
Reply to  CuppaJoe

Just to be clear Toyota races NASCAR with 6 teams and builds all of their own engines (350-400 per year) in their Costa Mesa CA TRD headquarters.

I think they have the engineers to build whatever they want “in house”. Like anything I suppose this build is dependent on allotted time and cost.

Glad they could build what they did.

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