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Sector: LPG

Toyota FJ Cruiser LPG by STAG - gas in the mud

Toyota FJ Cruiser LPG by STAG - gas in the mud ©

Being a petrolhead can take different forms, with customising, engine tweaks, fancy paint schemes or rebuilding your ride from the ground up being just a few examples. Some manage to find compromise between motoring and contact with nature. They call it offroading and they use some extraordinary gear for that. But everything comes at a price...

Most cars used for off-the-beaten-track fun are diesels. Why? Because oil burners are commonly considered cheapest for the job. They are generally estimated to consume 11-15 litres of fuel per 100 km, while petrol powered equivalents, typically sporting large capacity 6- and 8-pots for appropriate torque supply, would only suffice with 20-25 l/100 km. Conversion to autogas could be the solution – it cuts the fuel bill considerably and makes the running costs comparable to those of a diesel with the added value of power well in excess of 200 PS instead of 110-130 PS you normally get from an oil-sipper. And so we arrive at the car we're about to present to you – a serious offroader with a petrol-engine given the LPG treatment, converted and used by AC, an autogas system manufacturer from Białystok, Poland.

Toyota FJ Cruiser© gazeo.comThe FJ Cruiser wearing its Explore the World with STAG livery

Why the FJ?
And why the F not? The choice is actually far from coincidental since the car skilfully combines features that are normally difficult to put together in a single car. First and foremost, the car features  a big, petrol-guzzling 4-litre V6, much like engines seen on American cars of this kind. And this hardly a surprise, since the FJ was a car designed and built for the American market. Being what it is, the car is particularly well suited to become a rolling test bench for any autogas system manufacturer, in this case AC. The company does its research and development in their own R&D centre, but no lab tests will ever come close to real-life driving. And on top of that is the perk of spreading the company's name through driving a rather uncommon, if not flashy car. As the AC people put it, the FJ Cruiser has become their business card and a big hit of all kinds of shows and installer training courses. Also, since the car competes in offroad rallies, it promotes the idea of autogas instead of diesel among fans of this kind of fun.

The FJ Cruiser tackling sandy terrain© gazeo.comWe had the opportunity to drive the car on a military firing ground belonging to AMZ Kutno, a producer of ATV's and armoured vehicles for army and police

The body
The FJ does little to hide the inspiration behind its design – the classic/iconic/legendary/whatnot Land Cruiser FJ40 from the 1960s. The final decision is yours, but its Tonka truck looks may actually be its advantage. Plus it seems solid as a rock with its massive stance, substantial width and small, tank-sight-like windows. The doors are quite a curiosity – it may not show at first, but the FJ is not a two-door. It has a pair of conventional „gates” and an extra pair of narrower suicide doors, the like of which the Mazda RX-8 and Mini Clubman have. They can only be opened once the front doors are open, which is either for safety or inconvenience, depending on your point of view. Ah well, at least it's different. The interior is roomy and even a small basketball team will find enough space to travel in comfort. The small windows are something of a problem during driving and manouvering, particularly when having some offroad fun. The Land Cruiser-sourced body-on-frame structure makes the car sturdy and while it's heavy at 2 tonnes, it should last for ages, no matter how hard you choose to drive it.

Toyota FJ Cruiser - the engine© gazeo.comInstead of an inline-four diesel, there's a petrol-powered V6. Yummy!

The engine
Since the FJ is a car built for America, you would waste your time looking for a diesel-powered example. In fact, not only were all of its engines petrol-powered, but actually just one engine was all of its engines. As we said before, it's a 4-litre V6, offering some ear candy every time you step on the gas. The unit is naturally aspirated, so the power is rather modest at 249 PS (at 5200 rpm), but the torque is generous at 377 Nm (at 3700 rpm). The engine is known to be super-durable and can be found on Toyota's other models.

Offroading we will go...
Power is transfered to all four wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox and a classic reducer with a central differential lock. Everything is operated as nature intended – with levers, not modern-day heartless electrical switches. 4x4 drive is permanent, so you can't switch to one axle only. And speaking of axles, the rear one is solid, while up front there is independent suspension, so the car isn't as hardcore as the Defender, but still crawls valiantly through all kinds of terrain. The car has also been modified to become even more offroad-efficient – ride height has been raised by 2 inches and the 16” rims have been given proper „shoes” in the form of Cooper Discoverer STT tyres with „mud terrain” tread. The effect is that the FJ's ground clearance is now 28 cm. Still, comfort remains typical of American cars – the Toyota rides a bit like a landbarge. Skipping from corner to corner isn't really an option, but the „softness” makes offroading less harsh on the spine. To make the car even more able, an underbody protective plate and a snorkel have been used. Plus there's a roof rack for extra gear (featuring all-round halogen lighting) and a winch for emergencies. Last but not least comes the black wrap with STAG logos and there you are – you've got a car that looks like a tank and feels like a vagabond, attracting attention wherever it appears. The marketing purpose has been fulfilled.

Toyota FJ Cruiser in an offroad test drive© gazeo.comThe car's been slightly modified. It's capable and practical at the same time

And the financial one?
In petrol mode the FJ needs no less that 18 l/100 km. Once converted, it requires 20 l of LPG per 100 km. Mind you, these figures are for regular driving – when you go playing in the mud, sand and rocks, the top consumption figure is difficult to estimate. It shouldn't exceed 25 l/100 km, though. How does that translate to money? 100 km on petrol means spending 98,8 zlotys (23,8 euros), while on LPG you'll spend 48,2 zlotys (11,6 euros), so you're bound to save 50,6 zlotys per 100 km. Going off the road means your LPG fuel bill will rise to 60,3 zlotys (14,5 euros), but saving will remain roughly the same. And how do LPG costs compare with diesel costs? Since there are no oil-burning FJ Cruisers, let's pit it against one of the most popular offroaders, the Land Rover Discovery. „Discos” usually feature 2,5-litre, 113 PS, 4-pot diesels that need on average 11 l/100 km. With diesel fuel price at 5,36 zlotys (1,29 euros)/l, you spend 59 zlotys (14,2 euros) per 100 km of driving, which is still nearly 11 zlotys (2,65 euros). In a year, given you drive for 20 thousand km, savings will be 2200 zlotys (530 euros) compared to diesel and as much as 10000 zlotys (2410 euros) compared to a petrol-powered FJ. No comments, really...

The LPG system. AC produces and supplies complete autogas conversion kits, although the company's most well known and renowned products are ECU's from the STAG family. Our „trailblazer” features a STAG 300 Premium ECU, designed to enable conversions of a broad range of engines (from 1 to 8 cylinders). One of the ECU's features is the ISA intelligent autoadaptation system and the controller itself is a plug-and-play device, requiring little if any cal…

Find out the details of the LPG
system and our final verdict
on page two. Well, go on!

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Wojciech Mackiewicz
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