Juan Diego Calle’s grandfather bought a sky blue FJ40 Land Cruiser in 1968. He kept it for 14 years, then sold it and bought a sky blue 1982 FJ40. When he died, Juan’s cousin restored the old Toyota and showed it to Juan and his brother Nelson. “When we saw the work,” Juan says, “we said, ‘We have to own our grandfather’s truck.’”
They brought the Land Cruiser from Bogota to Miami, and soon had the itch to restore more of the faithful old SUVs. The three young men all grew up working on cars, but they had day jobs, in finance, real estate, and running an internet company. “So we said we’ll build a few trucks, and sell them at auction,” Juan says. Those early projects, started seven years ago, proved so successful that they made it a full-time gig and launched the FJ Company.
Now, they spend their days taking old Land Cruisers and making them look like they just rolled off the line—but with a few modern amenities slipped in.
The work starts wherever the cars are. Company scouts roam Latin America and Australia, seeking old Land Cruisers to restore or mine for parts. They also advertise on Land Cruiser-related websites (there are plenty), and get leads through their own site. They look for mostly original vehicles, with limited rust and a straight chassis. Then they send it Bogota, where the bulk of the restoration work happens, before finishing touches are applied in Miami.
Once an order comes in, the team strips the vehicle to the chassis. They overhaul the engine with new gaskets, seals, bearings, and gears. They install a new carburetor, and inspect the crank, pistons, and rods. Anything questionable is replaced with new parts or suitable bits pulled from other engines. The suspension and brakes are similarly refreshed.
The goal isn’t creating something wild or unexpected, but reviving a vehicle their customers love.”We keep things very original to how these were built,” Juan says.
When they do offer a 21st century upgrade, it’s usually to improve comfort and drivability. Leather instead of vinyl, a Bluetooth stereo so drivers can hook up their phones, that sort of thing. An extra $4,500 gets you fuel injection instead of a carburetor. Spending another $10,000 swaps the original four-speed transmission for a five-speed. (You can also get an automatic, but, ugh, don’t.)
A standard restoration takes about nine months, and it’s not cheap. An FJ from the FJ Company starts at $55,000, but options—ranging from Recaro seats to flip windows to a custom roll cage—can push the price north of $120,000. Ultimately, the Calles would like to restore hundreds of cars yearly, which means more employees, more space, stronger supply chains, and service center showrooms around the country. They’re considering moving into other brands, but have more than enough Land Cruisers to work on.
“We hear stories like ours all the time,” Juan says. “This is a truck that is very emotional for people.” And what’s better than honoring your grandfather’s ride without giving up your Bluetooth connection?