Throwback Thursday: Rough Stuff FJ40 Series

ByWes WhitworthMay 28, 2020
Throwback Thursday: Rough Stuff FJ40 Series

The making of a movie star: Throwback Thursday FJ40 from the Rough Stuff movie!

Haven’t seen it yet? Check out the Rough Stuff trailer then hit the How To Watch link to see the full feature for real! This beaut 2017 Aussie-made film has plenty of off-road action… and it’s about time someone got Australian four-wheel driving onto the big screen. While the movie is definitely worth the watch, let’s take a look at the mint (read: patina) FJ40 that stars in Rough Stuff.

The 40 is the vehicle of choice in the film of the character of the Ranger (played by Rob Queree), a bounty-hunter who is hunting down Buzz, the movie’s protagonist. We spoke to Jonathan Adams, the writer and director, about the choice of vehicle.

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“I couldn’t imagine the Ranger driving any other rig but an FJ40,” Jonathan tells us. “It just has that old-fashioned character. It’s everything the general public imagine a 4WD to be.”

“The FJ is like the Ranger’s trusted steed. They’ve been through everything together. It has a life-force, a personality almost. Our sound designer Lawrence Horne mixed some animal growls and grunts in with that iconic straight-six rumble to really give it an animalistic quality. I wanted the audience to feel like our characters were being hunted down by a beast with four wheels.”

With the 2F growling away and the patina look of the body, we reckon they did a great job of achieving just that.

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A bloke called Jono Cheal, who was the body double and the main driver for the Ranger character, is the guy with the FJ40’s keys in his pocket. Jono is president of the Crossed Up 4X4 Club and runs a lot of its trips throughout the Sydney area, so he is no stranger to driving off the blacktop. He also owns a well set-up 80 Series LandCruiser for longer trips but prefers driving the 40 whenever he can… despite the obvious side effects to the well known ‘old-truck lovers’ condition. There’s always something to fix, eh mate?

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Surprisingly, the vehicle is really not that modified aside from the 3-inch body lift and 35-inch Mickey Thompson Claws, but it still definitely gets up and boogies off-road.

“I’m amazed by how capable the Rough Stuff FJ40 is,” Jono says. “It’s relatively stock, has standard gear ratios and has open diffs; but when we were shooting the movie there was one time I was asked to make it look like the FJ was stuck in some ruts… the problem was that even on a horrible angle with the front right wheel in the air I couldn’t get it stuck. No matter what we put in front of the wheels it just drove up effortlessly. It even drives well on two wheels, as you’ll see in the movie.”

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As for the trials and tribulations of driving an older vehicle, Jono’s had plenty of them too. “Where do you start?” he laughs. “There are so many stories of ‘on the run repairs’ between shoots, from thermostat housings to fuel tanks leaking to ‘that bloody dipstick’ which kept dislodging itself. Just getting it to locations (and home again!) was always fun. The mileage wasn’t counted by litres of fuel per 100km but rather by how much oil it had in it and the amount of fluid in the power steering pump.”

When asked about that sweet patina, he told us that it isn’t a vinyl wrap or an airbrush job… nope, it’s the real deal.

“The body is as rugged as it looks (there’s a tent peg holding the driver’s door hinge together), the doors won’t shut properly and will swing open while driving occasionally,” he mentions as though it’s the most inconsequential thing ever. “It all adds to the character of the rig and after the time I’ve spent driving the Rough Stuff FJ, the 40 Series Cruiser is by far my favourite 4X4.”

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You may have noticed from the pics that on the day of our photoshoot the engine started ‘knocking on heaven’s door’ and by the time we’d wrapped up, she was toast. It turns out that on that very morning Jono’s mate had told him that he’d ‘just put a litre of oil in the engine’. Jono, thinking he’d just topped her up, was a little surprised when she started knocking halfway up the freeway to our shoot location. It turns out that there was literally only a litre of oil in the sump. After topping her up with another eight litres the mighty 2F kept on running – but unfortunately the damage had been done, with Jono saying that he could actually feel the pistons binding on the fire stroke.

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“Keeping to the Rough Stuff way, the motor seized on the way home from the Unsealed 4X4 photo shoot,” he tells us. After a few phone calls to other 40 Series-owning mates he had another engine on the way from Queensland that night; two-and-a-half days later (on the tools with his mate Mad Matt) the replacement motor was in and running. “It was fired up at about 2pm on the day of the Rough Stuff premiere,” Jon says. “The vehicle was parked in the theatre lobby for the event, so we got it done just in time!”

Hopefully, there’ll be a sequel and the FJ40 can make a triumphant return, in Rough Stuff 2!