You want to flip the page and read about something dumped to the weeds and with an engine swap, but all of a sudden the TE37s catch your eye. Suddenly, the child in you who's got no problem paying 300 bucks for an illegal smog test comes to terms with the adult in you who recognizes the need for a practical daily driver. That's sort of what happened to New York's Ting Lei and Bryant Tang, whose FJ Cruisers underwent the scrutiny of tuning firm RavSpec to appeal just as much to their inner kids as they do their grown-up selves.
It turns out that both Lei's and Tang's FJs are almost as fun as your K-swapped Civic and yet just as utilitarian as your neighbor's bro-by-four. It's a careful balance the two have found, one that's based on things like high-end Japanese seats and rims and 3-inch lifts with off-road dampers. For Lei, the FJ is an escape from the less practical sports cars he's used to. "I wanted to take a break from speed," he says. "I also needed a 4x4 for the rough terrain in New York City and something more practical for my hobbies—driving on the beach and chasing blizzards [while] snowboarding." Tang's reasons aren't much different—Toyota's SUV perfectly complements his R35 GT-R and Audi R8 that New York's winters dictate he can't always drive.
"It's quirky and different and it requires a different kind of taste in vehicle," Tang says about the FJ. "You have to really understand it to love it and be a part of its cult-like following." Both feature modest 3-inch lifts by way of Fox Racing and Toytec that make room for the purposeful 34-inch rubber and with only minimal hacking. As far as modding goes, almost all of it was done at Deer Park, New York's RavSpec, where Lei wrenches part time and has assisted Tang with previous builds. The hardest part of the two builds? According to Lei, that was all just a matter of girth: "the shear size and weight of the parts. I'm used to installing parts [that are] relatively light. Slapping on a steel bumper for the FJ would've been easier if I had a few extra sets of hands."
Your K-swapped Civic seldom leaves the garage it's stashed in and your neighbor's bro-by-four is beat all to hell. Lei's and Tang's FJs, however, have a different calling, taking on everything from grocery store runs to off-road adventures to posting up at last year's New York International Auto Show. Want to know what just about the most multi-purposed of builds looks like? Better not flip that page yet.