Four-wheel fun comes in a variety of methods and manners these days from the bombastic custom builds of Baja trucks and buggies, and jacked up Jeeps and pickup trucks from the ‘big three,’ to foreign import models cruising down the road built more for comfort and convenience over outdoor spectacle.
With everyone getting in the game of conversions, regardless of the intention for on or off road use,specific to the Pacific Northwestern region lies a specialized shop converting the classic 4 wheel Toyota Landcruiser, supporting the many years of classic models and nostalgic Japanese imports. Along with many various suppliers and vendors, Landcruisers North West (Portland, OR), chooses Howell for their EFI.
“They don’t just sell you the parts and ignore you after the sale. In over 10 years of working with Howell, they’ve been easy to work with and if there was a problem we’ve always gotten it sorted out. They help with troubleshooting and assist in finding any issues we may encounter.”Matt Gustafson of Landcruiser NW
Landcruiser NW co owner, Matt Gustafson, has been raised on Landcruisers from his first days with a driver’s license, to his current ‘91 2-door soft-top 70-series, with an 89” wheelbase, sporting a V8 5-speed. “My first car was a Toyota Landcruiser,” says Gustafson. “When I was 16 yrs. old, I bought a 1970 Landcruiser and that was the start of the hobby. Five or six years later, my buddy and I started our Landcruiser shop.”
Gustafson started his company at 22 years of age during an internship straight out of college. With his first dabbling in corporate America, he quickly learned the soul-robbing trade of time for money, corporate agenda and yes-man games required to succeed in the suit-n-tie role, probably wasn’t for him. In seeking out his personal interests instead, the two-man team decided to start their own brand of Landcruiser shop.
Specific to the Gustafson brand is the opportunity to leave the city streets for the splendor of the Pacific Northwest outdoors. Plus with the lack of a harsh winter, nor any salt on the roads, Gustafson says, “Landcruisers survive here very well. We don’t have any corrosive chemicals all over our vehicles. And with our SUV/outdoor-based lifestyles, our heaviest load is a surfboard and maybe a bike, on our way to the beach or up in the mountains.”
The Landcruiser NW business has seen recent upticks in business with the Landcruiser now coming en vogue. As with many auto enthusiasts, when the daily driver becomes a toy to play with as well, often times the wrenches come out and the imagination starts to run wild with ideas of modifications and enhanced performance. “Many of our customers look at the prospect of restoring a cool old car and driving something that’s fun and exciting, over spending the same amount of money on a modern-day design that doesn’t have much soul to it,” says Matt.
With not only his personal passion for Landcruiser supporting his business, but also the reputation of a solid product from the manufacturer, Gustafson says it’s helpful to build our business on quality and reliable products. “When you start with a good foundation, and stick to the high standards and the same quality of your modifications, it’s easy to develop a good reputation in our work, and the cars will last for a long time. And regardless of crazy modifications or remaining with stock from the factory, we want our work to make the car as safe, if not safer than it was, and we have to deliver a reliable car that many times is even more reliable than when we started.”
“For example, we use Howell EFI because they offer a fuel injection conversion that works with the factory Landcruiser engine,” says Gustafson. “Howell uses basic throttle body and fuel injection components that have been proven over the last 30 years.” Gustafson claims that if he does some work and then sometime later the car ends up in someone else’s shop, “If they have to scratch their head to figure out what we have done in our shop, our modification is not all that good. With Howell however, if I make the mod and it goes somewhere else, the other shop is going to easily recognize the parts and the process.” As with many shops, the mechanic is often handed a project of wiring and harnesses that have seen multiple modification and molestation over the years. “One of the things huge for us,” says Matt, “is that Howell makes a stand alone wiring harness for old cars that I can install and easily rebuild the system, reliably and correctly.”
When Gustafson started his business in 2002, he says he was looking for a company that made a stand alone wiring harness so he could choose his own inputs like A/C, electric fans, or whatever their needs become. “There is a lot of generic stuff out there but there are very few that I can determine for myself this type of connector for the fuel injector, I want it to have two electric fans over one, I’d like the harness adapted to the passenger side instead of the driver side of the engine, or even super long so I can install from the trunk, or whatever the situation may be, with Howell, they make all of that stuff, and provide the full kit with everything I need, in one stop. Yes we work for improved efficiency, horsepower and enhanced performance, but we strive first for quality, safety and reliability in our builds. Many times we need the attributes of one harness included in the attributes of another harness. Howell helps us do that.”
Matt also enjoys the reliable customer service from Howell, with their dedication to ‘make it work.’ Matt says, “They don’t just sell you the parts and ignore you after the sale. In over 10 years of working with Howell, they’ve been easy to work with and if there was a problem we’ve always gotten it sorted out. They help with troubleshooting and assist in finding any issues we may encounter.”
Matt advises for any modifications to always keep in mind reliability, safety and the future service. And whether a fuel injection conversion from a carburetor, or swapping in a fuel injected engine, stick with the basics. “When someone gets too exotic with their mods, it makes it very tough to service five or 10 years down the line.”
After 20 years in business, Gustafson continues his excitement for his Landcruisers and auto projects to come. “Just last week I found a really cool ’65 FJ45 pickup out in the middle of nowhere, and I am super excited for the previously unavailable ‘70 series Landcruisers coming in from Japan too! We end up in a lot of treasure hunts. When someone knows of something cool out there, they usually give us a call. We are picking up a Landcruiser fire truck, coming in this week, that will be a really fun conversion.”