Photos: Kyle Crawford and Jason Reiss
We’re always on the lookout for interesting and unique vehicles to feature here at Front Street. Builds which have “it”: that unmistakable uncommon aspect to separate themselves from the pack. Earlier this year, when Front Street’s parent company Turn 14 Distribution hosted its annual Car Meet, this insane vehicle—the Land Kreuzer—showed up and stole the show.
I guess you could say I’m jaded; I’ve seen thousands of custom and extraordinary builds over the years, and it takes something truly exceptional to capture my attention. I stood and looked at this truck for quite some time, taking in all of the individual elements which make it so special. Then I reached out to the owner’s son, Chad, who put me in touch with the owner, Bob Colfer, who subsequently put me in touch with the builder—Jon Lagler of Mad Goat Customs—who just so happens to be one of Chad’s closest friends. Got all that? Good.
A plan was hatched for Kyle and I to do an early-morning photoshoot of the uncommon and noteworthy build, and found out there was far more to the story than a hot rod. In fact, it’s the story of a builder coming of age and learning how to turn an idea into reality, ultimately settling into a career in the process.
Lagler, who grew up in a family of automotive enthusiasts, has taken his passion and turned it into a skillset possessed by few.
“My dad and three older brothers were a big influence on me as I was growing up. From a very young age I was involved in fixing, restoring, and modifying cars. I grew up around custom cars and they just became my main interest,” says Lagler.
He developed his talents for several years by working in a dealership and dabbling in hot rod building on the side, before finally pulling the trigger and leaving the dealership job in the dust to focus on the creation of wild machinery like the totally custom FJ40 seen here.
Lagler, who has been interested in vintage Toyotas and FJ40s for as long as he can remember, developed the idea of building the Land Kreuzer over time—he purchased the truck in 2009 on eBay for the whopping sum of $800, and initially had intentions of restoring it. Although the truck ran and was drivable at that time, he says it had serious rust issues, which changed the build’s direction pretty quickly. With good intentions, he made the decision which ultimately turned into a Land Cruiser like no other on the road.
“The condition was what most people would call unrestorable. The body was literally falling off the frame, and the frame was rusted beyond repair. Lots of people get bent out of shape when you cut up a classic, but I assure you that there was no great loss here,” he says.
“There are very few people who would have saved this truck. There are thousands of Land Cruisers in far better condition sitting in back yards and fields that will never get restored, despite the owner’s intentions. I put a classic Land Cruiser back on the road, and the parts I didn’t use helped keep others on the road.”
The truck sat for several years after he purchased it while he pondered its future, and inspiration came in the form of the FJ45 hot rod commissioned by Toyota for the SEMA Show to commemorate the launch of the new FJ Cruiser back in 2006—a quite-unique vehicle in its own right which featured a detuned TRD NASCAR engine and other wild features which were very much out-of-place on a Land Cruiser, but somehow worked well as part of the overall package.
So with a vision in his head, and a canvas ready to be worked into shape, Lagler started to formulate a plan.
“Around that time I was also seeing a lot of flatrods, lowered flat-fender Jeeps turned into hot rods. I started making sketches of what I thought would look good, and then moved on to photoshopping images from different angles. I convinced myself that I could pull it off, but it was clear that it would take more than just chopping the roof and lowering the suspension to do it,” he explains.
With the underpinnings ready for the scrapyard, Lagler took on the massive task of fabricating a frame from scratch, based around square steel tube of varying dimensions. The Land Kreuzer is a true mashup of different components; the front suspension uses independent unequal-length double A-arms which Lagler made based on the dimensions of the C5/C6 Corvette spindles, C5 two-piston front brake calipers, and 13-inch front rotors. The rack-and-pinion steering rack and Hydraboost assist unit (sourced for its compact dimensions) were picked from a ’99-04 Ford Mustang, while the steering column and pedal assembly came from a 1972 FJ40 Land Cruiser. Energy Suspension bushings, QA1 coilover shocks, and QA1 springs complete the front suspension.
Since he had plans to install independent suspension in the rear, a Borg-Warner 7.75-inch center section from a 2004-‘06 GTO was selected, with a limited-slip differential and 3.46:1-ratio ring-and-pinion inside. Porsche 930 chromoly-shaft CV axles run through a set of unequal length A-arms on each side and into the C5 Corvette hubs. C5 ‘Vette disc brakes are used in the rear as well. QA1 coilover shocks and springs complete the suspension in the rear, and their capabilities are definitely needed. With an overall length of 12 feet, a 97-inch wheelbase and just 65 inches in width, the Land Kreuzer needs all the help it can get to keep the tires planted.
Builder Jon Lagler of Mad Goat Customs (left) and Land Kreuzer owner Bob Colfer (right).
The stock forged C6 wheels are built by Speedline for GM, and measure 18×8.5-inches up front and 19×10-inches out back, with 245/40-18 and 285/35-19 Goodyear F1 GS-2 EMT run-flat tires on board.
Inside there’s a set of Dakota Digital VHX gauges and ’72 Land Cruiser seats with a Grant Signature Series wheel and new Cruiser Corps upholstery, also installed by Lagler.
The real shocker, though, is under the hood. Well, it’s really through the hood in this instance, as the engine pokes through for all to view. In fact, the engine poking through the hood is what initially stopped me in my tracks when I first saw the Kreuzer. ”Is that.. no.. it couldn’t be.. but it is!”
The BMW M70 V12 single overhead-camshaft engine has had the BMW logo milled from the intakes to make the engine’s heritage more mysterious to the casual onlooker. It displaces 5.0-liters and makes 300 horsepower with 330 lb-ft of torque on tap, plenty to motivate the lightweight machine down the road. The engine is backed by a Getrag 420G six-speed manual transmission equipped with a short-throw shifter and runs the power to the differential through a custom-length steel driveshaft. Custom stainless steel dual exhaust incorporates an X-pipe and a pair of Magnaflow mufflers to create a glorious sound that was quite unexpected when Colfer fired the engine up for us.
“Most people approach the car expecting to see a Toyota engine or a Chevy V8. I did consider all the obvious engine choices, but I decided that a car that’s so unusual needs to have an unusual engine as well. I considered the Toyota 1GZ V12, but decided against it due to its rarity in the US and difficulty in sourcing parts as it was never sold in North America. The M70 V12 on the other hand is relatively easy to source, and in my opinion is one of the best looking engines ever made. It certainly would have been easier and cheaper to use a GM LS engine, but I don’t think it would make the same impact,” says Lagler.
Believe it or not, the entire body is steel with the exception of the fiberglass roof, and nearly all of the custom bodywork was done by Lagler personally.
The modifications include a 5-inch chop on the roof, 6 inches pulled from the height (3 inches at the bottom and 3 inches from the middle), rear wheel arches which have been moved rearward by 7 inches to accommodate the wheelbase, the hood cutout, firewall modifications, custom floor panels, transmission tunnel, and wheel wells. The factory hood louvers were moved rearward by 4 inches.
Only the fenders (rolled by Fenders ‘N More) and the Real Steel Cruiser Parts tailgate came from external sources. Once all of the work was completed—which took Lagler three-and-a-half years, working on it when time permitted—he covered the body in ’07-09 Toyota Voodoo Blue.
“It was not an easy decision. I am a Land Cruiser enthusiast myself and I knew there would be a lot of purists that just hate what I’ve done,” he says.
And when talking with Jon, I could immediately sense that the Kreuzer was his baby and it was hard to sell, but Bob Colfer wanted it and Lagler wanted to expand his business, so a deal was struck and Bob took the Land Kreuzer home.
It’s readily apparent from the very first impression of the Land Kreuzer that this was not an easy build by any stretch of the imagination, and I suspect that there was more than one occasion where Lagler looked at it halfway through the process and wondered if he had made the right decision. The end result, however, bears abundant proof of the fruits of his labor. Whether the purists hate it or not, I’m certain that anyone who sees this build—especially in person—can walk away appreciating its craftsmanship and out-of-the-box thinking. I know I sure did. By the way, it won Best Truck at that Car Meet where I saw it for the first time.
For a full gallery of build photos on this unique vehicle, head on over to the Mad Goat Customs page.