It’s no secret that we here at DirtRoadTrip are suckers for sexy suspension systems with Remote Reservoirs and Internal Bypass shocks. I mean if you can’t hang your shocks up on a wall in an industrial art exhibit, whats the point, right? Anyways, our latest suspension upgrade is no different. But it’s really not about looks, it’s all about performance (ok, mostly about performance) and everyone knows that Old Man Emu is the “go to” suspension for just about every Overlander in the world. So, when I first laid eyes on ARB’s OME BP-51 bypass shocks, at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Overland Festival, I knew that there was a good chance I would put these on my FJ Cruiser. It’s been about 8 months since then, and the shocks have been available for sometime now, but they’re still relatively difficult to come by right now. So when I got my chance to purchase them, I jumped at it.
A little background, for the past four years I’ve been running a cluster bomb of suspension parts. I went the cheap route and decided I could put together a package as good as anyone else and save some money. While that suspension worked well when the truck was stock weight, it became glaringly obvious in Vermont’s back roads, that the suspension was overloaded and overworked. It had also begun to sag quite a bit, and on small drop-offs, it would bottom out easily. So, I did some research, and over the past year I ran the gamut of all the available setups for my FJ. I knew what I wanted… 1 – Springs heavy enough not to sag with the additional weight of the Demello Offroad front bumper, Superwinch Talon 9.5s, Engel MT45 fridge (always loaded with Terrapin Recreation Ale, mind you), a Pelican Case loaded with recovery gear, all my camera equipment, camping gear, OzTent RV4, and hopefully a swing-out rear bumper in the near future (you know, your typical Overlander’s load out). 2 – Something that would absorb all the big hits from the trails and make the washboard stuff a little less teeth rattling 3 – Performance-car-like handling on the tarmac when being daily driven. I know, It’s a tall order.
I selected the OME BP-51 because it had all the traits that I wanted. Not that there aren’t other setups available that can answer that call, but after my research, I quickly realized that even at $2900 retail, the BP-51’s were a damn bargain! Some folks may cringe at the number, but when you’re serious about driving off-road and you want comfort, as well as dependability, you better be ready to fork out the big bucks. OME is the the only brand that brings both compression and rebound adjustability, “Heavy” rated springs, remote reservoirs, and large bore internal bypass technology all-together in a sub $3000 package. Not only that, but the light and heavy kits are priced the same. All the other kits I looked at, either charged extra for heavy springs, or didn’t even offer it. For me, it really was a no-brainer.
My initial impression when I opened the boxes that the shocks came in was, do I really wanna destroy these things? They’re so pretty. Seriously though, as with all things DirtRoadTrip, I know they will have to endure serious abuse, and I’m confident these will handle many years of thrashings; they are stout! Even if their durability was in question, they have a 3yr/40k mile warranty that covers any failures as well as the finish. The machining is excellent, there are many moving parts to these shocks, and everything fits perfectly together. Adjustments to compression and rebound are easily made with the included spanners, most companies make you buy these separate, OME gives you two! Those guys at Old Man Emu sure know what they are doing when it comes to suspension! Needless to say, I’m impressed with everything I’ve seen from this suspension kit so far.
Installation was relatively straight-forward. The kit is designed for 2010-2014 Fj Cruisers, but with a little creativity, and willingness to drill holes in your frame, it’s easily adapted to the 2007-2009 FJ’s. The front coil-overs went in relatively smooth. The BP-51’s top-hat bolted to the shock towers without an issue. When it came to the lower mounting points, it a little coercion from a large hammer and a socket that was slightly wider than the mounts on the lower control arms, no big deal. With a little more time, I could have removed some material from the two spacers that insert into the lower spherical bearings, which would have allowed enough room to fit the shocks into the lower control arms, without widening the mounts. The rear shocks went in without a hitch. Mounting the reservoir brackets on the front was simple, the holes that are used to bolt them in are the same for all model year FJ’s.
The rear reservoir brackets are were things get tricky. There are holes in the frame of the newer model FJ’s that aren’t present on 07-09 model years. So, choices are to make a custom bracket, weld on the brackets, or drill and tap your frame. I went with option 3. We were limited on time since I decided to do this on a Friday, after work, and we didn’t have access to a metal brake, or a welder. Drilling and tapping was the only option I had if I wanted to drive my truck home that night, YOLO! Once that was complete, I mounted the reservoirs. This can be a little tricky. You need to wiggle the reservoir into the clamp, while also holding the bolts, to line them up with the slots in the clamp. Once the reservoirs are in the clamp and you have it arranged how you want, you need to tighten the small bolts that tighten the clamp to the reservoir. Again, a little tricky, but not a big deal. There was no adjustments needed for the coilovers. They are preloaded from the factory to give a 2.5″ lift on a truck with a front bumper and winch already installed.
All in all, I’m very happy that I went with the OME BP-51 Suspension Kit. The fit and finish of everything is excellent. All the hardware you need is included, and the best part is that the included instructions were excellent and very detailed.
Stay tuned for a full review on the handling characteristics on and off road.