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Toyota Land Cruiser History
From the scorching plains of sub Saharan Africa, to the brutal cold of the Arctic Circle, this vehicle has driven everywhere on our green Earth. It’s a shining beacon of utilitarian belief in perfected practicality.This is everything you need to know to get up to speed on the Toyota Land Cruiser.
In the world, with nearly every single model represented, it is clear that the Land Cruiser is one of the most diverse and influential vehicles in the entire history of the automobile. You ever heard of it? The Land Cruiser is Toyota’s longest running nameplate.
Starting production in 1951 with the BJ model. It was a military vehicle produced in Japan for American use in the Korean war. After the armistice agreement in 1953, the “war” was “over,” but Toyota wanted to keep making the BJ because it made them a lot of money.
But they couldn’t just send a bare-bones war fighter out into the world and expect to sell big numbers, so Toyota gave the workhorse a redesign, with comfier seats and softer suspension.
This “new model,” called the Model 20, encompassed both the gasoline-powered FJ20 and the diesel-powered BJ20. This Land Cruiser was extremely important to Toyota. In fact, it’s possible that without it, they might not be around today.
That means No Supra! No MR2! No Hachiroku! Toyota had been building cars in Japan since 1936, but weren’t selling them outside of the country. After the war, Toyota started looking abroad, but there was a problem.
The biggest markets already had their own passenger cars. However, the FJ was just as good, if not better than, America’s Jeep. So, what they did was send the FJ and the BJ to oversea markets, then put their new passenger car, the Crown, next to it.
The reliability and capability of the Land Cruiser gave the Crown credibility. Within Toyota, this was called the Land Cruiser Strategy and Toyota implemented it all over the world. Thanks to the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Toyota lineup was seen as a credible option. Okay, quick time-out.
I’m going to be saying’ a lot of numbers and letters in this article, and it might seem confusing, but it’s not. Here’s what they mean. The first letter is the engine. F means it has a straight six gasoline engine, B is a four-cylinder diesel engine, and H means your Cruiser has a six-cylinder diesel. J is Toyota-Talk for Land Cruiser.
Most people say it stands for Jeep, but it’s never been officially confirmed by Toyota. The number after the J is the body style. 40 through 42 is short wheel based, 43, 44, and 46 are medium wheel based, 45s and 47s, are long wheel bases, both available in troopy and truck.
So, when you hear someone say FJ44, that means it’s a six-cylinder gas Land Cruiser, in the 40 series, with a medium wheelbase. See? Easy! 1960 saw the first refresh of the FJ line, the Model 40. Yeah, it looked pretty similar to the Model 20, but the 40 was better in every way.
Toyota had refined their construction techniques, so the frame and body were stronger. The FJ40 also had a low range gear that made off-roading way easier. And, the Model 40 had more horsepower, 125. You might be saying, “that doesn’t sound like a lot,” and, you’re right, but horsepower isn’t that important for off-roading, dum-dum.
It’s all about the torque! The next FJ update was in 1967. The Model 55 FJ. It was basically a station wagon for the Outback. Some versions had seating for up to nine people. That’s more people than were in my eighth grade graduating class!
The Model 55 is probably the funkiest looking of all of the Land Cruisers, earning the nickname Iron Pig. Because some people thought it looked like a pig that was made out of metal. The Model 55 marked the transition in thinking around utility vehicles.
Yes, they can be used to do work in remote places, but they can also carry people! Just like the pickup truck, people were starting to see that the Toyota Land Cruiser wasn’t just meant for work. It was also meant for life.
The paradigm shift was complete when Toyota dropped the Land Cruiser Model 60 in 1980. It was still the unstoppable off-roader people came to know and love, but now there was a luxury model. The GX had a moon-roof, powered mirrors, a more comfortable interior.
Toyota knew that customers were shopping the Land Cruiser against the Land Rover, and that it needed to be better if they were going to compete. The most critical component was the Land Cruiser’s solid front axle.
It’s a solid front axle. On heavy-duty vehicles, the wheels are connected with a solid beam. This is stronger than independent suspension, and perfect for hauling stuff around. The simple nature of solid axles made them more reliable.
Which is exactly what you want when you’re out in the bush! There are less components to break, so if something goes wrong, it’s easier to fix. Plus, a solid axle lets you get sweet flex, bro! However, solid axles aren’t great for handling, and aren’t as comfortable on the road.
To solve this, Toyota put softer springs on the Land Cruiser, which allowed them even more flex! Which made them even better off road. Good job, Toyota.
The Land Cruiser continued to modernize with the Model 70 released in 1984. Small adjustments were made to make the now legendary off-roader even better. The body panels were thickened by a millimeter to make them more durable. And the styling was updated for a more domesticated look.
If the Model 60 in 1980 marked the Land Cruiser’s transition from utilitarian focus to comfort, 1989’s Model 80 was a full commitment to luxury. Toyota knew that most people weren’t going to take the latest Cruiser off-road. That for most people in the U.S., the Land Cruiser was a family car.
But the Land Cruiser didn’t mind, because it was still a bad “a” explorer. It didn’t matter if the Model 80 eventually got safer features, like anti-lock brakes and airbags, because in 1996, the Land Cruiser earned the ultimate in off-road credibility.
The Dakar rally is one of the most demanding races on Earth. Spanning from Granada, Spain, to Dakar, Senegal. Navigating city streets, sand dunes, and some of the most treacherous terrain on Earth. Toyota entered two Model 80 Land Cruisers in the unmodified diesel class.
That means they didn’t modify them. And guess what? They won! Toyota would return in 2001, and win again! And if that wasn’t enough, they won again in 2005. Oh, that’s still not enough? They came back in 2014 and won again! It goes without saying, but you can’t stop a Land Cruiser.
In 1998, however, the 80 series was replaced by Toyota Land Cruiser 100. By now, everyone knew that Toyota Land Cruiser was the best. We all knew this. It rode like a cloud over roads that were impassible to lesser vehicles. It could maneuver itself over the most unforgiving terrain, and it would not die.
It is so reliable, as a durable four by four, that the United Nations passed a resolution to use it as their field vehicle of choice. Toyota made the best even better. They developed a new 32-valve V8 that made more horsepower, got better mileage, and reduced emissions.
And while in some markets they released a 105 series that carried over most of its guts from the 80 series, including solid front and rear axles, the 100 series that we got had quite a few game-changing bells and whistles.
The front suspension was a double wishbone, kind of independent suspension, and the steering was now rack and pinion. This Toyota Land Cruiser was designed to feel more of like a passenger car than its heavy-duty, rough and tumble predecessors.
To further improve riding comfort as well as steering stability, it had hydraulic vehicle height adjustment, and Toyota Electronic Modulated Suspension, or, skyhook, TEMS. Which made it perform better if for some reason you were driving on paved roads.
In ’99 it got traction control, and in 2002 the Land Cruiser featured new technology that enabled drivers to see in the dark. Night view uses headlight projectors to emit near-infrared light then, a camera captures that reflected radiation, a computer processes it, and it projects a black and white image on the windshield. Seriously they made this!
This is Bruce Wayne stuff! Though the Land Cruiser 100 continues to evolve on the path of luxury passenger car, there are still users overseas who must drive it off-road.
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To meet the needs of Australia, Africa, and other rugged environments, Toyota is still cranking out the Land Cruiser 105 series. It doesn’t matter how much it takes on the aura of luxury, Toyota Land Cruiser is never far from its roots as an off-road vehicle. The latest version is no different. The 200 series is one of the most capable off-roaders, let alone luxury off-roaders, that you can buy today. It is a beautiful monster.
Introduced in 2007, the 200 series pioneered features like downhill assist control, off road anti-lock brakes, and crawl which is basically cruise control for the trail, using weird computer science it basically drives itself. Despite the openly luxurious appearance, the 200 series is still one of the best overland vehicles in the friggin’ world!
From its start, the Land Cruiser dominated the harsh landscapes of untouched countries, but the landscape has changed. Today, the Toyota Land Cruiser dominates the automotive landscape. Looking down from its lofty, luxury perch, as king of the mountain. And those harsh, unexplored environments? Well, it still dominates there, too.
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