By Steve & Tamami Laser
Wherever you travel on earth, you’re likely to encounter a Toyota Land Cruiser. One reason is that these rugged vehicles can go just about anywhere. And another is that Toyota has built more than 10 million Land Cruisers since the beginning some 68 years ago.
Today, the Land Cruiser is sold in 170 countries and regions across the globe, to the tune of about 400,000 units per year. While most are built in Japan, assembly from CKD (knock-down kits) also takes place in Portugal and Kenya.
Models currently in production include the 70 Series (recently celebrating its 30th anniversary) in wagon, cab-chassis, and troop carrier versions, the 200 Series (sold in the U.S. as the Land Cruiser and its cousin, the Lexus LX 570), and the 150 Series Prado (aka Lexus GX 460).
As the story goes, the Land Cruiser was the dream of Kiichiro Toyoda, TMC founder. The BJ prototype rode on a rugged 4WD chassis and featured an inline 6-cylinder gas engine. Test driver Ichiro Taira drove a prototype to the sixth of 10 checkpoints on Mt. Fuji, the first vehicle to make the trek, to demonstrate its capability.
The rugged Toyota was inspired by vehicles like the Jeep and Land Rover. Following BJ production in 1951-’53, Hanji Umehara renamed it the Land Cruiser in 1954. In the above photo, “Old Number One” Land Cruiser, the original model imported to Australia, is shown with a 1990s vintage Land Cruiser in the Snowy Mountains.
Toyota says that Australians have bought the most Land Cruisers over the years, with local sales topping the 1 million mark. The tally includes nearly 400,000 workhorse vehicles, including the current 70 Series, 360,000 wagons, including the 200 Series, and more than 300,000 Prado wagons.
Historic Land Cruisers at Toyotafest
Land Cruiser came to the U.S. market in 1958, when a single 20 Series model was sold, along with 288 Crown sedans, at Toyota’s first dealership in the U.S., called Toyota Hollywood Motor. Crown sales stopped in 1961 until a more powerful sedan to meet the needs of American buyers could be built. In the meantime, the Land Cruiser soldered on. Today, the Land Cruiser remains the longest-running nameplate for Toyota in America.
We had the chance to make a video of this super-rare 1961 Land Cruiser FJ25 on display from the Toyota USA collection at the All Toyotafest car show in Long Beach.
The 40 Series that arrived in the U.S. in 1960 (also called FJ40) is very popular with collectors today. This beautiful 1964 FJ45 4-door wagon from the Toyota collection is powered by an in-line Model F 6-cylinder engine teamed with a 3-speed synchromesh gearbox.
Vintage Land Cruiser pickups are rare in the U.S. This 1965 FJ45 from the Toyota collection features a removable top and detachable cab that allows for “pleasure driving” and all-around visibility. The inline 6-cylinder OHV engine puts out 135 horsepower.
2020 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition
Fast forward to today, and the U.S. market Land Cruiser has become a luxurious and technologically advanced premium model while still retaining its rugged off-road roots. Toyota plans to offer a limited run of the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition for the 2020 model year. It’s fitted with a 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, full-time 4WD with Advanced Chassis Control, and features special interior and exterior accents.
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News sources and photos courtesy Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota (GB) PLC, and Toyota Motor Corp. Australia Ltd.
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