70 years of the Toyota Land Cruiser
I was just a school kid when I heard the name Toyota Land Cruiser for the very first time. To be specific, it was a gorgeous Prado plastered on the cover of a magazine back in 2004. This year, Toyota is celebrating 70 years of the iconic SUV, and the legend of the Land Cruiser shows no signs of slowing down, having sold over 10 million units worldwide. The Land Cruiser’s ability to take you just about anywhere and come back in one piece is what makes it so special. One might say that the urban legend of Toyota cars being able to outlive their owners (and even their kids at times), actually came from this immensely successful vehicle. But what if I told you that the first ever Land Cruiser, was not even a Land Cruiser to begin with?
The Land Cruiser, before the Land Cruiser!
The first ever Land Cruiser was actually known as the BJ prototype, and was born during the Korean war, when the demand for lightweight utility vehicles had increased. The BJ prototype was powered by a 3.4-litre six-cylinder petrol engine which produced a power output of 82.8bhp and 215Nm of torque. It also had immense off-road capabilities which helped it become the first car to reach the sixth stage of Mount Fuji — a feat which impressed the National Police Agency, who eventually ended up making the BJ prototype their official patrol vehicle. Initially available only to the military, in 1953 Toyota began selling the car to the public, but it wasn’t until 1954 that the ‘Land Cruiser’ name would be used, as the ‘Jeep’ name was trademarked by Willys.
The second-generation Land Cruiser was known as the FJ20, and made its debut in 1955 with revised exteriors to further enhance its appeal. But it would be another five years until Toyota would give the Land Cruiser its first major update. The third-generation arrived in 1960 as the FJ40. It received a new 3.9-litre diesel engine which produced 123.2bhp and 209Nm of torque.
Mixing off-roading with practicality
The mid-sixties was also a focal point for the Land Cruiser, as it got split up into three different categories of models, namely the Heavy Duty, Light Duty, and the Station Wagon. Growing customer needs and demands resulted in the entry of the FJ55 Station Wagon variant in 1967. It was a more comfortable and sensible option for those who wanted the ruggedness of the Land Cruiser, while retaining the practicality of a family car.
Combining toughness and sophistication
Throughout the years, Toyota spawned off multiple models that wore the Land Cruiser badge, but it was in 1989 that the Land Cruiser really began shaping up to the luxury SUV that it is today, with the launch of the 80-series. The 80-series did away with leaf springs and got a coil-spring suspension setup instead. Focus was on improving the comfort and safety levels, as the 80-series came with ABS, airbags, air conditioning, leather seats and even a music player, among other creature comforts. This may not seem like a lot compared to the cars of today, but back then even an MP3 player was seen as a luxury. The 80 proved to be a hit as it combined the rugged, go-anywhere capability the LC was known for while also providing good levels of comfort and safety. The 100 series that came next in 1998 further upped the ante, as it became the first Land Cruiser to sport a V8 engine, and also the first car to have an automotive night vision system known as Night View. It worked with a combination of cameras and infrared lights to provide enhanced vision to the driver.
In 2007, Toyota would replace the 100-series with the 200-series, which was available with a range of V6 and V8 engines offered in both petrol and diesel guises. Positioned as a high-end luxury SUV, the 200-series also came equipped with features such as push-button start/stop, keyless entry, 10 airbags and so on.
Today, Toyota celebrates 70 years of this highly successful brand. It is one of the most iconic SUVs to have ever been produced in history, having gone through several generation changes and spawning multiple categories, and with Toyota having revealed the 300-series, it definitely seems like the game is not stopping anytime soon.