The Land Cruiser is Toyota’s best-selling septuagenarian if we count all the years from its first production version in 1951 to the present. It is, in fact, Toyota’s longest-running series, branching out to separate models like the Land Cruiser Prado and FJ Cruiser. The Land Cruiser model alone has sold over 10 million units worldwide as of 2019.
This series of body-on-frame and four-wheel-drive vehicles, classed as Off-road/Full-size SUV, is available in off-road-oriented models (currently selling as J70) and comfort-oriented models (the present-generation J200). Toyota produced it in various body styles through the generations, including hardtop, convertible, estate, and half-truck. To fully appreciate the Land Cruiser, let's take a look at its long and fascinating past.
The Land Cruiser’s history goes as far back as wartime days in the 1940s. While they occupied the Philippines, the Japanese Army took a fancy to the Willys Jeep left there by the Americans. They wanted Toyota to reproduce a similar light utility vehicle (LUV) for military use. Toyota’s first prototype was the AK10, but it paled beside the Jeep. While this first effort was not successful, it sparked interest in the project and taught valuable lessons that later became useful in the development of the BJ and FJ.
BJ and FJ (1951-1955)
In 1951, when the Korean War broke out, the need for a military LUV surfaced again. This time the US government placed an order from Toyota for a hundred ‘Jeeps’ based on the latest specs of the Willys at that time. The prototype was named BJ. ‘B’ was for Toyota’s B-type 3.4-litre 6-cylinder OHV 6-cylinder petrol engine (63 kW, 215 Nm) and ‘J’ for the J-platform (referencing the Jeep).
During a test drive to the sixth stage of Mount Fuji, the National Police Agency (NPA) witnessed the impressive performance of the BJ, the first vehicle to reach that height. The Japanese NPA was so impressed that they ordered 289 BJs that would become their official patrol cars. The BJs in this generation were 2-door soft tops.
Acting on trademark complaints from the Willys Company in 1954, Toyota changed the name of the Jeep BJ to Land Cruiser. Later, a 3.9-litre F-type 6-cylinder petrol engine (75-93 kW, 261-289 Nm) was added to the new Land Cruiser range. Thus, the models remained to be internally coded as BJ or FJ, depending on the engine used, even with the discontinued use of the BJ name.
J20 and J30 (1955-1960)
Toyota produced the second generation as 2-door soft tops, 2-door hardtops, 2-door pickup trucks, and 5-door wagons. Like the first generation, the new models had a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. They utilized the same engines but received improvements in bodywork and suspension.
The FJ25/28 cab-chassis or half-truck was the first-ever Land Cruiser that Australia had imported. From then on, Toyota had not only regularly exported the Land Cruiser to the country but also extensively tested its reliability and longevity on the tough terrains and environment of the Australian outback.
The J40 or 40 Series, classed as compact SUV, were built as 2-door pickups/utes, 2-door SUVs, and 4-door SUVs (only until 1966). 4WDs were now available in this generation, and the range of engines increased with the addition of diesel variants.
The third generation received low-range gearing but continued to use the three-speed manual gearbox. Later in the series, 4-speed and 5-speed would be made available. The options for the wheelbases increased, now including choices of short, medium, and long.
The SUVs and utes exported to Australia all came with the 3.9-litre F petrol engine and a 3-speed manual gearbox (101 kW, 296 Nm). The SUV had two trims - the Deluxe, which had four doors and six seats, and the short-wheelbase (SWB) variant, which had two doors and three seats. A ute was also on offer.
In 1975, Toyota added a 4.2-litre 2F petrol engine, pairing it with a 4-speed manual gearbox (96 kW, 274 Nm). Two other engines were introduced before 1980 – 3.6-litre 6-cylinder H diesel engine (70 kW, 216 Nm) offered for the ute, 3.0-litre 4-cylinder B diesel (57 kW, 187 Nm) for the 2-door SUV/offroader. All the new engines teamed up with a 4-speed manual gearbox.
In 1980, a 4.0-litre 2H 6-cylinder diesel 4-speed manual (72-76 kW, 229-241 Nm) powered the ute and the 2-door/11-seat SUV/troop carrier.
The 4.2-litre 2F engine continued to be the petrol alternative for the ute. The SWB, on the other hand, utilized a 3.4-litre 3B 4-cylinder diesel mated to a 4-speed manual (63 kW, 206 Nm).
Two Categories of the Land Cruiser
Seven years after the start of the third generation (J40 or 40 Series), Toyota aimed at producing upsized and upmarket versions of the Land Cruiser. At this point, the Land Cruiser has already branched into two distinct categories – Off-road-oriented and Comfort-oriented.
- Comfort-oriented (J50 to J200) - the 50 Series began the wagon-styled Land Cruiser, with its production running from 1967 to 1980 alongside the J40. The J50 evolved to the J60, J80, and J100 station wagons from 1980 to 2007. Today, the current series is the J200 consisting of 5-door SUVs.
- Off-road-oriented (J70) - the 70 series did not begin until the end of the 40 Series in 1984. Carrying the J40’s torch as a compact SUV and an off-road workhorse, it became the direct successor of the 4WD J40 generation.
In the words of Toyota, the J50 series marked the beginning of the “first real Land Cruiser station wagon.” The 50 Series featured fully-enclosed box frames for the first time in their 4-door station wagon range of models. It replaced the J40 4-door station wagon SUV but retained the drivetrain.
It used the same engines that powered the J40 during this period – the 6-cylinder 3.9-litre F and 4.2-litre 2F petrol units.
The SUV market started to emerge in 1980, and Toyota set the J60 to become a strong competitor in this segment. This series featured air-conditioning, heater, and an upscale interior. Its wheelbase increased to 2730mm from the J50's 2700mm.
It added to the range of engines the 3.4-litre 3B 4-cylinder and 4.0 2H 6-cylinder diesel power units. The choices available for the transmission system expanded to include the following:
- 4-speed H41F or H42F manual (USA)
- 4-speed A440F automatic
- 5-speed H55F manual
This series sold alongside the off-road-oriented J40 (the last of it) and the J70 (introduced in 1984).
The 80 Series had its debut at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show and launched early the following year. The newly-launched J80 featured swing-out backdoors, which were later replaced by a hatch and a tailgate in 1994.
On the exterior, it appeared slightly rounded compared to its boxy siblings. In Colombia and Venezuela, it earned the moniker Burbuja (which means bubble) due to this roundness.
Underneath, the wheelbase increased from the last generation’s 2730mm to 2850mm. It now has a fulltime 4WD, but the part-time system is still on offer in Australia. Toyota introduced these new diesel engines in addition to those from the J60 range:
- 4.0-litre 3F-E 6-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol (112 kW, 290 Nm)
- 4.5-litre 1FZ-FE 6-cylinder petrol (158 kW, 373 Nm)
- 4.2-litre 1HZ 6-cylinder SOHC naturally-aspirated diesel (96 kW, 271 Nm)
- 4.2-litre 1HD-T 6-cylinder direct-injection turbo diesel (115 kW, 357 Nm)
The powertrain used the same transmission systems offered in the J60.
A limited-edition Australia-only version coded FZJ80R and called the Land Cruiser Blue Marlin was introduced in 1994. It had the blue color of the fish from which it was named and had the Blue Marlin logo all over it. It used the 4.5-litre 1FZ-FE engine described above and paired with either 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox. The standard equipment for this 4-door, 8-seat 4x4 included the following ABS, 16-inch alloy wheels, altimeters, bull bar, CD player, central locking, chrome handles and sidesteps, leather gear knob, leather trim/steering wheel, limited-slip differential, power steering, power windows, and radio cassette.
Only 500 units were produced, so this is no doubt a collector's item. If you’re interested in buying a J80 Blue Marlin, try checking out our website for sellers of old cars and car parts.
In 1995, the J80 donned the modern tri-oval Toyota logo, which replaced the bold-letter all-caps TOYOTA badge that it wore in the previous releases.
Development for the 100 Series started in 1991 under the project code 404T. The final design, which was penned by Takeo Kondo, was frozen in 1994. Its preview as the Grand Cruiser finally took place in 1997 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The production version finally came out in 1998, replacing the J80 series. The new Land Cruiser introduced new equipment and features, including the following:
Active Height Control (AHC) and Skyhook Toyota Electronic Modulated Suspension (TEMS) for the suspension system, active automotive night vision system called Night View, and rollover sensor and control logic
There are two distinct ranges of models for the J100 – the 100 and 105. They differ mainly in these aspects:
The 105 range utilized the J80 powertrain (I6 petrol and diesel), chassis, and suspension (coil-suspended solid axles on the front and rear). The models also have dished wheels.
The 100 range featured two new engines, a wider chassis, and an independent front suspension (IFS) combined with a rack-and-pinion steering. It is the first Land Cruiser to use IFS. While this change improved road-handling, it also reduced durability and off-road capability. Some automotive journalists in Australia, in fact, criticized the pairing of the IFS with the powerful 4.2-litre 1HD-FTE turbo engine. As to the wheels, the models in this range have an almost-flat wheel design.
An easier way to spot the difference between the two ranges is by observing their front and rear ends. A model from the 100 range would have a front-end that’s lower than its rear.
The 100 range added a V8 engine and was available in Australia with the top-of-the-line GXV. The other engine was a turbocharged diesel.
- 4.7-litre 2UZ-FE V8 petrol (170 kW, 410 Nm)
- 4.2-litre 1HD-FTE 6-cylinder turbo diesel (150 kW, 430 Nm) – offered in 2000
J100 received several facelifts during its tenure, including changes in the headlights, front grille, rear spoiler, and taillights.
Five years before the J100 was retired, Toyota had started developing its successor. In 2004, Toyota chose Takanori Ito's design for the next-generation 5-door SUV, which would be called the J200 series. Prototype testing took more than two years, with the production model finally coming out in 2007.
The J200 is released in some markets as Lexus LX 570.
It sports bigger brake rotors and has a stronger front suspension than the previous generations. The new design brought redesigned roof pillars to secure the passengers in the event of a rollover and skid plates to protect the underbelly.
It now featured five V6/V8 engines, retaining the one from the previous generation and adding a diesel variant – a turbocharged V8. Transmissions included 5-speed manual and 5, 6, and 8-speed automatic. Its wheelbase of 2850mm has not changed since the 80 Series.
- 4.0-litre 1GR-FE V6 petrol
- 4.6-litre 1UR-FE V8 petrol
- 4.7-litre 2UZ-FE V8 petrol
- 5.7-litre 3UR-FE V8 petrol
- 4.5-litre 1VD-FTV turbo-V8 diesel
The new series offers the latest equipment, including the following:
Smart Entry, Start/Stop button, 4-zone climate control (Sahara variants), 10-airbag package (Sahara and VX), CRAWL, hill-assist control, ABS, kinetic dynamic suspension system, rearview camera, leather seats, brake assist, cruise control, EBD, engine immobiliser, limited-slip differential, side-door impact beams, traction control system, and vehicle stability control, among its numerous features
In Australia, Toyota offered the following trim levels:
- GX – 4.5-litre 1VD-FTV turbocharged V8 diesel, 6-speed automatic (200 kW, 650 Nm)
- GXL – 4.5-litre 1VD-FTV turbocharged V8 diesel, 6-speed automatic (200 kW, 650 Nm)
- GXL – 4.6-litre 1UR-FE V8 petrol, 6-speed automatic (228 kW, 439 Nm)
- VX – 4.5-litre 1VD-FTV turbocharged V8 diesel, 6-speed automatic (200 kW, 650 Nm)
- VX – 4.6-litre 1UR-FE V8 petrol, 6-speed automatic (228 kW, 439 Nm)
- Sahara – 4.5-litre 1VD-FTV turbocharged V8 diesel, 6-speed automatic (200 kW, 650 Nm)
- Sahara – 4.6-litre 1UR-FE V8 petrol, 6-speed automatic (228 kW, 439 Nm)
Some critics say that Toyota has overdeveloped the Land Cruiser just to keep up with the competition. The naysayers, however, won't be able to change the fact that the J200 is the preferred vehicle of the NATO and UN forces.
No, we have not forgotten the J70 Land Cruisers—we’ve purposely left it for last. As the Land Cruiser’s true off-road workhorse and direct successor to the J40 generation, it deserves emphasis in this article.
When the 40 Series retired in 1984, the 70 Series took its place, selling alongside the 60 Series until 1990 and the rest of the generations that followed J60. Toyota built it in various body styles—pickup/ute, hardtop, softtop, 3-door wagon, 4-door van, and later, as a troop carrier. It had the same layout of its predecessor, meaning, it was available in both rear-wheel and four-wheel drivetrains. In Australia, the models have always been solely 4x4, clearly indicating the demand for this drive type and the purpose for which the Land Cruiser was used.
The first range of J70 models included the following:
- Ute – 4.0-litre 2H 6-cylinder diesel engine (76 kW, 241 Nm), 5-speed manual; 2 doors, 3 seats
- SUV/troop carrier – 4.0-litre 2H 6-cylinder diesel engine (76 kW, 241 Nm), 5-speed manual; 2 doors, 11 seats; power steering, radio cassette
- SUV/LWB – 4.0-litre 2H 6-cylinder diesel engine (76 kW, 241 Nm), 5-speed manual; 2 doors, 3; power steering, power sunroof, power windows, radio cassette
- SUV/SWB – 3.4-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine (66 kW, 216 Nm), 5-speed manual; 2 doors, 3; limited-slip differential, power steering, radio cassette
A light-version Land Cruiser, powered by a Hilux-sourced 2.4-litre petrol engine, was also produced within this period. It was named Land Cruiser II and 70 Prado in some markets. When it showed high demand, Toyota later developed it to become the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (codenamed J90).
Also in 1990, while Toyota was all geared up building bigger versions of the 40 Series, Toyota’s VP (Sales & Ops) Yoshi Inaba and product planner Dave Danzer couldn’t let go of the original FJ and BJ Land Cruiser. So they developed a separate project to recreate a modern version of the rugged FJ40, but not in the directions that the upsized versions the Land Cruiser were taking at that time. That began the development of the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
The engines were mostly the same in both the off-road and comfort-oriented SUV categories. Australia, as one of the Land Cruiser’s biggest customer, continues to have access to the J70 in these body styles—4-door wagon (SWB and LWB), 2-door troop carrier, 2-door cab chassis/ute, and 4-door cab-chassis.
The latest J70 range uses the same engine for all models, which is the 4.5-litre V8 turbocharged diesel engine (151 kW, 430 Nm) paired with 5-speed manual gearbox. The current models on offer are:
- SUV/GXL, Base – 5 doors, five seats; standard equipment includes dual-front/side/driver’s knee airbags, ABS, adjustable steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, brake assist, cruise control, carpet floor, central locking, EBD, front fog lights, hill holder, halogen headlights, engine immobilizer, limited-slip differential, mud flaps, power steering/windows, side-door impact beams, snorkel, traction control system, and vehicle stability control, with spare wheel/full-size steel wheel (optional)
- SUV/Workmate – 3 doors, 11 seats; additional features to the base: low-fuel warning, rearview mirror (day/night), front seatbelts with load limiters, full-size steel spare wheel, cargo area lights
- SUV/Workmate – 3 doors, two seats; additional features to the base: chrome door handles (exterior), grab handles (front), low-fuel warning, rearview mirror (day/night), front seatbelts with load limiters, full-size steel spare wheel, cargo area lights, vinyl floor cover
- Ute/GX, Base – 2 doors, three seats; same features as SUV Base model
- Ute/GXL – 2 doors, two seats; adds carpet floor covering, central locking RC, front fog lights
- Ute/GXL/double-cab – 4 doors, five seats; adds a floor carpet, central locking RC, front fog lights, grab handles, power windows, radio CD with two speakers, wheel arch extensions
- Ute/Workmate, Base – 2 doors, three seats; similar features as the SUV base model
- Ute/Workmate/double-cab – 4 doors, five seats; adds grab-handles, limited-slip differential, radio CD with two speakers, full-size spare wheel (steel)
In Canada and Malaysia, the Land Cruiser is sold as the Lexus LX and thus offers more upscale features and amenities.
By Jeannette Salanga (JMSL)