The Toyota Land Cruiser

The Toyota Land Cruiser was started as a copy of the go-everywhere Willys Jeep. Originally named the Model BJ and built to order, it was the first vehicle to reach the sixth station of Mount Fuji in 1951.

toyota Jeep imitation

The BJ was renamed Land Cruiser in 1954, when it was first mass-produced. A single year later, its original 85 horsepower diesel was replaced by a 125 horsepower 3.8 liter gas engine.  A diesel version, usually around 3 liters, would be sold in Japan-specification Land Cruisers for many years.

vintage toyota land cruisers

The Land Cruiser was brought to the United States as early as 1958, and was the top-selling Toyota there from 1961 to 1965, selling in soft-top, open, and pickup versions.  Unlike other Toyota models, the Land Cruiser has been changed on an infrequent schedule.

In 1965, the familiar five-door station wagon version appeared; it would become the only Land Cruiser sold in the US after 1980. With 135 (gross) horsepower coming from its 274-cube straight-six engine and a top speed of a little over 70 mph, the Land Cruiser was actually considered fast and powerful for an off-road vehicle, in an era when Jeeps still had four cylinders. This generation was, incidentally, the inspiration for the FJ Cruiser.

1975 land cruiser

A generous ground clearance of eight and a half inches helped when off-road. Semi-elliptical leaf springs were used with conventional shock absorbers in front and back, with a sway bar in the rear as well; contemporary reviewers found it to be stable and well-balanced. The axle ratio was 4.11, with a 3.70 option; the two-speed part-time transfer case had a 2.31 low range, and could be taken apart with five bolts. Four wheel drive was controlled by levers on the dash. The price was around $3,500; 0-60 came in around 22 seconds, while braking from 60 mph took around 165 feet.

A hardtop came out in 1967, with production ending in 1979 - and sales continuing through 1983.  The soft-top model had a short wheelbase of 90 inches, and weighed just 3,260 pounds (considerably more than a Jeep CJ); headroom under the canvas was 40.5 inches, with 43 inches of legroom, making it relatively tight. The whole vehicle was just 152.4 inches long, making it the 1968 equivalent of a Fiat 500; it was 65.2 inches wide, considerably wider than, say, a 1968 Corona or Crown, not to mention the Corolla (54 inches).

1969 toyota landcruiser

The station wagon’s wheelbase was 106.3 inches, and weight was far higher, at 4,130 pounds; headroom was just 36.5 inches, so it wasn’t exactly designed for hat-wearing basketball players. The length was a far greater 184 inches, making it the second-longest Toyota sold in North America, just 0.6 inches shorter than the Crown wagon. The wagon was three inches wider than the soft top, but both were powered by a six-cylinder engine generation 145 gross horsepower at 4,000 rpm, with 217 pound-feet of torque peaking at a low 2,000 rpm. The gas tank held 18.5 gallons of fuel with the soft top, 23.8 gallons with the wagon. Neither was available with an automatic.

The 1969 Land Cruiser had a top speed of 85 mph (wagon, 80 mph), with weight of 3,680 lb (hardtop) or 3,470 ponds (vinyl top); the station wagon (red) ran to 4,120 pounds. Torque, fortunately, was 217 lb-ft (at a low 2,000 rpm), making the overhead-valve six-cylinder engine, displacing 236.7 cubic inches, similar to the Plymouth 225 slant six in power. A single barrel carburetor was used, along with a three-speed manual transmission synchronized in second and third gears. The tires were four-ply 15-inchers.

1969 toyota land cruisers

In 1971, the Land Cruiser boasted a 155 horsepower (gross) engine, with a hydraulic column-mounted front wheel drive axle engagement unit. The Land Cruiser at that time came in a soft top, hard top, or station wagon version, and cost roughly the same as the Crown, US$2,855; the 3.8 liter straight six displaced 237 cubic inches (just more than the largest slant six), with a bore of 3.54 and a stroke of 4.0 inches. Peak torque was a decent 225 lb-ft at a low 2,200 rpm. The base transmission was a three-speed manual, both front and rear used leaf-spring suspensions and drum brakes, and 15 inch, 7.6 inch wide wheels were standard. The 90 inch wheelbase was short but good for rock climbing; overall length was 152 inches, width 66 inches, height 76 inches, and weight a hefty (but reasonable for the times) 3,470 pounds. By comparison, the Corolla weighted in at 1,566 pounds!

1974 land cruiser suspension

In 1974, the 3.9 liter straight-six pushed out 138 net hp @ 4,000 rpm (USA figures) with a progressive-opening two-barrel carburetor whose designed optimized driveability and saved fuel; electronic ignition, still fairly new, was used; and four wheel drive and a four-speed stick-shift were standard, along with a two-speed transfer case.

1974 F-engine

Steel skid plates protected the transmission, oil pan, and transfer case. Self-locking hubs were standard. Both front and rear heaters were provided. Power drum brakes were used along with traditional leaf springs. This was the model whose appearance is closely recalled by the FJ Cruiser.

1974 land cruiser - toyota - front

1974 Land Cruisers

In 1975, a 4.2 liter straight-six replaced the 3.9. A Mitsubishi diesel was reportedly optional in the late 1970s, the Mitsubishi 6DR5, 3950 cc (243 cubic inches), with 105 hp at 3500.

1974 interior

By 1983, both the hardtop and the wagon were available, powered by a 125 horsepower (200 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm) 4.2 liter six-cylinder engine coupled to a four-speed manual transmission with a two-speed transfer case. For 1983, Toyota brought out a new instrument panel center section with better control visibility for the hardtop; both models were also given choke and 4WD indicator lights. Brakes remained front ventilated disc and rear drum.

1987 toyota land cruiser

In 1991, the more familiar, modern Land Cruiser was brought out, much larger in size, with more luxury features and trim, a fully independent four-wheel coil spring suspension, and full-time four wheel drive. Just two years later, it got larger, gained a 24 valve dual overhead cam 4.5 liter six-cylinder with 212 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, and 5,153  pounds of weight. In included seating for eight, automatic locking center differential, and manually locking front and rear differentials. In 1995, the Land Cruiser gained dual front airbags and adjustable seat belt anchors, bringing it up to date in such matters.

1991 Toyota Land Cruiser

Seven years after the 1991 model, another redesign brought a larger, heavier, and more powerful Land Cruiser for 1998 which would also be the first model to get regular annual updates. Using the first V8 in a Toyota branded vehicle, a 4.7 liter engine with 230 horsepower (18 more than the straight-six) and 320 lb-ft of torque (45 more), it still managed to get slightly better gas mileage. A single year later, an independent rear automatic climate control system was added; two years later, in 2000, active traction control, vehicle skid control, and electronic brake force  distribution were added as standard equipment, along with a less significant six-disc in-dash CD player. In 2001, a DVD/navigation system was added along with other luxury features; 2002 brought standard third row seats and other standard features, so that the only option is the DVD navigation system.

2005 Toyota Land Cruiser

To be updated in summer 2018. The 2009 Land Cruiser is due soon, supported by international sales, with a redesign scheduled for 2009. At that time, the 5.7 liter engine is likely to appear with 380 horsepower; the fancy Land Cruiser, or Lexus LX570, already uses that engine. Expect to see more sophisticated four-by-four systems and height adjustments.

toyota land cruiser - 2009

In 2003, the front grille and rear fascia were updated, the V8 was bumped by 5 horsepower, and additional standard features were added along with front and second row side curtain airbags. 2004 increased pedestrian safety by adding a backup camera to the navigation system (both are optional).

2009 land cruiser

The 2018s

All Land Cruisers are built at the Araco Corporation plant in Toyota City, Japan.

Toyota Land Cruiser Specifications

Spec 1964 1974 FJ40 1974 FJ55 1983 Wagon 1983 Hardtop 1996 2005
Wheelbase 104.3 90 106.3 107.5 90.0 112.2 112.2
Length 183.4 152.4 184 184.1 157.3 189.8 192.5;
Width 67.7 65.6 68.3 70.9 65.6 76.0 76.4
Height 76 76-77 73.4 69.5 76.0 73.2 73.2
Weight 4,190 3,470-3,600 4,020 n/a n/a n/a 5,390
Tread (max)   55.3 55.3 58.5 57.9 62.8  
Legroom f/m/r       39.2/34.6 36.4/none 42.2/33.6/28.5 42.3, 34.3, 27.3
Headroom f/m/r       40.0/40.4 43.0/none 40.3/39.7/36.4 39.2/39.2/36.4
Engine F OHV 3.9
2F OHC straight-six 4.2 l 4.5 six 4.7 V8
Bore x stroke 3.54 x 4.00 4.02 x 4.13 3.94 x 3.74 in 3.7 x 3.31
Compression 7.5:18.3:1 9.0:1 9.6:1
Horsepower 135-138 @ 4,000 125 @ 3,600 212 HP @ 4600 235 hp @ 4,800
Torque (lb-ft) 217-213 @ 2,200 200 @ 1,800 275 @ 3200 320 @ 3,400
Transmission Three-speed manual Four-speed manual 4-speed auto 4-speed auto
Fuel capacity   18.5 23.8 23.8 gal 22.5 gal 25.1 gallons  
Valves 16 OHV OHC 24V DOHC 32V DOHC
Block and head Cast iron Cast iron Cast iron block
Aluminum head
Differential 2.3:1 3.70:1 n/a 4.10:1
EPA mileage   13/15 (reg) 13/17 (prem)
Drive Part time 4WD Part time 4WD Full time AWD Full time AWD
Ground Clearance 8.5 7.9 8.3   10.8 inches 9.8 inches

Standard features, 1974 Toyota Land Cruiser

FJ40 was the two-door hardtop and soft-top; FJ55 was the four-door wagon.

The hardtop was made of steel and fiberglass and came with front bucket seats. The soft top was vinyl with vinyl doors and side and rear curtains. The wagon included bench front and rear seats, locking hubs, power rear window, and rear heater. Air conditioning was only available on the wagon (optional). Accessories included a stereo tape player, AM radio, carpeting, electric winch, manual locking hubs (FJ40), and antenna..

More 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser specifications

The front suspension was a leading type, with coil springs, lateral rod, stabilizer bar and solid live front axle. In back, there was a four-link coiled-spring type suspension with a stabilizer bar and solid, live rear axle. The stabilizer bar was 1.1” thick up front, 0.98” thick in the rear. Full-time all wheel drive was standard, with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Ratios were:


BRAKES were power-assisted ventilated discs (front and rear), with anti-lock and a rear load sensing proportioning valve. In front, the discs were 12.3”; in rear, 13.2”.
STEERING was power-assisted recirculating ball (Overall Ratio: 18.6; turns to lock, 3.4; turning circle, 40.4 feet).
WHEELS were steel, with a full size spare; all had P275/70R16 tires.

2005 Toyota Land Cruiser specifications

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