A brief history of the iconic vehicle and why the Toyota Land Cruiser is so expansive
The Land Cruiser is known for being a bullet-proof SUV. Whether it be in terms of reliability, longevity and capability. That is why it’s the second longest running production SUV ever. However, the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser is now a luxury SUV that crests $90,000. When the vehicle is only offered with 1 engine and 1 trim package in North America, people are asking “Why the Toyota Land Cruiser is so expansive?”
It is the most expensive vehicle to wear a Toyota badge today. Resulting in some fearing the icon has lost its way from it’s humble military upbringing. The Land Cruiser has come in a wide range of body styles over the years; from pickups, convertibles, station wagons, to a bare chassis with a host of gasoline or diesel engines to choose from.
It has traveled the Sahara’s of Africa (I have done this in one of these myself) to the jungles of South America (also done this) to the uncharted snow plains of arctic (I have absolutely no desire to do this).
So Bespoke Car Broker is going to delve a bit deeper into the history of this storied vehicle. We will stroll down memory lane and go over some previous accolades to see if it’s still the steadfast tin soldier we love.
Yes, despite being a japanese company, Toyota built the first Land Cruiser for the United States as a military vehicle in the Korean War. Built in 1951, Toyota called it the “BJ,” and is still a manufacturer designation used today. The “B” stood for the factory code on the engine, the “Type B” 4-cylinder diesel, and the “J” is rumored to have stood for Jeep (that has never been confirmed nor denied interestingly).
This vehicle outpaced the Willys Jeep and brought Toyota to the world. It came to the states after the war as a J20. The J20 was the lap of luxury compared to the BJ for it had fenders accompanied with softer seats, longer leaf springs for a smoother ride, and a 3.9 liter “Type F” 6-cylinder that bumped the power from 85hp to 125hp. The progress the J20 made paved the way for the beloved FJ40.
This generation was introduced to the world in 1960, and ran relatively unchanged until 1984. Imagine hitting the target so well you can rest on your laurels for almost a quarter century. Which is why the FJ pictured above is our most recent restoration and is for sale here.
Toyota gave the FJ40 a much needed low range gearing which made driving on and off road more accessible. The FJ40 was offered a slew of new configurations from body styles (FJ43, FJ45), to engines (F, 2F, H, 2H, B, 2B, 3B) and it paid off, they sold more than 400,000 of the plucky 4x4s.
Power increased, efficiency increased, comfort increased. It is very likely without the success of this model and the previous BJ Toyota wouldn’t be here today.
The FJ60 was a benchmark for the Land Cruiser marquee for one reason mainly; Air Conditioning! Toyota retained the steadfast 2F from the FJ40, (why fix what isn’t broken?) and instead focused less on the land the vehicle would be traversing and more on the person in the driver seat.
They added a proper dashboard with air vents and carpets! They softened the springs to help compensate for the still solid front axle. This allowed for a balance of comfort and ability. The final K.O. to the competition, Direct injection. The 3F motor that Toyota made for the FJ60 was the first Land Cruiser to be offered with direct injection and it was smaller than the 2F, 3.9 liters vs 4.2 liters, but was more powerful and economical. This puppy turned out 155hp over the FJ40’s 125hp.
The Toyota Land Cruiser is so expensive because of it’s Off-Road prowess. Dakar Triple crown winner, the FJ80
As the years ticked on, the Land Cruiser needed to keep up with the trends and competition. Land Rover was getting all soft and supple and the people loved it. Toyota followed suit. They lengthened and widened the frame, gave it an electric pinion steering along with full time all wheel drive. It had anti-locking disc brakes, limited slip differential and leather trim! This is one the most modern, cutting edge Land Cruiser and that was also met with resistance.
So naturally Toyota sent their FJ80 Land Cruiser to the Dakar Rally. The Dakar, as it’s known, is a tortuous race from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. The FJ80 wins the 1996, 2001, 2005 rallies. The United Nations adopted this model Land Cruiser as a result of its wins for all their field use.
In summary, the Toyota Land Cruiser is adapting to the needs of the world at the time. But it has never stayed the same. In its inception, it needed to move soldiers, cargo, or simply itself through some of the harshest environments on the planet; and it did confidently. Better than almost any other vehicle ever produced.
Now, the world has been tamed a bit more; it is a bit more refined. As a result, the Toyota Land Cruiser is too. Whereas the other Luxury SUVs the Land Cruiser is rubbing shoulders with will need more coddling and care, *Cough cough, Range Rover* This is still a reliable, durable Toyota. and this FJ200 still won the Dakar Rally in 2014, unmodified.
Toyota has always had off-shoots or concurrent models of their Land Cruiser, whether it be running the J20 and the FJ40 at the same time like they did with the FJ40 and the FJ55 or the FJ70. These have allowed for some more hardcore variants for the diehards out there. But the Land Cruiser has always been drastically different going forward then the ones of yesterday. And that’s exactly what we have today.
The 2020 Land Cruiser FJ200 is so expensive because it has everything standard. You will not have any blacked out, non functioning buttons or features in your Land Cruiser if you decide to get one. It has more than 4x the power of the very first Land Cruiser we discussed, the BJ. The FJ200 can haul all 8 of it’s passengers to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds… The first Land Cruisers didn’t hit 60 downhill.
Speaking of downhill, FJ200 has Downhill Assist Control, when you hit a steep decline or hill the car takes over until you get to level ground. A CRAWL feature, a four-wheel drive control system that maintains a low vehicle speed on any road condition. And a system called KDSS, and no it doesn’t take your kids to schools. Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, is a fully mechanically system that allows for greater wheel articulation by disengaging the stabilizer bars.
If you don’t plan on using the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser, or any Land Cruiser, for what it was originally designed to do; it may fall short of your expectations. But for those out there that will get their Land Cruiser dirty, will not be afraid of the road less traveled, no other vehicle will do. It blends the category of off-roader and cushy people hauler and will do so for decades, and apocalypses, to come.
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