Iconic Toyota Land Cruiser enters new phase
The story of the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser, which is celebrating its 70th year, can be traced even further back when Japan was at war. In June this year Toyota launched the new Land Cruiser J300 (right) — technically just the 10th in the series which began in 1951, but Toyota’s first foray into a 4WD utility vehicle began 80 years ago during WWII. The Japanese military used a captured Bantam GP (one of a number of American Jeeps designed by Willys and built by various American manufacturers) and ordered Toyota to produce something similar. The result was the Model AK – later developed into the AK10. It had a number of features common to future ‘Jeep’ type vehicles, including an upright front grille, flat front wheel arches that angled down and back, headlights mounted above the wheel arches on either side of the radiator and a folding windshield. The AK10 had a 2.3 litre 4-cylinder engine from the company’s sedan range, with a 3-speed manual transmission with 2-speed transfer gearbox. This model had limited war use and did not become available to the public, however lessons learned during the development became useful a decade later when America was again at war, and this time turned to Japan for help. The conflict was the Korean War and America needed more Jeeps – so in 1950 they ordered 100 from Toyota, providing the company with the new specifications from Willys. The result was the 1951 Toyota BJ Jeep – larger than the original US version and more powerful as it had Toyota’s Type B 84hp 3.4 litre straight six. It was available only to special order for the first two years, but in 1953 was put into regular production in three variants, including the BJ-J fire engine. It wasn’t until 1954 that the name Land Cruiser was adopted after Willys complained about the use of the Jeep name. Toyota technical director Hanji Umehara came up with the name, which he said was as dignified as the name of one of their competitors – Land Rover. Interestingly the name Land Cruiser had also been in use by Studebaker from 1934-1954. Also in 1954 Toyota’s Type F 3.9 litre, 123hp engine was an option for the FJ-J fire engine. 1955-1960 Generation 2 of the Land Cruiser was the 20 Series which ran from 1955 to 1960. It was designed to be more civilian friendly – with more stylish bodywork and a better ride. The engine – still either the 3.4 or 3.9 litre straight six – was moved forward to give more legroom up front. The FJ25 became the first Japanese vehicle to be imported into Australia on a regular basis. It arrived as a cab/chassis and was fitted with Aussie made bodies. It was also the first Toyota to be manufactured outside Japan when FJ25 production commenced in Brazil in 1958. Known as the Bandeirante, the model continued through much of the 60s and from 1962 was powered by a Mercedes-Benz diesel. 1960-1984 In Japan the 20 series was superseded by the legendary FJ40, remaining in production from 1960 until 1984. Petrol engine choices were the 3.9 litre and 4.2 litre straight six and diesel options were straight four engines of 3, 3.2 and 3.4 litres and straight sixes of 3.6 and 4 litres. Assemble had now been expanded to include Venezuela and Indonesia as worldwide sales accelerated. In 1965 production exceeded 50,000 and the Land Cruiser became the best selling Toyota in the US. The 100,000 mark came in 1968, 200,000 in 1972 — and 300,000 just a year later in 1973. By the late 70s, and early 80s, Land Cruisers features such luxuries and disc brakes and power steering. During this era Toyota used the base Land Cruiser concept to develop more comfortable models designed for the road and to carry more passengers. The first model was the J50, from 1967, which was described more as a stationwagon. It had a longer wheelbase and was also developed into a fire engine. It was superseded in 1980 by the J60, which could seat up to eight people, to compete in the emerging sport utility vehicle (SUV) market. Creature comforts such as air con, upgraded interior and rear heater were added — but crucially both the J50 and J60 models retained their off-road abilities. Petrol and diesel engines were still offered, and also during this era the first automatic transmission fitted to a Japanese 4WD, the first of Toyota’s turbodiesel V8s and the first direct injection turbodiesel. 1981 was the year land Cruiser sales surpassed one million units. 1984-1990 Overlapping the timeline of the J60 was the J70 Land Cruiser — launched in 1984 and, according to Wikipedia, still available in some markets in Africa and South America. Available in a range of body styles, from pickup to van, the J70 also featured the most engine variations and was the first of the models to receive the aforementioned automatic transmission. Petrol engines came in straight four of six cylinder variants, from 2.4 litres to 4.5 litres and there was a 4 litre V6. Diesel variants were even broader — straight four, five and six cylinder engines, with or without turbochargers, from 2.4 litres to 4.2 litres, and the 4.5 litre turbocharged V8. I remember driving a V8 back in the day and it was fantastic. The J70 maintained it’s off road credentials, but like the J60 also provided more creature comforts for use as everyday family cars. It was also the era where the name Prado was first used in some markets in place of Land Cruiser, and for a time adopted alongside the Land Cruiser name. 1990-1998 The J80 Land Cruiser adopted a more modern look for the last decade of last century — and we started to see the introduction of extra aids such as ABS braking and, from 1992, a viscous coupling that detected which axle had the most grip. Engine choices were refined down to a 4 litre or 4.5 litre straight six petrol and three variations of the 4.2 litre diesel engine. As with previous models, various names were used in overseas markets — but this time there was a new departure when the Toyota J80 land Cruiser was also marketed as a Lexus LX 450 — a more luxurious variant. 1998-2007 The J100 series was launched in 1998 — but development had started in 1991 and the design approved in 1994. New to the J100 was independent front suspension, as well as Active Height Control and Electronic Modulated Suspension. Diesel options remained the same, but the 4 litre straight six was dropped and a 4.7 litre V8 added to the 4.5 litre straight six. The V8 was also the engine for the sister Lexus LX 470 — again the luxury version of the Land Cruiser. 2007-2021 Amazingly the Toyota Land Cruiser J200 series has been with us for 14 years. It was the result of five years of development, and in late 2007 was launched, alongside the shared platform Lexus LX 570. Gone were the straight 6 engines in favour of a 4.5 litre turbodiesel and four petrol variants — the 4 litre V6 and 4.6 litre, 4.7 litre and 5.7 litre V8s. Power ranged from a modest 136kW to an impressive 284kW. Transmissions were also more refined — four speeds were gone in favour of one fivespeed manual and the choice of five, six and eight-speed automatics. The more modern Land Cruiser incorporated a lighter, but stronger frame, a host of safety features, smart entry and start, more traction aids and better appointments, including multi-zone temperature control and leather seat options. 2021— The latest incarnation is the J300 — available for order now with delivery to New Zealand expected in October. It is built on the newly-introduced TNGA-F platform, designed to reduce weight and increase rigidity. The J300 is 200kg lighter than the J200. Other improvements include lowered center of gravity, weight distribution and an improved suspension structure. Toyota has equipped the vehicle with an adaptive variable suspension (AVS), an upgraded Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (E-KDSS), a more advanced Multi-Terrain Select system with Deep Snow and Auto modes, and a Multi-Terrain Monitor system which incorporates an underbody camera. All New Zealand models are offered with the new 3.3 litre twin turbocharged diesel V6, for 225kW of power, and matched to a new 10-speed automatic transmission.