Written by Eric Becker
The Toyota Land Cruiser, like a well-known British rival, has defined the segment of off-road capability, reliability and near indestructability. From the rockiest outreaches of Patagonia to the deserts of Africa, the Land Cruiser has shown its mettle. And it was here, in some of the world’s toughest corners, that Toyota set forward its global standards of utter reliability. This would prove the cornerstone of Toyota’s global export strategy across all its brands and vehicles.
The Land Cruiser has been sold in 170 countries, in more than 60 years of continuous production, ably serving duties from military transport, civilian off-roading and purpose-built rally racers. This legacy is of no small consequence, but especially as it literally paved the way for the enormous international success of the Toyota brand.
Just consider that the Land Cruiser is the longest continuously produced vehicle in Toyota’s history, with more than 10 million units sold. Without question a cult classic, the venerable FJ40 has become the face of the Land Cruiser line. Imported to the U.S. from 1963 to 1984, it remains popular on (or off) the road and on the auction circuit.
The Land Cruiser’s origins trace back to the Korean War. The U.S. military, still stationed in Japan, tasked Japanese domestic automakers to produce an equivalent to the Willys MB, or Jeep, for its resident forces. Toyota’s candidate, the BJ (the initials referred to B-series engine and Jeep) prevailed. Produced from 1951 to 1955, the BJ acquired a new name – Land Cruiser – in response to patent claims for “Jeep” held by Willys.
It was not the U.S. military alone who appreciated what the Land Cruiser brought to bear. Japan’s National Police Reserve Forces and other government agencies recognized and tested the capacities and reliability of the build. The Land Cruiser was soon climbing the venerable Mount Fuji and Atago, surpassing elevations previously reached only by foot or horseback.
But those mountain switchbacks were soon to give way to the far larger expanses of an American marketplace. The Land Cruiser was the first Toyota vehicle to be exported from Japanese shores, and as such was the standard-bearer for the brand. No need to revisit the unparalleled history of the Toyota brand in the US; suffice it to say the Land Cruiser led the way and introduced an American public to a wholly new means of automotive design and manufacturing quality.
The FJ40 would remain a fixture, with angular styling, a flat, white roof, wraparound rear windows and short overhangs that established an entirely new design aesthetic, one that would become iconic in a production run that lasted for more than 20 years.
Today the FJ40 is an auction fixture, generally living the good life as a collector vehicle, with its mountaineering days neatly tucked behind its (optional) rear-mounted winch.
Barrett-Jackson has seen some fine Land Cruiser examples crossing the block (some of which are shown below), but rarely has a single vehicle had such an extraordinary global impact. When you next spy an FJ, recall its humble origins, along with the peaks it has literally and figuratively climbed.
This Capri Blue 1982 Land Cruiser FJ45 is powered by the original 4.2-liter 2F inline-6 engine backed by a 4-speed manual transmission. Inside, it features a tobacco-colored leather upholstery, custom Autosound retro-style stereo system with a custom speaker box and custom-made floor mats. This FJ rides on retro-look Firestone tires with OEM hubcaps. Beautiful in its utilitarian no-sense design, this FJ45 sold for a final price of $99,000 at the 2020 Scottsdale Auction.
Finished in the beautiful factory-correct Mustard Yellow, this 1981 FJ40 crossed the block at the 2013 Scottsdale Auction. A balanced and blueprinted 4.2-liter inline-6 engine mated with a H55 5-speed transmission provide drive to all four wheels via a 2-speed transfer case. The gorgeous “Grey Poupon” colored Land Cruiser met a final price of $88,000 when it rolled across the block.
This FJ45LV once belonged to country music superstar Alan Jackson. Power comes from a 5.7-liter GM V8 engine with an automatic transmission. The FJ45LV is the rarest of all 40 series Land Cruisers, with only a total of just 5,000 made and just 1,000 vehicles imported into the United States. A beautiful two-tone green car with houndstooth interior. This FJ was masterfully restored by Land Cruiser specialist TLC in Van Nuys, CA. The 4-door Land Cruiser commanded a final price of $82,500 when it crossed the block at the 2009 Scottsdale Auction.
The Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser is a versatile, rugged and no-nonsense vehicle that was available in three different configurations: 4-door wagon, short-bed pickup and long-bed pickup. This 45 long-bed has a square bed with tie-down loops on the sides and a removable hardtop. During restoration, the builder opted to update the Land Cruiser’s look, electing for a 1978 hood, side aprons, front panel and grille. Exterior upgrades include a Lazer Star 48-inch LED light bar, Summit Racing LED headlights, ZXR 9000-pound winch, custom bumpers, diamond plating and chrome wheels with 37×12.50 R15 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires. The Rhino-lined bed features a storage box, along with a matching full-size spare tire. Power comes from an upgraded 350ci V8 engine that features an Edelbrock intake, Edelbrock carburetor and Holley fuel pump. The engine is cooled by an aluminum radiator with billet overfill canister. The engine breathes through Hooker ceramic headers and a Flowmaster exhaust system with chrome tips. The V8 is paired with a 1978 FJ40 4-speed manual transmission with Centerforce clutch. The custom FJ45 pickup crossed the block at the 2019 Scottsdale Auction, going to its new home for $82,500.