Toyota’s legendary Land Cruiser name carries an enviable status in the automotive world. The Land Cruiser is synonymous with dependability and capability, with a stellar reputation that few manufacturers can claim. Over 65 years, Land Cruisers of all kinds proved themselves in some of the harshest environments on the planet, with only the Jeep and Land Rover counted among the few capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Toyota’s finest. The origins of the Toyota Land Cruiser trace back to 1950 when the US Government commissioned Toyota to build 100 Willys Jeeps under license for use by Military Police stationed in Japan during the Korean War. Toyota obliged; however, they found plenty of room for improvement on the older American design. In 1951 Toyota developed a prototype 4x4 which drew the best the Jeep and the British Land Rover had to offer, combined into a well-built, thoughtfully engineered package. Production of the “Toyota Jeep BJ” began in 1953 with the earliest examples reserved strictly for use by Military and Police. In 1954, a civilian version arrived and was the first in a long line of trucks to wear the now iconic Land Cruiser name.
Like its American and British counterparts, the civilian Land Cruiser proved to be popular in the agriculture and construction industries, or anyone who needed a simple but versatile vehicle capable of handling rough terrain. Production gradually ramped-up through the 1950s, and in 1960, Toyota hit its stride when the J2 and J4-series Land Cruisers debuted with all-new body styling, an improved chassis, and new engine options. As Alexander Wolfarth says in his book The Land Cruiser Legend, “The BJ lit the torch, the J2 carried it around the globe.”
J4-series Toyota Land Cruisers were available with a dizzying array of body, chassis, and engine options. The most recognized of all is the FJ40: A short-wheelbase, petrol inline-six powered two-door utility truck, available as a convertible or hard top. This massively popular version remained in regular production for an astounding 24 years, earning legendary status for its ruggedness and dependability as much as its tough-guy good looks. In its various forms, the J2 and J4 served with soldiers, warlords, farmers and miners on virtually every continent on earth, adapted to handle countless jobs and earning its legendary status one rugged mile at a time.
This 1974 Land Cruiser FJ40 hardtop is a beautiful example of Toyota’s icon, recently restored by an experienced FJ specialist. First delivered in Tennessee, this US-Spec FJ40 is believed to be a low mileage truck that was in remarkably sound and solid condition before its restoration. Throughout the project, the restorer took great care to use original-equipment factory parts and components wherever possible in order to keep the truck in proper 1974 specification. Power steering and air conditioning are useful additions to improve the driving experience. The presentation is attractive, finished in a factory-offered shade of Rustic Green with a white roof, using PPG single stage paint as original. The quality of the paintwork is good, with the finish befitting the utilitarian nature of the FJ40. Wheels are painted in light gray as original, adorned with period correct dog-dish hub caps and meaty BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires for an aggressive and purposeful stance.
The cabin is immaculately presented, still appearing fresh from the restoration. Body-color textured chip-guard applied to the floors provides useful grip, durability, and sound dampening, while being easily cleaned out after a day spent off-roading. Excellent, newly restored front bucket seats wear factory-correct charcoal upholstery, as do the folding side-facing jump-seats in the rear. Instruments, controls and most of the switchgear are original 1974 items. Period-appropriate controls for the air conditioning are within easy reach on the dash. Also included is a high-quality sound system with a period-look digital AM/FM radio with dash-mounted USB auxiliary input.
According to the restorer, the original F155-series six-cylinder engine was in exceptional condition when he began the project, with even compression across all cylinders. With the body removed from the chassis, he took the opportunity to refresh the engine, ensuring it is up to the same standard as the rest of the truck. Work included a rebuilt cylinder head, new oil pump as a preventative measure, and all new gaskets and seals. Engine accessories and fittings were renewed or replaced as needed, and the engine is detailed to a very high level with correct labels, markings, and decals. In addition to the rotary-style air conditioning compressor, this truck also features power steering for effortless enjoyment in all conditions. With just a handful of miles since the restoration, the presentation remains outstanding. Similarly, the undercarriage is beautifully clean and well-detailed, and the underside of the body coated in bed lining to protect from rocks and seal against corrosion, while also providing a modicum of sound dampening.
The Land Cruiser legend is one that is well-earned, with thousands of examples still running strong all around the world. This example benefits from an expert restoration with useful updates that improve the driving experience without sacrificing the character that makes these trucks so well-loved. It runs strong and is a joy to drive, ready to accompany its next owner beyond the pavement’s end.