Best Truck Ever Made

In Comments to an earlier post (about beautiful sports cars), we have this off-topic gem:

Longtime Reader William O. B’Livion says:
My “car lust” to the extent I have it is on the Toyota Land Cruisers and Land Rover Discos.

I’m going to ignore the Discos and concentrate on the Land Cruisers, specifically the early FJ40/43 models of 1967-1979.  Here’s what we’ll be talking about:

The old joke among Africa hands is:  “If you want to go into the African bush, take a Land Rover.  If you want to come back out again, take a Land Cruiser.”  Yup;  their reliability and toughness are legendary, and it can be said that Toyota did to Land Rover what Honda’s NSX did to Ferrari:  it changed the whole game, and absolutely forced them to become more reliable.

Let me draw your attention to the last pic, because it is a product of an evil, evil  bunch of men who are preying on the Land Cruiser-lust of people like me, and have taken upon themselves to rebuild the classic FJ40s of yore, albeit at nosebleed prices.  Here’s their website (but you may want to to hand your wallets etc. to yer wives for safekeeping, and send yer nubile daughters out of town before clicking on that link and watching the little video up front because OMG).

And a serious question for everyone:  who among you would not want to own one of these, if you could get it for a realistic (e.g. ~$50,000) price?  I’m not much of a truck guy (I only ever owned one, a 2001 Ford F-150), and after looking at those pics (which mostly came from here), even I have Land Cruiser-lust…


  1. A 76 Land Cruiser was my first new car. It would go anywhere – I remember using it to pull our company’s snow plow truck out of a 3 foot drift. Unfortunately it was of the most primitive vehicles on the road. My cruiser had drum brakes without self adjusters. The rest of the automotive world had discovered that little trick back in the late 1940s. The “legendary” straight six – which appeared to be a clone of the old 1930 vintage Chevy Stovebolt – had solid lifters. I was a motor head in those days and thought solids were a good idea until I spent way too much time under the hood adjusting them. Like most mid 70s vehicles the car ran like crap because none of the manufacturers had figured out the first generation smog controls. I got maybe 14 mpg. With a 16 gallon gas tank I was looking for gas every 225 miles or so.

    The car had little if any insulation so it was noisy and too hot or too cold depending on the season. I will say that the front seats were reasonably comfortable but the back jump seats were torture after 30 minutes.

    Like all cars of that vintage the body started to rust the day after it left the dealer.

    Looking back I’ll admit that I made the mistake of using the car as a daily driver in central New Jersey and the traffic was terrible there even 40 years ago. I picked up a full size Pontiac station wagon with a 400 small block and 4 barrel to save on gas! We drove the Cruiser out to Oklahoma when I got a job transfer in 1980 but I learned pretty quickly that a car without air conditioning just wasn’t going to work out in this climate.

    If the Power ball gods ever were to look on me with favor, I might be tempted to look on one of those retro cruisers. Update the mechanical parts, add air conditioning, throw some Pink Panther insulation in and it would be a fun car.

    1. I know. Sick, innit?
      If I were capable of spending THAT much on an SUV, I’d get a Merc G-wagen and have done with it.

    2. There’s a couple of companies doing the same thing with 1960’s vintage mustangs – and the prices are similarly nose-bleed

  2. While the FJ40 was certainly more reliable and better built than Land Rovers of the era, they were still quite mechanically iffy in all sorts of ways. In that era, Toyota was still largely knocking off GM’s drivelines and using garbage steel. The suspension, brakes, axles, and to varying degrees the engines were about 10-20 years out of date on the FJ series. They worked, but objectively no better than most domestic 4x4s.

    Where it finally came together for Toyota was the 80s Hilux (aka SR5 Pickup here)– while they still had body corrosion issues (it took them another 10-odd years to crack that nut), the 80s pickups were bomb proof and more capable off-road out of the box than anything that anyone was building at the time, including the Land Cruiser (which after the FJ was a complete trainwreck) by a LOT. They’re still in widespread use in the middle east, which says something for their durability over time.

    Toyota has always been a sore spot for me– they tried VERY hard to get their engineering and production to the head of the pack in the 80s. They succeeded in the 90s and early 00s– their trucks were world-beating by a lot, and their sports cars rivaled Porsche and Ferrari for 1/3rd the price with thrice the build quality. They out-Germaned the Germans in less than a decade and were largely responsible for starting the Japanese supercar war with the Supra. They kicked all sorts of butt in just about every form of sports car, rally and prototype racing in the world.

    … and then they killed every product line they had dumped so much time and engineering care into, replacing it all with bottom-dollar econobox shit. And dropped several hundred million on the worst F1 team since Force India. Blah.

  3. Had a BJ-40 SWB with the inline 4 diesel for a couple of years. Perfect for the PNG Highlands.
    Sadly, I was not driving it a whole lot, and sold it to my neighbor. They’re still running it.

    1. If I could get one, my ideal running-around town vehicle would be a Toyota Hilux Crew Cab diesel 4×4.

      Can’t get them in the US, unfortunately.

      1. I tries test sitting in a Tacoma (not sure if the interior is the same as an international Hilux). Toyota still doesn’t make the small pickups with 6’5″ big guys in mind. I could drive it but it wouldn’t be comfortable. But your described truck would be fantastic if it fit me and it didn’t mandate the use of diesel piss fluid.

  4. A friend at the first real job I worked had one; not sure of the year but probably mid ’70s. He liked it but admitted his wife wouldn’t ride in it in the summer (Las Vegas); he was one of the types that driving an oven just didn’t bother; he didn’t break a sweat.

    I rode in it once and it was like being in an old Jeep before they started getting cushy.

    I doubt I’d go along with best truck ever but they are kind of neat.

    1. The advantage Toyota offered at first over the Jeeps is they had axles that wouldn’t snap…the M38 series (CJ2) jeeps would snap axles so often that we would pack spares.

      But the early FJ’s were just as crude as the jeeps were.

  5. I have the modern version of the Toyota FJ 40, the FJ Cruiser.

    Bulletproof, wonderful off roader in all sorts of conditions, powerful 4 litre V6 petrol engine. Only criticism is that it is a thirsty beast.

    For Australian conditions I added a few mods for even better versatility, such as a “bull bar” on the front, tow hitch, 2 inch suspension lift and heavy duty shocks, extra fuel tank to give it about 650 miles range, although fuel consumption goes up dramatically in hard core 4WD country. CB and Hema navigation screens for the wilderness.

    The comments at Amazon re the FJ Cruiser are 88% five star.

  6. If you really lust after one of these old rigs, consider buying an old Japanese Home Islands version. You can import them after 25 years. I see a few of them advertised, often with a diesel, so no smog problems. One of the drawbacks is that they will be Right-Hand-Drive.
    Buy them from an importer, or peruse the auctions in Japan. Vehicle has to go through an importer/certification process here in the US.
    Canada is allowed to import them at 15 years old, IIRC. No, you can’t bring one of these from Canada to the US, they still nail you on date of manufacture.

    Some US vendors:

  7. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a gear head, so when discussing the demise of Toyota I’m smart enough to stand on the side lines and listen to those more knowledgeable. However, I do have a couple of observations..

    First, I really don’t think of these as “trucks”. As a native Texan, I consider anything without an enclosed cab and useful bed, a “Not truck”. The politically correct term I think is SUV, or just utility vehicle.. and no, I don’t have a better term for it, but there you go..

    More on point I think is in duodec’s third sentence.. “like an old jeep”. Jeep being the operative word here. I have a old lifted YJ that I drive every day, beat arround in the mountains, and in a couple of months will play in the snow (since I now live in the soon to be frozen wasteland outside of northern Virginia – thanks Algore!). I will continue to pour money into it because it’s serviceable and does everything I need it to do.

    Now I am not sure of who knocked off whom in the mix between the jeep and the land “whatever”. Undoubtedly the jeep came first.. but I suspect the lineage gets a little mixed up from there as they probably were in a competition.. don’t care really.. too long ago to matter. My point being I guess that the real model for this type of vehicle IS the jeep.. and is what I’ll continue to drive as long as I’m able.

    1. If memory serves, the Landcruiser started off as a kind of Jeep knockoff for the Japanese military.
      Toyota still makes a simplified version of the Series 70 for the third world market, and it’s very basic- they just added power locks two years ago.
      They do hold up to a lot of abuse- though the AC tends to crap out after a few years.

  8. My Land Rover (Series II, LWB, Jungle Roof, Safari Windows) was VERY reliable….
    Once I replaced the engine with a small-block Chevy and changed the electrical system to negative ground like G-D intended…

    And with the added power of a decent engine, I added AC (handy for the So Cal commute), and was able to put an electric winch on the front, and lights, and radios.

    Wish I kept it: I sold it when I went to medical school.

  9. Dear Kim,

    I’ve wanted one of these for as long as I can remember. I bought a 98 4Runner to assuage my pain on learning the prices. You are a bad man for rekindling that longing, and now, I hate you a little bit.

    Best regards,

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