Rugged and Revered

After a 60-plus year lifespan, the Land Cruiser's capabilities are still legendary
by Karen Nielsen
Sept/Oct 2017
Rugged and Revered
Lots of Land Cruisers
The Lone Star Land Cruisers gather at the annual Round Up at Katemcy Rocks off-road park in Mason, Texas.
The utilitarian go-anywhere 1958 Land Cruiser was the second Toyota model sold in the United States and is the longest-running Toyota in production today.

After six decades, the four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle has evolved into one of the most luxurious full-capability SUVs on the market. The Land Cruiser has amassed an almost cult-like following of thousands of enthusiasts who revere the Land Cruiser for its durability, reliability and rugged sensibility.

They spend their weekends exploring off-road terrain and overlanding to remote destinations in search of adventure. Many of those “Cruiser Heads” are members of the international Toyota Land Cruiser Association (TLCA) and related chapters across the country.

“We have many passionate Land Cruiser supporters who have been doing this for 30 or 40 years,” says TLCA President Ross Woody, who owns a 1972 FJ40 and 2007 TRD FJ Cruiser. “We have one member who owned every model sold from 1957 to the late 1970s. Another member owns a shop and hosts world travelers who are passionate about their Cruisers. Yet another buys every part he can possibly find because he likes to keep his vehicles on the road. It’s a never-leave-you-behind, tight-knit community.”

In July, TLCA hosted its 29th Rubithon event along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, California, attracting enthusiasts willing to put their vehicles to the test on the taxing trailhead.

Humble Beginnings

This ultimate 4x4 has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1950 as a development project, originally dubbed Model BJ. Its off-road abilities initially drew the attention of police and forestry departments, who were among the first to place an order. But, it didn’t take long for the fervor to take hold.


Testing Terrain
Lone Star Land Cruisers rock crawl during a recent round up.

The Land Cruiser was the best-selling Toyota in the U.S. from 1961 to 1965. During that time the lineup consisted of soft-top, open and pickup versions. Well-kept early models are cult car classics among enthusiasts.

In 1967, it moved toward the mainstream U.S. market with the introduction of the five-door wagon. Competent enough to trek through the back country, the Land Cruiser was comfortable enough to carpool the kiddos. By 1973, more than 300,000 Land Cruisers were sold worldwide.

In 1975, the 3.8L engine was replaced by a larger 4.2L version, making the Land Cruiser more powerful and easier to drive. Since 1980, the U.S.-spec Land Cruiser has only been available in one body style: the five-door wagon. But in 1991, it was replaced by a larger, more luxurious model —the FJ80 — that sported full-time four-wheel drive and a fully independent four-wheel coil-spring suspension. That same year, the Land Cruiser was named “Best Full-Size SUV in Customer Satisfaction” by J.D. Power & Associates.

Major Milestones

Worldwide sales continued to gain steam, hitting the 1 million mark in 1981 and then 2 million in 1990.

In 1993, Land Cruiser grew up even further sporting a 24-valve, DOHC inline six-cylinder engine displacing 4.5L, producing 212 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque.

1958 Land Cruiser

The fifth-generation Land Cruiser, a larger, heavier, structurally more solid and substantially more powerful than its predecessor, arrived in 1998. It delivered improved fuel efficiency, lower emissions and considerably quicker acceleration. It also sported the Toyota brand’s first V-8 engine.

The 2013 model received significant exterior and interior styling enhancements. And U.S. News and World Report named it the “Best Large Luxury SUV for Families” in 2014.

A major update came for the 2016 model year. The Land Cruiser body, new from the A-pillar forward, was a whole new look for this iconic vehicle. The hood’s distinctive power bulges convey the potential of the 381-horsepower V-8 that lies beneath. Teamed to that power plant for 2016 was the Toyota brand’s first 8-speed automatic transmission, which helps enhance acceleration.

Toyota’s longest-running SUV continues to offer a full assortment of standard luxury amenities and advanced Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) technologies, all packaged inside an updated, understated and bold design.

It’s this inimitable blend of premium appointments and off-road aptitude that has made the Land Cruiser an immensely versatile vehicle that’s adored by its loyal and discerning customers the world over.
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