We Run Down Land Cruiser’s Past


The Toyota Land Cruiser is arguably the most widespread, well-known, and well-respected 4×4 around the world. The FJ-40 (and similar BJ-40) can be found in just about every country in the world. No matter how bad the roads are, or how remote the towns, chances are a Land Cruiser of one kind or another has been there. The history of the Land Cruiser could fill many books, and truth is, we ain’t got time for that, but we do want to hit on a few high points and tell the tale of what a Land Cruiser is. To do this, we simply hit the Four Wheeler Network’s archives for articles about the youngest to oldest Land Cruisers. Our plan for this article is to run down the different iterations of the Land Cruiser from its beginnings in WWII to the present with pictures, a visual history if you will, but we will also toss in links to these other stories from some of the best off-road automotive historians; like Jim Alan, Jay Kopycinsky, and more.

The first Land Cruiser, The Toyota jeep er BJ (1951-1955)

The birth of the name Land Cruiser began in 1951 with a model called the BJ (was initially officially called the Toyota Jeep, by Toyota, before they realized that the name was trademarked and not just a type of vehicle). This and more history of the BJ is explained in depth here in an article by Jim Allen. But truth be told, this BJ from the 1950s is not the first small 4×4 buggy Toyota built. According to our research, as early as 1941, the Japanese army used a captured US military jeep to build what was called the Toyota Model AK in the early 40s and subsequently reverse-engineered the Toyota AK10 from a Willys MB.

The BJ was, however, one of the first small 4x4s to be powered by a B-series inline 6-cylinder gasoline from the Toyota GB 1 -ton truck. This engine and the truck it came from were basically a Japanese licensed version of a 1930s Chevrolet truck. Thus began the relationship with the Land Cruiser and a torquey inline 6-cylinder with a design borrowed from Chevrolet and the U.S. Later, the BJ was replaced by the J20-30 series, which featured a new look and the introduction of the F-series inline 6 gasoline engine. Apparently, there were FJ20-30s powered by the F series engine and a few BJ20-30s powered by the older B series engine.

The J20 series, J30 series, (1955-1960) and possibly the most well-known, the J40 series (1960-1984)

The first letter in the naming convention for the BJ, J20 and J30 Land cruisers indicated the engine family. You know about the B series engine, but later the F series gasoline engine was an update that was introduced in this timeframe. As an example of this naming convention, the first Land Cruiser sold in the U.S. would have been an FJ25, which means a J25 model with the F gasoline engine. (They sold one in 1958, and it still exists in a museum in Utah, along with other historically significant Land Cruisers like a BJ.) Overseas, a similar looking vehicle could have been a BJ25 with the earlier B series gasoline engine. To add confusion, the F series engine was carried over to the J40 series and a different, diesel-powered, B-designated engine was introduced. (This is not at all the same as the earlier B series gasoline engine).

Also of note, the FJ35V was a four-door wagon imported into Australia as a cab and chassis and later fitted with an Australian made wagon body. The J40 series was the first Land Cruiser with low-range gearing in the transfer case, and it featured an updated and more stylish exterior. Much of its history is laid out in an article by Jay Kopycinsky here. Another iteration of the J40 series is the J45 pickup trucks (short and long bed) and the J45V, a four-door wagon that while short-lived, lead to the J55, the first of the common four-door Land Cruiser wagons.

The Toyota Land Cruiser Wagons, J50 (1967-1980), J60 Series (1981-90), and the 70 series (1984-Present)

As we said, the J45V and J45V were the precursors to the many different Land Cruiser Wagons that were built. The first after the J45V was the FJ55, mainly intended as comfort models for the U.S. and Australian markets. This model spawned the J60 series, the first of the real luxury four-door Land Cruiser Wagons, which lead to the J80, J100 Series, and, J200 Series. The J70 series (1984-present) took the place of the J40 series as a more basic and rugged work vehicle, though 70 Series models can range from a short wheelbase convertible all the way to a “Van” with a large rear enclosed area. (These are sometimes called a “troopie” or troop carrier).

The Toyota Land Cruiser Wagons, J80 Series (1990-2008), J100 Series (1998-2007) J200 series (2007-present) and Land Cruiser Prado series (1984-present)

The J80 series was the Land Cruiser’s first departure from a leaf-spring suspension in the U.S. market—some 70 Series Land Cruisers had coils since 1985—and was available with locking differentials in some trim levels in the U.S. The J100 (1998-2007) Series was actually two separate, yet nearly identical vehicles, the 105 with coils and a solid front axle and the 100, which had IFS and space for Land Cruiser’s first V-8. The J200 series is the latest in the comfort model wagon type of Land Cruiser. The Prado is a spinoff of the J70 series that is slightly smaller than later Land Cruiser Wagons and are only available outside of the North American market. Interestingly, the second iteration of the Prado shared some suspension components with the Tacoma and third-generation 4Runner, including the 3.4L V-6 as did later Prados.

Land Cruiser History Chart

Toyota J20 Series (1955-1960)

Toyota J30 Series (1955-1960)

Toyota J40 Series (1960-1984)

Toyota J50 series (1967-1980)

Toyota J70 Series (1984-present, also the precursor to the Prado line which was first a model of J70)

Toyota J60 series (1981 -1990) Toyota Prado J70 (1990-1996)

Toyota J80 Series (1990-2008) Toyota Prado J90 (1996-2002)

Toyota J100 Series (1998-2007) Toyota Prado J120 (2002-2009)

Toyota J200 Series (2007-present) Toyota Prado J150 (2009-present)

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