Mini-Series “4×4 Variety” – Toyota Land Cruiser

Land Cruiser

If you look at the monotonous mass of jacked-up, interchangeable vehicles on today’s roads, you might think they all originate from the same ideal. However, the approaches of the historical models, if you will, are fundamentally different, even if the goal of Willys MB, Range Rover and Land Cruiser was always to get well through rough terrain.


Buying a car is sometimes quite a national affair. In the USA you will find mainly American makes, in Europe European. There is also a world star in the off-road sector, which is on the road in all remote and impassable areas from Asia to Africa: the Toyota Land Cruiser. The Land Cruiser also has its origins in military history, strictly speaking it goes back quite specifically to a Bantam Mark II. In 1941, the Japanese army captured one in the Philippines and urged Toyota to build a similar vehicle, which at best should not look like the American original. There was no mass production of the results during the Second World War, but in 1950 Toyota again took part in a military tender. Their BJ model did not win the tender, but was used in other civilian contexts from 1951.


In 1954, the Toyota off-road vehicles were renamed Land Cruiser and given a new coat of paint. The basic concept and initially also the engine remained the same, but otherwise everything was done to make the off-roader chic for export. The redesigned front with integrated headlights and an overall rounder body shape made it appear much more modern than the previous rough all-terrain vehicles. The indestructible Type F six-cylinder engine was also new. Its robustness was not the only advantage for use in emerging and developing countries; its low compression ratio also helped the engine to cope better with fluctuating fuel quality. The J2 and J3 series were built until 1967.

Land Cruiser


The most striking face of the Land Cruiser is certainly the J4 series. Not only because it was built from 1960 to 1984 – Toyota do Brasil even continued to produce it almost unchanged as a bandeirante until 2001 – but because it manifested the image of the indestructible companion worldwide. From the late 1970s also in Germany. The vehicle was available in countless variants, long and short wheelbase, open, as a pickup and whatever else could be built on this solid base. At first glance, the exact designation H may seem to be for the larger in-line six-cylinder diesel engine, F is the petrol six-cylinder. The first digit describes the generation, the second the variant. After the J4, the Land Cruiser’s journey was far from over, and the Land Cruiser is still being built today. The fact that the character of the J4 still rubs off on the entire self-image of the brand can be seen not least in the FJ Cruiser, which was launched in 2006 and is a modern SUV that looks like the spitting image of its famous predecessor.

Whether Willys MB, Range Rover Classic or Toyota Land Cruiser, all three off-roaders have left their mark on automotive history. From the battlefields of Normandy to the high mountains of the Andes, they have always been able to pave the way with simple, robust technology. And in the case of the Range Rover, cut a fine figure at royal events too.


Pictures: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles n.v., Jaguar Land Rover Ltd., Toyota Deutschland GmbH

Author: Lennart Klein

Lennart Klein ist Redakteur beim Classic Trader Magazin. Seine Begeisterung gilt zwei- und vierrädrigen Klassikern gleichermaßen. Traum-Klassiker: Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior & Mercedes-Benz 600.

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