August 24, 2010

Big Boy's Toy

The Toyota Land Cruiser

When the Japanese occupied the Philippines in 1941, among other artifacts abandoned in the hasty retreat of Allied forces, they found a broke-down jeep. An American Bantam Mk II to be precise.

The American Bantam MK II was one of
the earliest U.S. Army GP (jeep) vehicles 
The Bantam was one of 4,500 jeeps produced under US Army contract, 1,500 of which were produced by the American Bantam Motorcar Company.

The jeep’s design was based upon specifications outlined in the Army’s technical manual for a "... general purpose, personnel, or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as 1/4-ton 4x4 Truck."

The Bantam was taken to Tokyo where Japanese engineers studied it. Very quickly the military authorities recognized the utility of such a vehicle, and ordered Toyota to create something based upon the design.

Toyota’s initial prototype was the ¼ ton Model AK, which was formally accepted by The Japanese Imperial Army. Toyota designers continued working and in 1942, using reverse-engineering from the Bantam, produced the ½ ton AK10. These two vehicles were never widely used by the Japanese military, but they would go on to form the platform for Toyota’s post war success.

The Toyota BJ was inspiration for
the first American release, the FJ20
After Japan’s surrender in WWII, and in an effort to help rebuild the industrial infrastructure of the country, the U.S. asked Toyota to build 100 vehicles to be used in Korea and with a design based on Land Rover and Willys specifications. The resulting vehicle was dubbed the BJ.

Toyota’s first attempt to break into the American market was the BJ inspired FJ20. The BJ design was the genesis of Toyota’s most popular line… the Land Cruiser… the only Toyota model that has been continuously sold in the U.S. since the company came here. The little two-door utility vehicle was introduced to the U.S. in 1958. They sold a grand total of one that first year.

Beginning in the 60’s, Toyota experimented with a number of body styles and models, but the most popular was the FJ40. Thousands were sold from the early 60’s up until 1984 when Toyota dropped the design in favor of the larger FJ70.

The FJ25 caught the attention of Americans
and rekindled the love for off-roading
The sporty little two-door FJ40 sold for less than $3,000. The motor in the earlier models was the 125hp 6-cylinder, 3.9-liter model F, replaced in 1975 by the more powerful 4.2-liter F2 engine. The first model year with the F2 was the last before government emission and fuel efficiency standards were implemented, reducing the power of the engine.

A variety of Land Cruiser models were introduced since the 1958 debut of the FJ20, but none have enjoyed the popularity of the FJ40. In 2006, almost 20 years after ceasing production of the FJ40, perhaps in an attempt to recapture the market lost when the FJ40 was dropped, Toyota introduced the FJ40 inspired FJ Cruiser.

While I am sure the design will be successful, nothing will replace the rugged, durable fun-to-drive FJ40.

Toyota FJ40

1955 FJ20
1954 – A 125 hp, 3.9-liter engine (the Type F) is mounted on Toyota’s BJ inspired FJ20 fire-engine chassis. Toyota’s technical director, Hanji Umehara, names this the "Land Cruiser."

1955 - The Second generation FJ20 appears. Designed with “civilian appeal” and intended for export.

1957 – A  four-door American Bantam Mk II Station Wagon is added to the Japanese line-up. FJ25’s and FJ28’s are exported to Australia.

1958 FJ35V
1958 - Toyota introduces the FJ20 to the U.S. market.  Total sales are 1. The FJ35V station wagon is introduced in Japan. FJ25’s are produced in Brazil… the first Toyota vehicle built outside Japan.

1960 – The FJ20 is upgraded to the FJ40. FJ20 and FJ25 are dropped from the U.S. market.

1962 – Total U.S. sales for the FJ40 top 1,000.

1967 FJ45
1965 – Global production of Toyota Land Cruisers tops 50,000, and the FJ40 becomes the top selling Toyota in the U.S.

1967 – Toyota introduces the FJ55 Land Cruiser Wagon. Predecessor to the SUV. Total Land Cruiser sales in the U.S. exceed 10,000 for the first time.

1968 – Toyota sells their 100,000th Land Cruiser.

1972 – Toyota sells their 200,000th Land Cruiser.

1973 – Toyota sells their 300,000th Land Cruiser.

1974 – Toyota offers Land Cruisers to the world market equipped with the 3.0-liter Type B diesel engine. These were never made available in the U.S. (I would have been the first in line if they did.)

1975 – The Type F engine is replaced by the F2. The FJ55 get front disc brakes.

1976 – The FJ40 gets front disc brakes. In California, the Toyota Land Cruiser Association was formed.

1978 – Total U.S. sales exceed 100,000.

1984 – The last FJ40 rolls off the production line in Toyota City, Japan.


Old NFO said...

And you can buy a "new" FJ40 today... There is a company in LA that is rebuilding FJs and Datsun 240Zs to original spec, but I think you pay around $40k for them...

Mule Breath said...

The California company known as Icon takes old FJ40’s (as well as other Cruiser models and even some classic Jeeps,) strips them to the frame, then rebuilds with all new parts including an International 2.9-litre motor. I’d rate them as close but no cigar since they still have to mount the modern emission control stuff.

Even though Toyota Japan ceased production of the FJ40 in 1984, and all models produced after 1976 had power issues due to the smog equipment, Toyota Brazil made the little trucks in original form up until 2001, and if you can figure a way to get one into the country, they are damn fine vehicles.

montag said...

We didn't see a lot of those Land Cruisers up north. A touch of road salt on them was like a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch. One area all the Japanese manufacturers were slow with was rust and corrosion.