This year the Toyota Landcruiser celebrates its 60th birthday this year. What started out as a Japanese version of the Jeep for the US Army has taken the crown as ‘Best 4X4XFar’ from Land Rover.
This post is about my experience with a Landcruiser, and why I believe it to be one of the Motoring Heroes in the world. The Landcruiser is not the biggest or the fastest or the cheapest off roader available, and other off roaders will get you there in more luxury. But the Landcruiser will always get you home. That really is the point of the Land cruiser, absolute reliability.
A quick history lesson if I may. The Land Cruiser was basically an American Jeep, built by Toyota for the American military fighting in the Korean war. The Japanese National Police Agency liked the new Jeep BJ’s so much they ordered 300 for their patrol fleet. The name Landcruiser was attached to it in 1955 by the technical director, who said later, “In England we had another competitor – Land Rover. I had to come up with a name for our car that would not sound less dignified than those of our competitors. That is why I decided to call it ‘Landcruiser’.”
In 1960 the Landcruiser 40 series came along and this is the one we all remember. Not very good looking, yet somehow cute. This is the Landcruiser you will always see in the classical African pictures from the 1960’s.
I had a chance to drive one for a few days a while back and it was terrible by modern standards. No equipment, the ride was rubbish and the steering weighs 4 tonnes. I then changed the environment. I moved from the tarmac to off road. The Landcruiser then came alive. It was like a little donkey. Hard working, determined and easy to drive off road. I am commonly regarded as the worst off road driver who has ever lived and I did not get stuck once.
Driving through water, on sand, up slopes and hills and through mud. The little Toyota donkey didn’t falter once. I stalled once in the water and it started instantly and pulled me free.
The Toyota Landcruiser 40 series was terrible on road. Unrefined by modern standards, horrible to drive and not really nice to look at. However, just by taking it off road the car comes alive and changes completely. Off road, no one worries about ride comfort or equipment levels and instead worries about capability.
Over the years Toyota upgraded the Landcruiser, with the 50, 60 70, 80, 90, 100 and now the 200 series. All have kept that epic off road ability and have become more and more refined on road. However, anyone who cares about exploring or cars will almost always think of the 40 Series as the ultimate Landcruiser.