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The rise of the Land Cruiser Print E-mail
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The beginnings

 Toyota Jeep BJ 

In January 1951,  the freshly-formed "Japanese National Police Reserve Forces" asked Toyota engineers to produce an alternative to the American 4x4 Willys Jeep. The first prototype - the Toyota Jeep BJ - failed to impress, but its designers did not give up, and made a large number of technical improvements. In July that year, test driver Ichiro Taira drove a BJ up to checkpoint 6 on Mount Fuji, suitably impressing the potential customers. In 1953, after two years of planning and negotiations, the first 298 Toyota Jeep BJs were produced for the Japanese National Police Reserve Forces and proved technically superior to the Willys Jeep. Soon government forestry and utility agencies started to take interest in Toyota’s tough new off-road vehicle. The BJ was considered unusual to say the least - it matched a robust 3-ton truck engine with a chassis from a small transport vehicle/passenger. In reality, those were the only materials Toyota had to work with. But the combination worked. Then history took a surprising turn. What might have been a debilitating setback was instead the catalyst for unanticipated advances. The Police Defense Forces, for whom the vehicle was originally designed, decided against purchasing the BJ. This stimulated development of an export strategy, which gave Toyota's engineers considerably more freedom in design and development. With its large piston displacement, longer wheelbase, larger body, and softer suspension, the BJ was well-suited to the dawning new age of the 4 x 4. By the time large-scale production began in 1953, the Toyota Jeep BJ was looking confidently into its future -- the overseas markets.In 1954 the Toyota Jeep BJ was renamed "Land Cruiser" after the Willys Company claimed their trademark had been violated. In fact, an English competitor - the Land Rover - prompted Hanji Umehara, then Toyota's Managing Director, to rename the BJ. He needed a name that sounded no less dignified, and so the Land Cruiser was born.  

 FJ 20

Toyota FJ 20-series

Gradually the military-based BJ-design was altered to make it more suitable for peacetime use. In the mid-1950s, the Japanese economy was thriving and Toyota was working fast to build a domestic sales network to handle the demand. The Land Cruiser was holding its own against rival models, such as the Willys Jeep and the Land Rover, and Toyota decided the time was right to expand into foreign markets. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, Toyota was there with the Land Cruiser right out front, helping establish a bridgehead that the company hoped would pave the way for future sales of passenger cars. 

The theme for the 20-series was a new style with more driving   comfort, as well as more interior room. As a result, it didn't have much in common with the BJ, instead showing softer lines in the body styling. These major changes in the chassis frame created a basic design which remained unchanged for 29 years through the transition to the 40-series. Moreover, softer springs were fitted to reduce driver fatigue, and in 1955 the 20-series was launched alongside the BJ. In 1957 the FJ25L was tested by the US Army in Baltimore, which signaled to Toyota that the Land Cruiser was more than ready to take on the USA. A 3-plate spring taken from the Crown passenger car was used in the early 20-series to enhance riding comfort. The Crown itself could not compete with US-built passenger cars and in 1960 Toyota pulled out of that export market for two years. This left Toyota America without it's main product; however, the Land Cruiser continued to sell. Until the new model Corona was released in 1965, the Land Cruiser kept Toyota in business in America. The FJ25 was positioned as the standard of the FJ20 series for the domestic market, but in all there were 10 variations available, from FJ20 through FJ29. There were two variations on the wheelbase, and a 4x2 Land Cruiser made for the National Police Agency. In 1958 the wheelbase was extended and a van body was introduced.

The theme for the 20-series was a new style with more driving comfort, as well as more interior room. As a result, it didn't have much in common with the BJ, instead showing softer lines in the body styling. These major changes in the chassis frame created a basic design which remained unchanged for 29 years through the transition to the 40-series. Moreover, softer springs were fitted to reduce driver fatigue, and in 1955 the 20-series was launched alongside the BJ. In 1957 the FJ25L was tested by the US Army in Baltimore, which signaled to Toyota that the Land Cruiser was more than ready to take on the USA. A 3-plate spring taken from the Crown passenger car was used in the early 20-series to enhance riding comfort. The Crown itself could not compete with US-built passenger cars and in 1960 Toyota pulled out of that export market for two years. This left Toyota America without it's main product; however, the Land Cruiser continued to sell. Until the new model Corona was released in 1965, the Land Cruiser kept Toyota in business in America. The FJ25 was positioned as the standard of the FJ20 series for the domestic market, but in all there were 10 variations available, from FJ20 through FJ29. There were two variations on the wheelbase, and a 4x2 Land Cruiser made for the National Police Agency. In 1958 the wheelbase was extended and a van body was introduced.

 FJ20 versions

FJ40

Toyota FJ40 

With the appearance of the FJ20 series, the reputation of the Land Cruiser was secure, especially in foreign markets. From this point on it was a matter of pursuing higher output, better performance, and making improvements and refinements throughout.

In 1960, the FJ-type took an evolutionary step into the 40-series. Though there was little change in the external appearance of the vehicle, production techniques were modernised.

At the beginning, there was only the basic body type with a hood, and a light van. There was also a metal top specialty version with a design inherited from the 20-series. But the 40-series expanded, and became rich in wheelbase variations, included the short wheelbase FJ40 (soft top and light van model), the middle wheelbase FJ43, and the long wheelbase FJ45 . While the FJ28 had a soft top, hard top and light van model, the FJ43 came in only two variations, a soft top and hard top model. The FJ45V was a van type, and there was also a pickup model made for export. 

In 1967 the demand for estate cars increased significantly, and the FJ45V was replaced with a new FJ55V that had a wheelbase of 2.700mm. An export model with an H-type 6-cylinder, 3,576cc diesel engine also debuted.

In 1974, the BJ-series debuted, which put a B-type petrol engine in the 40 series. At the time, a 2.8-litre piston displacement was thought of as the upper limit for a 4-cylinder diesel engine, but the B-type extended the piston capacity to 3.0 litres, and was developed for installation in 2-ton trucks. As a result, the weight in the domestic market shifted from the FJ to the BJ in the 40 series. The appearance of the BJ40 series was epoch-making for the Japanese domestic 4x4 market. Before that, the FJ 4-litre petrol engine had been classified by the Japanese registration system as a large vehicle, making it more expensive to maintain and a
heavy tax liability for individual owners. However, with the diesel engine, it was reclassified as a compact vehicle, making it more affordable for individuals.

The 40-series went on to enjoy a successful 24-year run before being replaced in 1984 with the 70-series. 

FJ40 versions     Toyota FJ 40 Soft-Top
LC 50-series

The Land Cruiser had been introduced as a cross-country type 4x4 vehicle, but people had begun to accept the idea that it could also be a utility vehicle for carrying things. So demand increased for a vehicle with a larger body that could carry more people and more cargo.

Land Cruiser 50-series

Toyota responded by building wagons like the FJ35V and the FJ45V. After that, demand became strong for a genuine estate car. An ordinary truck could carry people or cargo, but after getting to a work site by road, trucks were frequently expected to cross difficult ground, often in severe weather conditions where roads might be washed out or otherwise impassable. The Land Cruiser satisfied these multiple needs.

Toyota had put a priority on development of passenger cars such as the Crown and the Corona, and the design staff was too busy to work on the Land Cruiser. As a result, the design was handled by on-site technical staff working with little more than rulers and compasses. It was not until the 50-series that designers were able to pay serious attention to the Land Cruiser, creating design sketches and clay models.

Leaving some traces of the original 40-series, in July of 1967 they released a new model, the FJ55V, to replace the FJ45V. The body was larger than a compact car, the ride was as comfortable as a passenger car, and it was designed not just for utility but for leisure use.

Now the export market's influence really came into play. The 50-series was made to be sold in America and Australia. It was designed to cruise at 130km/h on US highways, and built tough to handle the rugged Australian landscape, the first time that a Toyota truck was build entirely with fully enclosed box cross-section welded members. It was also engineered to meet US safety standards established through frontal crash testing at 50km/h.

Because of its shape, it was known affectionately in the US as the Moose.  
 

LC 60-series

In 1976, chief engineer Hiroshi Ohsawa began planning for the next generation of the 50-series Land Cruiser. In order to compete in the US market, something more was needed beyond what the FJ55V had to offer: it had to have a larger body, feel closer to an estate car, include more luxurious touches in the interior, and offer a more comfortable ride.

Land Cruiser 60-series The problem was what to do with the suspension. Mr. Ohsawa considered an independent suspension, however this idea was rejected in favour of the existing rigid leaf springs of the FJ55V to ensure that the Land Cruiser lived up to its off-road reputation. Another reason for developing the 60-series was to create a model that was less likely to roll. This was because in the Middle East, people would load the roof high making it top-heavy and then drive on dirt roads at speeds of more than 100km/h. Investigation revealed that they were often carrying petrol cans, not surprising considering that petrol stations were few and far between in the desert.

This new series featured a wider tread to cope with the top-heaviness by providing more stability when cornering, and was sized closer to the global standard for a station wagon. Exports soared. The 60-series was also quite popular domestically - demand in Japan had increased for a long model diesel-powered vehicle that was inexpensive to maintain, and the 60-series filled the bill. In addition to the 2F-type petrol engines in the FJ60 and the BJ60, a 3,431cc B-type diesel engine was added.
 In October of 1982, the new HJ60 appeared. Not only did it have a larger engine (a 6-cylinder diesel), it came with a high roof, a 5-speed transmission, electric moon roof, remote control mirrors and other luxury features. The FJ and the BJ evolved from the 60 to the 61-series, and a luxury model similar to the HJ was added to the BJ 61. Land Cruiser gained its first ever class designation, the GX, to distinguish it from the standard model.

A look back over the development of the 60-series, reveals how it started as a utility vehicle and evolved into a passenger car. In particular, with the debut of the competing Mitsubishi Pajero (Montero) in 1982, the subsequent appearance of high-roof cars, and the addition of luxury items such as A/T and turbo, minor changes were introduced annually. This development became the basis for the 80-series and the 100-series. 

60-series versions

LC 70-series

Land Cruiser 70-series  The 70-series of today contains, according to Mr. Osamu Shinodu, chief engineer of the LC70 Product Planning Division, "all of the threads of history."

 

The biggest change was made in the transition from the 40-series to the 70-series. The market still demanded heavy-duty vehicles, but RV-type users were increasing and both had to be satisfied. While some people in Japan thought that the Land Cruiser was still too heavy and overbuilt in terms of quality, people in Arab countries complained that the Land Cruiser was becoming too soft. It was thanks to these competing needs, however, that the Land Cruiser was able to diversify in the directions it has today.

 

There were limits to what could be done to modernise the old design of the 40-series. The chief engineer at the time, Mr. Masaomi Yoshii, therefore introduced a complete overhaul in the design. In November of 1984, a new 70-series was born, bringing to a close a 29-year era during which the 40-series (and the 20-series) remained unchanged.

 

The first requirement for the new series was that the new Land Cruiser should not sacrifice any of its toughness, so a strong ladder frame was outfitted with rigid leaf springs. The body plates were thickened by 1mm for added strength. While leaving something of the image of the 40-series, such as externally added fenders, it was also given modern features such as curved glass. As before, there were two body types available, the short BJ70 (soft top and van) and the middle BJ73 (FRP top).

 

Following the addition of several engine types, including the BJ74 LX with automatic transmission, the 70-series wagon underwent a complete makeover in April 1990. In addition to the original 2-door, a 4-door semi-long model was introduced. Its name was changed to the Prado, and with other design changes it took on its own identity, making the transition to a passenger vehicle.

The 4-door model had three rows of seats and co uld carry eight people. Compared to the 70-series that was registered as a commercial vehicle, it now had more potential reclassified as a recreational vehicle. A wide-body version was later added to the semi-long and short body versions, along with a newly developed engine. These changes led to improved performance. However, the 1st generation Prado had inherited too strong a workhorse image and did not attract the interest Toyota had hoped.
 With a full model change in May of 1996, the Prado embarked on a new and independent path. This 2nd generation design was aimed at creating a car that retained its 4WD character while looking at home on city streets. It reflected Mr. Yoshii's experience while doing development work on another Toyota vehicle, the Carib. Then a Land Cruiser was used as a support car during snow testing. The heavy Land Cruiser often got stuck, while the Carib was "light enough to run circles around it," as Mr. Yohii puts it. Although he had no idea that one day he would be put in charge of Land Cruiser development, that experience helped him create the lighter, more car-like characteristics that made the 70-series such a success. 

 

 70-series versions 
 
LC 80-series

 

Land Cruiser 80-series

 

 

By 1989, the 60-series was being driven more for leisure or family use as a town car than as an off-road vehicle. Over time, demand had increased for more fashionable and passenger car-like characteristics. Regular minor changes, all leading to greater luxury, were introduced. These changes eventually led to the transformation of the ever-popular 60-series into the new 80-series, released in October of 1989.

 

The transition of the 60-series into the 80-series was more drastic than that from the 50-series to the 60-series. A number of new technologies were introduced, making the transition more revolutionary than evolutionary. The aim of the 80-series was to be at the forefront of both technology and luxury. 

 

Along with passenger car-like styling in the front design, wide tires and large fenders gave it a bold effect, looking something like a luxury battleship that could cruise the land. It was a break from the tradition of the Japanese 4x4. Still, accommodations remained for off-road applications, such as space in the instrument panel to install wireless equipment and a rail for mounting a roof carrier.

 

It was large at 5 metres in length and 2 metres wide, with three engine types: two diesels and one petrol. For all but one model, it came with rigid coil springs in front and rear, and a full-time 4x4 power train. In August 1996 all models took on ABS and airbags as standard equipment.

 

The 80-series was born in the favorable environment of an economic boom. However, it did not suffer when the boom cycle ended -- the 80-series lasted for nine years, getting larger and more luxurious until it was eventually replaced in January of 1998 with the 100-series Land Cruiser. The transition to the next generation was made when the 80-series still enjoyed a high level of popularity, much the same as had happened earlier when the 60-series made way for the 80-series.

80-series versions

 

LC 90-series

 

Land Cruiser 90-series

In May of 1996, the 70-series underwent a makeover and emerged as the 90-series Prado, an independent series. The design was heavy-duty, like the 70-series Prado, but with a smaller engine and light classification it took on the image of an underpowered 4x4, and consequently domestic sales did not do as well as expected.

Aiming for supremacy in all classes, Toyota developed the 90-series Prado as its final weapon against its main competitor, the Mitsubishi Pajero. In addition to the standard body, there was a wide-body version, a sporty 3-door model and a 5-door model. The 90-series Prado had a wide and low form, and looked very similar to the Mitsubishi Pajero. Even the engine had similar specs, with the choice of both petrol and diesel. The power train was a full 4x4, so that the lineup was clearly superior to the Pajero. Like the 80-series, the long version also offered a model called Active Vacation built for camping.
 

The specs and the lineup of the 90-series was a major change, but one other feature helped push it to market success - independent front suspension. The car was featured in a television commercial, unusual for a 4x4 at the time, and overtook the Pajero as planned. In April of 1997 a new engine was added, widening the variations. 

More luxury upgrades were added in June and July, along with styling changes and options to deliver high performance off-road, such as Active Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control. A newly developed diesel engine was added in response to demands for lower fuel consumption, fewer emissions, and less noise and vibration. An engine immobiliser was also added to all classes of the Land Cruiser as standard equipment.

90-series versions

 

LC 100-series

 

Land Cruiser 100-series

The Land Cruiser 100 represents the culmination of 50 years of experience and technical expertise that have earned the Land Cruiser its solid reputation for off-road performance, toughness and reliability.

In January of 1998, the 80-series underwent a model change and re-emerged as the Land Cruiser 100. By this time, the name Land Cruiser had earned a strong reputation worldwide for its high performance on difficult terrain as well as for its manoeuvrability and durability. It was selected by United Nations agencies as a reliable 4x4, used domestically and internationally for rescue operations, as a relay vehicle for satellite broadcasting, and as a prestigious SUV.
 

 

With the development of the Land Cruiser 100, Toyota created a prestige 4WD with significantly improved on-road performance, without sacrificing its traditional off-road abilities. With double wishbone suspension and rack and pinion steering, the Land Cruiser 100 was designed to feel more like a passenger car than its heavy-duty predecessors. To further improve riding comfort and steering stability, hydraulic vehicle height adjustment and dynamic suspension control were added as options, aiming at improved performance on paved roads. The interior was luxurious, with air-conditioning and high-end audio, and an optional DVD navigation system.

 

Though the Land Cruiser 100 continues to evolve as a passenger car, there are still users overseas who drive it off-road. To meet these needs, such as in Australia and other rugged environments, Toyota has created a Land Cruiser 105-series with rigid coil springs in the suspension. No matter how much it takes on the aura of luxury, the Land Cruiser is never far from its roots as an off-road vehicle.

100-series versions

LC 120 Prado 

The new Toyota Land Cruiser, receiving its World Premier, was the highlight of the Toyota stand at Paris Mondial de l’Automobile 2002.

Toyota's new Land Cruiser is aimed at the core of the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) market and replaces the current Land Cruiser 90 in Toyota’s comprehensive SUV range. Like all previous Land Cruiser models, the new Toyota Land Cruiser offers full off-road capability - but, in response to the growing leisure market, the latest model adds superb on-road driving pleasure with new standards of premium car quality and comfort. The new Toyota Land Cruiser is at the heart of the SUV market while the Toyota Land Cruiser 100 targets the luxury market for those seeking the ultimate in off-road performance.

Timeline

 

Pictures and content © Toyota Motor Europe (TME)  
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