What is the Toyota Land Cruiser?
Being Toyota’s longest running production series the Land Cruiser, a four wheel drive powerhouse, has gone through many iterations since production of civilian models started in 1951, when 90 units were produced. Not to be confused with the Studebaker Land Cruiser, Toyota has produced its Land Cruiser in convertible, station wagon, hardtop, and utility truck variations, and its legendary dependability, ease of operation, and durability has made it hugely popular in markets such as Australia and Southern Africa.
Operating conditions in these markets are extremely demanding, both in terms of high temperatures and rugged terrain, which makes the Land Cruiser the ideal vehicle in these markets.
Origin of the Toyota Land Cruiser.
In 1941, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippines, they came across an abandoned Bantam Mk II Jeep, and lost no time in shipping it back to Japan with instructions for Toyota to copy it, but to make it look different for appearance’s sake, if nothing else. Toyota promptly reverse engineered the Bantam Jeep, and came up with a prototype dubbed “Model AK”, which they soon after developed into what was called the “Yon-Shiki Kogata Kamotsu-Sha”, or the Type 4 Compact Cargo Truck.
Initial tests of the Model AK prototype proved to be successful, upon which the Japanese military ordered Toyota to commence development of a military version. Further reverse engineering the Bantam Jeep, Toyota came up with the AK 10 prototype, which was powered by a 2259 cc engine from the Toyota Model AE, mated to a three-speed manual transmission with a transfer case that sported a low range gear set.
In terms of body work, the AK 10 had a fold-down windshield, flat wheel arches like the much later FJ 40, on which the headlights were mounted, and an upright grille. Carrying capacity was 1000 pounds. However, few units were produced and even fewer saw active service, which makes war-time photographs of the AK 10 rare even in Japan, and thus valuable collector’s items.
Soon after the war Toyota started production of a “Jeep-like” series of vehicles, known as the BJ series, but this vehicle was completely different from the AK 10, and shared no mechanical components with it.
The Toyota Land Cruiser today.
Although the Toyota Land Cruiser has gone through many iterations in its long and illustrious career, die-hard fans the world over are in agreement that the J80 series produced during the 1990’s is by far the best of any series produced before or since, and although the 80 Series was first shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in October of 1989, it was only released to the market in the first half of 1990. The first versions had a swing-out rear door, but this was replaced by a winch assisted door in 1994. Nicknamed “Burbuja”, or the Bubble, because of its rounded shape, the 80 Series was released as the Land Cruiser “Autana” in both Venezuela and Colombia, with the name deriving from a spectacular geological formation in Guiana. Total sales of the 80 Series reached a respectable 2 million units worldwide.
However, the Land Cruiser 80 Series underwent continual development all through its production run, with some major technological advances to brakes, safety equipment, and cosmetic changes being introduced almost every year while it was in production. Below is a chronological list of major changes, innovations, and general improvements.
However, some units did not have all the features listed here, and some had none apart from the exclusive body colors. 1997 also saw the end of electrically operated front diff locks on all models.
The End of the 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.
The last unit of this legendary vehicle was produced in 2008 in Venezuela, the only country in the world to produce the 80 Series outside of Japan, where production ceased in 1997.