Toyota Land Cruiser Through the Years

Over 70-years, the Toyota Land Cruiser has lived up to its name on a global scale. Let’s review the humble beginnings of this world class vehicle.

Toyota’s Long-Time Overlander

Even though the Toyota Land Cruiser won’t be coming back to the US anytime soon, we won’t forget the powerful impact it has had over its 70-plus year history. As an almost indestructible tool for adventure, the Land Cruiser gave generations the ability to cover any ground on earth. We can only hope that Toyota brings it back to the US in all its mighty glory, but for now, let’s cover its history as it evolved.

BJ and FJ Series (1951-1954)

1951 Toyota BJ - toyota-global.com

1951 Toyota BJ – toyota-global.com |  Shop Toyota Land Cruiser on Carsforsale.com

The Toyota Land Cruiser started as a need by Japan’s National Police Reserve Forces. When asked to meet that need, Toyota offered a rugged, all-terrain, four-wheel-drive vehicle named the Toyota BJ.

  • The power plant was a 3.4-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that made 75 horsepower.
  • In July 1951, Toyota test driver Ichiro Taira drove the first “Land Cruiser” up a trail towards the top of Japan’s 12,388 ft high Mt. Fuji, making it to the sixth of 10 checkpoints. No vehicle had ever gone that far.
  • In 1954, Toyota officially named the vehicle Land Cruiser because the Toyota Director of Technology, Hanji Umehara, said the vehicle seemed to easily cruise over the roughest terrain.

20 and 30 Series Toyota Land Cruiser (1955-1959)

1959 Toyota Land Cruiser - carsforsale.com
1959 Toyota Land Cruiser - carsforsale.com

The following iterations of the Land Cruiser were named the 20 Series and 30 Series. In 1958, it entered the US market, but they sold just a single Land Cruiser that year in the US.

  • Toyota’s 133 hp 3.9-liter F-Type inline-6 engine powered the 20 Series.
  • The Land Cruisers transmission didn’t have a low range transfer case, but had synchromesh third and fourth gears.
  • Toyota USA began in 1957 and sold 288 vehicles in 1958 – its first year of sales. The one Land Cruiser sold was the 20-series.

40 and 55 Series (1960-1983)

1960 FJ40 - pressroom.toyota.com
1960 FJ40 - pressroom.toyota.com

In 1960, Toyota introduced the FJ40. The 40 Series Land Cruiser incorporated low-range gears to make it a terrain conquering competitor to the Land Rover. To make a higher quality vehicle, Toyota purchased new steel presses for use in frame and body production. The FJ40 continued with Toyota’s F-type engine, which produced 125 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque.

  • In 1965, the Land Cruiser became the best-selling Toyota in the United States.
  • In 1967, the Land Cruiser 55 Series wagon model, built on a 16-inch longer wheelbase, was introduced. It was more comfortable for passengers and cargo.
  • The new 55 series 3.9-liter engine received a new head and camshaft design to aid in its ability to cruise on faster highways.
  • Worldwide sales of the Land Cruiser reached 100,000 in 1968.
1977 FJ40 - pressroom.toyota.com
1977 FJ40 - pressroom.toyota.com
  • In 1973, the first diesel Land Cruiser was introduced with a 6-cylinder diesel engine and then a 4-cylinder diesel. Land Cruiser sales topped 300,000.
  • In 1975, the Land Cruiser gained a new 4.2-liter inline-6-cylinder engine.
  • A 4-speed replaced the 3-speed transmission.
  • In 1976, the Land Cruiser received front disc brakes.
  • The FJ40 also received power steering and air conditioning for the first time.
  • In 1979, the US Land Cruiser sold for $6,000.
  • In 1983, only 300 of the last FJ40’s were imported to the US.

60 Series Toyota Land Cruiser (1980-1990)

1981 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 - pressroom.toyota.com
1981 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 - pressroom.toyota.com

Toyota introduced the Land Cruiser 60 Series to a market where four-wheel-drive vehicles were becoming trendy. As a result, Toyota updated the styling, ride comfort, and drivability to exceed the market demands. The new Land Cruiser brought greater comfort yet increased its off-road and bulletproof capabilities.

  • The new styling retained the overall image of the 40 Series, but also incorporated a curved glass for the windshield.
  • The 60 Series Land Cruiser receives a modern dashboard design to better compete with competitors’ interiors.
  • Toyota gave the 60 Series Land Cruiser a new 155 hp and 220 lb-ft 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine.
1988 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 - pressroom.toyota.com
1988 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 - pressroom.toyota.com
  • In 1981, Toyota built its millionth Land Cruiser.
  • Toyota entered a Land Cruiser in the Botswana Toyota 1000km Desert Race.
  • In 1984, the 70 Series was introduced and sold in non-North American markets.
  • In 1985, Toyota introduces a Direct Injection turbodiesel engine.
  • In 1989, solid front axle coil springs replaced leaf springs to improve ride comfort.
  • Toyota lengthened the Land Cruiser’s rear leaf springs to increase ride comfort and wheel travel over rough and uneven terrain.

80 Series (1990-1998)

1991 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80 - pressroom.toyota.com
1991 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80 - pressroom.toyota.com

In 1990, Toyota introduced the Land Cruiser 80 Series. The new Land Cruiser was a move forward to providing off-road abilities with luxury and comfort.

  • The 80 Series Land Cruiser was five inches longer, five inches wider, and 600 pounds heavier than the 60 series and began to cater to families.
  • The new 80 Series Land Cruiser included a full-time AWD with a front and rear locking center differential.
  • In 1991, the Land Cruiser was available with leather seats and an upgraded audio system.
1996 Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80 - pressroom.toyota.com
1996 Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80 - pressroom.toyota.com
  • Airbags and ABS were standard equipment in 1995.
  • In 1993, Toyota introduced a new 24-valve OHC 4.5-liter 6-cylinder that produced 212 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque.
  •  The 80 Series was the basis for the Lexus LX 450.
  • In 1996, Toyota entered two Land Cruisers in the Dakar Rally that finished first and second in the unmodified production class.
  • In 1997, 4,744 80 Series 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Land Cruisers were filled with luxury and convenience items plus electrically locking front and rear differentials.

100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser (1998-2007)

1998 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
1998 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com

Toyota introduced the Land Cruiser 100 Series in 1998. Toyota transformed the new Land Cruiser into a sleeker, stiffer, and more luxurious off-roader.

  • The 100 series introduced a first-ever Land Cruiser independent front suspension.
  • Even though the 100 series Land Cruiser was more luxurious, its height-adjustable suspension and better approach angles improved its off-road capabilities.
2006 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
2006 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
  • A new 230 hp 4.7-liter V8 engine replaced the 212 hp inline-6-cylinder.
  • In 2002, Toyota introduced the first automotive night vision camera system that used near-infrared light on the headlights.
  • The Toyota Land Cruiser received a facelift and five more horsepower for its V8 engine in 2003.
  • In 2006, Toyota increased the horsepower of the engine to 275

200 Series (2008-2021)

2008 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com

2008 Toyota Land Cruiser – pressroom.toyota.com |  Shop Toyota Land Cruiser on Carsforsale.com

Toyota introduced the Land Cruiser 100 Series in 1998. Toyota transformed the new Land Cruiser into a sleeker, stiffer, and more luxurious off-roader.

  • The new Land Cruiser received oversized brake rotors and calipers.
  • Toyota strengthened the 200 series frame, suspension components, and underbelly to address some complaints from the 100 series components.
  • For even more power, Toyota fit the 200 Series Land Cruiser with one engine, the 381 horsepower 5.7-liter DOHC V8 engine that produced 401 lb-ft of torque.
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
  • In 2013, Toyota made all of the previously optional safety and luxury items standard on the new Toyota Land Cruiser.
  • In 2015, Toyota refreshed the 200 Series and put an 8-speed automatic transmission and a TORSEN limited-slip locking center differential with a 2-speed transfer case into the Land Cruiser.
  • Technology becomes a big part of the Land Cruiser as it’s fitted with Downhill Assist Control, Hill Start Assist, CRAWL Control, and Off-Road Turn Assists.
  • Toyota also gives the Land Cruiser a new active suspension called Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that provides off-road prowess with a comfortable ride.
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser - pressroom.toyota.com
  • With Toyota’s towing package, the Toyota Land Cruiser can now tow over 8,000 lbs.
  • In 2016, the Land Cruiser received a refresh to compete with the competition.
  • The 2020 Land Cruiser becomes the heaviest Land Cruiser ever as it tips the scales at over 5,800 lbs. It is also the most expensive Land Cruiser ever, with prices around $90,000.
  • In 2020, with sales dwindling to less than a few thousand a year, Toyota announced that the 2021 Land Cruiser would be the last model sold in the United States.

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Steven Mitchell

Steven Mitchell began his automotive journey with a fully restored Triumph TR3B. After earning a bachelor's degree in Marketing and Television from the University of Texas, Steven used his passion for vehicles at an automotive marketing ad agency, and as the Manager of Interactive Marketing for Mitsubishi Motors, eventually winning an Effie for his advertising work. For the past decade, he's been writing car reviews, covering everything from SUVs and electric vehicles to original equipment manufacturer infotainment user interfaces.

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