JUST last month we were saying goodbye to the GU Patrol after Nissan announced it would stop selling it here, and here we are again bidding farewell to another four-wheel-drive vehicle. While Toyota’s FJ Cruiser might not have been everybody’s cup of tea, it was a damn good 4x4 – probably the best Ifs-equipped rig you could buy, particularly the later ones with their bigger fuel capacity, rear diff lock and the latest A-TRAC system.
I’m not talking about wagons that will carry a family of seven, or a ute that will haul a tonne in the tray; I’m talking a generalduty 4x4 that will take a couple of folk to all corners in relative comfort and with confidence in its ability.
With its shorter wheelbase and overhangs and lighter weight, the FJC is a better off-roader than the Prado it’s based on. And if you don’t need the extra space of a Prado and don’t want the trucklike dynamics of a Jeep Wrangler, then the FJC fits the bill to a T. For $47K, it was a lot of car for the money.
The popularity of the FJC in the USA meant it was wellserviced by the aftermarket over there as well, so you could kit it out to do whatever you wanted it to. I have fond memories of driving through the Colorado Rockies in the Metal Tech FJ that ran on 37-inch tyres, had tube doors, and utilised a fourspeed Atlas transfer case behind its stock V6 engine and auto. It was a combo you could never run on the roads in Australia thanks to our nanny regulations, but it showed just how far you could take the funky Toyota.
The styling is a bit out there and many people can’t get past the fact it doesn’t look like an FJ40. It was never meant to. Instead it pays homage to that iconic 4x4, taking styling cues from the original as a tribute to its heritage.
The FJ Cruiser was so niche it would have been hard to update to a new model. What could they have done with that unique body? Toyota now has its Fortuner here as a sub-prado (in size and price) 4x4 wagon, and there is no place for the character-filled FJC in the line-up anymore.
I never wanted to like the FJ Cruiser when I first saw it. It wasn’t until I drove it that I appreciated it for what it was and started to like its quirks and oddball looks. And it sure looks a lot better with some aftermarket kit on it and some 33- or 35-inch tyres. Maybe I need to check the classifieds.