Trails of a leg­end

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

THE Land Cruiser turned 64 this year and pre­cisely be­cause Toy­ota kept the engi­neer­ing as ba­sic as pos­si­ble, with driv­ers in Africa still rat­ing it as one of the tough­est ma­chines on four wheels.

Land Cruiser’s an­ces­try can be traced back to the Toy­ota BJ of 1951, a truck-de­rived model that was ini­tially de­vel­oped for mil­i­tary use. Within six months of its launch the BJ was hailed as a cham­pion, be­com­ing the first ve­hi­cle to be driven to the sixth hill sta­tion of Ja­pan’s Mount Fuji, 2 500 me­tres up. As a re­sult of this feat, the BJ was added to the Ja­panese po­lice fleet and the model’s long- term suc­cess be­gan.

In 1954 the new Type 25 BJ was given a generic model name — Land Cruiser — which has been used ever since.

As Toy­ota be­gan its pro­gramme of world­wide ex­ports and growth dur­ing the 1950s and 60s, it found many es­tab­lished mar­kets were al­ready well- served by Amer­i­can and Euro­pean car makers.

This prompted the com­pany to fo­cus in­stead on emerg­ing mar­kets in Mid­dle and Far East, Africa and South Amer­ica, where Land Cruiser’s tough per­for­mance made it a strong propo­si­tion. The Land Cruiser con­cept was re­fined in the mid- 1960s as Toy­ota re­sponded to an Amer­i­can trend for more re­fined four­wheel drive ve­hi­cles.

The in­tro­duc­tion in 1966 of the first Land Cruiser Sta­tion Wagon se­ries — fore­run­ner of to­day’s Land Cruiser 200 V8, catered for this grow­ing mar­ket, join­ing the range along­side its more rugged sta­ble­mate.

Fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the Land Cruiser con­cept came in 1985 when Toy­ota re­leased the 70 se­ries — the first Land Cruiser “Light Duty” se­ries.

The model was dis­con­tin­ued in 2004 in Toy­ota’s home mar­ket, but so strong is de­mand from Ja­panese cus­tomers for this model that Toy­ota last year chose to mark 30 years since the launch of the Land Cruiser 70 by build­ing lim­ited edi­tions of the 70 se­ries that only went on sale dur­ing this year in Ja­pan.

And learn­ing from South Africa, the Land Cruiser 70 is sold as a dou­ble- cab pickup truck, a first in Ja­pan.

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