Trails of a legend
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.