History How the Cruiser ousted
Land Rover pretty much had free reign with customers globally before the Land Cruiser entered the market. Since then, Toyota appears to have succeeded in taking over as the off-road vehicle of choice. So what went wrong?
As the 1970s took hold and the world moved on, British car technology aged. British Leyland had little hope of keeping up with the times thanks to serious budget issues and a workforce and management that were barely on speaking terms. In short, the UK car industry was a mess. By the time 1980 rolled around, you could still buy a British car with technology originally designed during the 1940s – the Series III Land Rover is a case in point.
The original Land Rover was launched in 1948 to worldwide acclaim, offering practical, affordable and class-leading ability in the rough stuff. The ride may have been teeth-crunchingly hard, but this was in keeping with the often appalling rural conditions of the time. The Series II took over ten years later – very much the same vehicle, but with a larger engine, longer wheelbase and fewer sharp edges.
The II became the III (via the interim IIA) in 1971. In reality, this ‘new’ vehicle wasn’t all that far removed from the post-war original. Except for some minor technical tweaking, the Land Rover Series III was still age-old engineering in a changing climate.
Important global markets such as Australia and Africa cried out for bigger engines to deal with travelling long distances, but British management assumed what was good enough for Britain was therefore good enough for the rest of the world. The result was a vehicle that made longer trips a woeful experience.
This lack of foresight and development left the market wide open for the Land Cruiser to step in and rake in customers. It proved to the world that owning an expedition vehicle needn’t involve rebuilding the axle every 60,000 miles or replacing the points every time it rained. And although its leaf springs and four-speed gearbox were akin to the Land Rover of the time, the Toyota proved itself to be more dependable when it counted.
The Japanese manufacturer’s marketing line ‘Toyota takes over the world’ is perhaps a little disingenuous because without the Land Rover – or indeed the American Jeep – Toyota wouldn’t have had the basis on which to tinker with an already proven formula. In essence, it was the Korean War in 1950 that created the Land