4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - MATT RAUDONIKIS

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.

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