The LandCruiser has sufficient cult status to warrant its entry in the Working Vehicles section of the Historic Vehicles website. The ‘Cruiser working vehicles have become legendary.
Toyota’s LandCruiser brand had its 70th anniversary in August 2021, marking the 1951 Japanese debut of the Toyota BJ that was not actually named ‘Land Cruiser’ until 1954. (The ‘LandCruiser’ name contraction into one word happened in the the 1990s).
Since 1954, the LandCruiser badge has been displayed on more than 10 million vehicles, sold worldwide.
The LandCruiser story began in 1951, when Toyota originally developed the BJ four-wheel-drive, for use by Japan’s National Police Reserve.
Powered by a 3.4-litre, six-cylinder petrol engine, the military-style 4×4 featured few creature comforts: it had open sides and a folding fabric roof.
Its capability was proven when Toyota test driver Ichiro Taira drove a prototype to the sixth of 10 checkpoints on 3775-metre Mt Fuji.
In 1955, the second-generation was launched, with a redesigned look that was better suited for civilian use.
Greater choice was offered with four wheelbase lengths – only three made it Down Under – and configurations including a soft-top, pick-up, two-and four-door vans and even a fire engine.
With this generation, Toyota started to eye potential export markets, notably Australia where its extreme off-road capability and legendary durability and reliability later made Land Cruisers the vehicles of choice for miners, explorers and farmers.
A small Melbourne-based importer called B&D Motors sold the first FJ25 Land Cruisers in Australia, but the vehicle’s fame in Australia came when construction magnate Leslie Thiess (later Sir Leslie) imported several Land Cruisers for use on the rugged construction-site trails of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
The arrival of the 40 Series in 1962 helped propel the Land Cruiser nameplate to legendary status in Australia.
During its 24-year production run, the 40 Series was offered with a range of bodies and wheelbases.
The first 70 Series
The 40 Series was replaced in 1985 by the 70 Series, bringing improvements to styling, ride comfort and driveability, while building on the Land Cruiser’s reputation for extreme durability and reliability. The existing petrol and diesel engines carried over into the new models.
Toyota offered well-sorted vehicles with the right spec’ for most applications, but the base-model front seats were a pretty ordinary bucket-plus-bench arrangement.
Despite its working class vocation, the 75 Series was easy to operate, with all controls well-positioned and functional. The across-vehicle rear seat on RV models is a tad featureless and unsupportive, but vision is quite good from this rear perch.
The Toyota options list for the 75 was comprehensive: air conditioning, a second, 90-litre fuel tank (later made standard), electro-pneumatic differential locks and a snorkel.
In November 1989, the 2H pushrod diesel was replaced by the overhead-camshaft 1HZ 4.2-litre, rated at 89kW at 4000rpm and 271Nm at 2000rpm. Optional, vacuum-operated diff locks were added to the specification. The factory diff locks couldn’t be retrofitted, because the diff-lockable axles, their internals and half-shafts were unique parts.
The next upgrade was in November 1992, when the 1FZ-FE twin-cam, 24-valve petrol six was introduced. At the same time, all the 75 Series scored four-wheel discs, complete with drum-in-rear-disc parking brakes, in place of the previous tail shaft drum brake. The optional diff lock actuation method changed to electro-mechanical.
In March 1995, the diesel was given a minor rework and a power increase, up to 96kW.
Toyota upgraded the 75 Series to 78/79 level in 1999 with coil springs at the front end and longer leaves at the back. The petrol engine option was dropped. The existing diesel engine was upgraded and fitted with a high-altitude compensator, to reduce rich-running and oil contamination.
The engine was mated to an improved, lighter-shifting five-speed transmission and there was also a new clutch, with reduced pedal effort. The 78 Series was fitted with shorter-geared, 4.3:1 final drive ratios in the axles, to improve performance and top-gear flexibility.
The 78 Series’ coil-sprung front end was derived from the 100 Series wagon range and incorporated larger-diameter disc brakes with four-pot callipers.
Rear leaf spring length on all 78 models was increased by 172 mm, for longer wheel travel and improved ride comfort, and an anti-sway bar was made standard on Troop Carrier models. The leading spring hanger was positioned lower than the 75 Series hanger, to reduce the rear-axle steering effect inherent in leaf spring arrangements.
Low-pressure gas-charged dampers were fitted front and rear.
The 2002 year model 78 Series could be ordered with a lower compression ratio version of the 100 Series’ turbo-diesel, minus that engine’s intercooler. The 1HD-FTE diesel six put out 122kW at 3400rpm, with peak torque of 380Nm between 1400rpm and 2600rpm.
Because of the new engine’s greater torque Toyota was able to use 4.1 final drive ratios on most models, with only the 11-seat Troop Carrier turbo-diesel model having 4.3:1 diffs.
The 78 Series ute had a 200mm wheelbase increase over the 75 Series and a 120mm increase in cabin length, for more interior space.
The five-stud wheel pattern introduced on the 100 Series was used on the 78/79 Series. Toyota claimed greater wheel clamping power from the new arrangement, which had thicker, 14mm studs and a larger-diameter pitch circle.
The 78 Series didn’t receive any significant bodywork changes with the turbo introduction, but the snorkel was made standard equipment.
A new RV-grade cab/chassis was introduced, with bucket seats, carpet, remote central locking, power windows and aluminium wheels.
Internally the 78 Series looked little different from the 75, but the instrument panel integrated the auxiliary fuel tank gauge, rather than its previous location on top of the dashboard. The new panel had backlit electronic instruments, a digital odometer with two trip meters, and warning lamps for door ajar, fuel filter condition and, in the case of snorkel-equipped models, air cleaner restriction.
The factory differential locks and snorkel options were retained for the 78 Series, and front and rear bars, spotlights and a Superwinch were added to the options list.
The LandCruiser V8
Toyota unveiled the long-awaited successor to the 78/79 Series at the 2006 Brisbane International Motor Show and Toyota stuck with its policy of making as few changes as possible to its LandCruiser workhorse range.
However, the aged, in-line diesel six wouldn’t meet Euro IV emissions targets, so it was replaced by an all-new V8, common-rail-injected diesel.
The new 4.5-litre V8 was under-stressed in the 70 Series, putting out a mild 151kW at 3400rpm, with 430Nm in the 1200-3200rpm band. A plus for the new engine was an oil drain period of 10,000km, out from the previous 5000km.
The performance figures were improvements over the previous turbo six’s 122kW at 3400rpm, with peak torque of 380Nm between 1400rpm and 2600rpm, but they were not massive increases. That was probably just as well, given the few changes that were made to the chassis and suspension, and the absence of any stability control or even ABS brakes.
The 100 Series LandCruiser wagon shared the 4.5-litre diesel, but with twin turbos.
The 75-78 Series ‘veed’ front end with its small grille opening disappeared in 2007 and the front bodywork was widened to accept the V8 engine with its much larger radiator. The front track was also increased, but the rear remained, giving the post-2007 LandCruiser an awkward on-road stance and even weirder handling than before.
The V8 could pull taller, 3.91:1 final drives than the previous 4.11:1 diffs, but engine revs at cruising speed remained way too high.
The standard offering of twin 90-litre fuel tanks continued on the LC78 and 79, but the four-door wagon had only 90 litres’ capacity.
Toyota didn’t fit a wider cab to the 70 Series, so the squeezy-three-seat, bucket plus bench arrangement stayed. The RV ute models had twin buckets.
The interior and dashboard remained virtually unchanged from the old 78/79 Series.
The ‘new’ four-door 76 Series was a revived, repowered and slightly rebodied wagon, with live front and rear axles, marketed years ago in some markets as a Prado, but closer to being a four-door version of the Bundera, with leaf rear springs.
Pricing of the 70 Series was held in check, with the LC79 cab/chassis in the $53,490-$56,490 range and the LC78 Troopie ranging from $58,890 to $61,490. The four-door LC76 wagon was priced from $53,990.
Air con was an expensive $2640, but the double-diff-lock option was well priced at $2735.
Mechanically, 75s last well, although the part time 4WD driveline was easily abused. Many working 75s spent much of their time in 4WD, even on hard surfaces, so transfer case and differential problems were common.
The standard 5.50×16 split rims were popular with cockies, councils, government departments and mining companies, but most recreational users fitted widies and tubed or tubeless one-piece wheels.
The stock limited slip diff was weak in comparison with the Patrol’s, so serious off-roaders normally opted for diff locks. The factory diff lock actuation was complicated, however, and there was often a delay in getting the locks to engage, which is why the design was progressively changed to full-electric operation.
The 75 Series engine bay had an unusual tapered shape, which caused some dramas for operators in hotter parts of the country. Airflow through the radiator wasn’t as good as it might be, which wasn’t a problem most of the time, but could be if owners extracted more grunt from the diesel engine by turbocharging it.
The twin-cam 4.5-litre petrol engine was almost overkill in the 75, while the diesel slogger was one of the best low-speed, off-road engines ever made. For most used 75 Series buyers the diesel was the preferred engine, blending reasonable performance with acceptable economy around 12-13 L/100 km. The big petrol engine drank like a sailor and usually returned no better than 16-20 L/100 km.
The plus side of the crude leaf-spring equation was a suspension that was very reliable in tough conditions and was easily repaired in the bush. What the 75 Series lacked in wheel travel, it provided in controlled chassis twist, so a well-driven 75 was very capable in demanding off-road conditions.
Leaf-spring suspension relegated the 75 Series to a rough ride on all but smooth blacktop or dirt. Since ride quality wasn’t exactly the 75’s strongest point, many used vehicles have various suspension mods intended to improve the situation.
Used 78/79 Series
The LandCruiser 78-Series wasn’t planned as a revolutionary development, but an evolutionary one. Payload capacity, off-road and rough-road ability, and powertrain and driveline simplicity were preserved.
Revised seats and the coil-sprung front end improved ride quality out of sight, but handling was ‘tippy toe’, particularly on wet or loose surfaces.
The upgraded engine didn’t smoke. It would cough up a blue puff on a cold morning, but the rest of the time it ran with almost a clear exhaust. That augured well for slightly extended oil service intervals, because the 78 Series didn’t dump as much soot into its engine oil as the 75 did.
On-road ability was enhanced by the additional engine urge and cog-swapping in the revised gearbox was car-like.
Off-road the 78 Series was a better performer than the 75 Series, thanks to greatly improved engine response, lower-speed gearing and better wheel travel front and rear. Ride harshness was noticeably less on rough surfaces.
The repowered 78 Series had impressive performance and top-gear flexibility that the naturally-aspirated engine couldn’t match. Highway hills that sent the naturally-aspirated model into fourth gear wouldn’t force the turbo version out of fifth.
Because of the new engine’s greater torque the 4.1 final drive ratio on all but the 11-seat Troop Carrier turbo-diesel model let the 78/79 lope along in fifth at 110 km/h with 2500 rpm showing on the tacho – still more revs than necessary.
We found that low-speed, off-road crawling performance wasn’t affected by the final drive ratio change, because the new engine had ample torque, even when the turbo wasn’t spinning at optimum boost revs. Toyota tuned the engine’s torque curve to be almost flat from 1400rpm to 2600rpm, so off-road behaviour was very stable, with no sudden torque surges.