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Over 60 Years of History for Toyota's Land Cruisers (Heavy and Light Duty models)

The all- present Toyota

Originating in 1951 as a mobility vehicle for the National Police Reserve in Japan, and through over 60 more years of uninterrupted production, which include 14 model lines and thousands of variations, the Land Cruiser holds the title as the longest produced vehicle in Toyota’s history. Having sold more than 6.5 million it has become revered within the four-wheel drive community, setting the benchmark for resilience, robustness, reliability and efficiency. As the world’s most customer-trusted vehicle it marks the basis of Toyota’s target development of quality, durability and reliability.

The Invention

After North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950 and Japan under American occupation. The US and United Nations leapt to South Korea’s aid, Japanese manufacturers were commissioned to provide compact four-wheel drive trucks for the US military. Toyota received huge purchase orders as they were the primary truck suppliers for Japan’s own forces during the 1940s.

Whilst building vehicles for the Allied forces assisting South Korea, the Japanese felt that they were left vulnerable. A limited re-armament was permitted, including 1000 four-wheel drive vehicles similar to the Willys ‘Jeep’. However, they had to be built using domestically sourced raw materials.

Five months after starting development in January 1951, Toyota presented its prototype to the National Police Reserve (NPR). It was a parts bin special, using the chassis of Toyota’s one-ton Type SB truck with the oversized 3.4-litre Type B six-cylinder petrol engine of the four-ton truck, suspension from the Toyopet passenger car, and a simple open body.

However, the NPR preferred Mitsubishi’s licensed version of the Willys to the Toyota presentation. Not put off, Toyota saw potential in its own prototype, deciding to continue development and find their own customers, as export restrictions had been lifted the year before.

The legend grows

Advancements were applied to the ‘Toyota Jeep BJ’ and the vehicle was tested against feats that had previously been possible only on horseback ­– replicating a samurai warrior’s legendary climb to the Shinto temple at the top of Mount Atago, and driving up the old pilgrim route to the sixth station on Mount Fuji. BJ was successful in both events, Toyota then replaced Mitsubishi as official vehicle supplier to the NPR.

Five different versions came about from the BJ platform: mobile communications, touring liaison, fire fighter, and two pickups. However, it took until August 1953 for series production to start; by which time other government agencies and energy companies had put in orders for this new vehicle.

In 1954, the ‘Toyota Jeep BJ’ tag was replaced (Willys had since trademarked the name ‘Jeep’) with the descriptively name Land Cruiser. Helping to launch the vehicle into export markets, with Pakistan receiving the first shipment later that year and Saudi Arabia following in 1955.

Civilised driving for civilians

In August 1955 the second-generation (20 series) vehicle was introduced, evolving from the military machine to a civilian utility vehicle. The changes were so evolved that they presented; an almost new car aesthetically, more civilised with rounded bodywork with integrated headlights, and a more spacious cabin.

The new short wheelbase model improved manoeuvrability and the new long wheelbase model allowed for differing applications to expand. Suspensions sourced partly from the Toyota Crown offered more comfort for on road use, as Japan had no highways at this time and reaching 35mph was considered exhilarating. Export models therefore required an uprated suspension setup.

The new cast iron F-series engine was phased in from November 1955, it offered an increase of 23% on the outgoing model. The further development of the B-series, a low-compression engine, introduced in 1948 wasn’t discontinued until late 1992, making it the longest serving Toyota powerplant. Widely regarded as one of the most unstoppable engines ever produced, holding firm to the slogan from its maker: “We’ll know how long it lasts when the first one wears out.”

Successful procurement in the US military trials in 1957 spurred on Toyota to launch the model in a variety of established and emerging export markets. The Land Cruiser was one of the first Toyota's to arrive on the international market. Becoming a standard-bearer, for the passenger cars and international sales success that followed. Of all the vehicle brands exported from Japan in 1957, 38.2% were Land Cruisers.

The world beater

A fundamental redesign for the third-generation 40 series Land Cruiser for its launch in 1960, appeared similar to its predecessor. It featured slightly more rectangular arches and the indicators had moved to the front wings, it became recognised for the lozenge-shaped bezel framing the headlamps and radiator grille.

The Land Cruiser style stayed true to its design and remained no-nonsense. The interior kept its bare essentials and nothing more. The simple pressed-steel body panels essentially stopped the outside from coming in, while engine choice came from the sturdy F-series range. Four wheelbase choices were available, allowing countless permutations from original-style open body to the enclosed troop carrier. Essentially, there was a Land Cruiser to suit everybody’s needs, which reflected within its meteoric sales.

In 1965 the 50,000th Land Cruiser rolled off the production line, followed by the 100,000th in 1968. Four years later the total stood at 200,000 examples, while the 800,000th was built in 1979 soon after a minor facelift (the first change in 19 years). The UK started official sales of the Land Cruiser in 1975, and the landmark million was achieved in 1980.

Covering all bases In order to compete with within this segment Toyota identified that the 70 series should be split into two sectors a Heavy Duty and Light Duty – with a variety of additional tumbledown models. With over 20 years separating 40 from 70 series, the new Land Cruiser range looked and felt very modern, however, the engineering and styling vocabulary were instantly recognisable.

Heavy Duty models were characterised by flat, heavy-gauge steel body panels and a near vertical glasshouse. Five wheelbase configurations were available, stretching the short model’s 2310mm to the super-long’s 3180mm measurement.The engine range was broad to say the least, originally sharing the same combination of six-cylinder F-series petrol, four-cylinder B-series and six-cylinder H-series diesels as the 60 Station Wagon, but later adding inline five-cylinder diesel, V6 petrol, and a mighty turbocharged V8 direct injection diesel.

Light Duty models initially appeared with little difference externally or internally. Three wheelbases were available, sharing the same measurements as the smaller configurations of the Heavy Duty model. The 70 series Light Duty model was replaced in 1996 by the 90 series. However, the 70 Heavy Duty model soldiered on and underwent its first major revision in 2007, 23 years after it was launched. The front-end was face-lifted with a new headlight and front wing arrangement, and the dashboard was replaced with a more ergonomic design.

In 2009, the dashboard was redesigned again to accommodate twin air bags, which improved passenger safety but also removed the last trace of visible bare metal surface from the interior after 58 years of Land Cruiser history. In 2010, 70 series production surpassed that of the 40, and indeed continues to this day.

State of Independence

The new, independent 90 series launched in 1996 offered a modernised change of direction, pushing the Prado further away from its utilitarian roots to a vehicle that could add ‘driving enjoyment’ and ‘comfort’ to its off-road CV (the car was renamed Land Cruiser Colorado in the UK). It was a sophisticated machine in comparison, which featured an appealing body shape with a rising belt line, large plastic bumpers, optional arches, and the simple choice between a three- or five-door shell. The space inside could be physically proved as it was larger in almost every way.

Any doubts about this presumably more fragile design were allayed when the car’s off-road prowess was tested. Additionally, the steering was now by rack and pinion, the preferred setup for road use, and the vast majority of versions featured permanent four-wheel drive.

In common with the ethos of the 70 series Light Duty version, the petrol and diesel engine range was primarily focussed on large capacity four-cylinder units of 2.7-litre to 3.0-litre capacities. An all-new 3.4-litre V6 petrol engine was the most powerful option, though the pinnacle of the range was deemed to be the 1KD-FTV 3.0-litre 16v turbocharged and intercooled D-4D, Toyota’s first common rail diesel engine and controlled by an all-singing 32-bit ECU.

Despite its relatively short, seven-year lifespan, the 90 series was a huge success, eclipsing its predecessor and achieving almost one eighth of Land Cruiser’s four-million production total by the time it was replaced in 2002.

Tech talk

As the top fashionista in the Land Cruiser family, the Prado line was the most affected by changing trends. After six years of production the draw of the 90’s styling had faded. However, from 1990 to 2002 the Prado model notched up a massive 760,000 units of the four million Land Cruisers built to that date.The new 120 series Prado launched at the 2002 Paris motor show and was a technological tour de force, adopting much of the same electronically adjustable suspension specification as the flagship 100 series Station Wagon. It also featured the world’s first electronic hill start assist system that helped gain purchase on slippery slopes, and a downhill assist control to maintain composure when coming back down again.

For the first time, the Land Cruiser’s external appearance was penned outside of Japan, in Toyota’s ED2 design centre in southern France. The new aerodynamic aesthetic, and especially the elongated free-form headlights, initially shocked traditionalists until viewed in the metal. Its interior was equally smooth, featuring an organically shaped dashboard with a central climate/audio zone that flowed in an S-bend into the centre console.This variety of body styles meant a wide choice of engines – a total of nine different units. Unlike the Station Wagon, the bias here was away from diesel, with two-thirds being petrol engines of four-cylinder, V6 and V8 layouts from 2.7- to 4.7-litre capacities. Engine technology came on in leaps and bounds during production of the 120, so the Prado’s engine range was tweaked throughout its life, improving power, behaviour and emissions.

Retro styling

Putting in an appearance at the 2003 Chicago Auto Show was the FJ Cruiser design study, which owed much of its retro styling cues to the legendary 40 series: including in the design the lozenge-shape headlamp and grille surround. So well received was the concept that Toyota developed it from the 120 series Prado into a full production model that went on sale in 2006 for the US market only.

The off roader that is road friendly

The 120 series production of the Prado concluded in late 2008 after seven years of existence and the achievement of almost six million Land Cruiser sales. although itt was not deemed to be old Toyota wanted to stay ahead of the trend with its replacement, the important and impressive 150 series Prado launched in 2009. With 190 countries worldwide being sold this generation.

ED2 once again lead on design, making subtle aesthetic refinements to its predecessor’s, adding hints of the styling seen in the recently launched 200 series Station Wagon. It was more muscular and dynamic in look with high-set headlights that raise the outer edges of the bonnet, for the first time the right-hinged rear door contained a top-hinged window that could be opened independently. Available in both three- and five-door versions, though the wheelbases remained identical to that of the 120. Advancements in the bodyshell’s crash-absorption properties saw the front crumple zone descend to a height similar to that of most passenger cars.

Inside, a more robust functional dashboard design replaced the previous sweeping curves. The chunky appearance masked its improved fit, finish, ergonomics and passive safety measures, including a pre-collision warning system that alerted the driver to any impending collision. Its immense list of features was not dissimilar to that of the 200, which you can take to mean extremely luxurious.

Staying true to its origins, the 150 Prado still featured an extremely rigid ladder frame chassis, but for the first time the car was not available with selectable four-wheel drive. Instead a centrally mounted Torsen differential was used to channel drive between all four wheels – 40:60 from front to back in normal circumstances, 50:50 and 30:70 in more difficult conditions. Compared to previous models, the 150’s engine range was condensed to five units – two diesels and three petrols – all of which were carried over, albeit with the benefit of continuous improvements. For the 2018 model year, the 150 series Prado was updated to once again bring it into visual harmony with its 200 series sibling and equipped with the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense systems.

In order to boost its appeal with the luxury SUV market the styling became more robust yet with greater sophistication and road presence. However, for the first time in the UK market it is also available in a United Nations-style Utility specification in either three- or five-door body formats with five seats and a manual, six-speed gearbox. Irrespective of grade, the only engine available in the UK market is a 2.8-litre 16-valve D-4D turbo diesel unit developing 175bhp and up to 450Nm of torque.

Toyota’s decision to split the Land Cruiser concept into three distinct branches – Station Wagon, Heavy Duty, and Light Duty/Prado – has paid off handsomely. Almost a quarter of the 6.5 million Land Cruisers built to date have carried the Prado name.

Source: Toyota Blog