Land Cruisers Worldwide
All Land Cruisers Are Not Created Equal
Gregory Overton, Land Cruiser Nation and Jonathan Ward, TLC4X4 / ICON
The FJ series Land Cruiser was built by Toyota to varied specifications depending on destination. If you are in the US and you’re considering a vintage FJ series Land Cruiser you will find a plethora of dizzying choices including FJ40’s, FJ43’s FJ44’s FJ45‘s BJ40’s BJ42’s, BJ43’s BJ44’s and others to choose from. Many models, including all diesel Land Cruisers, were never offered in the US.
There are a number of factors to consider including resale value, specifications, parts, service options, safety and right hand drive vs. left hand drive. I’ve never been able to bring myself to buy a right hand drive truck because Americans tend to pass them over as an oddity. “What do I do at the drive-up on my morning Starbucks stop?” What happens when I need to turn left??
After owning scores of FJ series trucks including US and non-US models, we’ve come to the conclusion that the US specification FJ40’s are the most desirable and well equipped for the vast majority of US buyers. They were built to US standards of the day, they command higher prices and they will always hold their value better than the rest. For the purpose of my discussion, I’m zeroing in on 1976 thru 1983 US model FJ40‘s.
You want to do your homework before you plop down your hard earned cash. The FJ43 and BJ40/42 have been quite popular as more and more of them are imported to the USA from South and Central America. Be aware that the truck will typically have split rims, no heater, no roll bar, drum brakes, no windshield washers, no radio, quite likely the H41 transmission, bench seat and a speedometer and odometer that is in kilometers rather than miles.
Then, despite the assurances from the selling party, such examples, should they be 1976 or newer, are not legal for registration in California and a few other States. This issue is not easily surmounted either, as you cannot simply add the missing emissions components. The engine is not even built to receive them! This can be a painful lesson for the uninitiated…
Another issue with non-US Land Cruisers is parts availability and the finding anyone near you that can work on the truck in the event you are not a mechanic. We had a BJ40 with the B engine in need of a new starter, identifying it and finding it was not trivial. There are far fewer diesel mechanics out there, and very limited parts resources. Parts issues are further complicated by the fact that in some instances, Toyota built dozens of different configuration versions of each model, specific to each domestic market factors. So even identifying which one you have and what you need can be quite difficult.
Last but not least, consider safety. The US was a pioneer in establishing safety standards. The US specification Land Cruisers evolved, sometimes monthly, to meet these standards. So while most Non-US market Cruisers of a given year still had drum brakes, the US version had evolved to disc brakes. When a US model had a four speed with an updated transfer case, the others still ran the older three speed system…. And on and on. Many non-US Land Cruisers lack a number items you might find handy, like a heater for instance, or disc brakes, or dash pads, or a roll bar, or bucket seats, etc.
If you value maintenance history on your Land Cruiser, you can likely forget about it if it’s been imported to the US. I've never seen an import that came with anything more than a title and even if you could find the previous owner(s) you may have to speak another language to get any information. Although I have seen some very nice FJ’s and BJ’s from outside the US, most of the trucks that have been beat to death over there lives and are kept on the road by whatever means possible.
Worst yet, there are many entrepreneurial souls who have found an opportunity for profit, by restoring the vehicle before importing it to the US. While the truck may be pretty and shiny in the photos, keep in mind that the level of quality and expectations of the US market are almost always unique to our culture and market. The restoration is also usually further compromised my the limited availability of quality OEM parts and material resources in many countries.
So in summary, while there is nothing wrong with non-USA Land Cruisers you want to educate yourself. The domestic vintage Land Cruiser has become a favorite here in the USA. The values throughout the last two decades have proven it to be one of the best possible investments on four wheels. As with the rise and fall of many empires… the parallels to classic vehicle market dynamics are extensive. There are tons of historical examples ranging from the 1955-1957 Chevy Bel Air market, to early Porsches and VW’s, and on and on. First, a vehicle has a cult following, and a few specialists acknowledge this and restore them to a high standard. Next, they start to gain “main stream” appreciation, bring big money at a few high profile auctions, then, everyone smells the gold. Once this happens, here come the wolves. The opportunists enter the market, under restore to maximize profit, over represent to maximize appeal… and then traditionally the market values fall again. After a messy period when it is difficult to know what you are getting and if it is a fair value…. the dust eventually settles. The consumer gets more educated, the part support grows (fueled by the initial increase in popularity), and the cream rises to the top. It this point, the true proper examples flourish, and the rest settle down to more reasonable market values and demand.