11th April, 2016

Words by Paul Murrell, Practical Motoring

If ever proof was needed that the Japanese could take someone else’s concept and make it better, the Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser should put the argument to rest. Way back in 1950, the Japanese motor industry was almost unknown outside Japan, but the Land Cruiser paved the way for the huge success and market domination we see today. Right from the start, the Toyota Jeep BJ was larger than the US Jeep on which it was clearly modelled (although not based), and more powerful, thanks to its 3.4-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. The second-generation, the J20, was aimed more at the civilian market and was more stylish, although these things are very much in the eye of the beholder! And in 1960, along came the now-classic FJ40. It had a 93kW 3.9-litre engine, but the big change was the addition of low-range gearing, although the three-speed gearbox was retained. The 3.9-litre engine was replaced in 1975 by the more powerful 4.2-litre 2F engine. The FJ40 has now reached true iconic status, being generally acknowledged as the most collectable of Land Cruisers.

ARB Kilsyth came across “their” FJ40 when a customer walked through the door and told them he had “an old Land Cruiser for sale”. As far as can be ascertained, he was the second owner, making ARB Kilsyth the lucky third owners, not bad for a 4WD that’s celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Tough old beasts, these FJ40s.

It’s always reassuring to see history when buying any second-hand vehicle, and this one had obviously been cherished, right down to the hand-written record book in the glove compartment. The FJ is in good condition for its age, but not surprisingly has seen a few different coats of paint over the years. Perhaps a little less expected are the black GT stripes, added by a previous owner to give it a family look with his GT sedan. The interior has stood up pretty well, but there are a few rips in the seats and signs of general wear and tear. Modifications are thankfully fairly minor and the FJ is mostly complete, always a good starting point for a refurbishment.

The purchase price was “around $5k” according to ARB’s branch manager Luke Chynoweth, but he admits there was a bit of wheeling and dealing that included a new bar for the vendor’s Colorado. When ARB Kilsyth took delivery, the car was running and they have driven it “on numerous occasions”. One trip was a visit to ARB’s ex-workshop manager, Ian Bailey, at Bluey’s Workshop for a good going over. Both diffs have been rebuilt and the motor serviced. At the time of writing, the team is about halfway through their plans, and they have begun fitting the many ARB products that will make the old Toyota more desirable and efficient than it ever was when new.

Back to the original or modified?
The decision was made to not deviate far from factory spec, but modifications were made sympathetic to the period. Anyone who’s spent time in an FJ40 will understand the decision to add some much-needed creature comforts. The old Cruiser got an ARB Deluxe bar with Warn M8274 high-mount winch and ARB AR32 Intensity LED lights. The headlights were be upgraded with IPF lenses and reflectors, supported by an ARB upgraded loom and IPF Fat Boy globes. A Safari snorkel was fitted, as was a Kaymar rear bar with wheel carrier, double jerry can holder and telescopic work light.

The traditionally rugged ride was improved by the fitment of a full OME suspension kit, including four new shock absorbers and springs, steering damper, greasable shackles, spring bushes and U-bolts. This resulted in a useful lift at the front of 35mm and 50mm at the rear with a welcome ride improvement and improved ground clearance. Front and rear ARB diff locks were installed, along with a diff breather kit.

Also on the list is an ARB twin compressor with 4-litre air tank, single ARB Outback Solutions roller drawer with roller floor, ARB 60-litre fridge/freezer, ARB reverse camera kit with cameras front and rear, REDARC gauges to keep an eye on battery voltages, water and oil temperature and oil pressure, plus a GME TX3120S UHF radio and aerial.

An ARB dual battery box was fitted in the rear of the car with an Optima battery and REDARC BCDC1225, set up with an input to take solar panel and hotwires for accessories. It was fitted at the rear to avoid the need to make a tray to fit the battery under the bonnet.

AVM hubs are sitting behind the new wheels and tyres. Wheel changes were made much easier with a Kaymar Hi-lift jack holder and Hi-lift 48-inch extreme jack, and improving driving range is an ARB Long Ranger auxiliary fuel tank.

The wish list included a number of other fittings, but not all of them was possible. For example, the team is hoping to fit an ARB roof rack but the FJ has proven too wide for any of the current ARB range. However, Recaro seats, Rhino Pioneer Tray, an after-market exhaust system, roof lights “of some description” and awnings were able to be fitted.

As a rough estimate, the finished vehicle is worth somewhere around $15,000… a lot of 4WD for that kind of money. Throughout the year, the Toyota will join the show circuit for a while and no doubt will attract plenty of attention while on display!

How does it compare?
The FJ40 Land Cruiser was in many ways a ground breaker. Over the years, they’ve stayed tough and rugged, but many creature comforts have been added and, as always seems the way, Land Cruisers have grown bigger and heavier.

                                          1976 Toyota Land Cruiser                                                      2016 Toyota Land Cruiser
         (FJ40 hardtop 2-door 4-speed Manual, 4.2l petrol)  (GXL wagon, 8-seater, 5-door, 6-speed Sports Auto, 4.6l petrol)

Wheelbase                                     2.29m                                                                             2.85m

Front Track                                   1.40m                                                                             1.65m

Rear Track                                    1.40m                                                                              1.65m

Length                                            3.84m                                                                             4.99m

Width                                              1.67m                                                                              1.98m

Height                                            2.00m                                                                            1.95m

Tare Weight                                 1554kg                                                                            2740kg

GVM                                                  2265kg                                                                          3350kg

Towing (braked)                         1370kg                                                                           3500kg

Fuel Tank                                      85 litres                                                                          138 litres

Wheels                                          16-inch (steel)                                                               17-inch (alloy)

Tyres                                              7.5×16                                                                              285/65R17

Built                                               Japan                                                                              Japan

New Price                                    $5814 (4-sp manual)                                                  $82,000 (6-sp auto)

FJ40 facts

  • Global production passed 50,000 in 1965, the same year the LandCruiser became the best selling Toyota in the United States.
  • In 1977, the Irish army took delivery of the first of 77 FJ45 LandCruisers which proceeded to rust in the soggy Irish climate.
  • The last FJ40 Land Cruisers exported to the US were the 1983 models and these now bring a premium price thanks to their rarity (although they differ little from the 1982 models).
  • The 40 Series range included a short wheelbase soft top and light van. The mid-wheelbase model was called the FJ43 and the long wheelbase the FJ45.
  • To reduce overall weight, a resinous material was used for the roof rather than steel.
  • Although the terms “LandCruiser”, “Landcruiser” and “Land Cruiser” seem to be used almost indiscriminately, Toyota’s own website identifies it as the “Land Cruiser”.

Owner issues

  • The 2F 4.2-litre petrol engine and four-speed manual transmission are, as usual with old Toyotas, almost indestructible, however FJs are getting old, so it is inevitable that some things will break and need attention.
  • Older FJ40s were highly resistant to rust, and later models continued to be rust-resistant. Models older than 1974 were built from the highest grade metal; 1975 to 1978 models were slightly more likely to suffer tin worn and the 1979 to 1983 models were the most susceptible.
  • Buyers should check for exhaust leaks, carburettor problems and a functioning choke, engine compression, the condition of hoses and belts. The usual checks should be made of engine and transmission oil condition, and whether there are any unwanted noises in the engine or transmission at idle and highway speed. Check the large balls at the end of the closed-knuckle front axle to ensure they have a thin coating of grease – check more closely if they are dry or dripping. Mechanical parts are generally available.
  • Spare parts availability is reasonable, but some things will be difficult to source. These include the hard top and doors, mudguards, sun visors, the original tool kit and jack, keys for the ignition and fuel filler, rear jump seats and the centre console. Look for the most complete car you can find.
  • Disc brakes were fitted from 1976 and make a considerable difference to braking performance. Steering was by recirculating ball and somewhat vague, even more so with bar tread tyres.