Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
Early 4 wheel drives had two main attributes - brute power and rugged reliability. For a time it seemed the American left-hand-drive Jeep
and British right-hand-drive Land Rover
had the market pretty much covered. But when it came to automobiles, the Japanese were determined to enter just about every market segment available to them. The initial Toyota Land Cruiser came into being in 1950
when the U.S. government wanted 100 Willys spec jeeps to be built for service in the Korean war – and Toyota was given the nod to build them.
That initial model, the BJ, would morph into the 20 Series and then the 40 Series – and it was this particular model that broke into export markets and gained favour with the off road fraternity. The 40 Series Land Cruiser featured a husky 237.3-cubic-inch, in-line Six that was, when you looked closely, very similar to the old Chevy or GMC Six. It pulled a peak 135 hp at 3800 rpm, with 217 pounds-feet of torque at a low (the better to pull with) 2000 rpm.
The power was routed through a three-speed transmission
with ratios of 2.76 (low), 1.70 (second), and direct (high). Reverse was 3.67. Front and rear standard axle ratios were 4.11 to 1. The transfer case for four-wheel drive had a high and low range. In high range, it drove all four wheels but didn’t change the overall ratios. In low range, it provided a 2.31 multiplication that dropped the overall ratios way down to 26.22 (low), 16.15 (second), and 9.49 (high).
With a compound this low the Land Cruiser was the proverbial stump puller. At launch, Toyota offered the Series 40 Land Cruiser in three versions. The first and lowest priced was the soft-top (we don’t have Australian pricing, but in the U.S. it sold for $2665). The second was a pickup truck version with a price tag of US$2845. The third had an excellent bolt-on metal top, with easy-operating roll-up door windows and wind-wings, and this one was also the most expensive at US$2995.
The Land Cruiser was utilitarian in nature – but it did come reasonably well equipped by 4 Wheel Drive standards of the time, even in standard form. Included in the list of standard equipment was a tool kit that contained enough tools to handle most of the minor and many of the major repair jobs that could crop up. Also an ignition kit and a grease gun. The works was stored under the driver's seat in a lockable compartment. The fuel cap was lockable. Standard, too, was an electrical outlet at the rear for hooking up trailer lights, a pintle hook for towing, and four other hooks strategically located at the front and rear for attaching tow chains. The only extras that you really needed, and had to pay extra for, were the heater and free-wheeling hubs for the front axle.
The latter allowed you to completely and simply disengage the front axle from the front wheels for open-road, high-speed operation. Without them, the front axle was contributing to a lot of power-robbing drag in two-wheel drive. The Land Cruiser, with its 4.11 rear differential and 135 hp, on paper would have been capable around 85-mph top speed – but road testers of the time driving vehicles that did not have the free-wheeling hubs fitted struggled to make 75 mph. Our “projected” top speed may be a little inaccurate – but whatever the figure, plenty of power was robbed without the hubs, while fuel economy also took a hit. Another problem was that, with the front gear-set and the front-drive shaft turning free without an engine load, it made the Land Cruiser unbearably noisy.
On the Road
And after all, it was the 85-mph top-speed potential that gave the Cruiser a real edge over its competition. It was a car you could easily and quickly drive to your favourite desolate area. Acceleration was very good for a vehicle of its type, the hydraulic clutch worked smoothly and was very positive and the steering-column-mounted shift lever was fairly precise, enabling drivers to get off quick, smooth shifts. Steering presented a good compromise between being reasonably fast and light enough for around town - yet was slow enough to make rough country manoeuvres easy without too much manual effort. Around town the Land Cruiser would give around 15 mpg, but this would drop into the 10-12 mpg range under off road work. On the highway it would rise to as high as 18, or 20 if you opted for the hubs.
For buyers who were not intending to do too much off-road work, they could option either a 3.70 or 3.36 gear-set. Either provided better fuel economy and allowed the engine to work less at high cruising speeds. With the 3.36 still geared at 21.44 overall in 4WD low, there were very few hills or back-country situations that couldn’t still be effectively handled. The front-drive control was extremely practical. It was a simple pushbutton and selector lever arrangement mounted on the dash. Engine intake manifold vacuum operated the front drive through a diaphragm in the transfer case. The front drive could be switched on and off at any time without de-clutching.
When the pushbutton switch was pulled out, vacuum actuated the diaphragm and caused a coil spring and shift fork to slide the front-drive clutch hub to the spline of the front driving shaft to engage the front axle. Pushing the shift button in reversed the procedure and disengaged the front axle. A hand-operated, three-position lever, tied into the shift button, was used to select the high/ neutral/low positions of the transfer case. A green light on the dash indicated when front drive was engaged. If optional hubs were installed, the driver had to get out and actuate these by hand. But it was worth the effort.
Off the Road
Off-road enthusiasts soon discovered the Land Cruiser was nearly unstoppable with the transfer case in low and the gearbox in high. Beaches, loose wet sand, deep mud, water crossings – all were handled well. It had an uncanny ability to climb seemingly impossibly steep hills as the surface wasn't too loose and the tyres
could get a reasonable purchase. Uneven surfaces were also no problem, even with the rigid axles and no locking differentials. The suspension was flexible enough to keep all four wheels on the ground.
The all-metal hardtop was surprisingly weather-tight, and with the heater on high, the cab was a pretty comfortable place to be. The side windows require only about 2.5 turns to get them up and down, and the action was very smooth. Good ventilation came through a combination of the wind-wings in the doors, a vent just under the windshield, two in the kick panels, and another vent perched in the centre of the roof.
The hydraulic brakes
were well designed and incorporated the seldom-seen two-leading- and two-trailing-shoe layout. They still had good stopping power even after they'd been completely immersed in water. They were all round drums, so it was of course possible to induce fade, but provided this was not your aim they would pull up the Land Cruiser both straight and fairly quick, considering the rough-country tyre
tread never put all that much rubber on the ground.
But what really stood out on the Series 40 was the Toyota workmanship. It was screwed together exceptionally well – which is something any 4WD owner was looking for back then – a time long before a 4WD was considered the perfect mode of transporting children to school, and doing the shopping. Behind the wheel tall drivers would have found the driver's seat a bit too close to the steering
wheel for real comfort, and it was not adjustable. But all controls were easy to reach from the driver's seat.
One big feature of the Land Cruiser was the amount of interior space it had. Three adults could ride in front on the split-back bench seat, while the rear seats (all upholstered) could carry four more - two on a side. The engine was mounted in such a way to ensure it could be serviced easily. Components like the battery
and clutch and brake master cylinders were also easy to get to. With the number of Toyota dealerships around Australia growing it meant that parts were easy to get. Finally, the Jeep and Land-Rover had a real competitor. And, to our minds, the Series 40 Land Cruiser was the best of the lot.
A Long Production Run
A car, or more to the point a 4 wheel drive, had to be very good to enjoy a production run
spanning 24 years. Launched in 1960, global production would exceel 50,000 vehicles by 1965
- a time when it had become the best selling Toyota in the United States. By 1968
some 100,000 had been manufactured, this figure jumping to 200,000 by 1972
and 300,000 only one year later. The first diesel Land Cruiser was introduced for export on long wheelbase models with a six-cylinder H engine. Then, in 1974, Toyota introduced the four-cylinder 3.0 litre B diesel which boosted sales in Japan by putting the Land Cruiser in a lower tax compact Freight-car category than its 3.9 litre gasoline version.
the 3.9 litre petrol engine was replaced by a larger, more powerful 4.2 litre 2F unit, and the FJ55 was at last fitted with front disc brakes. The 3.6 litre H diesel engine was optional in some markets in the HJ45. In 1976
the United States-version FJ40 Land Cruisers received front disc brakes
like the FJ55. In 1978
the first BJ / FJ40 and FJ55 models were officially sold in West Germany with both diesel (BJ40) and petrol engines (FJ40 /55). In 1979
the United States-version FJ40s were updated with a new wider, square bezel surrounding the headlights, with power steering
and air-conditioning being offered in FJ40s for the first time. In 1980
the H diesel engine (HJ45) was replaced by the 4.0 litre 2H engine (HJ47). In 1981 the Diesel version was upgraded to front disc brakes
and the more powerful 3.4 litre 3B engine, and added LWB BJ45 with 3B. While still enjoying reasonable sales - the FJ40 was starting to show its age, and during 1983
the last FJ40s were exported to the U.S.