The Toyota Land Cruiser is returning to the U.S., but why wait?

Off-road enthusiasts are rejoicing at the Toyota Land Cruiser’s return to the U.S. market after a two-year absence. We don’t yet know what the specs on what the likely 2024 model year vehicle will be yet, but the good news is Toyota has sold over 10 million of them worldwide. If you can’t wait until the new one comes out, here are some classic versions of Toyota’s go-anywhere flagship that you can buy right now.

FJ Company G40

Everyone knows the classic FJ40, which had an incredible run from 1960 to 1964. But if you count versions built in South America, that lifespan extends all the way to 2001. In the last decade these have become such classics that there are multiple companies building restomod examples in the way Singer builds Porsches.

Florida-based FJ Company is one of the best. They take existing Land Cruiser bodies and conduct a frame-off nut-and-bolt rebuild. Along the way, they install modern mechanicals like the 4.0-liter V6 from a Tacoma and 4Runner mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. They’re built-to-order so customers can specify exterior and interior colors, as well as performance options like a supercharger or front and rear locking differentials. Starting at $225,000 they’re not for the faint of heart, but you can keep up with traffic and show up all the Audis at the restaurant’s valet stand without smelling like gasoline.

1974 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ55

In 1967 Toyota decided to branch off the Land Cruiser line with a comfort-oriented “wagon” body style. These longer variants, with chassis code FJ55, seated more and set the template for American market Land Cruisers. The original FJ40 line begat the utilitarian J70, which will soon be making a return to the Japanese market due to popular demand.

Nicknamed the Iron Pig, the FJ55 had most of the capabilities of the FJ40 but the longer wheelbase and larger size did slightly compromise its off-road abilities. They weren’t quite as popular as the FJ40 and as such are quite rare today. This one for sale in Statesville, N.C. looks decent if you don’t mind a non-original interior. Forget sheetmetal, interior plastics and vinyl are some of the hardest bits to find when it comes to vintage Japanese vehicles, which may explain the custom cabin. This model also has the bonus of being register-able in California, as only cars 1975 or older are smog-exempt. The $37,900 asking price isn’t cheap, but there are only a handful of these for sale in the country at any given time.

1986 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60

The FJ60 has been steadily rising in price in recent years. Partially that’s because the FJ40s got too expensive, but also because all 80s SUVs like Jeep Grand Wagoneers and Chevy Blazers have become true collectors items. The Land Cruiser’s globally respected off-road capabilities have also made the 60-series somewhat of a movie star, with recent roles in safari thriller “The Beast,” Navy Seal series “Terminal List”, and revenge thriller “The Old Man,” and many more.

If you’re shopping for a 60-series there are two important distinctions in the generation. In the U.S. market the 1981-87 FJ60 came only with carbureted 4.2-liter straight sixes mated to 4-speed manuals, identifiable by its round sealed-beam headlights. The 1988-90 FJ62 has an updated engine with fuel injection and is a better highway cruiser, but comes only with an automatic. If you want something apocalypse ready the FJ60 will be your jam, as it has no circuit boards (and is thus EMP proof) and the manual transmission can but bump-started. More specifically, the owner of the Japanese Land Cruiser restoration shop Utilitas once told me the 1986 and up models use a thicker gauge steel for the body, so a 1986 FJ60 like this one for sale in Birmingham, Ala. is the one to get. At 141,000 miles, it’s just broken in.

1997 Lexus LX450

According to many experienced off-roaders, the 80-series Land Cruisers are the best to get. In a world where a 301-horsepower Camry can get to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, the 60-series will feel extremely slow on freeways. The 80 is modern enough to keep up with traffic, but still rugged enough to satisfy hard-core 4-wheelers. It’s the last generation with the sought-after solid front axle, which helps keep rocks from bashing in your oil pan when you’re far off the grid. Ride quality will suffer somewhat, but if it’s good enough for Biggie on the streets on New York, it’ll be good enough for most. The 80 is also available with triple locking differentials, but beware — such equipped examples will double the sale price on the used car market.

At the same time, the 80 is luxurious enough to qualify as a Lexus, and it did. A lightly reworked version became the first Lexus LX. So why not just get the Lexus? Ironically, on the used market the Lexus models can be had for slightly less money due to the fact that the Land Cruiser name carries so much cachet. This example for sale in Feasterville-Trevose, Pa. looks to be in incredible condition, considering it has almost 300,000 miles on the odo. That’s end-of-life for many cars, but a used Toyota with that mileage can still command a $17,950 asking price. But that’s one of the many appeals of the Land Cruiser; with proper care and maintenance they’ll keep on trucking long past a normal car’s expiration date.

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition

For those in the know, there are a few cars that can be bought new, driven for a couple of years, then sold for as much or more money than you paid for it. Typically those are limited production or performance cars like the Honda Civic Type R, but the Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition was one of those rare specimens. When we tested it in 2020 we suggested letting someone else take the depreciation hit and buy one used, but they never did. Oops.

Created as a send-off to the venerable Land Cruiser name before anyone knew whether it would return to American shores, it gussied up the 200-series Cruisers with BBS wheels and an old-school badge like the ones you’d find on an FJ40. Our test car stickered at $89,239, but nowadays examples like this one in Austin, Tex. are asking nearly $97,000 with the added bonus of having 25,000 more miles on the clock. That could have something do do with the rear color, Magnetic Gray Metallic (the vast majority of Heritage Editions were black or white; a rough estimate is that for every one 10 of those there was one in silver or gray), but even common colors are asking for more than MSRP.

It just goes to show, when you have a good thing going, perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to let it go. This advice goes for Land Cruiser owners but also Toyota itself. It was probably always part of the game plan to re-introduce the nameplate after a brief hiatus, but now Toyota USA will never be able to claim continuous sales of a model that had been in the lineup since 1957. That would’ve been 66 straight years of Land Cruiser. Used values prove that no matter the age or mileage, there will always be someone out there who needs a Land Cruiser. 

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