If we rack our brains for a car that typifies Toyota, the brain will probably answer “Corolla.” Yet again, the brain is wrong. The eponymous Toyota, the car that embodies toughness, simplicity, and reliability, is the Toyota Land Cruiser. Launched in 1951 in support of the Korean War, the original Land Cruiser fathered a vast family, which is spread all over the world. From the United Nations to al-Queda, from SOCOM to soccer moms, there is a Land Cruiser that fits the job. The toughest in the Land Cruiser family is the Land Cruiser 70. Launched in 1984, it is sold throughout the world. Well, not quite. At home in Japan, sales of the Land Cruiser 70 ended in 2004. Today, the lost son came back home.
Today, the Land Cruiser 70 received a birthday party, and a homecoming party as well. In a – by Toyota standards – lavish event at Tokyo’s Megaweb, the Land Cruiser 70 was reintroduced to Japan’s soil, and to a passionate crowd. A vast array of rare antique Land Cruisers was on display, all the way back to the Korean War era Jeep.
Outside of the Megaweb, Toyota had put up a portable off-road course, complete with boulders made from steel, and a river ford with PVC liner.
Some of the obstacles would be hard to find in the wild.
The crowd better decide fast. The Land Cruiser 70 will be available in Japan for one year only. Japanese customers can buy the familiar four-door SUV, and – a first for Japan – a double-cab pickup truck. Equipped with a four liter V6, both will go for around $35,000 each.
The gasoline engine is coupled to a five-speed manual, which will limit its market somewhat in Japan. Manual and auto have different classes of driver’s licenses in Japan, and most people dispense with the stick ticket.
According to Toyota, there were “widespread domestic requests” for the return of the 70. With all the enthusiasm, why did they stop selling the car at home back in 2004? When I asked this question today, it did not receive an answer. All kinds of legends are entwined around the Japanese termination of the 70, but when I asked a Japanese expert, he said: “Not enough buyers.” Japan has some of the world’s best road system, even in remote mountain areas, a low-slung sports car will pass with ease.
The new-found demand for the 70 appears to be based less on necessity, and more on a desire for the simple automotive life, for a car that can be wrenched on. The body-on-frame Land Cruiser 70 is throughout mechanical. My expert asked whether it still has the manual locking hubs. When I told him no, and that you pull a lever to go into 4WD, he nearly cried. The only things that appear to be electric on the 70 are a winch and a differential lock, both are options.
The vehicles are produced at Toyota Auto Body Co., Ltd.’s Yoshiwara Plant. A few export spec models or built at their Fujimatsu plant.