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Toyota Land Cruiser (4)

The Iron Pig

The needs changed. Toyota was very happy with the J4, the customers were also very satisfied, the margins were excellent, partly because they hardly had to invest any money in further development. And business with the Land Cruiser was indeed booming. In 1965, the J4 was the best-selling off-road vehicle in the USA, by far the largest market in the world at the time. But the Japanese did not rest, they never did anyway, it must have been around 1965 when Toyota’s design department, which until then had dealt exclusively with passenger cars, was given the task of dealing with a very special form of off-road vehicle for the first time: the Station Wagon. The brief was quite clear: Jeep had presented something like a luxury product in this segment for the first time in 1963 with the Wagoneer. And it was an instant hit.

Well, that was somehow understandable, because needs changed. During its long production run, the J4 had been a tough, stubborn beast that could be driven across Africa (and back again), to the most remote mines in Australia (and back again) and even into the deepest forests in Canada. Where you could also use the J4’s drive to run a sawmill. But to go to a remote holiday home in Aspen or to the beach in Australia, no, they didn’t really want to do that to themselves. And the rest of the family certainly didn’t want to. Jeep had hit the nerve of the time with the Wagoneer – and Toyota set out in pursuit. Because they recognised the potential of this new clientele, who wanted to travel comfortably and reasonably fast, and who could also afford the necessary small change – all over the world. The idea for the J5 was born quickly, especially since it was already present in the J4 range, actually even since the J2/J3. Just briefly, to repeat: From the J2 there was a first Station Wagon (FJ28V8, briefly then also available as FJ35). With the J4, the “station wagon” was then called FJ43V and FJ45V (with a “corrugated iron” body by “Gifu Body Co.”), described by marketing as “the world’s thoughest 4×4 station wagon”. All these models could hardly win a pot of gold on the sales front, but they did show the way.

Even though the J5, offered from 1967 onwards, shared axles and drivetrain with the J4, it was still a completely new development, dividing the range into “Land Cruiser” and “Land Cruiser Station Wagon” in the future. For the first time, completely closed profiles were used as cross members for the frame of the J5, their number could be reduced to three, although the wheelbase was extended by 50 to 2700 millimetres; additional stability was provided by the front bumper, the gearbox guard and the spare wheel holder. Another new feature was that the frame was welded rather than riveted. Overall, the weight of the frame was reduced slightly and the torsional stiffness was improved by 20 percent (which made it possible for the J5 to meet the American requirements for protection in the event of a frontal impact early on), but with an unladen weight of well over 1.9 tonnes, the Station Wagon was already a heavyweight. Nevertheless, it only had a payload of 535 kilos, which was a bit meagre for its expansive dimensions.

But the task was difficult: they wanted a spacious, closed body with room for five people and their luggage, with reasonably compact dimensions. In addition, the new vehicle had to have a driving behaviour similar to that of a classic passenger car, i.e. it had to be comfortable, even at higher cruising speeds – and still have the usual outstanding off-road capabilities. Of course, the whole story also had to look good, and there could be no compromise on durability. So the balancing act was a big one. On the other hand, automotive development had not come to a standstill, Toyota had already gained a lot of experience in the higher segment with the Crown and at the same time was developing the J5, the 2000GT sports car. Moreover, the Japanese manufacturers were no longer “copycats”, they had developed a good self-confidence in the 1960s, not only thanks to their sales successes worldwide.

This self-confidence was, for example, great enough to adopt the engine from the J4 for the new J5, i.e. this mighty piece of cast iron with six cylinders and 3878 cm3 displacement (while Jeep had already been offering a 5.4-litre V8 in the Wagoneer since 1964). There were, after all, gentle improvements (which the J4 also benefited from), cylinder head, combustion chambers, intake ducts and manifolds were worked on, the number and shape of the rocker arms were changed, a different camshaft was used which was supposed to improve intake efficiency at higher revs. All these measures resulted in 125 hp at 3600 rpm and a maximum torque of 284 Nm (previously: 256 Nm). Overall, the changes to the F-engine resulted in a much better response at lower revs – and smoother running at higher speeds. In September 1973, 130 hp and 294 Nm of maximum torque were available, as well as a few kilos less. But that was not all: in January 1975, the J5 also received the new 2F engine with 4.2 litres of displacement and 140 hp. In Japan, the previous FJ55 was then called FJ56, but not on the export markets; understand this who can. On the other hand, the J5 was advertised as the “Land Cruiser Station Wagon” in almost all markets.

The FJ55 only had a manual 3-speed gearbox, but at least the 2nd and 3rd gear were synchronised; in addition there was the reduction gearbox (2.31), which could be operated by a vacuum switch as in the J4. In principle, there was still rear-wheel drive, the four-wheel drive could be engaged via manually operated free-wheel hubs on the front wheels (which most pilots did only when they were already deep in the swamp or sand, i.e.: too late). In the first versions, the gearshift was controlled by a stick on the steering wheel, but in 1971 this was moved to the centre tunnel (and the lever for the gearbox was then right next to it), which did not improve the space conditions for the front passengers (especially not with the full-length bench seat). With the introduction of the 2F engine, there was a manual 4-speed gearbox, the gear ratio was reduced to 1.959; the rear axle, guided by semi-elliptic leaf springs, had a ratio of 3.7:1, for the American market, which demanded higher speeds on the highways, 4.11:1. The steering remained the same (imprecise) as in the J4, i.e.: recirculating ball.

New, really new, was the breadbox-shaped body. And yes, it was finally possible to speak of design, even if the angular body could not be denied a certain Japanese pragmatism. The free-standing front wings remained striking, but there were many details that unmistakably indicated that designers had actually been at work, not just engineers. The shoulder line, for example, curved very gently, and below it a very clear edge was clearly visible, which could be further emphasised by the very popular two-tone paint finish. At the front, the somewhat pointed bonnet remained, and underneath there was a friendly-looking face with the two round headlights – which earned the J5 the nickname “Moose” (elk) in the USA. Or then “Iron Pig” – the “iron pig” has also become part of the German vernacular. In contrast to the almost fragile front, the chunky rear stood, bang, done. Still interrupted by a small bead. And adorned by small, almost square tail lights. The choice for this rear end, reminiscent of a refrigerator, was either a double door, divided in the middle, opening at a 90-degree angle and virtually robbing all view through the rear-view mirror, or then a tailgate with an electrically retractable window (which didn’t really work back then and today presents restorers with almost unsolvable puzzles).

If you expect opulent luxury inside the J5, you are wrong. In contrast to the J4, however, the dashboard was designed in such a way that it could create an almost modern impression at the end of the 60s. Two large, round clocks stood in front of the steering wheel, on the right the speedometer, on the left an instrument cluster with fuel, temperature and so on. Ventilation and heating could be regulated within easy reach of the driver, and the radio, which was only fitted at the express request of the driver and for an additional charge, was almost out of reach. In the front, there were either two single seats or a full-length bench seat; the bench seat in the second row could be folded down and enlarged the load compartment to a completely flat, sheet-metal-covered area of 1.2 by 1.4 metres; fold-down, longitudinally mounted benches for four additional passengers were also available on request. This would theoretically have made it possible to transport a total of 10 people. However, these would have had to be of modest stature, the Japanese reckoned with small Japanese rather than small Central Europeans or Americans. But here too: clean pragmatism, everything you need – and very solidly, reliably made. From 1971 onwards, air conditioning was available on request, and shortly before the end of production, power steering was added.

In July 1980 the time had come for the iron pig to give way after almost 13 years (and only very minimal updates). The J5 was a great success for Toyota, not only because almost 113’000 units were sold. It had also been able to hold its own in an ever-growing field of competitors, even though they could offer V8 engines, automatic gearboxes and more luxurious interiors. But the Land Cruiser was not only superior to the Cherokee, Bronco and Blazer in terms of off-road capabilities, it was also much more reliable (apart from the rust). The fact that in a customer survey in the USA only 90 percent of J5 owners said they would buy such a vehicle again was probably due to the fact that the remaining 10 percent were so satisfied with their vehicle that they did not even want a new one. The success of the J5 was such that final assembly took place not only at Arakawa Auto Body Co Ltd in Japan, but also in Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan. If there was anything to criticise about this legendary and now very rare (and expensive) Station Wagon, it was its excessive thirst. But things were looking up.

(The pictures in this article all come from www.bringatrailer.com. There, FJ55s come up for auction again and again – in Europe they are very rare to find).

The first part of our Land Cruiser story (Origins) can be found here (everything just in German, sorry), a second (J2/J3) and third part (J4) are already available. We have more exciting cars in our archives.

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