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How To Buy a (Good) Toyota Land Cruiser

Fred Williams
| Brand Manager, Petersen’s 4Wheel & Off Road
Posted April 1, 2010

Looking For A Used Land Cruiser?

The Toyota Land Cruiser is well known in the realm of iconic vehicles. Over its 40-plus years of production there have been many models and options. We sat down with the experts at Man-A-Fre, the oldest Toyota Land Cruiser parts distributor in the world, and went through the many Cruisers available on the used market. We came up with a simple buyer's guide of what to look for from each model, which ones to steer clear of, and some simple upgrades for each.

First imported to the U.S. in the mid '60s, the open-topped, two-door, short 90-inch-wheelbase FJ-40 Land Cruiser came with an inline-six engine very similar to the GM 250ci. The original engine was the 3.9L F model with a lowly 125 hp that lasted until 1975, when the 2F was introduced. Parts for the F engine are hard to find, whereas 2F parts are readily available.

Transmissions offered were a three-speed manual (some early models with column shift) and then a four-speed manual from 1974 until 1983. Though only two transmissions were offered in the U.S. variant, the FJ40 had four transfer cases over its lifetime, all with cast-aluminum cases. The pre-'73 and post-'80 cases have the lowest low ranges of 2.31:1 or 2.27:1, while the '73-'75 and '75-'80 cases are not as desirable.

All FJ40s had solid axles with both the front and rear differentials offset to the passenger side. These axles are strong enough for moderate four-wheeling and hold up well to 33-inch-tall tires. The axles can also be built to run up to 37-inch rubber.

When inspecting any Cruiser, notice the large balls at the ends of the closed-knuckle front axle. If these are dry or dripping there is a sealing problem, but if they have a thin coat of grease everything is fine.

Early FJ40s come with drum brakes at each corner as well as manual steering, but both can be easily remedied with disc brake and Saginaw steering conversion kits.

Stock axle ratios were 4.10:1 until 1980, when they were changed to 3.70:1. During this time the fuel tank was moved under the tub from under the passenger seat. In 1975 the front axle was changed to disc brakes.

The FJ40 was also offered with a hardtop option that has metal sides and a fiberglass top panel, and replacement parts are available, but the tops are different from 1974 and earlier with barn doors instead of a tailgate.

FJ60 & FJ62
Around July or August 1980 Toyota began offering the four-door FJ60 Land Cruiser. This 107 1/2-inch-wheelbase station wagon was ripe for the start of the SUV craze and is a perfect basis for expedition/camping buildups. The FJ60 has a carbureted 2F 4.2L inline-six engine, four-speed manual transmission, a two-speed transfer case, leaf spring suspension, and solid axles with front disc brakes standard.

Problem areas are body rust, complicated emissions (which also hinder power and mileage), and the lack of an overdrive. A great upgrade is an imported Toyota H55 five-speed manual with a lower 4.84:1 First gear and an overdrive Fifth. Imported Toyota diesel engines make great improvements in mileage and power in an FJ60. Although a big job to swap, they are mostly a bolt-in conversion.

From 1988 to 1990 Toyota replaced the round-headlight FJ60 with the square-headlight FJ62 wagon. The FJ62 received a welcome similar to the Jeep YJ Wrangler. Many Toyota enthusiasts appreciated the new fuel-injected 3F 4.0L inline-six engine and electric windows and door locks and despised the square headlights. The FJ62 engine surpassed the FJ60 for power (155 hp, up from 135) and used the same suspension and solid axles, but was only available with an automatic transmission and resulted in still dismal acceleration numbers. Also, where the FJ60 had 3.70 axle ratios the FJ62 returned to 4.10s. The transfer case was the same as the FJ60, but was now engaged with a high/low lever and a vacuum-actuated four-wheel drive button on the dash.


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