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It was after dark when my bus across the Andes arrived in the farm town of Jardin, Colombia. It had been a jarring drive after–by the sounds of it–we lost 2nd gear. I walked across the village square and to my hotel, ready for bed. Then I saw it parked out front: a gorgeous Toyota Land Cruiser stake bed truck.

In the following days I would discover the town was full of Jeep CJ8 taxis and square body 4X4s from first-gen Monteros to the Chevy LUV. But my eye–and camera–kept finding its way back to that Land Cruiser. As Toyota launches a new retro Land Cruiser “70” in other markets, I am asking myself exactly why we Americans consider them so cool.

Toyota Land Cruiser 45 | Henry Cesari via MotorBiscuit

By the numbers, the Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the most important vehicles in automotive history. Toyota has sold 11.3 million units based on this chassis since 1951 (including Lexus-badged variants). Since the FJ40, the motto has always been, “A vehicle that allows people to go anywhere and everywhere and return safely.”

This motto, and Toyota’s legendary reliability, have separated the Land Cruiser from the other 4x4s that spanned the globe: the Land Rover Series/Defender and the Jeep CJ/Wrangler. The “70 Series” evolution launched in 1984 and captured the barebones utility of earlier Land Cruisers, while being capable of highway speeds and offering basic comforts. Many U.S. buyers consider it the sweet spot.

Some say too many. Seriously, these things resell for up to $45k on Cars & Bids. You see them driving around San Francisco and Brooklyn as the same kind of low key flex as a waxed Barbour blazer or a vintage Rolex. But why? And why couldn’t I look away from the one in Colombia?

Like a Volvo or Saab, a Land Cruiser is more about engineering than flash. It signals that you have money and taste. For just $45k you can broadcast to the world how unglamorous you are.

1986 Toyota Land Cruiser | Cars & Bids

In other parts of the world, the competing Japanese SUVs of this era have the same reputation for reliability. I know Australians who talk about Nissans in the same hushed tones we reserve for Toyotas. And I know South Americans who openly say they’d prefer a Mitsubishi. Much of the Land Cruiser’s appeal may be marketing. Or it may be cultural. We may never know. But Toyota has cashed in on the U.S.’s love of the Land Cruiser by slapping the nameplate on increasingly expensive SUVs.

While the new Land Cruiser became a six-figure luxury SUV in North America, Toyota built continuation 70 Series work trucks to sell on almost every other continent. The latest version, Toyota’s Land Cruiser “70,” continues the tradition of the 1980s 70 series. It has a basic ladder frame and locking differentials. But it also has active traction control and other advanced software to keep the steering stable off road. Its 2.8-liter turbodiesel and six-speed automatic should be reliable, while keeping up wiht modern traffic.

This thing would sell like hot cakes in the U.S. But Toyota isn’t releasing it here. So all we U.S. Land Cruiser lovers can do is window shop at the forbidden fruit of off-road retro 4x4s.

See a review of the Australian market Land Cruiser 70 in the video below: