The legendary Land Cruiser is one of Toyota’s most iconic vehicles on the market. Its history dates back to 1951 with the Toyota answer to what Jeep was doing with its SUV at the time. Designed for utility and adventure, the Land Cruiser was marketed worldwide.
In 2019, the Land Cruiser surpassed 10,000 units in global sales numbers and the Toyota Land Cruiser lives on. But there was one perfect version of the Toyota SUV that never made to US markets because it was just too rugged to appeal to a large enough number of the American population.
The 70 Series Land Cruiser released in 1984 so that its 25 year old 40 series predecessor could pass the torch and retire. It went into production across the globe, but never came to the USA.
Why didn’t it hit the US market?
The industry was at the time seeing a subtle surge in popularity in SUVs and Toyota answered the call in America with the FJ60. Toyota’s 70 Series Land Cruiser went to places like Africa and Australia. In fact, in both of those places it still enjoys popularity for its unrivaled utility.
Think Safari or the remote bush. While an SUV like this may appeal to a select number of folks here in the US, keep in mind the US most sold vehicles at that point in time.
In 1982 the Ford Escort was the most sold vehicle in America, followed by the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme as the most sold car in 1983. The 70 series was put into production in 1984. The most sold car in America that year was the Chevy Cavalier selling 383,752 units.
Not exactly comparable to a rugged little two-door bush truck on a ladder frame chassis. Besides, the US already had its farm trucks and the FJ60 was a little more family friendly. No one would have bought the 70 Series here because there just wasn’t enough market for it.
The 70 series Toyota Land Cruiser
This Land Cruiser was offered with both two door and four door models. Additional options included short, medium or long wheelbase. The 70 series Land Cruiser is designated the same way as others: the Bundera and the Prado share roots with the 70 series.
70 Series chief engineer Masaomi Yoshii wanted to keep it true to its utilitarian form. So, he designed an SUV with a sturdy ladder frame chassis, live axles, and leaf spring suspension.
Evolution of utility
It wasn’t designed for luxury or comfort by any stretch of the imagination. It was designed to get there –– anywhere. The 2H diesel 4.0-liter, six-cylinder engine moved laterally from the 40 Series to the 70 Series when it first came out.
Over the years, however, production of some variety is seen. Toyota offered both gasoline and diesel engines in a huge range of options. There were utes, along with the two door and four dour models of the generation. It was a work horse equipped to handle extremes. Harsh climates and off pavement conditions are where the 70 Series is in its element. Which is why it is a favorite in the rural markets.
The 70 Series today
You can still purchase a 70 Series Toyota Land Cruiser new today. The largest market for this Toyota SUV, Australia, offers the 70 Series with one engine option. Because why would a backcountry SUV built for overland like this need? The Australian model boasts a 4.5-liter turbodiesel 6-cylinder with 205 horsepower and 320 pond-feet of torque.
While there are a few that would love to get behind the wheel of one of these in the US. Unfortunately there are not enough of us for Toyota to deem US production worth it. We’ll just stick with the Lexus GX or the Land Cruiser 200 Series –– or even the comparable utility of the 4Runner. The 70 Series is restricted to foreign markets.
Looks like the American experience of the bare-bones utilitarian quality of this classic Toyota is reserved for vacationers and ex pats. It’s the perfect SUV that no one in American would have bought new, and Toyota never came around to the idea of testing that theory.