For most American drivers, Toyota means well-built, reliable, affordable cars. The Camry. The Corolla. Maybe the RAV4 or Highlander. But to much of the world, Toyota is synonymous with tough, rugged trucks and off-roaders, and all of that started with the Toyota Land Cruiser. In the years after World War II, automakers around the world found inspiration in the Willys MB Jeep and sought to build their own go-anywhere 4×4. Land Rover’s eponymous truck appeared in 1948, and Toyota made its first attempt in 1950. After a few years of testing, the truck entered production in 1953 as the BJ, took on the Land Cruiser name in ’54, was redesigned in ’55, and was replaced by the 40-Series Land Cruiser in 1960. The rest is a long, eventful history that could fill a library — one made up of millions of miles traveled, durability, inhospitable climates, and discovery.
The 40-Series Land Cruiser stayed in production from 1960 to 1984, then carried on in Brazil (as the Bandeirante) all the way until 2001. To call it an icon is an understatement; today, alongside your Jeep guys, and your Land Rover guys, you have your Land Cruiser guys who are equally as passionate and convinced that their 4×4 is the greatest one ever made. There’s a lot to that too; you can find 40-Series Land Cruisers still running all over the world, from rusting hulks to custom rock-crawlers to concours-level restorations, ranging from a few thousand dollars (though those bargains are disappearing quickly), to six-figure investment-grade vehicles. Whether they’ve become trailer queens or are still used as workhorses, the vast majority of owners have decided that they’re simply too valuable to scrap.
So with all their popularity, the 40-Series trucks have spawned a cottage industry of restoration shops and suppliers, all dedicated to keeping these durable little trucks moving. On one end of the spectrum, you have Los Angeles-based shop Icon, which strips a clean Land Cruiser to bare metal, outfits it with a host of bespoke parts, a cutting-edge off-roading suspension, and LS V8, and transforms it into the Icon FJ.
But what about the Land Cruiser enthusiast who doesn’t want to relegate their truck to car show duty, but doesn’t want to lose its period charms with a modern reimagining? Enter The FJ Company, an upstart company that restores and upgrades Toyota’s iconic 4x4s to a level that’s higher than when they left the factory.
For comparison, think of what The FJ Company does to the Land Cruiser like what Singer Vehicle Design does to the Porsche 911. It’s an independent company, and technically, its trucks are restorations, but somehow, through a combination of old and new technology, they turn out even better than you could imagine. A recent example of their work, this 1981 FJ43 (an extended body model) was built for last year’s Copperstate Overland, a four-day rally across the inhospitable Arizona desert.
Starting with a relatively clean truck, The FJ Company stripped it down to bare metal to perform any rust repair. It then rebuilt the truck’s original straight-six engine, power steering system, and front disc brakes. Mechanically, it added a new carburetor, aluminum radiator, starter, and fuel pumps. New LED lights were added, a safety cage was welded into the interior, a modern Old Man Emu off-roading suspension and Warn winch was installed, and the straight-six was mated to a five-speed manual transmission for easier highway driving.
Inside, the FJ43 received new Corbeau MOAB seats with four-point seat belts that almost look like they could’ve come stock, which match the door cards and fold-down rear bench seats. The truck was finished in Olive 637, an original Toyota color, and with gray painted steel wheels and a canvas soft top, it’s likely the handsome, no-nonsense truck most Land Cruiser fans picture when they think of the FJ-Series. The Copperstate truck sold last week at Gooding & Company’s Monterey auction. Despite a conservative $70K to $90K presale estimate, the restored Land Cruiser changed hands for a whopping $176,000.
Since that truck’s appearance last year, the Miami-based company has raised its profile dramatically in the Land Cruiser community. Today, it offers a host of restoration and resto-modding services, designed to do everything from get your old FJ running again, to outfitting them to better than stock, like its FJ43. For treatment like that, expect to pay $55K and up for an early-’80s FJ (the Classic), $65K for a ’70s model (the California), and $75K for a tastefully modified ’80s truck (the Sport). That may be a lot for an old Toyota, but with their high level of quality and perfect looks, these trucks are well worth it.
The last new FJ40 came to America in 1983, and it’ll be another 10 years before you can hope to legally import the newest Brazilian-made Bandeirante. In the mean time, The FJ Company’s restored Land Cruisers hit all the right notes between period-correct and thoroughly modern. The 40-Series Land Cruiser is an undisputed icon; in our minds, The FJ Company’s restorations are the perfect realization of them.