Words by Paul Murrell, Practical Motoring
If ever proof was needed that the Japanese could take someone else’s concept and make it better, the Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser should put the argument to rest. Way back in 1950, the Japanese motor industry was almost unknown outside Japan, but the Land Cruiser paved the way for the huge success and market domination we see today. Right from the start, the Toyota Jeep BJ was larger than the US Jeep on which it was clearly modelled (although not based), and more powerful, thanks to its 3.4-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. The second-generation, the J20, was aimed more at the civilian market and was more stylish, although these things are very much in the eye of the beholder! And in 1960, along came the now-classic FJ40. It had a 93kW 3.9-litre engine, but the big change was the addition of low-range gearing, although the three-speed gearbox was retained. The 3.9-litre engine was replaced in 1975 by the more powerful 4.2-litre 2F engine. The FJ40 has now reached true iconic status, being generally acknowledged as the most collectable of Land Cruisers.
ARB Kilsyth came across “their” FJ40 when a customer walked through the door and told them he had “an old Land Cruiser for sale”. As far as can be ascertained, he was the second owner, making ARB Kilsyth the lucky third owners, not bad for a 4WD that’s celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Tough old beasts, these FJ40s.
It’s always reassuring to see history when buying any second-hand vehicle, and this one had obviously been cherished, right down to the hand-written record book in the glove compartment. The FJ is in good condition for its age, but not surprisingly has seen a few different coats of paint over the years. Perhaps a little less expected are the black GT stripes, added by a previous owner to give it a family look with his GT sedan. The interior has stood up pretty well, but there are a few rips in the seats and signs of general wear and tear. Modifications are thankfully fairly minor and the FJ is mostly complete, always a good starting point for a refurbishment.
The purchase price was “around $5k” according to ARB’s branch manager Luke Chynoweth, but he admits there was a bit of wheeling and dealing that included a new bar for the vendor’s Colorado. When ARB Kilsyth took delivery, the car was running and they have driven it “on numerous occasions”. One trip was a visit to ARB’s ex-workshop manager, Ian Bailey, at Bluey’s Workshop for a good going over. Both diffs have been rebuilt and the motor serviced. At the time of writing, the team is about halfway through their plans, and they have begun fitting the many ARB products that will make the old Toyota more desirable and efficient than it ever was when new.
Back to the original or modified?
The decision was made to not deviate far from factory spec, but modifications were made sympathetic to the period. Anyone who’s spent time in an FJ40 will understand the decision to add some much-needed creature comforts. The old Cruiser got an ARB Deluxe bar with Warn M8274 high-mount winch and ARB AR32 Intensity LED lights. The headlights were be upgraded with IPF lenses and reflectors, supported by an ARB upgraded loom and IPF Fat Boy globes. A Safari snorkel was fitted, as was a Kaymar rear bar with wheel carrier, double jerry can holder and telescopic work light.
The traditionally rugged ride was improved by the fitment of a full OME suspension kit, including four new shock absorbers and springs, steering damper, greasable shackles, spring bushes and U-bolts. This resulted in a useful lift at the front of 35mm and 50mm at the rear with a welcome ride improvement and improved ground clearance. Front and rear ARB diff locks were installed, along with a diff breather kit.
Also on the list is an ARB twin compressor with 4-litre air tank, single ARB Outback Solutions roller drawer with roller floor, ARB 60-litre fridge/freezer, ARB reverse camera kit with cameras front and rear, REDARC gauges to keep an eye on battery voltages, water and oil temperature and oil pressure, plus a GME TX3120S UHF radio and aerial.
An ARB dual battery box was fitted in the rear of the car with an Optima battery and REDARC BCDC1225, set up with an input to take solar panel and hotwires for accessories. It was fitted at the rear to avoid the need to make a tray to fit the battery under the bonnet.
AVM hubs are sitting behind the new wheels and tyres. Wheel changes were made much easier with a Kaymar Hi-lift jack holder and Hi-lift 48-inch extreme jack, and improving driving range is an ARB Long Ranger auxiliary fuel tank.
The wish list included a number of other fittings, but not all of them was possible. For example, the team is hoping to fit an ARB roof rack but the FJ has proven too wide for any of the current ARB range. However, Recaro seats, Rhino Pioneer Tray, an after-market exhaust system, roof lights “of some description” and awnings were able to be fitted.
As a rough estimate, the finished vehicle is worth somewhere around $15,000… a lot of 4WD for that kind of money. Throughout the year, the Toyota will join the show circuit for a while and no doubt will attract plenty of attention while on display!
How does it compare?
The FJ40 Land Cruiser was in many ways a ground breaker. Over the years, they’ve stayed tough and rugged, but many creature comforts have been added and, as always seems the way, Land Cruisers have grown bigger and heavier.
1976 Toyota Land Cruiser 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser
(FJ40 hardtop 2-door 4-speed Manual, 4.2l petrol) (GXL wagon, 8-seater, 5-door, 6-speed Sports Auto, 4.6l petrol)
Wheelbase 2.29m 2.85m
Front Track 1.40m 1.65m
Rear Track 1.40m 1.65m
Length 3.84m 4.99m
Width 1.67m 1.98m
Height 2.00m 1.95m
Tare Weight 1554kg 2740kg
GVM 2265kg 3350kg
Towing (braked) 1370kg 3500kg
Fuel Tank 85 litres 138 litres
Wheels 16-inch (steel) 17-inch (alloy)
Tyres 7.5×16 285/65R17
Built Japan Japan
New Price $5814 (4-sp manual) $82,000 (6-sp auto)