Gear

When the Land Cruiser Took the World


Just call the 40 Series “El Macho.”

Words by JAED COFFIN

Wildsam

TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION

Updated

4 Jun 2024

Reading Time

4 Minutes

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If you ask Dan Busey, resident expert at Salt Lake City’s Land Cruiser Heritage Museum, what makes the Toyota Land Cruiser 40 so iconic, he’ll answer with a riddle. “That’s like asking: How long is a piece of string?’”

Debuting in 1960, the 40 Series—arguably the most cultishly loved of all the Land Cruiser flavors made over six decades—didn’t fall out of the R&D sky. Japanese automakers had developed similar models since after the war. Brits had their Land Rovers. Americans had their International Scouts and Jeeps. But Land Cruiser 40s quickly earned worldwide converts for their versatility and reliability: They offered open-style bodies, long-wheelbase “troop carriers” with two or four doors, and both a fire engine and pickup truck edition. The iconic headlight bezels were offset by stripped-down paneling that lacked insulation for sound. “It was a well-built, no-nonsense four-wheel-drive vehicle,” Busey says.

By 1965, Americans had bought some 50,000 of them. The number doubled by 1968, a year after the bestselling memoir Who Needs a Road chronicled a Land Cruiser 40 expedition across five continents and 30 countries. Trends were similar across the globe: In West Africa, the Land Cruiser 40 earned the moniker “bush taxi.” In South America, it was simply “El Macho.” In Australia, Land Cruisers outsold Land Rovers—a fact Busey recalls with an often-heard adage: “If you want to go into the outback, take a Jeep, a Land Rover or a Land Cruiser. If you want to come back, take a Land Cruiser.”

You Should Know

Toyota briefly discontinued Land Cruisers in 2021, but 2024 saw a celebrated rebirth, brawny with throwback design touches.

Toyota ceased production on the 40 Series in the mid-’80s, but you can still find them on the private market in the $25,000 to $40,000 range. For $123,000, Bonhams auction house recently sold one owned by Tom Hanks, a retro-modified model with Porsche seats, major stereo upgrades and the actor’s autograph on the dash. From 2005 to 2014, Toyota offered a nostalgically styled FJ Cruiser based on the 40s, but this, Busey says, didn’t land well with some purists. “Still,” he admits, “it is a very fine vehicle.”

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