From its humble beginnings in 1950 as a development project based on the design of the Willys Jeep, the Land Cruiser has taken its rightful place as Toyota's flagship four-wheel drive vehicle.
When the Land Cruiser (then named "Model BJ") was first tested in August, 1951, it climbed to the sixth station of Mt. Fuji -- the first motor vehicle to perform this feat. The first orders for the vehicle were from police and forestry departments because of its off-road abilities. In 1954, when the BJ was formally named Land Cruiser, the vehicle officially entered mass-production, rather than being built on a made-to-order basis. The following year, the original 85-horsepower diesel engine was replaced with a 125-horsepower 3.8L gasoline unit.
1958 saw the formal introduction of the Land Cruiser to the U.S., and it was the best selling Toyota vehicle in the U.S. from 1961-1965. During that time the line-up consisted of soft-top, open, and pickup versions.
In 1965, Land Cruiser moved toward the mainstream U.S. market with the introduction of the five-door station wagon. The wagon was hailed as a vehicle that was competent enough to drive through the back country, yet was comfortable and powerful enough to drive on any public street. Mid-1967 saw the U.S.-sales introduction of a hardtop version of the two-door, sales of which ceased in 1983 (although production ended in 1979).
In 1975, the 3.8L engine was replaced by a larger and more powerful 4.2L version, making the Land Cruiser easier to drive. For the home market (Japan), Land Cruiser has almost always been available with a diesel engine -- originally 3.2L, reintroduced at 3.0L in 1976, and updated to 3.2L again in 1979 -- but it was never officially available in the U.S.
Since 1980, the U.S.-spec Land Cruiser has only been available in one body style -- five-door station wagon. It was replaced in 1991 by a larger, more luxurious vehicle that sported full-time four-wheel-drive and a fully independent four-wheel coil-spring suspension.
In 1993, Land Cruiser grew up even further. Now sporting a 24-valve, DOHC inline six-cylinder engine displacing 4.5L, Land Cruiser produced 212 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, and was more than capable of pulling Land Cruiser's 5153 pounds of curb weight.
The 1993 Land Cruiser was a far cry from the 1951 Model BJ. Sporting optional leather upholstery, available seating for eight, an available compact-disc player, manually locking front and rear, and automatic locking center, differentials, Land Cruiser was now a shadow of its former self.
1994 updates to the Land Cruiser were minimal (changes have only been made to the Land Cruiser when necessary), limited to the addition of CFC-free air-conditioning.
In 1995, Land Cruiser took a large step toward additional passenger safety. With more and more consumers using their "sport-utility" vehicles as passenger cars, and those consumers looking for vehicles that offer enhanced safety features, Toyota was ready. Along with a new grille featuring redesigned headlights, the 1995 Land Cruiser included, as standard equipment, both driver- and passenger-side airbags and adjustable shoulder-belt anchors. These additions did nothing to diminish Land Cruiser's off-the-road abilities, though, and it continues on as the most refined, most capable four-wheel-drive vehicle on the market.
For 1998, Toyota introduced the fifth-generation Land Cruiser and the first all-new Cruiser since 1991.
The new Cruiser was larger, heavier, structurally more solid and substantially more powerful than its predecessor. Yet it delivered improved fuel efficiency, lower emissions and considerably quicker, more responsive acceleration. It also featured the first V8 engine in a Toyota Division vehicle. Its all-new 4.7-liter 32-valve DOHC produced 230 horsepower, 18 more than its predecessor’s inline six-cylinder, and 320lbs.-ft. of torque, an improvement of 45 over the ’97 model.
For 1999 the recently redesigned Land Cruiser featured an independent rear automatic climate control system for added convenience and passenger comfort.
In 2000, Toyota again raised the benchmark in SUV performance and refinement by adding active traction control (Active TRAC), vehicle skid control (VSC) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD) systems as standard equipment. The Cruiser also added a six-disc in-dash CD player as standard.
For 2001, the legendary Land Cruiser received a few new additions. It featured an available navigation system with a DVD player, standard auto dimming rear view mirror, and integrated compass in the rear view mirror (on models without the navigation system), JBL Premium three-in-one AM/FM/Cassette/CD six-disc in-dash changer with seven speakers with an available Electro Multi-Vision screen with center console six-disc CD player.
The Land Cruiser entered 2002 with additional equipment and improved value. Third row seats, automatic rear climate control system and HomeLink® became standard features. The only available factory option was a DVD-based navigation system.
Along with an updated front grille, rear bumper, rear turn signals and interior, output by the 2003 Land Cruiser’s 4.7-liter V8 was increased by five horsepower for improved responsiveness. For the first time, Land Cruiser had rear seat audio and steering wheel audio controls as standard equipment, and a DVD rear seat entertainment system and SRS front and second row side curtain airbags became available.
The 2004 Land Cruiser introduced an available backup camera with the navigation system. New side privacy glass color was changed from bronze to dark green.
For 2005, 18-inch wheels became standard.
In 2006, the Land Cruiser received minor changes to the exterior and engine. The 4.7-liter V8 engine became equipped with VVT-i and ETCS-i to produce 275 horsepower and 332lb.-ft. torque. Land Cruiser also gained LEVII status. Adjustable Height Control and Adaptive Variable Suspension became options, while a Tire Pressure Monitor System became standard.
Exterior updates included a new grille, headlights, LED rear combination lamps, a high-gloss finish on the 18-inch wheels and an available rear spoiler. Two new colors included Classic Silver and Pacific Blue.
The 2007 Land Cruiser carries over with no exterior changes. Driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags and front and second row side curtain airbags become standard.