In 1958 Land Cruisers were known by the model-name FJ28V. But model-year 1960 brought engineering and styling changes that heralded the birth of an icon. That's when the 20 Series took an evolutionary step into the 40-series. The familiar fold-down windshield, solid axles and sturdy leaf springs of the 25-series remained. But design revision provided the FJ40 with its now-familiar flat, white top, angular lines, wrap-around rear windows and fold-out rear doors, short overhangs, a horsepower boost to 125, a three-speed transmission and the introduction of a two-speed transfer case. The change worked, especially here in the U.S. From 1961 to 1965, the FJ40 was Toyota's best-selling vehicle.
Early experience in developing countries amply illustrated the FJ40's suitability as an exploration/expedition vehicle. Only one thing needed improvement: There wasn't enough space in which to haul the fuel and supplies needed for long trips – this notwithstanding the presence of the FJ45V, a long, four-door version of the basic FJ40, which was built alongside the FJ40. So in 1967, responding to calls for a Land Cruiser with more comfort, more capability and more cargo capacity, the FJ45V was replaced with the four-door Land Cruiser 55 Series.
The 55 Series was a development of the 40 Series, using hardware lifted from the 40 Series. But it rolled upon a wheelbase that was lengthened by 16 inches. To satisfy those looking for more comfort than available from the 40 Series' utilitarian interior, the 55 Series offered a padded dash, a fold-down rear seat and seating for six.
The payoff came in production and sales numbers that nobody – outside Toyota – could have predicted. By 1968, Toyota had built and sold 100,000 Land Cruisers. Demand for them was so great that assembly was done in a number of countries outside of Japan, including Brazil and Pakistan.
The early 1970s were years of development of existing Land Cruiser models. For instance, in 1975 all Land Cruisers received an enlarged 4.2L (256.3 c.i.) B-series engine and with it, a new four-speed transmission. This engine underscored the Land Cruiser's reputation for unstoppable torque, a critical element that helped provide the Land Cruiser with its ability to crawl over obstacles on challenging trails.
By now, Land Cruisers were an established part of rough-country life in the United States. For miners, ranchers and surveyors, the Land Cruiser was the vehicle of choice. In fact, in 1971 a Land Cruiser was driven across the United States while surveying an off-road route.
By 1972, more than 200,000 Land Cruisers had been sold worldwide – and 300,000 by 1973.
There was play, or at least sport, as well as work: In 1974 a nearly stock FJ40 won the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race. Its sole modification involved its conversion for the use of propane, instead of gasoline, as fuel. As the Land Cruiser's reputation grew, so too did the demand for it. As a result, by 1977 a half-million Land Cruisers had hit roads and trails everywhere. But time was closing in on the 40 Series, and also on the 55 Series. For all the refinement it had received over its life span, the 40 Series remained fairly Spartan. So 1983 was its final year of sales in the U.S. Production of the 55 Series ceased in 1979. Sales numbers, meanwhile, continued to reflect the popularity and success of the Land Cruiser name. By 1980, 1,000,000 had been sold.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.