By on March 14, 2017

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

In our last Rare Rides entry, we saw a Saleen sporting a lot of engine and little room, carrying a maximum of two physically fit human beings inside the cramped cockpit. That’s assuming neither of them brought any baggage, emotional or otherwise.

Today, we’re going in the other direction. I present to you what is undoubtedly the most intense passenger vehicle Toyota has ever produced: MEGA CRUISER. And it’s in full capital letters for a reason.

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

Our far-out find today comes from the superb purveyor of all things Japanese Domestic Market: the Goo-net Exchange. Right off the bat, we should address the flat white elephant in the room. The United Nations Blanco colored truck above was obviously meant to capture a piece of the HMMWV market for Toyota. This example comes from 1998, which is not entirely clear until you take a look inside at the driver’s command center up front.

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

Camry, Tercel, Corolla. Everyone at Toyota raided the corporate part bin in adding components to create this ergonomic wonder. Undoubtedly, these bits will work forever without fault, but it would’ve been nice if someone at Toyota put more consideration into the Mega Cruiser’s design. The Camry’s PRND2L is unexpected here; a long manual would seem more at home in this utilitarian beast.

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

According to the ad, this rig features a 4.1-liter turbodiesel engine. Beyond that, the English translation on the site is hilarious.

…smooth handling,parking help,relaxable,no ABS,no ESC,barely damaged…

So I did some poking around on Wikipedia for more information.

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

Toyota produced the Mega Cruiser from 1995 through 2002, mostly for military usage. It found a home at the Japan Self Defense Forces as transportation for infantry, heavy mortars, and surface-to-air missiles. When purchased by civilians, there was heavy taxation because of Japanese dimension regulations and the annual road tax. Perhaps a member of the B&B who’s familiar with the Japanese regs could share some figures on the annual fees a vehicle like this would carry.

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

And carry it can, as six people of generous proportion can fit inside in stadium-style seating. Seats are covered with ’90s pattern Toyota Golden Age (© gtemnykh) cloth, which lasts approximately 126 years.

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

Cargo capacity is decidedly not at a premium. Put whatever you want back there. And the wheel arches look like a great place for several jump seats, and might get the passenger capacity up to 10.

1998 Toyota MEGA CRUISER, Image: Goo-net

Unfortunately, this majestic vehicle was only sold in the Japanese home market. Intended as a test bed for designs which would trickle down into the mass-produced SUVs on offer from Toyota, the model was not a financial success for the company. It does offer front, middle, and rear locking differentials. And four-wheel steering. Like a Prelude. Or something.

Current asking price is 9,800,000¥‎, which is a bit over $85,000 US dollars. It’s old enough for Canadian importation, and TTAC confirmed with Ontario-based Bonsai Rides that it’s eligible. Canadians, go get it!

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82 Comments on “Rare Rides: Toyota Mega Cruiser Tells HMMWV to Step Outside...”


  • avatar
    OldManPants

    *GASP*

    GREAT WHITE WOOMAN!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Corey, I hope the 4.1 turbo diesel is a typo. 4.2 sounds better.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Not according to the ad, and also Wikipedia. The 4.1TD was borrowed from the Toyota Coaster bus.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Thanks Corey. It’s a B Series engine used more for heavy applications.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        TIL Toyota made a bus. I had no idea.

        • 0 avatar
          Corey Lewis

          It’s one of those things you’d see in the JDM or in Russia and no other places.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Corey, surprisingly enough JDM buses are the few things I HAVEN’T seen in my neck of the woods in Siberia, my one guess is that perhaps local municipalities draw the line at RHD for passenger-hauling duties. Domestic Russian “PAZ” (Pavlovskiy Auto Factory) seem to predominate to this day in most mid/smaller cities, although I think there are some Chinese companies too. You see a bunch of them in this video I love to post:
            https://youtu.be/VYPL32zJ0QY

            Where the Japanese used stuff has really put the hurt on Russian iron in (more so Eastern) Siberia is road-going trucks although KamAZ is still a force to be reckoned with (Soviet-designed GAZ, ZiLs and Urals still rule the offroad/remote roost). Mitsu Canters and Toyota Dynas predominate on the small end, along with some Chinese knockoffs. Russia’s home-brew GAZelle is cheap to buy and repair, but is simply much worse built. Hino and UD reefer trucks with funny twin-front axle arrangements, etc. are very popular in the Far East. Tourist/long-haul buses have been taken over by used Koreans and Chinese (funny sounding “King Long”), previously it was all smoky and totally worn out Hungarian “Icarus” buses that sometimes broke down and never had A/C. It’s a fascinating mish-mash of used stuff from all over the world, for better or for worse.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            Ha, King Long. There’s a joke (or a few) there but I’m not going to do it.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            60-foot articulated Ikaruses were in use in both the DC and Seattle metropolitan areas for quite a few years. They were tough, but not tremendously reliable, and they were horrible to drive.

            Bus diversity in the US has gone down, though. These days, the over-the-road market is dominated by MCI/Van Hool/Prevost and the urban market by New Flyer/Gillig/Nova.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            dal in Russia many people are nostalgic (in a rose tinted glasses sort of way) about the legendary LiAZ-677M city bus (affectionately called “luno-khod” or “moon rover”), they kept it in fleets from the 70s until maybe 5-7 years ago.

            https://youtu.be/aKsySCyWKWk

            They make a distinct “bottles rattling in a bag” sound from the rather interesting “hydro-mechanical” 2 speed transmission that has a torque converter and 2 driver-selectable forward gears as I recall.

            That’s one sloppy geartrain (source of ‘bottles’ sound):
            https://youtu.be/5HrcrIvWGAI

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I remember seeing those things during my one trip to Russia in 1991. Can’t remember the sound, though.

            That looks like classic Soviet machinery — will never run well, but will continue to run indefinitely even if all the oil is replaced with mud. Another memory from that trip is a Volga cab with an oil pressure gauge that sat on 0. Driver gave zero f*cks.

          • 0 avatar
            Sjalabais

            @gtemnykh, how I’d love to speak your language! My wife gave me a DIY course with books and a CD, but it’s based on Danish (an awful language, though similar to my Norwegian), but I haven’t really progressed.

            Took a lot of photos of Soviet and Chinese “dingdong”-machinery in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago:

            http://sjubbdubb.kinja.com/the-exotic-trucks-coaches-and-limos-of-st-petersburg-1742090611

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            ” will never run well, but will continue to run indefinitely even if all the oil is replaced with mud.”

            Haha well perhaps not the oil, but I distinctly remember taking a road trip with my extended family in a pair of old Moskvitchs (a ’76 and a ’87) in the early 2000s where my uncle opened up the radiator cap on the overheating ’87 at the summit of a pretty serious mountain pass in Altai and just seeing a bunch of muddy silt inside. Topped it up with tap water and kept going. My father’s Zaporozhets had its last oil change shortly before or after the Soviet collapse. Finding engine oil in a parts store was unheard of, he got his by way of a friend walking off of a construction site with a pail full of diesel KamAZ engine oil. When my grandpa bought his ’87 Izh Kombi, after the first 500 or 1000km you’re supposed to drain the break-in oil which is full of metal shavings/particulate. Well he drained it, let the shavings settle, and then reused it at the next oil change. Those old engines didn’t last long without needing messing with anyhow, some contaminated oil was the least of its worries. He ran a double headgasket on his to lower the compression ratio which allowed it to run really low octane RON-80 gas. I think it only had the equivalent of 80k miles when he sold it to a relative a few villages down the river for next to nothing (where apparently it’s still being driven), it was quite thoroughly worn out by way of both shoddy construction and brutal road conditions.

          • 0 avatar
            ssjoeloc

            I was able to ride in a Toyota bus while visiting the Cayman Islands a few years ago. They are slow, but perfect for narrow roads and the A/C worked so that was all I cared about!

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          dal,
          We have a them in Australia. Mitsubishi and Nissan make 23 seaters as we call them.

          These are popular with the RV set here who buy one cheap and convert them.

          Since RobertRyan is largely into RVs and an Aussie I thought he would of made a comment by now.

          They are not used by bus companies. They are used by private organisations ie, airport shuttle, private schools and sport clubs, senior homes and industry.

          They are not comfortable for long hauls.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Toyota makes *everything*, as far as I know.

          They just don’t export it.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      (Need to remain civil here. -Moderator)

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The steering wheel is on the correct side of the vehicle.

    Aesthetically it looks like turd. I would rather a 4.2 turbo diesel 70 Series troop carrier.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I meant to note the early ’90s mirrored tint a la the Pathfinder. I like that too.

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      Ah, yes! I love the green tinted glass. Also on the first gen Lexus RX, Infiniti QX4, And Isuzu Trooper.

      http://gtcarlot.com/colors/car/70687265-8.html

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The name “Mega Cruiser” would be just perfect for some sort of Excursion reincarnation, if only Toyota had the parts bin to produce such a thing.

    Other than that… well, it looks kind of like a Grumman step van with windows.

    Edit: 85+ inches wide! Don’t plan to park this thing at your local Rite Aid.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Vehicles over 80″ wide that aren’t duallies bother me.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I will pay up to $5 to see this do a half mile drag race against a GMC Motorhome.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I love the stark combination of brutalist HMMWV proportions with soft Toyota 90s bits on the interior. Thanks for the copyright Corey. I would be curious to see what sort of partsbin Toyota stuff is used in the 4×4 drivetrain. Most likely the same 4spd auto used in the 80 series LandCruiser (incredibly overbuilt beast, as it was also used in a freaking bus). Looks like fulltime 4wd with a high/low shifter, also standard Toyota fare, incredibly reliable mechanical system with very little to fail. 4 Wheel independent suspension again aping the HMMWV.

    Some good photos of the greasy bits for reference:

    forum.ih8mud.com/threads/bxd10-mega-cruisers.509559/

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      The parts bin window switches are awesome, they even left them in the slightly curved door armrest shape from a LHD vehicle. Despite this being RHD JDM thing. Crazy!

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      gte,
      The vehicle appears to be designed as mostly a off highway cruiser. Trekking dirt tracks as opposed to “off road”.

      The engine is low stressed at 4.1 litres and 84kw, with a turbo.

      I had a D20 with a 3.2 litre QD Nissan diesel and its power figures were not far off, it wasn’t turbo’d. So I don’t know what effect the turbo has on a 4.1 with such low power.

      The drivetrain would be Toyota Dyna. Landcruisers used much from the Dyna parts bin.

      Judging by the width I wonder if a modified Coaster/Dyna chassis was used.

  • avatar
    lon888

    I wonder what the reliability of this truck is as compared to the AM General Hummer. Also is the serviceability easier on this as compared to the American Hummer. The Toyota is definitely more civil on the inside as compered to the Hummer.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      If it were made, probably better.

      Its seems to be over engineered to the sh!thouse. More so than 70 Series Toyotas.

      It would not be in the same class. Hummers have significantly larger engines. As most might think this is better, “big” can create issues ensuring enough fuel is available in very remote and undeveloped regions.

      Judging by the low power these could run on most any oil as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        It was made!

        While it’s easy to get the idea that it was a concept production from the writeup, the Mega Cruiser was adopted by the SDF and various police and fire departments in Japan.

        It wasn’t sufficiently *profitable* for Toyota, but they made lots of them.

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      It’s probably WAY better in terms of reliability. My understanding is the AM General Hummer were service nightmares that were constantly breaking down.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Cost isn’t a concern when it’s intended buyer is the US government.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        No. I never had a hummer break down on a mission. The AC quit a few times but the only ones that would ever quit were the ones the Iraqis would drive and that was because they’d bring it out on empty so we’d fill it up. The problem was the flat bottom…they don’t take a blast.

        OtherAl mentioned one problem with the motor…the low power. By the time you mount all the armor on it, a gun turret, 4 Joes in full battle rattle, ammo, a .50 cal, 7 pane windows…basically all the crap to make you not dead it would need more motor.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Never been in or driven a military spec Hummer (Humvee) but have tried each of the civilian spec models.

          This Toyota certainly has more usable interior space. And probably much better durability, based on its ‘genetics’.

    • 0 avatar
      ArialATOMV8

      I kept thinking that too. I’d place my money on this over a H1 because in general, Japanese products have more expensive and more durable parts than their American counterparts.

  • avatar
    mason

    I totally​ dig it. The massive center console is a bit awkward looking, it looks like it could double as a dog house but you wouldn’t think it would need one as long as the nose is.

  • avatar
    david42

    Interesting how much more well-thought out it is compared to a Humvee. It has a 36-foot turning circle (versus 51 ft), and it can seat six instead of just four.

    I don’t know if it’s as robust as a Humvee, but I will note that Toyota usually hits their mark. A Land Cruiser is not to be sneezed at, and this is a step (or two or three) beyond that.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      The H1 offered a jump seat in the middle of the rear seats that increased capacity to 6.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        HMMWV holds 5…the 5th dude hangs out the top behind a machine gun standing on a middle platform between the 2 rear seats.

        You could fit more people BUT you have to have room for things like ammunition, radios, MRE,s, Water, rolls of C-Wire, and stuff like that. The Toyota is obviously not outfitted for combat and would loose a few seats if equipped for that.

  • avatar
    low_compression

    “Intended as a test bed for designs which would trickle down into the mass-produced SUVs on offer from Toyota”

    I prefer to imagine a world where the Camry, Tercel, and Corolla were all part of a multi-million vehicle test run in order to perfect every component on the MEGA CRUISER.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    This article was funny yet intelligent unlike Doug Demuro even though it had ‘step outside’ in the title.

    Just wanted to say good job.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Great find, I didn’t know this existed. The 1989 Camry DX automatic transmission lever combined with a color-mismatched window switch panel and what looks like a change tray slapped all together on one console is fantastically utilitarian. Yes, it hauls troops and missiles. You want soft-touch materials and tight panel fits?

    The Corolla steering wheel on such a beast of a dashboard is the icing on the cake.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    This is old enough to import into Canada………hhhhmmmmmm

  • avatar
    scott25

    While you’re on the goo-net theme, a Mitsuoka Le Seyde (or really any Mitsuoka) seems like a good candidate for Rare Rides.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I don’t think the shifter is Camry. It looks straight out of my FJ80.The A442 transmission in the 80 series was a bus transmission and is probably under this beast so the shifter would make sense.

  • avatar
    ccode81

    Tax will be surprisingly low as this can be registered as commercial vehicle. annual JPY 16,000.
     Registering as passenger car, it fits to band 4 liter to 4.5 liter engine displacement, JPY 76,500. – FYI dimension size is not subject of tax amount, besides Kei car.

    Negative side of commercial registration is being mandatory for annual inspection (passenger car inspection is once in 2 year), higher insurance rate, and higher toll road charge.

    enjoy the view of Super Dyna truck built on same platform.
    much more 4WS effect than Prelude.
    http://pedalmafiablog.livedoor.biz/archives/51390078.html

  • avatar
    ATLOffroad

    Looks like the stereo has a Mini Disc player on it. I haven’t seen one of those since the 90s.

  • avatar
    Eddy Currents

    I have 2 memories of this in Japan.
    One was an off-road park near Toyota City that had one of these for rent. You could use it (with a guide) on their off-road track.
    This goes back about 10 years ago now, and I can’t remember why I didn’t rent it – it was some combination of cost, timing, or that I am a complete off road novice. Mega Cruiser is HUGE – especially in a Japanese context.

    IIRC, the only thing you needed to rent was a Japanese driver’s license, and enough Japanese language to make them comfortable that you can follow their instructions.

    The second was at a random convenience store in the countryside. Some 50 year old gangster looking guy was the driver, and he had about 6 of AKB48 for passengers.

    This isn’t the same place, but it is a similar idea:
    http://www.gtoyota.com/rvpark/


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