By on February 1, 2021

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsEvery time I share photos of an old Toyota Land Cruiser I spotted in a junkyard, the anguished wails from readers commence. Nobody ever asks me where to find those doomed trucks so they can buy parts before The Crusher eats them, and only a few of the anguished wails come from Land Cruiser aficionados troubled by the demise of another old FJ. No, what upsets so many is the offense against reality on display, the demise of a truck worth 25 grand— no, 50 grand!— in any county, parish, or prefecture on the planet. Well, all I can say is that real-world values of vehicles often differ from what we think they should be, and today’s Junkyard Find proves this (again).

Yes, what we have here is a genuine, numbers-matching, early-production FJ55 Land Cruiser, among the Legacies and Jettas of the imports section of a big self-serve yard about halfway between Denver and Cheyenne. I’ve found some interesting machinery in this place, including a Vauxhall Victor, a ’60 Chevy Brookwood two-door wagon, and one of the first Audis ever sold in the United States.

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, rust - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBefore a vehicle reaches the public inventory of a U-Wrench yard, plenty of knowledgeable professionals get the opportunity to buy it. When that vehicle is something like a post-C4 Corvette or Jaguar E-Type, it gets rescued. When it’s a rusty FJ55 … well, here it is.

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsToyota was still license-building a lot of GM hardware in the early 1970s, including this 3.9-liter straight-six pushrod engine derived from the Chevrolet “Stovebolt” that powered so many cars and trucks from the 1920s through the 1960s. By 1971, the Toyota and GM designs had diverged enough that few parts would interchange, but Toyota was still paying licensing fees to The General. The two-speed Toyoglide transmission (based on the GM Powerglide) was still going into some Toyotas at this point, too.

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, gearshift lever - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNo FJ55s got Toyoglides at the factory, however, or any automatic transmission. This one has a good old three-on-the-tree column-shift manual, the same kind of rig that went into millions of Stovebolt-powered Chevrolets of the 1940s and 1950s. American truck shoppers could get a new three-on-the-tree from GM all the way through 1987, but the Land Cruiser went to all floor-shift manuals much earlier than that.

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe column-mounted shifter is what you need if you want to squeeze three people into the front bench seat without banging the middle passenger’s knees with every shift.

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, heater - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Land Cruiser has always been more about sturdiness than luxury, which is why it’s finally getting the axe in North America. Few of us felt willing to pay six figures for a Warlord Grade truck with less snazz and a rougher ride than any number of cheaper luxury SUVs, regardless of the near-Century-grade build quality. However, even the early Land Cruiser wagons got some comfort upgrades, such as this heater beneath the front seats. Yes, that’s a bare heater core with exposed hoses and a crude steel box containing a fan; functional and easy to maintain, but better-suited for the mountains of Waziristan than the valet parking of Aspen.

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe interior is done up in materials chosen more for longevity than cushiness, and the fact that this stuff still looks pretty good at age 50 tells us that Toyota chose well.

1971 Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, dash - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsHas the world gone crazy, or is a well-worn early FJ55 not worth the investment of a few tens of thousands of bucks in restoration costs? These trucks sell for plenty in nice shape, as we all know.

Cruises at 85 miles per hour all day long, and you travel in seven-man, foam-seat comfort!

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26 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser...”

  • avatar

    “Well, all I can say is that real-world values of vehicles often differ from what we think they should be”

    “I know what I got”…

    Yeah, you’ve got an old junk that nobody but you thinks is worth anything. The classic car ads are loaded with over-valued old junk just waiting for the right sucker with wads of cash to discover your treasure.

    These old Land Cruisers were built to handle any terrain on the planet. The fact that they lasted a long time should be of no surprise to anyone

  • avatar

    One of my Cleveland buddies had one back in the late 70s. Good solid machine, blizzard of ’78 mobility, but the salt killed the body quickly.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That is one manly vehicle.

    I didn’t know Toyota used GM engines for these back then, so I guess their relationship predated NUMMI.

  • avatar

    The OEM’s (with a few exceptions) know how to build durable and reliable vehicles, they just don’t do it [with very few exceptions].

    When you realize this, it torques you off even more.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not planning on driving the same car for the next fifty years. From my perspective, paying to make it last for 40 or 45 years after I own it would be a massive waste of money. There’s obviously a crossover point somewhere, taking into account the likelihood of repairs during ownership and the residual value, but it’s not nearly as simple as, “Companies should make things last as long as possible”. I’ve got serial port ball mice upstairs that cost $300 new, still work fine, and are totally useless. Too much quality can be just as much of a waste as too little.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with the above comments. I wouldn’t want a daily driver from the 60s. Crumple zones?, ABS?, Electronic Stability?, Air bags?, Roof reinforcement?, Advances in emission controls?? I would like companies to put some effort into the common failure points of their cars, however, like CVTs that die early, plastic knobs that snap off yearly, power windows that die in the open position, ECUs that lose their programming regularly. But the cost of producing such a longer lasting car, is not competitive with cheap vehicles in the market. There is no prize for producing a vehicle that outlives the company.

      • 0 avatar


        “There’s obviously a crossover point somewhere”

        I would like this crossover point to be farther out than “2 weeks after warranty expiration.”

        Given the energy expended to produce a motor vehicle, target should be at *least* 10 years, with better serviceability along the way. (Remember that the *average* age of vehicles on U.S. roads is ~12 years, and 1 in 4 are at least 16 years old.)

        “From my perspective, paying to make it last for 40 or 45 years after I own it would be a massive waste of money.”

        Let’s agree 50 is overkill. But if a company’s products reliably went 15 or 20, you would very likely see that reflected in resale prices (and residual values for those who lease).

        • 0 avatar

          Related: Average B-52 is roughly 58 years old.

          [With selected upgrades, of course – the same way my 26-year-old truck has Bluetooth, rear camera and USB audio.]

          • 0 avatar

            Those B-52s have been pretty thoroughly redone a few times, IIRC. The airframe might be from the ’50s but I’m not sure a whole lot else is. B-52 of Theseus, Grandfather’s B-52, and all that.

            “Better serviceability” is another tricky thing; it’s easy to demand it without knowing what you’re sacrificing. You could have a user-serviceable cell phone right now, if you wanted it to cost $4,000 and weight 18lbs.

            I’d also argue that most cars built now pretty much hit that 20-year target for useful life. The *average* car is 10 years old, and I see plenty of late ’90s, early-2000s cars around where I am, and they’re in reasonably good shape. What does “reliably” mean, though?

            Clearly, spending $20k more on the front-end to avoid $5k of maintenance on the back-end is foolish; the higher resale value just means that the second or third owner will pay $10k more up front instead of $5k in repairs.

            Every vehicle is different and every owner treats them differently; some of them go a long time without repairs and some of them get the snot beaten out of them. There isn’t really necessarily any way to get to some arbitrary “be reliable for 10 years” line in a way that doesn’t end up being less efficient than things are already.

        • 0 avatar

          “I would like this crossover point to be farther out than “2 weeks after warranty expiration.”

          Stop buying BMWs and Land Rovers. Although I think for Rovers I think they start breaking 2 weeks after you buy them.

    • 0 avatar

      One of my favorite gripes about GM has always been, “GM knows how to build good cars, they just choose not to” :(

  • avatar

    Are you kidding? This is prime luxury stuff – even a Maybach doesn’t have diamond quilting on the b-pillar.

  • avatar

    The rugged nature of this along with the comment: “mountains of Waziristan” made me think of a film I saw recently. “The President” is a Georgian film about a fictional dictator who is overthrown and has to hide out in his country with his young grandson. Billed as a comedy on Amazon Prime, it starts off a little funny but then becomes very real and even caught me off guard. Mostly shot on location in the steppe, it gives you a view of a place appropriate for the Toyota Land Cruiser. BONUS: there is a fair amount of Cadillac Brougham limousine porn in the first 1/3rd of the film.

    • 0 avatar

      ….”BONUS: there is a fair amount of Cadillac Brougham limousine porn in the first 1/3rd of the film.” Just put this film on my list. …Any B-Body porn gets CaddyDaddy’s Stamp of Approval.

      • 0 avatar

        As it progressed, I kept saying why isn’t this glorious car in the whole movie? They could have made it a true comedy with the dictator and his grandson driving around fleeing the citizens the whole film. But the director wanted to touch on a lot more different points, and I think he wanted to show peasant life in the country – really get to the soul of the Georgian nation.

    • 0 avatar

      “Georgian film about a fictional dictator ”

      Does it have anything to do with recent elections? Georgia is a cue.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Is that the handle for a manual choke on the instrument panel?

    As for longevity/durability, certainly manufacturer’s should be rewarded for producing vehicles that can run reliably, with only regular maintenance for a decade.

    After that reasonable repairs for another 5+ years. Without having to go to extremes to get access.

    What would it cost to put better insulation on wires, sturdier connections (as per Murilee’s Lexus), higher quality bolts/fasteners and metal rather than plastic parts? Perhaps as much as $500 per vehicle? Possibly about the same as dealers charge for all weather floor mats?

    • 0 avatar

      “What would it cost to put better insulation on wires, sturdier connections (as per Murilee’s Lexus), higher quality bolts/fasteners and metal rather than plastic parts? Perhaps as much as $500 per vehicle? Possibly about the same as dealers charge for all weather floor mats?”

      Problem is that you can’t do that for the least expensive models, which means now you need two sets of all of these parts – harnesses, connectors, bolts, etc. You need different equipment and different lines to put it together. You need separate engineering paths for them. So it’s not just material cost; you change some of that underlying HW and suddenly you’ve doubled tons of overhead. The reason we get cars now with vastly more complexity and features and reliability than in 1990 for the same inflation-adjusted price is because everything underneath is incredibly efficient, so if you start screwing with that, don’t be surprised if prices go up by many multiples of the underlying hardware cost.

    • 0 avatar

      @Arthur Dailey,

      $500 in Material cost would go a long long long way in covering higher spec wiring, fasteners and parts. (Not adding parts, just upgrading to nicer parts.)

      Many people would be surprised how low the actual cost of Material is going into a typical vehicle (and it is all cost-specced within an inch of its life).

      Offering a double-DIN easily-replaceable radio on a newly-engineered model would have *no* piece cost associated with it. (The OEM’s moved away from this because of planned obsolescence and that is the only reason.) [Picture a fighter jet where you open the access door and slide in the new module for avionics, etc.]


      “you can’t do that for the least expensive models”

      Some of the least expensive lower-trim models are barely profitable (or worse) for the OEM’s, which means they really don’t have any business making or selling them [see “some Ford cars”]. (Some OEM’s are willfully blind to this fact until the overall profit results bite them in the butt.)


      Once a model has been in production for several years the failure points become apparent. Most OEM’s don’t address these; they move on to an entirely new design with all-new problems. Corporate ADHD. (Oooooh shiny!)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    This might not be worth restoring but there are enough parts on it to make it a good donor vehicle for restoring another Land Cruiser.

    Contrary to some I would rather have an overbuilt vehicle like this than a vehicle that starts falling apart the day after you drive it off the lot. I don’t think some of you will have to worry about most of today’s new vehicles being overbuilt especially those with CVTs and water pumps enclosed inside the engine with timing chains and belts. Plastic door handles, plastic trim, paper thin carpet, and mismatched trim on many new vehicles assure that most new vehicles will not last. Lasting 10 years should be the minimum standard for new vehicles especially when the average price that new vehicles sell for is 40k. With the complexity of today’s vehicles especially ICE vehicles you might be better off with an EV with less components to fail.

    I have more concern about spending 40k for a new vehicle that falls apart in a few years than a small appliance. My expectations for something I pay 40k are much higher than something I pay $100 or less. Maybe that is just me but I worked too hard for my money to waste it on a poorly made vehicle.

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