Junkyard Find: 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Every 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.

Before 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.

Toyota 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.

No 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Has 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!

For links to 2,000+ additional Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Feb 01, 2021

    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?

    • See 1 previous
    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Feb 01, 2021

      @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.] @PeriSoft, "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.) @Everyone, 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!)

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 02, 2021

    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.

  • Frank Drove past there last week, plant has a huge poster of a bronco on the outside. I was thinking "Is that where they build the new broncos?" I know they use to make the Edge and that other mundane SUV there but I believe both have been canned.
  • CanadaCraig Toyota saw this coming. So good for them for being courageous enough to say, "Wait a minute. Let's not rush into anything."
  • Rna65689660 As the previous owner of a Triumph, and current owner of a MINI, I say, LOL!
  • Yuda 1) EVs are garbage and a complete waste of time and money 2) Ford IS a business after all, cars and trucks ain't free, they take a lot of time and money to Actually make, manufacture, and build 3) SD trucks are actually useful and practical
  • Tane94 If there is market demand, build the vehicle. That's what Ford is doing. Kudos