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The Toyota Land Cruiser is a series of four-wheel drive vehicles produced by the Japanese car maker Toyota Motor Corporation. Design of the Land Cruiser began in 1951 as Toyota's version of a Jeep-like vehicle and production began in 1954. The Land Cruiser has been produced in convertible, hardtop, station wagon, and utility truck versions. It is currently Toyota's flagship 4WD.

Prehistory (1940–1945)

In 1941 the Japanese Imperial Army occupied the Philippines, where they obtained a Bantam Mk II, and promptly brought it to Japan. The Japanese military authorities commanded Toyota to make a similar vehicle but to not model the appearance on the American Jeep. The prototype was called the Model AK and was formally adopted by The Japanese Imperial Army as the Yon-Shiki Kogata Kamotsu-Sha ( 四式小型貨物車 The Imperial era 2604th model compact cargo-truck ).

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Later in 1941 the Japanese government asked Toyota to produce a light truck for the Japan military campaign. Toyota developed a 1/2ton prototype called the AK10 in 1942. The AK10 was built using reverse-engineering from the Bantam GP. There are no known surviving photographs of the AK10. The only known pictorial representations are some rough sketches. The truck featured an upright front grille, flat front wheel arches that angled down and back like the FJ40, headlights mounted above the wheel arches on either side of the radiator and a folding windshield.

The AK10 used the 2259cc, 4-cylinder Type C engine from the Toyota Model AE sedan with a three-speed manual transmission and two-speed transfer gearbox connected to it. There is no mechanical relationship between the AK10 and the postwar Toyota "Jeep" BJ. Most of the AK10's were not actively used (unlike the U.S. Jeep) and there are almost no photographs of it in the battlefield.

First generation - Model BJ and FJ (1951–1955)

  • 1950 - The Korean War created demand for a military light utility vehicle. The war put a Jeep on Japan's doorstep. The United States government ordered 100 vehicles with the new Willys specs and Toyota was asked to build them.
  • 1951 - The Toyota "Jeep" BJ prototype was developed in January 1951. This came from the demand for military-type utility vehicles, much like the British Land Rover Series 1 that appeared in 1948. The Jeep BJ was larger than the original U.S. Jeep and more powerful thanks to its Type B 3.4-liter six-cylinder OHV Gasoline engine which generated 85hp (63kW) at 3600rpm and 215N·m (159lb·ft) torque at 1600rpm. It had a part-time four-wheel drive system like the Jeep. Unlike the Jeep, however, the Jeep BJ had no low-range transfer case.
  • 1951 - In July 1951, Toyota's test driver Ichiro Taira drove the next generation of the Jeep BJ prototype up to the sixth stage of Mt. Fuji, the first vehicle to climb that high. The test was overseen by the National Police Agency (NPA). Impressed by this feat, the NPA quickly placed an order for 289 of these offroad vehicles, making the Jeep BJ their official patrol car.
  • 1953 - Regular production of the "Toyota Jeep BJ" began at Toyota Honsya Plant (Rolling chassis assembly), and body assembly and painting was done at Arakawa Bankin Kogyo KK, later known as ARACO (now an affiliate of Toyota Auto Body Co.). The "Toyota Jeep BJ" Series was introduced alongside the following:
    • BJ-T (Touring),
    • BJ-R (Radio),
    • BJ-J (Cowl-chassis for a fire-engine).
  • 1954 - The name "Land Cruiser" was created by the technical director Hanji Umehara. "In England we had another competitor - Land Rover. I had to come up with a name for our car that would not sound less dignified than those of our competitors. That is why I decided to call it 'Land Cruiser'," he recalls.
  • 1954 - The 125hp, 3.9-liter Type F gasoline engine added for the fire-engine chassis. Models are renamed as:
    • BJ-T (Touring),
    • BJ-R (Radio),
    • BJ-J (Cowl-chassis for a fire-engine),
    • FJ-J (Cowl-chassis for a fire-engine).



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