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FJ20: Toyota Land Cruiser

A tan safari spec FJ20 Toyota Land cruiser in a field with the top down.

Toyota Land Cruiser 20 Series (1955-1960)

The Toyota Land Cruiser 20 Series, produced from 1955 to 1960, was designed to improve the civilian appeal of the BJ. Boasting longer four-plate leaf springs borrowed from the Toyota Light Truck, it also received a modest power increase and a design update. The intention of the J20 was to bring a rugged and versatile 4×4 vehicle capable of conquering various terrains, but refined enough for everyday use to new markets abroad, For collectors and potential buyers interested in classic off-road vehicles, the Land Cruiser 20 Series offers a unique blend of vintage charm and durability.

Exterior and Design:

The Land Cruiser 20 Series featured a classic and straightforward design, with a boxy body shape and distinctive flat front grille reminiscent of the BJ series. The simple yet functional appearance showcased its utilitarian nature, emphasizing its off-road capabilities. To satisfy different applications, Toyota shipped this model with two available wheelbases:  2,285 mm and 2,430 mm.

The 20 series was available in two-door and four-door configurations, with specific variants including a station wagon to a fire truck and pickup truck.

Engine and Performance:

The Land Cruiser 20 Series brought the introduction of the legendary F-Series engine, a reliable and robust 3.9-liter inline 6-cylinder gasoline engine that stayed in production through 1992. This engine produced 133 horsepower (99 kW) at 2,600 RPM and 159 lb – ft of torque (215 N – m) at 1,600 RPM, providing enough power for both on-road driving and off-road adventures.

Depending on the destination market, some J20 Land Cruisers were equipped with:

  • Mercedes-Benz OM-324 3.4 liter inline 4-cylinder diesel engine producing 78 hp and 193 lb-ft of torque.

 

  • Type B 3.4 liter inline 6 diesel engine, rated at 84 hp at 3600 RPM and 159 lb-ft of torque at 1600 RPM.

 

  • F-Type 3.9 liter inline 6 gas engine making 105 HP at 3200 RPM and 189-209 lb-ft of torque at 2000 RPM.

 

Transmission and Drivetrain:

The Land Cruiser 20 Series was shipped with either a 3-speed or 4-speed manual transmission, with a synchromesh mechanism added to the 3rd and 4th gear respectively to enable smoother operation. The earliest models of the 20-series, which encompass the FJ20, had their engine, transmission, transfer, and final drive gear as essentially the same unit throughout. Minor adjustments were made in the gear ratios of the 1st and 2nd gears to favor high-speed driving throughout the FJ20’s production run.

The 20 Series also featured a 1-speed transfer case channeling power through both a front and rear differential. They were originally manufactured with 4.11:1 front and rear axle ratios, and and a low first gear ratio of 5.53:1.

Suspension and Brakes

The FJ20 was manufactured with four-plate leaf springs that were initially developed for the Toyota Crown passenger car. 

All models came equipped with drum brakes at all 4 corners.

Interior and Comfort:

As a rugged off-road vehicle, the interior of the Land Cruiser 20 Series was straightforward and functional. It featured basic seating with vinyl upholstery, providing easy cleanup after adventurous journeys. The cabin was originally designed to accommodate up to five passengers, with some special variants seating as many as 8.

Production Numbers and Rarity:

The Land Cruiser 20 Series was only produced for 5 years, with healthy demand throughout the production run, but far less units produced than some other models.

While it’s difficult to know exactly how many FJ20s are on the road today it’s safe to assume the number of models on the road today makes this one of the rarer variants available for purchase.

Collector’s Value and Considerations:

For collectors and potential buyers, the Land Cruiser 20 Series represents a piece of automotive history, marking the beginning of the iconic Land Cruiser lineage. Authenticity, condition, and originality play a vital role in determining the value of these vintage models. Rust and mechanical issues are common concerns, so a thorough inspection by a qualified mechanic is essential before purchasing.

Restoration and Parts Availability:

Due to the age of the Land Cruiser 20 Series, restoration projects are common among collectors. While sourcing original parts might be challenging, there are various specialized Land Cruiser communities and aftermarket suppliers that can assist in the restoration process.

Common Problems and Issues

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