Less is more when it comes this Japanese-spec Toyota fire truck

With its robust construction and bulletproof reliability, Toyota’s Land Cruiser is a legend in its own right. Add some red paint, water pumps, and a set of hoses, however, and you have the makings of a brutally effective fire-fighting tool. Jay Leno discovers just this when he checks out a Japanese-spec FJ62 fire truck on this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage.

With only a handful of these bright red machines in the U.S., Brian Corsetti’s 1989 Toyota Land Cruiser fire truck is truly a rare sight Stateside. It’s especially out of place when compared to the average American fire-fighting beast; the Toyota is barely longer than a Chevy Tahoe and weighs in at a feather-light 4,600 pounds. Japan’s narrow streets and tight spaces were clearly a factor when the design was conceived.

The rig itself is the embodiment of the less-is-more philosophy, leaving room for only the essential fire-fighting tools and equipment. The cab is based on the rugged right-hand-drive FJ62, leaving the factory with a bobbed cabin and “bubble top” roof to accommodate the rear seat’s increased height. Under the hood is Toyota’s venerable 3F inline-six, complete with a super-simple carburetor for minimal headaches. The powerplant is connected to a five-speed H55F manual transmission, sending power to the rear via a 4.11:1 gear ratio. Four-wheel drive is also selectable, and the front axle is beefed up for civic duty.

Things are a little less familiar out back. Supplementing the usual cargo area, the FJ now has twin water pumps, along with the ladders, hoses, axes, and extinguishers needed to battle a blaze. There’s no onboard water tank, so a snorkel hose (capped with a brilliantly simple bamboo filter) slurps up water from a nearby source. Strangely, the gauges, dials, and switches are a mix of Japanese and English, no doubt necessitating some memorization (or fast-acting Google Translate) by whoever’s in charge of operating the pump.

On the road, Leno comments to Corsetti that the fire truck drives just like you’d expect from a Toyota—a testament to the engineering of the conversion completed by Morita. Normal driving or not, however, a fire truck brings out the kid in all of us. Jay proves this by providing his best impersonation of a siren while cruising the Japanese fire-fighting rig on the streets of Southern California. Can you blame him?

Have you ever had the opportunity to climb behind the wheel of a piece of fire-fighting history? If so, tell us about the experience in the Hagerty Forums below.