This 1965 Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser has a wonderful Detroit surprise under the hood

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The name Jonathan Ward carries weight around the collector suv community. His most known venture, Icon 4×4, specializes in taking classic, desirable trucks and SUVS like the Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Bronco and reimagining them as the most modern versions of themselves. They’re pricey, highly sought-after, and tastefully executed.

Lesser known is Ward’s other venture, TLC 4×4. Whereas Icon fusses over perfecting every nut and bolt, TLC focuses on improving the mechanicals, leaving the visuals largely unchanged. One such example of such work—a 1965 Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser—is headed to the auction at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale on March 7.

This white-over-black long-bed pickup spent most of its life in the California sun, until TLC discovered it in 1999. It underwent a three-year restoration before landing at its current home in 2002. The truck’s body is largely original, save for the addition of Brazilian Bandeirante doors. Inside, there is a single, simple black leather bench seat and a tidy dashboard with five small gauges, including a centrally-mounted speedometer that reads up to 100 mph.

1965 Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser Custom by TLC 4×4

Land Cruiser fans might chuckle given how that top speed seems, ahem, optimistic given the tortoise-like tendencies of these workhorses. That’s true, at least in stock form, but under the hood of this truck rests a 5.7-liter Ram Jet V-8 from General Motors. Drivetrain updates abound elsewhere on this ride, with upgraded driveshafts, front disc brakes, power steering, and Old Man EMU suspension.

According to the Hagerty valuation expert and resident Toyota dork Adam Wilcox, these changes might help bring appeal back to a car whose sluggishness allowed it to fall behind other collector SUVs in the market:

“[Two-door hardtop] values have been steadily dropping from their high point in 2015 when Median #2 values crested $60K. One reason being that once people started collecting the FJ40, they realized just how slow they really are and started moving on to more drivable classic trucks like the Ford Bronco,” says Wilcox.

As for the modifications performed to this TLC example, Wilcox feels that they’re the right mix to up to appeal at auction. “The replacement engine was designed to have the classic look of Chevy’s ’50s–60s fuel-injected small blocks, making this FJ45 look like it was modified in the 1960s, even though the restoration was finished in 2002. [This] crate motor should make it much more driveable in traffic,” he continues.

1965 Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser Custom by TLC 4×4
1965 Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser Custom by TLC 4×4

1965 Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser Custom by TLC 4×4

All told, this Cruiser seems to have the right mix of attributes to make it an appealing buy at Amelia. Here’s Wilcox again: “This FJ45 shows signs of age, but is still in very good condition. With the Jonathan Ward connection and its ideal modifications, I can see the sale price nearing the $60,000 high estimate.”

We’ll be watching this one as it heads across the block in a few weeks. Until then, would you rather you preserve the originality of the FJ45 in your collection, or are you dropping a small-block in there and waving the stars ‘n’ bars from the truck bed? Let us know in the Hagerty Forums below.

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