Toyota’s FJ Cruiser just keeps coming back
You probably thought it was all over when Toyota stopped selling the FJ Cruiser in the U.S. in 2014. Surely, the FJ’s end was marked by the Final Edition sold in Japan in 2017? Yet still it lives—at least until the last 2023 Toyota FJ Cruiser Final Edition (we’ve heard that before) finds its owner in Saudi Arabia.
Abdul Latif Jameel Motors has continued to offer the FJ Cruiser in the Middle East long past its sell-by date in the rest of the world but says that the 1000 Final Editions really will be the last.
The FJ Cruiser was inspired by the FJ40 Land Cruiser that itself had a monumental run from its introduction in 1960 right up to 2001. Barely two years after the last of the Bandeirantes rolled off the production line in Brazil, Toyota unveiled its tribute at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show.
Designed at the Japanese company’s California design center in Newport Beach it was described as “a thoroughly modern concept vehicle chiseled from nearly a half-century tradition of rugged performance provided by the legendary FJ40, the original 4Runner and 4×4 pickups,” by Jim Press, executive vice president for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
The car’s 25-year-old designer Jin Won Kim, who had only graduated from Art Center College of Design two years earlier, said the FJ played “off the heritage and spirit of the FJ40.” It wasn’t as unashamedly retro as say the “New” Beetle or Mini, bringing something of a Moon buggy-meets-Hummer vibe, but it was popular enough with the Detroit crowds and media for Toyota to take the leap into production.
By the time it arrived on the market in 2006, the FJ Cruiser’s motor had grown from the 3.4-liter, TRD-tuned, 250-hp V-6 of the show car to a less-stressed, four-liter unit with another ten horses. The platform was largely shared with the 4Runner which gave it the off-roaders’ favorite body-on-frame construction, although the double wishbone front suspension, and a four-link rear setup did raise eyebrows from hardcore rock crawlers.
Toyota answered critics by testing the FJ Cruiser on some of the toughest trails in the United States. Prototypes took on Moab, the Angeles National Forest, the Mojave Desert, and the fearsome Rubicon Trail.
Marketed to outdoor enthusiasts and with a ruggedly simple interior that could be hosed out after an adventure, the FJ Cruiser came out of the box with strong initial sales. Over 100,000 FJs found buyers in the first two years, but then the numbers plummeted. In 2008 28,688 were sold, and in 2009 sales were down to less than 12,000 and never got much higher. Offering a five-speed auto to go with the six-speed manual and a less-expensive rear-drive only option didn’t help much, though the 3200 Toyota Racing Development special editions with their Blistein shocks and chunk BF Goodrich tires did sell out swiftly.
Toyota USA pulled the plug in 2014, but not only did the FJ Cruiser live on in other parts of the globe; it retained its American fanbase. In 2017 its popularity begged us to ask the question “Is the Toyota FJ Cruiser already collectible?”
With high-mileage cars fetching in excess of $30,000 today, the answer is a resounding yes.
Ripe for a restomod
The FJ Cruiser was Toyota’s way of giving a second life to the FJ40, but resto-modders all over the U.S.A have had other ideas. By adding luxury touches and up-to-date infotainment, and improving refinement and performance, they’re creating even more desirable FJs than Toyota. At a price, of course.
California’s Icon 4×4 offers the FJ in four different forms, from the short-wheelbase FJ40 through the longest FJ45, with the entry point at a cool $195,000. For that money you do get a 6.2-liter LS V-8 to replace the original (most likely diesel) four, or six-cylinder, motor, however.
It’s a similar story 300 miles north. At FJ Company, a Heritage G40 will set you back $200,000, but you get a four-liter Toyota V-6 under the hood instead, which you can supercharge should you feel the need for speed.
Time Warp Customs of Georgia took FJ modding to the most logical conclusion by combining a 1974 FJ40 with a 2008 FJ Cruiser. The chassis, running gear and even the whole interior comes from the Cruiser with the FJ40 body somehow dropped on top.
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