As a Japanese copy of the famed WWII era jeep and with origins dating to the Korean War era, Toyota launched the FJ40 series utility vehicle in 1960. Official importation to the U.S. began in 1963, and within two years the FJ40 Land Cruiser was hands down the best-selling Toyota in America. Cosmetically, the FJ was essentially the same truck until it went out of production in 1983, barring minor trim tweaks; however, it saw a gradual progression of functional improvements and upgrades over the years, shifting from being a bare-bones rock hopper to a commensurately equipped modern SUV 30 years ahead of the curve.
The FJ40 was available as open-bodied or fully enclosed two-door wagon, or the longer wheelbase FJ45 could be had as a two-door or four-door wagon, in addition to a two-door pickup (although they were rarely sold in the U.S. due to the 25 percent “Chicken Tax” on light duty cargo trucks). The FJ45 gave way to the FJ55 in 1967, which for all intents and purposes was the birth of the modern Highlander—a truck-based, fully styled wagon with an emphasis on comfort over utility.
As FJ40s reached the secondary market, it became very common for owners to take on engine swaps, most notably by replacing the FJ’s stock six with a small block Chevy V-8. The Chevy engine certainly yielded more power, but Toyota’s six-cylinder was essentially a reverse-engineered 235-cid Stovebolt six Chevrolet engine that was indestructible. This is part and parcel why stock power trains will continue to pull big money—few are left versus a fleet of retrofits.