The Toyota LandCruiser is due to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the company’s first heavy-duty off-roader on 1 August 2021 – prompting fresh speculation the all-new 300 Series could be unveiled on this date, though some industry insiders believe it could be sooner than this.
On social media the former chief engineer of the Toyota LandCruiser has been counting down the days to 1 August 2021, however it is unclear if this is a personal celebration of the 70th anniversary – or a hint about the unveiling of the new model.
The current-generation Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series is due to go out of production in the coming weeks after a 14-year run.
After the shutdown, the Toyota factory in Japan that manufactures the LandCruiser is understood to undergo a tooling changeover for the new model, a process said to take some months.
Normally, Toyota would have built-up enough stock for showrooms to carryover to the new model without interruption.
Above and at the top of this story: an artist impression of the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series. Styling is still unknown as it has not been spotted uncamouflaged at this stage.
However, stronger than expected demand in the wake of the coronavirus crisis means most Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series being built in the coming weeks are already spoken for and likely to be delivered by the end of April 2021 – creating a blackout until the new model arrives in the second half of this year.
Based on the timing of the 200 Series production coming to an end, there was unconfirmed speculation the new Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series would be unveiled before the middle of the year – to circumvent spy photos appearing from the assembly line, holding yards, or while vehicles are in transit.
However, there is now speculation 1 August 2021 could be the big day given it is the 70th anniversary of Toyota’s heavy duty four-wheel-drive.
Toyota’s first off-road vehicle, the BJ, went into production on 1 August 1951 after adapting a design of the original Willys Jeep.
In 1950 the Korean War put US-made Jeeps “on the doorstep” of Japan. As historians tell it, the US government tasked Toyota to manufacture a localised version of the Willys Jeep.
In January 1951, Toyota created an off-road prototype called the “BJ”, the name referring to Toyota’s “B” engine and “J” for Jeep.
Compared to the US-made Willys Jeep, the Toyota BJ prototype was based on a one-tonne truck chassis with a slightly longer wheelbase, better suspension articulation, and a more powerful engine – though the vehicle had no low-range gearing.
Toyota’s “B” engine was a petrol-powered, water-cooled inline six-cylinder (3386cc) unit with a claimed output of 63kW and 215Nm. By comparison, today’s Suzuki Jimny off-roader extracts 75kW and 130Nm from a 1.5-litre engine.
Six months later, Toyota test driver Ichiro Taira drove the BJ prototype to the sixth of 10 checkpoints on the 3775-metre Mt Fuji – higher than anyone thought possible in a four-wheel-drive at the time.
Impressed by the feat, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (and National Police Agency) placed a large order for 289 vehicles – to use as their official patrol car – but later backed off on that number.
This allowed Toyota to sell the vehicle overseas, earning valuable foreign currency and carrying the Toyota name to other countries.
The LandCruiser name was not given to Toyota’s off-road vehicle until June 1954.
Toyota technical director Hanji Umehara came up with the new name so the vehicle would be viewed as a competitor to Britain’s Land Rover – even though the badge had been used on the US-made Studebaker Land Cruiser, which was sold from 1934 to 1954.
Today, LandCruiser is Toyota’s longest continuously-running nameplate (1954), ahead of Crown (1955) and Corolla (1966).
The first LandCruisers in Australia were imported by a small Melbourne-based distributor called B&D Motors.
Among Australia's first LandCruiser customers in 1958 was construction magnate Sir Leslie Theiss, who bought several for use on the rugged construction site trails of the hydro-electric tunnel in the Snowy Mountains.
Impressed by the vehicle, Sir Leslie became the Queensland and, later, New South Wales distributor for the Toyota brand.
Toyota celebrated 60 years of operations in Australia in 2019, after acknowledging the 60th anniversary of the first official imports of Toyota vehicles into the country by Thiess Toyota.
In 1959, Thiess, a subsidiary of construction company Thiess Holdings, and owned by the aforementioned Sir Leslie, became the official Queensland distributor for Toyota commercial vehicles – making Australia the first official export market for the Japanese brand.
Since then Toyota has sold an estimated 1.1 million LandCruisers in Australia, including 70 Series, 200 Series, LandCruiser Prado, and their predecessors.
In September 2019, when LandCruiser eclipsed 10 million sales worldwide, deliveries in Australia exceeded 1.065 million vehicles – representing 10.6 per cent of the global tally.
In the meantime, the countdown is on for the 2021 Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series.
As previously reported, Toyota is yet to confirm which engine or engines will power the new model.
However, there is widespread unconfirmed speculation the V8 turbo diesel will be replaced by V6 turbo diesel power and, eventually, the option of V6 hybrid power.
Dealers say reports about the end of the line for the LandCruiser V8 – as well as more Australians holidaying at home – have contributed to the spike in demand.
Sales figures for 2020 show demand for the LandCruiser increased by 9.2 per cent in a year that saw a market slump of 13.7 per cent.
In December alone, demand for the Toyota LandCruiser wagon more than doubled compared to the same month last year (up 128 per cent), which exhausted stock that was meant to carry the nameplate well into 2021.