NOTE: This section is responsible for most of the delay in getting this version of the FAQ out for two reasons. First off, there is some very interesting research I was hoping to include, but it didn't come together the way I'd hoped. The other reason is that some of the information is not as well referenced as it should be (I only have secondary references for the Jeep stuff) If you feel that I've somehow slighted you by missing a reference, don't worry, I'm working on them. You can speed things up by dropping me a line. On with the show...
Trucks played a pivotal role in the history of the Toyota Motor Company. In most cases, the Land Cruiser was the vehicle that carried the Toyota banner into new markets. However, a complete history of Toyota requires a look at the man whos company provided the capital and inital production facilities necessary for the founding of the Toyota Motor Company.
Sakichi Toyoda was born in 1867 in Yamaguchi, Japan. He had dedicated his life to the invention of an automatic textile loom. In 1907, he formed Toyoda's Loom works, a company that by 1930 had grown into the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works (TALW).
Although he shared the inventiveness of his father, Kiichiro Toyoda did not share the fascination with looms. Instead Kiichiro dreamed of building automobiles. In March 1930, he began to build a prototype engine in a corner of the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works factory. By January 29, 1934, Kiichiro had made enough progress with his engine design that TALW established an Automobile Department. The first engine, a 3.4l I6 dubbed the Type A was completed in September 1934. The first complete automobile prototype, the Model A1 was completed in May 1935.
Due to restrictions on the domestic automobile industry, Kiichiro decided that would be better to focus on the production of trucks. As a result, the first prototype Toyota truck, the Model G1 was completed on August 25, 1935.
In July 1936, it was decided that the cars produced by TALW would be marketed under the name "Toyota." The name was chosen because it sounded better than Toyoda, the katakana characters used to represent it were more asthetically pleasing and consisted of eight strokes, a lucky number, and because the character was similar to the one representing growth. The Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. (TMC) was formed on August 28, 1937.
The Koromo Plant was officially opened in November of 1938. This plant would later become known as the Honsha Plant--the site of LandCruiser Production. The first vehicle produced at the new factory was the Model BM truck. A version of the 75hp engine used in this vehicle was to become the first engine in a Land Cruiser.
In 1941, the Japanese government instructed Toyota to produce a small, easily manoueverable truck that could be used in the expansion of their Pacific empire. In response, Toyota delivered prototypes of the 2-ton AK-10 in 1942. Unfortunately, it proved too cumbersome so production of light transport trucks was left to Nissan. No examples or photographs of the AK-10 vehicle exist. The only evidence of the AK-10 is a rough sketch. The truck featured an upright front grille, flat fenders that angled down and back like the FJ40, and headlights that mounted above the fenders on either side of the radiator. It had a folding windshield, and the cowl comes straight down to the floor. The rear tub does not exist as such, instead, there is more of a stake-sided bed. The spare tire stands vertically on the inside of the back wall of the bed on the driver's side. The pumpkins have the familiar offset and look to be similar in design to the Land Cruiser 9.5" and have a 6 wheel-stud pattern. Most of the driveline of the truck was from the model BM truck.
The AK-10 arrived 1 year after the initial MA1 General Purpose was delivered to the U.S. Military by Willys-Overland. The first shipment of MB "Jeeps" didn't arrive in the Pacific until 1943. As a result, it was highly unlikely that Toyota had seen a Jeep, never mind copied one. The Land Rover Series I did not arrive on the scene until 1949 so any influence on the precursor to the Land Cruiser is impossible.
TMC struggled throughout World War II. It was conscripted into making aircraft engines and tried to continue producing trucks with what little raw materials were available. After Japan's surrender in 1945, Toyota was allowed to begin production of trucks to aid in the rebuilding of Japan. By 1947, production had begun on the Model BM truck and the Model SB small truck.
In 1950, the U.S. military filed a special procurement order for 1000 4wd vehicles to be used in the Korean War. Unfortunately, at this time, I am unfamiliar with what the exact terms of the procurement order were. However, here are the requirements that led to the Willys-Overland MA1:
1. It must have a load capacity of 600 pounds
2. The wheelbase must be under 75 inches
3. The height must be under 36 inches
4. The engine must run smoothly from three to fifty miles per hour
5. It must have a rectangular shaped body
6. It must have a two speed transfer case with four wheel drive
7. It must have a windshield that folds down
8. It must include three bucket seats
9. It must have blackout and driving lights
10. Gross vehicle weight must be under 1200 pounds (Conley 1981, 20)
Toyota responded with a prototype of the Model BJ on August 1, 1951. Its characteristics were as follows:
1. Load capacity? Unknown
2. 94" wheelbase
3. Height? Unknown
4. Engine runs smoothly from three to fifty miles per hour
5. Rectangular shaped body
6. Single speed transfer-case
7. Folding windshield
8. 2 bucket seets and rear bench
9. No blackout lights
10. Gross vehicle weight of ~3000lbs.
There is very little correlation, considering the BJ has been accused by some to be a copy of the Jeep. The specifications are different because a completely different philosophy was employed in the design of the BJ. The Willys had been designed to be as light as possible, using an engine with roots in automobiles. Because of the low torque characteristics of the engine, a two-speed transfer case with extra gear reduction was used to allow passage over rough terrain. The BJ, on the other hand, was created using components from 2 and 4 ton trucks. The torque from the 6-cylinder B-85 engine did not require the extra gear reduction. Instead a 4 speed transmission with a 5.53:1 first gear was employed to get a little more low- end grunt.
The vehicle was dubbed the "Toyota Jeep," possibly as a result of the wording of the U.S. Army's procurement order. Fortunately, the right to the "Jeep" name was owned by Willys who forced Toyota to choose another name. On June 24, 1954, the name "Land Cruiser" was chosen.
In 1954, the first Land Cruisers were exported to Pakistan.
In 1955, 23 Land Cruisers were exported to Saudi Arabia. The vehicles proved to be wildly popular and exports grew steadily.
On Feb 21, 1956, the first two Land Cruisers were exported to Venezuela. These were quickly followed exports to Burma, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico.
Toyota entered the African market by sending Crowns and Land Cruisers to Ethiopia. Because marketing proved difficult with the large number of languages spoken in Africa, Toyota was forced to adopt the sales technique of driving a sample vehicle all over Africa and dealing direct with potential purchasers.
The U.S.A. was somewhat different in that in 1957, it received two Crowns before any Land Cruisers. However, the Crowns were found to perform poorly at the higher speeds of American Interstates. Toyota was forced to halt passenger car importing in 1960, leaving only the Land Cruiser to bear the company's name in the United States.
Toyota did not make the same mistake in Australia. The first vehicles sent there were Land Cruisers. They arrived in July 1959, and were marketed by Theiss Sales as commercial vehicles.
Toyota began to market the Model DA60 truck, its first powered by a diesel engine, in March 1957. However, brand loyalty was strong in Japan so Toyota was forced to establish links to Hino Motors, a diesel truck manufacturer. Hino would later provide the B and H series diesel engines used in Land Cruisers.
In May, 1959, Toyota do Brasil began Land Cruiser assembly in Brazil. This was the first case of knock-down kits being assembled outside Japan. Land Cruiser assembly started in 1963 in Venezuela, 1970 in Indonesia and Pakistan (although Pakistanni production was terminated in 1986), and 1977 in Kenya, and 1982 in Bangladesh.
Toyota's first exports to Europe were to Denmark, in 1964. That was quickly followed by exports to Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Greece, and finally, Germany.
It was not until 1964 that Toyota came to Canada. The first vehicles imported were the Crown, Land Cruiser, and Publica. The Publica proved to be unsuitable for the Canadian climate and was quickly withdrawn; however, by 1971, largely on the strength of Land Cruiser sales, Toyota had become the number one import brand in Canada.
Throughout the history of Toyota, it was the Land Cruiser that led the way into new export markets and proved Toyota toughness.