The Toyota Land Cruiser is an off-roading icon. The original J40 series trucks came to North America in 1959 spreading its worldwide gospel of Toyota reliability. While it was replaced in 1980 on our shores by the J60 series, and went out of production in Japan in 1984, it lived on in South American production until 2001. These first-generation vehicles with simple and durable engineering are a great choice for many off-roaders but are becoming pricier and harder to find, with every day that passes. The 50 years of continuous Brazilian production means there is a massive and more affordable supply down south.
In Brazil, where it was assembled, The J40 was badged as the Bandeirante
, a name coming from the Portuguese word for the slave traders and mineral hunters who mapped and explored much of the nation in the 17th and 18th centuries. While first assembled in Brazil in 1959 through pre-assembled knockdown kits, the Brazilian branch of Toyota began assembling the vehicles using locally made bodies in 1962.
These first Land Cruisers used a 4 liter V6 that put out 110 HP and took over 30 seconds to get to 60. This big engine was found to be too thirsty for the Brazilian market and 1961 brought forth Land Cruisers with Mercedes diesel engines as standard. The Mercedes OM-324 is a 3.8-liter engine making 78 HP and 142 lbs/feet of torque. Despite being less powerful than its gasoline predecessor it was well received for its extreme durability, reliability, and support from the large network of Mercedes-Benz truck dealers in Brazil.
It stuck around until 1973, with the time in between being filled by the gradual additions the many Land Cruise body-styles. The only unavailable body is the four-door pickup, which was not put into Brazilian production until 1999. The new OM-314 engine brought fuel injection, 85 HP and 173 lbs/feet of torque.
Until 1978, the four-speed gearbox on the Bandeirante had unsynchronized first and second gears. So this made for a lot of crashing and unpleasantness. Thankfully this was replaced with a much more modern unit for 78.
A two-door pickup was added in 1983 along with a headlight redesign that used a style exclusive to the Bandeirante. A new, more informative, gauge cluster was added in 1985 and two years later the brakes were improved somewhat. This makes 1987 and 1988, arguably the most desirable years for the Bandeirante because 1989 brought a new black plastic grille with sealed beam headlights. This eliminates that classic style that debuted in 1959, but at least retained the capability and durability that made this truck so popular.
For 1990, once again the latest Mercedes diesel engine was added, this time the 90 HP, OM-364 that at 4 liters in size, made 195 lbs/feet of torque.
These Mercedes-powered vehicles are renowned and loved for their low maintenance requirements, as revealed from a translated article
from the Brazilian magazine, Dinheiro Rural. “This vehicle does not need maintenance. Since I bought my Bandeirante in 1984, the car has gone more than 300,000 km, but very few times I had to take it to the mechanic. Spending is only with diesel fuel and tires," says Mark Dominic, who owns a 1976 Toyota, used daily to carry coffee.”
The upgrade added for 1993 made it the user-friendly Bandeirante yet. A five speed manual gearbox was the new gearbox and the fifth speed acted as an overdrive. For the first time ever it was feasible to maintain speeds over 60 MPH. This year also marked the addition of standard power steering, a bigger fuel tank, at 17 gallons, better brakes and a more stable suspension setup.
In 1994, the Mercedes engine was replaced with a more emissions friendly unit. The Toyota 14B engine that is made in Japan has 96 HP but with only 3.6 liters, it only made 177 lbs/feet of torque. This year also marked the addition of badly needed front-wheel disc brakes.
By 2000 the Bandeirante’s days were numbered. Brazil had lifted its ban on the import of non-Brazilian made vehicles in 2001, flooding the market with competition. The Toyota 14B could not meet the new emissions laws that would be in effect in 2002OT was decided to close down the Sao Bernardo do Campo factory in November 2001. All in all 104,621 Bandeirantes were made in Brazil. The closing ceremony was held on November 28th with the 500 employees in attendance.
The same September 2008 translated article from Dinheiro Rural shows how badly these vehicles are missed with a quote from a mechanic. “Today, we do not have a vehicle that meets our needs.” The closest vehicle is the Defender from Land Rover but it is drastically more costly.
If you are now desperate for one of these durable trucks, TLC 4x4
, in California does occasionally source them. You can also just go down to Brazil and get one. An enthusiast site
in Brazil has classifieds and lists them anywhere from $25,000 to over $60,000. This is still likely cheaper than buying in the US. So how badly do you want an 11-year-old, first generation Land Cruiser? How far will you go for something that will take you literally anywhere on Earth?
For even more info head over to Best Cars
Brian 89 4x4
and Marcelo Brown