For those looking to waste some time reading, here is a long winded story of me getting a new machine. If you don’t have time, I bought a 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser and couldn’t be happier, yay me. Here is a picture for your time. Thanks, and have a nice day.
I had been wanting an interesting machine for a while, but didn’t know exactly what kind. I bounced between thinking about sports cars, fast wagons, muscle cars, and slowly narrowed in on an adventure capable machine. It took some influencing, but after helping a buddy prepare his rig for a journey, and seeing the fun he had with it, I knew I needed something that could do the same. I started looking at Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Jeeps, and other SUVs, but nothing seemed quite right. Something was missing from each of the options.
In early 2018 I had picked out the Land Cruiser line, and hadn’t decided between a 60 or an 80 series. It did not take long for me to fall in love with the style of the 60, so that was it. I decided the 60 series Land Cruiser was the thing for me.
Months of research and hunting followed. I searched all over Canada, had some promising leads, and some absolute rust buckets. I’m based in Ontario, but ended up on an extended assignment in BC. It is actually really extended, I flew out in August and am still here, likely until early November. I had packed for a week.
I took advantage of being on the west coast and expanded my search down into the states. Again, I had some promising leads, this time without the severe rust I had become so used to seeing.
I got to test drive a BJ60 in Canada, with the 3B diesel inline four, and five speed manual. It was a fun experience, to drive a tractor disguised as an SUV, but the amount of rust was frightening. The body was definitely not “good” as the seller described it. It was rough, inside and out, and missing a tonne of metal.
A diesel was what I wanted, but finding a Canadian truck without significant rust was difficult or extremely expensive. Having the option to get a cleaner truck from the west coast of the states was too good to pass on, despite that limiting the selection to mainly gas. Fun fact, Canada officially got two diesel variants of the 60 series Land Cruiser when they were new, while the states got none.
I was lucky to get to do a road trip with my dad, all the way down from BC to southern Oregon, only 20 miles or so from California. We tested a Chevy V8 and auto swapped FJ60, belonging to a forum member. I would have bumped his sale thread since he’s a great guy and the truck was cool, but that wasn’t necessary since it sold days after.
We then checked out one with the stock 2F gas inline six and a four speed manual. Due to the long day of driving, we actually arrived after dark to see this one. I poked around it for a while with a flashlight, then we went out for a test drive with the seller, including some nice easy dirt roads and a bear sighting. I liked it already, so we got a hotel and returned the next morning to see it in the daylight.
While the V8 was great, and the swap well done, I decided that the 2F and manual fit the character of the vehicle better, at least for my use. I won’t be daily driving it, since my commute doesn’t involve driving, and I have enough fun going fast on race tracks with cars and bikes that I can live in the slow lane with this one.
We made a deal to buy the Cruiser that morning, and then I began planning the return trip to pick it up and get it to Canada. We had to drive back that day so I could get back to work, but could not bring the truck due to US export laws. As a good omen though, we saw a kitted out 60 series on the drive back to Canada.
The drive was around 12 hours, through the middle of Oregon and up through western Washington. Some really beautiful terrain that I would have loved to explore, given the time. Soon I will have the proper machine to use for that kind of adventure though, so that is a win.
We rolled in to Canada late at night, through a tiny border crossing that definitely appeared closed upon first sight. Sleep was good.
After a couple giddy days at work telling everyone who would listen about the awesome old truck I bought, the puck dropped. It was time to formulate a real plan to get the truck to Canada, and act on it. I did not have a huge amount of time, as the seller would be leaving for work in the coming weeks, and I was working six day weeks here. I had to make a long weekend for myself. Ask and (maybe) you shall receive. Step one done.
Research into bringing a vehicle more than 15 years old to Canada lead me to believe that it should not be difficult. Talking to other people I was working with about their experiences told me the same. The tricky bit was that all of the sources had slightly different information, so it took some time, and dozens of browser tabs open in different windows, to sort everything out.
One key element was the export requirement for the US. The paperwork had to be submitted 72 hours in advance, and I was concerned that they would need it delivered in person, by mail, or this ancient technology called fax. Luckily, and surprisingly, the export office allowed copies to be sent to them via email, and even sent an automated confirmation of receipt email letting me know the date I was cleared to export. Though, considering I got exactly the same automated email when I sent some questions before submitting the paperwork, that doesn’t mean much. They did end up answering my questions and sent a couple of helpful documents, and I believed that second automated reply email, since it told me what I wanted to hear. Step two done.
Next up was paying for the truck. I did not want to bring declarable amounts of cash across the border, and bank drafts just seem outdated, while still needing to be declared at the border. With help, a wire transfer was arranged and taken care of. Step three done.
The rest of the plan was simple: arrange for temporary insurance, make sure the truck would have a plate or permit, coordinate flights for two people from two separate small cities with limited flights into another small city with limited flights, pick up the truck, drive it through two states to the border, export, import, then pass safety inspection and register in Canada. Oh and pay taxes, because education, healthcare, roads, and so on, are good things. Step whatever done.
The seller was another great guy, and had no problems storing the truck for me at his house while I arranged the export paperwork. He even filled it up and dropped it off at the local airport for me with the keys hidden. I was so excited walking out of the airport to see my new machine, waiting there for me amongst a sea of anonymous blobs.
Now it was Saturday night and I had the truck. My export date was Monday, so I had time to drive up the Oregon coast with my dad. The first morning with the truck had us on the interstate for a bit, and I saw another white FJ60 in the opposite lanes. Cool looking things to see in traffic! Some kids in the back of a passing car clearly thought so, as they stared quite a bit at us in our Cruiser. As soon as possible, we headed off the main highway.
The Oregon coast is beautiful. I wish it wasn’t so foggy when we drove, but we still got to see some awesome scenery. I’ll have to return at some point. We avoided the interstate as much as possible, and enjoyed some winding back roads through Washington as well. There was one hilarious stretch of road that was lumpy and roll-y, twisting through a valley, and the way the machine lumbered through it just made me laugh out loud.
I discovered that the Cruiser was happy motoring along on the open road at what I thought was about 90 km/h, forgetting that the 33” tires definitely make the speedo read slow. I checked with GPS and found that my actual cruising speed was a little over 100 km/h. Fast enough for me. I did hit an indicated 110 km/h on a downhill stretch, likely about 125 km/h actual speed, but that was sketchy. A lot of extra noise and vibration, beyond the normal level for a 31 year old piece of heavy machinery.
For those that don’t know or haven’t googled it yet, the 2F engine is an old 4.2L inline six that revs to a stratospheric 4000 rpm, produces zero horsepower (the 3B diesel actually manages to make negative horsepower, go figure), and some amount of torque. Really, the mechanical sympathy redline kicks in a little over 3000 rpm, as things start to sound very hectic beyond that. No need to stress the old motor. Slow down and take in the sights, which is easy to do with the amount of glass and lack of thick pillars!
After an overnight stay near Seattle, we arrived at the border. Time to put on my serious border face, the one I reserve specifically for US customs officers. Actually, it is more of a “please don’t put me in a cell and search my butt crack for concealed documents” face, as I definitely do not want that to happen again. I was just trying to go to work that day, had been crossing daily without trouble, and had a work visa until they took it because I admitted to learning at work. Oh well. Pro tip, if a US customs officer asks if you learn at work, the answer is no, if you want to keep your work visa.
Following the directions in the document the export office sent me, we drove down the truck lanes and parked in a truck pull out. We walked towards the customs office, and asked some officers outside where to go. They asked where our vehicle was and I said I do not learn at work. Actually, they instructed us to move it to a closer area since it was not a commercial truck.
Other than that, the export process was smooth. Official export stamp attained. It was somewhat strange to walk across all the lanes of waiting traffic, directly in front of the customs officer booths, but nobody batted an eye both times.
The import process was easy, and I always feel infinitely more comfortable in the Canadian customs process versus the American one. The Canadian officer seemed somewhat interested in the Land Cruiser, complimented the drawers installed in the back, and asked a few questions about other trucks I was considering. Taxes paid, import stamps attained. The machine was Canadian now.
Once in Canada officially, and after some very tasty Chinese noodle house food, it was time to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island. On the way, an oncoming 80 series Land Cruiser driver waved to me, it felt even cooler than waving to other motorcyclists on the road when I waved back.
At the dock, the attendant in the booth asked if the vehicle was over seven feet tall. I honestly had not thought about it, but with the tires, the lift, and the rack, it wasn’t short. Luckily height was no issue, and I took the roof rack bars off as we waited anyway. I will eventually measure it.
The ferry ride was smooth, though became incredibly foggy. I went out on the deck and watched the sun set. Later, after dark, it was awesome to be outside as the fog rushed by and the ship’s horn sounded. It was incredibly refreshing.
The next morning, we took the machine in for its mandatory safety inspection. This would be the final hurdle before being able to register and plate it in Canada. It failed.
All hope was not lost, however, as everything was fine with it. The only thing missing was a DOT marking on the headlights. One of the previous owners had put halogen headlights in, and the lenses did not have a DOT marking. The shop sourced me a set of sealed beams, which I bought and took home. A few screws later, they were installed and we went back. Inspection passed.
Those headlights won’t stay in the truck for long though. The halogens will go back in for driving until I can order a nice set of absurdly priced LED units, which I have already picked out. All it needs now is a Canadian license plate, which will happen this week, or maybe has already happened by the time I finish writing this and share it.
So, all those words, and barely any details about the truck itself. Well, that just can’t be.
Starting with the basics, it is a 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser, the last year of the FJ60 generation before the facelift and update to the FJ62. It has the previously mentioned 2F engine, a 4.2L gas inline six, backed by a four speed manual transmission. This is old tractor levels of technology to me, and it feels like it.
It has a set of Old Man Emu leaf springs that give it a small lift, and larger than stock BFG All Terrain KO2 tires on some non factory alloy wheels. I may eventually want some steelies in the same style, with round holes, but the overall stance is perfect. Just beefy enough to stand out without being ridiculous like all the bro-dozers.
The interior is in amazing shape, with a little tear on the side of the driver’s seat. Super common on these, and nowhere near a deal breaker. The stock cloth is awesome. The simple dash is beautiful as well as functional, and I have already grown to love manual HVAC controls that you can tell are actually doing something. A new centre console with an armrest (luxury!) is on my wish list.
Brakes are disks in the front, and drums in the rear. They will stop the truck, eventually. In fact, after a few days of driving it, I nearly smacked my face into the steering wheel of my Chevy Cruze hatchback rental on first touch of the brakes. I had become so used to the amount of pedal travel and required force, that I forgot what modern brakes felt like and are capable of. Visibility out of the Cruze is atrocious in comparison though, so you win some and you lose some.
Speaking of points for and against, objectively, this is the worst vehicle I have owned. By nearly any metric, acceleration, braking, steering, ride comfort, NVH, fuel economy, safety, etc., it is terrible. But honestly, I could not stop smiling and laughing like an idiot while driving it. It is, subjectively, far and away the best vehicle I have owned.
The adventures with this machine are just getting started. It still needs a good nickname, though traditionally in my family it is my mum who seems to come up with the best ones, so time will tell. The next chapter in its story will be getting it from Vancouver Island to Ontario, and I can’t wait.