A Cheerful Orange FJ Is Still The Perfect Toyota For Actually Going Places
Photography by Daniel Piker
It’s rare to find a modern car that can provide a really “visceral” driving experience, as they say, but the solution to the pampering and swaddling of our contemporary automotive options does not always have to take the form of an old sports car. As those of us lucky enough to have experience with this kind of thing know, driving slow cars fast can be more fun than trying to tame something that’s too powerful to allow full exploration of the tachometer in a gear that isn’t first. You don’t even need to drive the slow stuff that fast to have a good time, either.
The wonderful FJ40 pictured here is quite frankly outdated from an equipment point of view, but the reason for wanting something that gets death wobbles on the highway was never going to be a pragmatic one—Then again, how could you call this workhorse of a 4×4 anything else? It’s certainly not opulent.
Marty Pattin, the current owner of this 1973 FJ40 Land Cruiser, took the truck home in late February of last year and has been loving it ever since. He purchased the Toyota as a project, and while it ran (roughly, barely), getting it back to its potential was a task he was eager to take on. The top, doors, windows, weather stripping, and interior were also been completely disassembled when he took ownership, but this was less a hurdle and more an opportunity—you just need the right state of mind.
During the FJ’s previous ownership, it had undergone a full frame-off restoration, having all the rust chopped out and new panels welded in the spaces left behind. The frame and running gear were coated in POR paint and sealer, the underside, interior, and exterior of the body was sprayed in a single-stage paint called Pollux Orange. The running gear was all refreshed as well, the hubs were rebuilt, a new brake system was installed, the transmission and transfer case and clutch were fully rebuilt, and all new bushings and shocks were swapped into the suspension system. The Cruiser was also completely rewired.
Powered by Toyota’s F engine, a famously dependable 3.9L inline-six with lots of usable torque, the power at the top end leaves something to be desired if you’re used to performance cars—this Land Cruiser has a 0-60 time of “Maybe,” and can barely reach freeway speeds if there’s a hill or a headwind, but this was never what the FJ was designed for. Highway commuter this is not. Take it out on some mountain roads, onto the beach, or through the woods, though, and you’ll find where its element is.
“I’ve already driven it a lot in my ownership. I am a big proponent of driving what you own and I like to share that with others. In the last six months I have racked up a little over 5,000 miles, mostly daily driving, along with a few road trips and weekend adventures mixed in. Toyota is known for their stoutness and reliability, and this Land Cruiser definitely lives up to that!” says Marty.
When you first get into the car, you notice that there is nothing extraneous in the cabin, the light cast through the curved rear window creating complex patterns on the spartan dashboard. Only the bare essentials are visible: one speed for the windshield wipers, a few heating knobs, and a simple gauge cluster to let you know how far under the speed limit you’re traveling. The dash pad was only put in so you don’t smash your forehead into the metal should you stop quicker than usual, and the lap belts are, well, they’re there.
Starting the car up can be an adventure on its own. After a few prayers and a couple putt-putts that didn’t come to fruition, the FJ started up and we headed out for the shoot amongst the pines. As we cruised over the pothole-pocked gravel service roads of the Pacific Northwest, the Cruiser demonstrated its ruggedness. Manual steering makes you work at slow speeds but gives the right feedback, but the four-wheel drum brakes and leaf springs in each corner are not ideal, but the simplicity is why you buy this instead of one of its younger relatives in the Toyota truck lineage. Marty sat and bounced on his seat unfazed as we hit pothole after pothole, just chatting about the car, all while carrying the biggest grin on his face.
“I really enjoy sharing my automotive passion with others, and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Land Cruiser so much. Even freshly washed in the car show parking lot, it just sparks wanderlust and adventurous ideas. You can know nothing about this car or cars in general, but when you see an FJ like this you instantly know what it’s for.”