Curbside Classic: 1999 Toyota Mega Cruiser – Quite The Hum(mer)-Dinger

I had to close this “JDM Rarities Week” with a whopper, and I trust this will qualify. Amply so, in fact. We’re talking about a vehicle with a 3395mm (133.7 in.) wheelbase, that is 2170mm (85.4 in.) wide, standing at over 2.05 meters (6’8’’) tall and weighing in at a hefty 2850kg – by far the biggest SUV (if you can call it that) ever made in Japan. It’s also, in this civilian version, one of the least common Toyotas in the country.

We’ve already seen the canvas-topped military version of this High Mobility Vehicle in some detail thanks to Jim Brophy, who happens to live close to the Hino factory where these were (and still are) made. They are seen on the road occasionally – I caught this one in north Tokyo a couple years ago. The military ones are still in production, but the civilian ones were only available from 1996 to 2001.

And they weren’t cheap. In fact, once you paid all the extras and tax, these cost over ¥10m at the time, which was a good half-a-mil more than then-new V12 Century. For that, you got a lengthened second gen Hino Type 73 AWD medium truck chassis with a turbo-Diesel engine (155hp 4.1 litre 4-cyl., upped to 170hp in 1999), three transfer cases, inboard brakes and independent torsion bar suspension all around. Not to mention looks only an NCO could love.

Because of its extreme length (over 5 meters, which is ‘70s land yacht territory) and width, there were concerns that the Mega Cruiser might not be able to fit or manoeuvre about certain Japanese roads. The width is certainly an issue that cannot be addressed, but to increase the monster’s ability to take tight turns, Toyota provided it with four-wheel steering.

It’s not just the Mega Cruiser’s size, scarcity or price that make it out of the norm. this might be the only vehicle in existence that features five windshield wipers – three up front, two in the back.

Four people can fit in the back, though the middle two seats can fold down to increase cargo space. After all, you never know when you might need to carry a few surface-to-air missiles or turn the vehicle into a field ambulance.

No middle seat in the front, but you do get a couple of cupholders and a passenger cigar lighter in that massive console. Sheer luxury.

Here’s a better view of the pilot’s POV, taken from the brochure. (Yes, Toyota went to the trouble of making a 14-page full colour pamphlet for this thing!) It’s surprisingly snug, up here. And decidedly utilitarian, for a $150k vehicle. Well, there were a few nice touches: four-speed auto was the only transmission option, A/C and power windows were standard and you did get a radio / tape deck (or the optional CD player) to try and cover the noise of the big Diesel four.

According to the brochure (and the web in general), the only colours available for your Mega Cruiser were white and blue. Which leads me to believe that our feature car has been repainted.

And it was a good call – it looks even more menacing in black. It also looks like the bumper got replaced and some extra lights added. Lights with a message, too!

Subtle. Shouldn’t that read “Mega off roader,” by the way?

So this is the widest, longest and most-wiped Toyota ever, but it’s also a really rare sight in this civilian trim. Sources do not all agree on a precise number, but the range of 130-150 units is the consensus. That’s total production, over six years. The other question is who bought these when new. They were mostly reserved for official/work use (especially as an all-purpose/rescue/ emergency vehicle) for various local government entities, the military and the Japanese Automobile Federation. That’s where one can find ones of these today, as used ones can get auctioned off from time to time. But they have now become very valuable, chiefly due to their scarcity, on the second-hand market.

For all the technology, rarity and oddity of this thing, it really makes absolutely no sense to have one stuck in Tokyo. I’d be hard pressed to find a vehicle less suited to the narrow streets of the Japanese capital (though I did find one, which I hope to bring to you soon). It’s also undeniable that the Mega Cruiser is plainly a copy of the HMMWV / Hummer H1 – more so than most of the numerous military AWD trucks made around the world. I guess AM General should feel flattered.


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CC Outtake: Japan Self Defense Forces BXD10 High Mobility Vehicle (HMV) – HUMVEE Via Toyota, by Jim Brophy