Not pictured: Gary’s ute
Gary lives out in the bush, way out west. He wears Akubras, and his skin is rough and tanned from years under the hot Aussie sun and a rather stubborn refusal to follow the “Slip, Slop, Slap” sun safety ads. At the end of a long day of work, he likes to sit on his verandah and crack open a cold one. I see him out there as I drive up the long, dirt road to his house. I’m here to ask him about his work ute, a 70-Series LandCruiser. Gary swears by Toyota.
“How are ya, Gary?” I ask.
“Wouldn’t be dead for quid,” he replies, offering me a beer. I ask him if he plans on getting another LandCruiser, seeing as his current one has 400,000 kms (248k miles) on the odometer.
“Mate, I’ve been drivin’ LandCruisers for 30 years. I’ll prob’ly be drivin’ this one ‘til I cark it.”
While driving through his small country town, I saw a lot of four-wheel-drives. They were almost all 70-Series LandCruisers like Gazza’s or like these ones I photographed back in the city—Australia is the biggest market for these after the Middle East and Africa. Additionally, there were plenty of the more modern 200-Series models and the smaller but still eminently capable LandCruiser Prados (related to the North American Lexus GX). His town is full of HiLux utes, too, as well as a handful of the HiLux-based Fortuner. The latter is the only Toyota truck in this Toyota-mad country to be struggling. And we are Toyota mad—the Japanese brand has a whopping 18.2% market share, well above runner-up Mazda with 9.8%.
Toyota offers a wide range of 70-Series LandCruisers in Australia: single- and double-cab utes (we call all pickups ‘utes’ here), the 7-seater wagon, and the 11-seater Troop Carrier. All of them have a live axle suspension front and rear and use a 4.5 turbo diesel V8 with 202 hp and 317 ft-lbs. There’s only one transmission available, a 5-speed manual.
“It’s a bit Spartan inside, isn’t it?” I ask Gary as I peek through the window.
“Spartan? Well what the bloody hell else do you need in a work ute? I don’t need all that fancy shit like touchscreens and arse warmers. It was 40 degrees here yesterday!” He chucks me the keys. “Go on, give it a burl.”
The Troop Carrier
I turn the key and I’m greeted by the pleasantly gruff rumble of the V8 diesel. Looking inside a 70-Series LandCruiser, or just looking at its sheetmetal, is like looking back in time. That’s because these off-roaders look basically the same as they did when they launched in 1984. Don’t let that fool you, though: these have received improvements along the way, including the aforementioned TD V8. Dual airbags were added a while ago, although Toyota saw fit only to pack in another three in the single-cab utesa couple of years ago . It wasn’t worth the cost to add them to the other variants, apparently.
Why’s that, you ask? Simple. The single-cab utes are enormously popular with fleets, such as those of the big mining companies. But owing to their workhorse status, precious little else has been updated inside the cabin. There’s no automatic transmission and you have to go up to the top-of-the-line models to get amenities as mainstream as power windows.
“There’s thousands of these utes just like her bein’ driven by BHP Billiton blokes,” Gary says. “But you notice somethin’ else when you go out to those mining towns. Lots of young blokes new to FIFO work, they start pulling in the big bucks and they go out and buy the Double Cab GXLs with all the chrome trim. Think they’re top shit.”
He puts his beer down so he can mockingly do air quotes. “Status symbol, and that.”
An older 70-Series is photobombing this one.
If that sounds like a certain brick-shaped German off-roader, think again. While the G-Class Benz is popular in the cities with the rich, the 70-Series seems to have little crossover appeal with urban and suburban folk. That’s where the Prado and the 200-Series LandCruiser dominate. Still, you’ll see the odd 70-Series around, such as this one down by a rowing club.
“Say you wanted to get a new 4WD wagon, Gazza. Would you get a LandCruiser as well?” I ask him. He pauses. “My mate Rod, he’s had a few [Nissan] Patrols. Reckons they’re alright. They don’t make the utes anymore, it’s just one big 4WD now with all the mod-cons. No diesel either. I don’t want to live at the servo!”
“And what else is there? A [Mitsubishi] Pajero, I don’t reckon they’re as tough as my Toyota.”
“What about Jeep?” I ask.
“Mate,” he says dismissively. “I wouldn’t touch a Jeep. Where the bloody hell are ya gonna get one serviced around here? Besides, the missus has a cousin in Kalgoorlie who got one of them Grand Cherokees. He says he’s had recall after recall. He got up the dealer about it, said he was sick of his poxy truck.”
He shakes his head in disbelief. “They said on the telly Jeep set a record a year ago. ‘Most recalls in Australian motoring history’. Look mate, the Yanks don’t know what’s what when it comes to building 4WDs.”
An older 70-Series
He continues, “Look around, mate. Nothin’ but Toyotas out here. There’s a reason for that. When others pissed off, Toyota kept makin ‘em. Ford had the Bronco, back in the day. Then they buggered off, brought over that shit heap Explorer years later. I think that was around the time Holden brought the Yank Suburban here, the thing was the size of a bloody barn.”
“Ford’s got those new Rangers, they say they engineered ‘em here.” He raises a finger in the air to make a statement. “I might consider one, if I was looking for a new ute.”
“There’s the wagon version of it too, the Everest,” I offer.
“Yeah, I’ve seen ‘em at the Ford dealer in town. But really mate, a 4WD isn’t what I’d be after. All I need is a ute, it’s just me and the missus out here.”
“Holden has their Colorado and TrailBlazer, too. And Isuzu’s D-MAX and M-UX are the same underneath.”
“Yeah, Isuzu makes good trucks so I reckon their utes wouldn’t be half bad,” he replies, dragging out the first syllable (“Eye-sue-zoo”) as Aussies do.
He looks wistfully at his loyal truck. “But I’m happy with my Toyota. It’s built like a brick shithouse. And ’bout the only thing as good off-road as these are the Wranglas and, well…” he trails off.
“And a Wrangler is a lot cheaper… What, around $20k cheaper? I mean, you don’t get a tray or anything, not yet anyway, but still. A brand new single-cab 70-Series like yours, you’re looking at $65k” I argue. “That’s a lot of money.”
“Yeah but I’m not goin’ around trading in my ute every three years. And you get what you pay for. It’s a tool. It’s a work horse. I’ve had mine for 10 years now, I reckon she’s got another 20 in-a! Mate of mine up the track, his LandCruiser’s got 650,000 kays on the clock. Still tickin’. He’s real crook, poor bugger’s probably gonna croak soon. His truck’s gonna outlive him. Someone will buy it, and I reckon I’ll see it around town for years yet.”
That’s when it all clicks for me. People, for the most part, don’t buy these trucks because they’re the most comfortable or the most affordable. They don’t buy them because they’re status symbols – well, except for some cashed-up miners – and they don’t buy them to keep up with the Joneses. The 8000 or so of these sold in Australia each year are sold to people who see them as being an utterly dependable, reliable, trustworthy tool. And for the private buyers, these Toyotas will be counted on for many years of faithful service.
I bid farewell to Gary the larrikin as I get back in my car. He watches me as I electrically adjust my seat and then put my car in reverse, the infotainment screen displaying an image from my car’s back-up camera. He chuckles. “You wouldn’t last a minute out here, mate. Go on.”
He’s right. And the 70-Series LandCruiser was never a truck built for me.
CC Capsule: Mitsubishi Pajero & Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3-Door – The Shorty Lives
Curbside Classic: 1965 Toyota FJ Land Cruiser – The First Toyota Sent Out To Conquer The World
This reminds me of a question posed to me by my 93 year old grandfather two days ago. When you have a job to do would you rather use a race horse or a jackass? If you’re bleeding you’ll likely use the race horse. For all other things, you’ll want to use the jackass. It’s not fast or exciting but you know it’ll pull through for you.
It sounds like Gary, the very wise man, figured this out long ago.
🙂 Loved this, thanks.
Good find on that mid-wheel base FRP top (as distinguished from the Bundera, SWB and LWB variants). They were desirable once but now are as rare as the turbo diesel Daihatsu Rocky.
Oh, I should ask what Gary thinks of those Foton Tunland thingos – they’ve got Cummins power, just like ACCO rigids and Kenworth prime movers, so they must be good, right?
A great read, Will. The world needs more Garys. And more of the kinds of cars and trucks that those Garys would buy. Now get the hell off my lawn.
Great article! Had me laughing all the way through! Interesting to hear a perspective not often heard now – that of a person buying a “ute” for work and not interested in the bells and whistles.
I also didn’t know about all the Jeep recalls in Australia – interesting.
“… the thing was the size of a bloody barn.” — too right, mate! I think that’s why they have the Yukon/Tahoe, so they’ll fit in a garage (assuming it’s used for vehicles).
Nothing like dinkum Aussie banter.
Well, now we know what vehicle to rent when we visit the Sunburned Country: A Toyota Series 70 Land Cruiser Troop Carrier. It looks like the legitimate offspring of a long wheel base Land Rover and an FJ Land Cruiser. It has a V8 Diesel, manual transmission, and it is even (sort of ) brown! That would get us there and back. If it had a GPS monitor, it could probably be programmed to speak American, but I don’t think it has one, so we don’t have to worry about that.
Tell it like it is, Gary.
Just a great piece of writing, William. This a conversation you could have anywhere in country Australia, and the lingo is as if verbatim (“And verbatim I will quote it, Clancy’s gone to Queensland drovin’ and we don’t know where he are.” [Clancy of the Overflow]). Folks need machines for survival, both in their work and even literally so, if far outback enough. A tough, stainless tool.
By god, they must be whopper profit units for Toyota, a 30 year-old car that as the most basic cab-chassis sells for $60K. The 4 door with tray and a few extras in your opening shots is not far off $100k new. The V8 is the newest tech in them, and it’s a good ten years old by now. But they do FEEL like a quality device to drive, outdated though that experience is.
As tools, they do have one gigantic fault, and a pox on Toyota for it. The lack of safety kit is a disgrace. I’m quite surprised the mining unions haven’t insisted on the equipment, and Toyota would be forced to oblige, even if it meant something like a new roof on the (very) old structure. Tough as they are, they’re also tall, narrow and have a mountainous CoG, far from impossible to roll while doing 120km/h on dirt when a patch of bulldust is struck.
The very successful head of Toyota Aus was once asked years back how Toyota got away with charging so much for options, and he replied “Mate, if we could get away with charging for the air in the bloody tyres, we would!” A fair point when everyone wants or needs your product, but when it comes to putting lives uneccessarily at risk as now, I reckon your mate Gary might just say that that sort of behaviour is ugly as a hatful of arseholes.
Land cruisers have always been easy to roll over either at high speed into a mud or dust hole or at low speed on a steep hillside, one will quite simply not follow a Landrover on a side slope, but the Tojo will get you home again where a Jeep will leave you stranded too far from a dealer for repairs,
Does Jeep have a warranty that covers all of Australia yet? When that city car the Cherokee was introduced the warranty area was quite small, certainly not the vehicle for an extended trip around the bush, but theres a Toyota agent pretty well anywhere you might need one, Mitsubishi not so much my Sis and BIL spent a week in Alice while the main dealer there sourced a AFM for their diesel Pajero not all bad they got a rental to cruise around in while waiting, But wanna go bush in Aussie and come back? get a Landcruiser.
I’m convinced Jeep’s reputation in America has nothing to do with reliability; it’s a religious cult like Harley Davidson. I’ve even seen bumper stickers declaring “Real Jeeps have round headlights” or “Silly boy, Jeeps are for girls.” You can’t argue with attitudes like these.
A couple of long term quality sites (TrueDelta and Dashboardlight) would indicate that the Wrangler is not too bad. My sister has had a few Jeeps and the only one I would have been disappointed with myself would have been the diesel Liberty (2005 ish) that had a heart-stopping bill when the turbo went bad. The 93 Cherokee Sport was a very good car and her new Wrangler Unlimited has been very good (though only about 15K miles so far) as well. Probably not into Toyota territory but well ahead of some domestic competition.
I have seen so many problems with the 3.6 Wranglers in service, I’m amazed constantly that people aren’t talking more about it. I guess it’s a Jeep thing.
Failed fuel pumps, TIPMs just out of warranty, oil pumps, transmissions, steering gear, oil leaks at 50k from valve covers and heads… Absolutely amazing. But, they are wildly popular, growing in popularity, and the owners are absolute die-hards. And you can’t really buy anything else like it in the US.
Maybe Toyota surveys find that Outback Aussies, if they disregard do-gooder campaigns against skin cancer, show as little interest in vehicle safety as well. I suppose doing anything in the Outback is already high on the risk scale, such as getting stranded.
BTW, last I checked at a US dealer, a [very different] J100 “KruiseLander” with “All the Fruit” was stickered at US$81K. By comparison, the Sienna was under half that, so Toyota seems in no hurry to discount these Road Warriors.
Some people buy vehicles for status. Some people buy vehicles for their styling. Some people buy vehicles for driving performance.
But I’d wager that the vast majority of worldwide car buyers just want a vehicle that meets their needs and isn’t in the shop every 5 weeks.
And that’s why Toyota sells jillions of vehicles worldwide every year. Real or perceived, their reputation for reliability makes Toyotas sell themselves.
Now You Know Why Is So Popular Down Here.They Keep Going&Going&Can Be Driven On 2 Side Wheels Without Suffering Any Kind Of Damage To The Suspension System.You Can Watch Some Videos On YouTube About How They Drive Them On Side Wheels While A Bunch Of People Are Switching Tires On other side.
The modern-day equivalent of the Land Rover Defender.
Actually, the Defender name came along in 1991, six or seven years after the introduction of the 70 Series Land Cruiser. The “Series” Land Rover did convert to its final, coil-spring form a few years before the name change, so in fact both vehicles originated around the same time.
I’m with Gary!
What a delightful batch of eye candy. The 4Runner I drive is probably my last truck. At 220k miles It’s just broken in and with a bevy of trailers to pull behind there isn’t much it won’t do. Hasn’t been stuck in the pasture since I learned how to use the 4wd. Some of the stuff in this post would get me out of it and that’s saying something. V8 Diesel, be still my heart.
Lovely to have an article written in my dialect! 🙂 I may not speak it myself, much, but I hear that all around me every day. The voice of real Australia!
Really nice piece. For sure I’d love to drive (and own) one.
In 2012 I took an extended trip Down Under, starting in Sydney, then Melbourne, Great Ocean Road to Adelaide, and then straight up through the middle of the country to Alice Springs, over to Uluru, and finishing in Darwin. Those Land Cruisers seemed particularly common farther north around Darwin. With the snorkel, of course. As I understand it they can get some pretty serious flooding in the “Top End” during the rainy season, so I imagine that snorkel is actually necessary.
The snorkel is also useful on unsealed roads, to take in cleaner air above the dust.
This was some fantastic writing, Will.
I loved this view into a part of the world and other perspectives I would never have otherwise experienced. Thank you.
The old boys in the backwoods are the smartest of all.
This reminds me of a lot of the old farmers around the village here in Ontario where I grew up. Except instead of Toyotas it was GMC pickups. Not Chevrolet’s for some reason but GMCs. Mostly dark blue or green, six cylinder, three on the tree. Tailgate long disappeared, some with the box literally held together with rope but still doing the once a week town trip.
These were the guys I liked talking to when they came into the old man’s gas station. Their views of the world came mostly through the windshield of that old truck but man they knew that world well.
Thanks for the memories Will.
The other brother William.
That’s what continuous product development and a nation-wide dealer net gets you. Others (International, Land Rover and Jeep) used to make such vehicles but either stopped altogether or went into the “lifestyle” market. The Mercedes Benz G (really the Austrian Puch G) in my view is just as good but is even more expensive and – downunder – obviously does not have the same dealer support as the Toyota. Here in Austria you see them advertised, sometimes with stupid mileages on the clock (although we are now getting low-mileage ex Austrian army ones too) and they are very much cherished by farmers/foresters/emergency services. The Mitsubishi Pajero is indeed another possible alternative and I don’t think less reliable but again, presumably it does not have as good a dealer support as the Landcruiser.
Also Toyota really treats the LandCruiser as one of their flagship products. My uncle had a HJ75 ute (non-turbo diesel) from the 1980s and after about 400k thought it was time to look at a new one, even though it had no issues other than going through batteries faster than usual. New LandCruisers were a good deal more expensive than the GQ Nissan Patrol ute he bought and the Nissan dealer made a poor trade in offer so he kept the LandCruiser too and it is still used on the farm 20 years after that.
He still has the Patrol too, although he put a turbo on that one.
Toyota did mess up with the 4.5 TD V8 initially, but I gather it is ok now. Also I don’t know that some of the mines buy them any more due to the lack of 5-star safety rating.
The only thing missing here is the Vegemite toast. Loved the whole pure unadulterated Strayan. Nice piece.
The 70 series Land Cruisers have become popular grey imports in the US as well. In my area there is a double cab, a troop carrier and a station wagon in regular use. Plus I’ve seen dealer adds for some double cab fire engines.
Same around here, though registering post-1975 vehicles in California is a little tougher if they’re gasoline, the diesels have some other loopholes which make it easier. The irony is that these Stateside 70’s are popular with urban residents who like to explore, not rural farmers. I got a brief off-road ride in Canadian-spec short wheelbase, 4 cylinder diesel 70 about 20 years ago. It was impressive, even more so because it actually seemed quite modern compared to the FJ40’s it was with.
These are currently sold in Canada for “off road only” use as a mining truck. They are usually heavily modified for this with roll bars/cages, fire extinguisher mount, flag/light pole, etc. They go underground and on mine property above ground.
Another one I. Issued first time around. Or maybe I just skipped it because I’m pretty familiar with these vehicles, which as some others noted are gaining more popularity in the US as import and registration restrictions expire in some states. Either way, I missed a true “Best of” CC’s great writing and history combined.
I wonder if these rigs (along with the older Patrol, in particular) would have been as popular in Australia if there had been a competitive local equivalent. The first FJ Land Cruisers were imported to the US in the Pacific Northwest as a Jeep CJ competitor for tight logging access. But by the Fifties, we had rugged domestic pickups here, unlike the predominately car-based utes in Australia, and as 3/4 and 1 ton 4wd versions increased in popularity for work use throughout the western US (similar terrain to parts of the Outback) there was no real need (or cultural desire) for a Toyota equivalent, even after Japanese cars, and even the Datsun and Hilux trucks, were becoming popular for suburban and recreational use. The reality is that the American 3/4 and 1 ton diesel 4wd truck fills exactly the 70 Series’ role in the US. The icing on the cake is that Gazza’s American counterpart has the choice of three brands, depending on preference, upbringing, or local dealer.
Ford were selling the F-series in Australia from the start up until the early 90s, and then again in the early 2000s, they and GM did 4×4 pickups in the late 70s, not sure about Dodge but they also sold full-size pickups here. IH had 4×4 half-tons here too from the late 50s I think.