CRCCC: Costa Rica Curbside Classic Capsule Part 1

087 CR

To mark the beginning of our 20th year of marriage, Mrs DougD, the D kids and I returned to Costa Rica, the scene of our honeymoon.  Amidst all the surfing, zip lining, eating and swimming I kept an eye out for curbside classics.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Land Cruisers since imprinting on my uncle’s FJ40 as a kid, and back in 1997 I was surprised and delighted to see that Land Cruisers were everywhere. 

This time I found that the vehicular landscape has changed quite a bit, the only Land Cruiser I saw for days was this sad example.  We would walk by it several times a day on our way to and from the beach.


Behind that punched up face is either a very tired F series six cylinder gas engine, or a 3B four cylinder diesel.  Is that spot on the lower right of the grille where the Diesel script once hung?


Can anyone tell what year this one is?  FJ40s changed so little during their 24 year run that I can’t really tell.  The rounded grille surround (or at least the rounded place where it used to be) points at pre-1979.  The steering wheel and seats look more modern than than this 65 that Paul wrote up here.  So I’ll guess 1975.


When I shot these pictures I was thinking that this was the worst non-rusty FJ40 I’d ever seen.  So much of the truck is just…gone, and what’s left is beaten to within an inch of it’s life.  A newly installed brake line still has the store barcode tag on it so I think this one is still alive, or at least being worked on.  That being said I never saw it move during the week we were there.

Diesel 1200

Here’s a much better and more complete example I found parked along the road by the beach, so all is not lost.  Mrs DougD looks dressed for the part of beach FJ40 driver.

2Diesel 1200

This is a later model FJ40, definitely diesel powered.  Again I’m not sure what year, square grille surround equals 1979 or later.  Most FJs in Costa Rica seemed to be driven either by older Ticos (native Costa Ricans), or younger expats.  Given that this one was at the beach it came as no surprise to see it later being driven by a blonde surfer-type dude.  What a life 🙂

During one of our roadtrips I saw about 10 FJ’s, which is a lot more than I normally see in a day but still far fewer than I saw in 1997.

So is time the only reason for the attrition?  Well first off although Costa Rica has made some improvement in the amount of paved roads, minor roads remain dirt, and they are unfailingly punishing.  Vehicles get beaten into scrap, the only functional old vehicles I saw of any kind were either Land Cruisers or Land Rovers, and I saw several junkyards full of 1980’s Sentras and the like.

Second, the legendary status of the FJ40 has resulted in them being exported out of the country for restoration and resale.  Here’s the website of one such company I found:

If you want a Costa Rican Land Cruiser of your own all it takes is money (about $30k-$40k).

j60 1200

Unlike the FJ40, I saw this BJ60 Land Cruiser being driven every day.  In fact it took a few days for me to catch it standing still in the bright noonday sun.

This one is used as a real estate/concierge vehicle and normally has magnetic signs on the sides for advertising these services.

BJ60 1200

It’s been repainted flat black over the original white, which seems like an unfortunate choice in a country with scorching sun and 35+ degree heat.  I don’t think anyone has done a proper CC article on the BJ60, but this one won’t get the full treatment from me.  Really the only thing I know about them is that they were made from 1980-1989, and have similar mechanicals to the FJ series.  They are built for more space and comfort, but of course this diminishes the off-road capabilities as compared to the FJ.

LR 1200 (2)

Interestingly, I saw almost as many Land Rovers as I did Land Cruisers.  I hadn’t expected that, since I don’t remember seeing any in 97, and the Land Cruiser is well known as the vehicle that wrested bush supremacy from the Land Rover.  The surf shop we visited had a non-functional example out front as advertising.  This also looks 1975-ish.

It seems to have fared better that the lead Land Cruiser, not sure if that’s because the aluminum body is more resistant to ocean salt spray, or simply because the mechanical bits expired earlier.  Sitting out front of a surf shop is easier on the sheet metal than bouncing down a washboard dirt road.  Nonetheless I was glad to see this LR, it got a big grin from me, and from virtually everyone I saw walk past it.

That’s it for Costa Rican Curbside Classics, although you may have noticed the complete lack of curbs in the photos.  In the next installment we’ll have a look at the current crop of 4X4s in the country.