Nowadays only a lazy automaker has no SUVs or crossovers in the range. Unfortunately, the wolf picture often hides sheep that sometimes don't even have all-wheel drive.
Lovers of honest all-wheel drive are desperate too soon. There are still some real SUVs around the world that carry the "old school" genes.
I asked the guys from the FJ Company in Miami to visit to learn the secrets of the Toyota Land Cruiser restoration that was released 40-45 years ago.
Conquered but not broken
Post-war Japan was in ruins, but Toyota didn't give up trying to build its own SUV. Toyota BJ was born in 1951 and even unsuccessfully attempted to win a tender to supply cars for the needs of the American army.
As a result, this model was given the name Land Cruiser, which we all know well today. In 1955 the 20 series appeared with an option that was rare at the time – the air conditioning system. In 1956, the Land Cruiser became the first model officially exported from Japan. Starting from Brazil and Saudi Arabia, the model quickly gained popularity worldwide. 1957 Toyota again unsuccessfully participated in a tender for the US Army, which however gave the model access to the US market.
The next generation was the 40th series car, which quickly gained popularity in the United States. In 1960 the SUV acquired a diesel engine and a little later the models FJ43 and FJ45 with longer wheelbase and even larger displacement FJ45V and FJ55V appeared as well as a pickup version.
In those days, Toyota established itself as a manufacturer of indestructible cars. The 3.9 liter F-Type engine had legendary reliability and was able to “run” up to a million kilometers with ease. Toyota later upgraded this engine and a larger version (4.2 liters) and power with a 2F index appeared.
It is the engine type that defines the letter F in the model name, and J – means "Jeep", which at that time was not only a trademark but also an SUV type. The FJ40 was produced in Japan from 1960 to 1984, but the model was so popular that its production in Brazil continued under the name Bandeirante (translated as "pioneer") until 2001.
Come from childhood
The history of the appearance of the FJ Company is rooted in the childhood of its founders – the Calle Brothers. They were born in Colombia, where the original FJ40 served and still serves as a workhorse for all occasions.
Her grandfather Nelson only changed two cars in his life and both were Toyota FJ40. The first was published in 1968 and the second in 1982. The brothers plunged into the back seat of Toyota's grandfathers for a total of 30,000 hours, who could only think about their worldview.
Nelson Calle. One of the founding brothers.
When the grandfather died, the brothers and their cousin decided to restore one of the cars to its original state. The result was so impressive for one of the brothers that he decided to buy the car and take it to his home in Miami, and relatives continued the company. This is how the company for the restoration of classic Japanese SUVs came into being.
Today, FJ Company has headquarters and a workshop in Miami (USA), a restoration workshop in Bogota (Colombia) and two representative offices in the American cities of Dallas and Aspen.
At the Miami office, I was greeted by Kate Ennis, Sales and Purchasing Director. He is a real all-wheel drive fan and, in his spare time, an active driving instructor in the classic American Porsche Club.
Kate is a real car enthusiast. Once he met the Kalle brothers at one of the car showrooms. The result is an entire group of companies that restore and sell classic sports cars and SUVs.
FJ Company is able to restore up to 120 SUVs a year. A car takes about 5 months. When asked if there were enough donors, Kate said the company did not consider this a problem. Tens of thousands of cars drive around the world, so that the “raw materials” for work remain for many years to come.
The company's main production is in Colombia, for several reasons. First, as we already know, the Calle brothers come from Colombia. Second, the Toyota FJ40 is very common in this country, which means that it is easy to find mechanics who are familiar with this car. The dry climate in the middle of the country helps keep the cars in good condition for many years.
In this condition, the car comes into the workshop
Colombia is not the only country from which cars are delivered. Toyota Land Cruiser has been very popular around the world, so rare versions can be found in the United States, Japan, and even Australia.
Not all Toyota in Colombia are in this condition. The company offers well-preserved specimens.
Right down to the last screw
The restoration begins with the search for a suitable preparation that has to meet certain requirements. The machine should be made in Japan, have minimal corrosion, the entire frame, the original engine and the transmission.
This is a real restoration
The company not only sells finished cars, but also restores on order. The customer can provide his own car.
The work begins with a complete dismantling of the car. The frame and all body parts are cleaned to bare metal. All parts are sorted and discarded.
The engine, suspension and transmission are fully disassembled, including the front and rear differentials. If the part cannot be restored, but is replaced by a work or an analog from another manufacturer. By default, all bearings, gears, seals and rubber bands are replaced with new ones.
The engine receives a new carburetor (or injector), a new starter, pumps (oil, water, fuel), electronic ignition and wiring. Every detail of the engine is cosmetically restored, making it look like new.
The braking system is being upgraded. Disc brakes appear in the front. At the request of the customer, a suspension from the Australian company Old Man Emu can be installed.
All chrome parts and molded parts are completely restored to the factory condition. The underbody is coated with a Rhino Liner anti-corrosion coating to protect it from dirt and snow.
FJ Company produces carpets, door panels and soft roof parts independently. The color is selected strictly according to the color scheme of the manufacturer.
A car can either be completely original or modified. Options such as power steering, disc brakes, air conditioning and a stereo system help to adapt the FJ to everyday use.
Every customer has a photo report of what the car was and what it became
Each customer receives a name book that reflects all stages of recovery. When I picked up the first of them, I noticed that the "donor" from 1973 was in very good condition before the restoration, but this has no effect on the actual process.
FJ Company is proud that the company has never violated the delivery time in 5 years and that the price is set once and for all at the time the contract is signed.
The company has competitors that also transport cars from Colombia and even have offices in Miami. Their prices are lower, but according to Keith, those who want to save should understand that this will certainly affect quality.
As a rule, cars don't last long in the FJ Company's office. They either come to the workshop or are shipped to the customer, but usually they all go through a short run-in to make sure there are no defects.
I managed to do one of these test drives on the FJ40 gray with a 2F engine, output of 130 horsepower. The look of the car causes strange feelings. I knew intellectually that the car was the same age as me or even older than me, but the condition was that it went off the assembly line yesterday.
Isn't that a new car?
Everything, including plastic elements, technology plates and even screws, in perfect condition. Once in the cabin, I started to think that even the smell is related to cars of the last century. Modern cars smell very different.
Kate noticed my surprise and joked that this car might look even better than when it came off the assembly line.
The 4-liter engine growls ominously, although the performance characteristics are modest. Short gears often have to be changed, which requires active manual work. For particularly lazy people you can order a car with a "machine".
The strong forward-moving front axle in combination with suspension makes driving a small “load” that you quickly get used to. The presence of air conditioning allows you to drive with the windows closed, but in our case I still wanted to open the windows for some reason.
In Miami, it is difficult to surprise passers-by with an expensive, but perhaps rare, car. Our route ran through the Wynwood area, where an advanced audience lives – solid dancers, designers and artists. The appearance of the FJ40 on the street met with real interest. Some Rolls-Royce would not even have been noticed.
The price list for overhauled vehicles ranges from 65,000 for the basic version of the Classic with manual transmission and convertible top without air conditioning to 90,000 for the sport version with 210 hp engine, air conditioning and stereo system.
If you want to choose all possible options, the rarest version costs $ 150,000. The prices include everything from the search and purchase of a donor car to its complete restoration including all parts to delivery to all parts of the USA.
United States customs law is a paradise for retro car lovers. In almost all states, you can import any car that is older than 25 years without certification requirements and with minimal customs fees.
With Russia everything is more complicated. The car must be at least 30 years old. It will be necessary to confirm the original condition of the car and pay customs fees that will increase the price by $ 30,000. After a long agony you become the owner of a real "crook" with the legendary name Land Cruiser FJ40.