FJ Cruiser
Click here to return to my Toy Tech Homepage
Click here to return to my Homepage
Last Update: March 30, 2006
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is Toyota's latest off road offering to the North American car market.   While I do not
own one, I've been interested in it, since the first pre-production prototype was introduced in 2005.   It's been billed
as Toyota's modern version of the famous FJ40 Land Cruiser and one of the best off road machines out there.  

The purpose of this article is to give a brief history of the FJ Cruiser from concept to full production and examine
those claims in technical detail.   

Ever since the concept was first introduced in 2003, the FJ Cruiser has evoked controversy from hardcore Toyota 4x4 fans.   It
all starts from the very name itself.   A sort of misguided attempt at aligning the concept with the most famous Toyota Land
Cruiser in America, the FJ40, for which serves as a basis for the FJ Cruiser's retro design concept.   

The term FJ as applied to this new concept, has puzzled many, because it doesn't make much sense.  When originally applied
to the FJ40 in 1960, the F designated the type of engine, which was an F series 6 cylinder, loosely based on an old American
design.   J is thought to have originally stood for Jeep.  Toyota couldn't use the term Jeep when it introduced its first Land
Cruiser in 1950, because it was trademarked, so they evoked the term in a different way, by implication.   The term FJ,
continued beyond the 40 series, and was used in every Land Cruiser that carried an F series gasoline engine, from the 55,
60, 70 and even the first years of the 80 series.   Land Cruisers that were equipped with a diesel engine during that period,
typically used a B series diesel and were thus called, BJ40s, BJ60s and BJ70s.

The term FJ, should have died a proper death when the last F series 6 cylinder was produced in 1992, but instead, more than
10 years later, the term was revived and in my opinion somewhat inappropriately, by Toyota executives, in a misguided
attempt to associate the new concept with the original Toyota Land Cruiser.

But controversy didn't end with the name.  It continued when it was learned the FJ Cruiser concept would have an IFS
suspension, low profile tires, 4 doors and an extremely controversial body style.  But after all, this was only a concept.  Toyota
made it clear, there were no plans to produce this model, and most hardcore Toyota off roaders, simply laughed it off.
The original FJ Cruiser concept, first introduced at the 2003 Chicago Auto Show.   The final production version, introduced 3 years later would differ substantially from
this concept, while still retaining the basic body styling.   Jin Kim is the designer of the body and was billed as a 25 year old (in 2003) wiz kid, who lead the exterior
design team.  in reality, the body design has so many faults that the future success of the FJ Cruiser will likely be despite it, rather than because of it.  However, one can
hardly fault Mr. Kim as it was his task to design a wild concept that drew on cues from the FJ40.  In that regard he succeeded.  At the time, it was never intended to take
the FJ Cruiser into full production.  The fault lies with the Toyota executives who decided to enter full production with very few changes to the original body.

The original specifications for the FJ Concept included a supercharged 3.4 V-6 making 250 h.p., 20" wheels and 33" tires.
It may surprise some, that the original 2003 FJ Cruiser was never intended to reach full production.   It was intended to gauge the off road oriented
SUV market and young buyer market to see if there really was an interest in this type of vehicle from Toyota.   The response apparently stunned
Toyota.  The public not only loved it, but clamoured for more.  Apparently taken by surprise, Toyota executives, otherwise extremely conservative,
decided to go ahead and produce the FJ Cruiser, surprisingly, retaining much of the overall original exterior design.

However, as with most concepts, there would need to be many changes for a full production model to be reasonable easy to product and cost
effective.   The biggest noticeable design change was the interior, almost none of which comes from the original concept, although hints from the
original dash can be seen in the final production version.    Other changes include the drivetrain and chassis.

In an age, where Toyota had begun delegating design and especially production of it's models outside of Japan, including especially America, the
FJ Cruiser is unique.  Toyota elected to retain most of the design and almost all of the production in Japan.   This was likely due to the fact that the
chassis design would be heavily based off of the 4Runner and Prado which were already being built in Japan.

Very little of the FJ Cruiser's drivetrain and chassis are brand new designs.   in fact, most of the parts are lifted off of other Toyota production
models.  However, thankfully, they are all heavy duty parts and deserve some serious respect in their own right.  

The frame is based off of the overseas Land Cruiser Prado and is a fully boxed heavy duty design, very similar to the 2003 and later 4Runner.   The
front/rear suspension/axle also comes from the Prado/4Runner.   The 4 liter V-6 engine was first introduced in 2003 on the 4Runner and later
found itself in the 2005 Tacoma, before coming to the 2007 FJ Cruiser.
The 5 and 6 speed auto/manual transmissions were introduced in 2005 on the Tacoma, 4runner and Tundra and the manual transfer case
comes from overseas Land Cruisers.   The rear locking differential is one of the oldest features, this type first introduced in 1995 on the Tacoma
for this axle size (8" rear diff).

In 2005, Toyota made the official announcement that the FJ Cruiser would go into full production and unveiled the finished product at that year's
Chicago auto show, the same place the original concept was unveiled 2 years earlier.   From an exterior point of view, it was hard to tell the
difference between the concept and production model.   Most notable outside differences were more conventional wheels and tires as well as a
much larger rear door.   Also gone was the rear sunroof and winches.
The production version of the FJ Cruiser was first introduced at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show, exactly 2 years after the original concept was unveiled at the same place.
These Toyota photos show the basic design of the FJ Cruiser that would take shape less than a year later in the full production form.   There are significant differences
between the concept and production model, most notably in the interior, but also on the body and chassis.   One thing of interesting note is that the off road oriented BF
Goodrich All terrian tires, have since given way to more highway friendly street tires in the full production version.  It also appears that Toyota elected to downgrade from
the original 33" tires to slightly smaller 32" tires.  Although, smaller, 32" is still significantly bigger than tires found on most production SUVs, trucks and other 4x4
While introduced in 2005, full production and availability to the buy public was still more than a year away.   But Toyota did something very unique
in the new car world.  They invited dozens of aftermarket companies to inspect, take measurements and examine engineering drawings of the FJ
Cruiser to assist them in developing aftermarket parts.    While most new models have to wait months or  years before companies can get their
hands on a production model, the FJ Cruiser had aftermarket suspensions, bumpers and other parts ready to go before the first full production
model reached the United States.

Production was slated to be a meager 40,000 units.  Toyota understands that demand will be high initially, but expects it to drop off over time and
settle to around 40,000 units a year.  It will be interesting to see how Toyota reacts if demand remains high beyond the first model year.   Could
this be the rebirth of Toyota into the off road market?   We'll see.

In my opinion, one of Toyota's biggest problems with the FJ Cruiser, is not it's strange body, or its IFS front suspension.  It's the marketing
campaign.   Toyota USA has gone to great lengths to tie this new SUV to the FJ40, all but claiming it's the FJ40 of the 21st century.    While the FJ
Cruiser has it's strengths, this is little more than an insult to the intelligence of FJ40 fans everywhere.   

Had I been in charge of the marketing campaign at Toyota, the first thing I would have done, besides modify the body is change the name, then
market the FJ Cruiser for what it really is and what it really, truly represents....a
mini-Land Cruiser 100.

The FJ Cruiser is exactly what Toyota fans have wanted for years in several important respects.  Its durable, simple, smaller, has extremely heavy
duty components and above all, is MUCH cheaper than a Land Cruiser 100, while retaining all the same Toyota quality and the same or better off
road capability.    Forget about the FJ40.  This thing is not even close to that legend, but FJ Cruiser is still a legend in it's own right.

The FJ Cruiser has features not found in most other SUVs and even Toyotas, sold in America.   The most important, but often most overlooked, is
the heavy duty fully boxed frame.    For more than 11 years, Toyota has ditched the heavy duty frame on it's U.S. Produced Tacoma and Tundra in
favor a cheaper, outsourced, Dana semi-C-channel design.   The heavy duty fully boxed frame has always been retained on the 4Runner and grew
even stronger on the new 2003 4Runner.  When Toyota produced it's mini-Land Cruiser models sold mostly overseas, they were all fully boxed
heavy duty frames.   The FJ Cruiser is based on one of these Land Cruisers called the Prado.   The version of the Prado the engineering is based
off of is actually shorter than the FJ Cruiser, so the frame was basically lengthened.   However, in the end, it's effectively a shortened 4Runner
frame.  Either way you look at it, it's heavy duty and it's one of the strongest frames on the market today, both in and outside of its class.
One of several ads that
began appear in off road
magazines touting the
engineering superiority of
the FJ Cruiser.  This one
has a clear view of the
Land Cruiser Prado based
frame that makes up the
new FJ Cruiser.
While considered the scourge of off roading, the IFS makes up the front suspension of the FJ Cruiser is actually quite a durable design.  It's
essentially the 4th generation of Toyota's 4x4 IFS suspension design.  The first was introduced in 1986 on mostly North American pick-ups and
4Runners and including a heavy duty torsion bar double A-arm design with a conventional ball steering.   On road handling was decent, but it
shined the most off road.   Not because of it's meager articulation, but because of it's extreme durability.   It was so well designed, that Toyota
chose to continue it's production on overseas models for more than 20 years only finally being replaced by the 3rd gen suspension on the 2006
and later Hilux trucks.

The 2nd generation IFS was first introduced in 1995 on North American Tacomas and in 1996 on 4Runners throughout the world.  The basic
double A-arm design was retained, but the coil springs replaced the torsion bars and the load bearing was moved from being exclusively
concentrated on the upper A-arm to being shared between both the upper and lower A-arms.
This designed proved to be better handling on the highways, especially when combined with the new car like rack and pinion steering.  However,
the rack and pinion would have a number of problems over the years that showed up during extreme off road use including easily worn bushings
and tie rod ends.

By 1997, Toyota planned to finally dump the solid front axle on it's full size Land Cruiser flag ship and set about to design an all new IFS
suspension.  This would be Toyota's 3rd generation IFS, but would remain exclusive to the Land Cruiser.  It included double A-arms and torsion
bars, but the load bearing was concentrated on the lower A-arm.  It was essentially a reversal of the '86 truck/4runner IFS.   While the torsion bars
now hang lower and could subject to off road damage, this was a stronger design for a vehicle that was expect to exceed well over 3 tons loaded
and the torsion bars were still protected by the frame rails.  While rack and pinion replaced the conventional ball steering, Toyota elected to move
the rack up high, and position the steering in the same location as the 1st generation IFS.   

The latest 4th generation suspension, now featured on the FJ Cruiser was first introduced in 2003, on the 4Runner.
It essentially used a similiar design to the 2nd generation, whereas double A-arms and coil springs were used, but parts were beefed up.  The
steering system was largely copied from the Land Cruiser 100 and relocated the upper front of the suspension.  However, the biggest difference
and improvement over the 2nd gen suspension it replaced, came when the 7.5" ring gear diff was replaced with a larger 8" diff and the front axles
increased from 1.1" diameter to 1.3".  While the Land Cruiser 100 also had an 8" diff, the design was entirely different and unique to that model.   
The next model to see the 4th gen suspension was the Tacoma in 2005 and then the Hilux later that year when both models separately
redesigned.   No front locker is available in the FJ Cruiser and in fact no front locker has been available on any U.S. Toyota since the demise of the
Land Cruiser 80 series in the U.S. in 1997.

The FJ Cruiser is now the latest model to use this new and proven suspension, steering and axle system.   While the 1st and 3rd generation
torsion bar suspensions may be stronger in terms of pure durability, the new design is much improved in terms of coil spring suspensions and
including a larger diff, axles, than the 1st and 2nd generation and a stronger steering system than the 2nd generation,  it replaces.

The rear axle and diff is actually the oldest part of FJ Cruiser and dates as far back as 1985, when Toyota first introduced the 4 link coil spring
suspension on the Toyota Bundera Land Cruiser.   Although, the current axle and suspension has been much improved since then, the latest 4
link design most closely relates to the 2003 Toyota 4Runner and includes the same 8" ring gear, center pumpkin axle.   The available electric
locker dates as far back as 1993, when the design was first introduced in the Land Cruiser 80 series.    The type of locker/diff used in the FJ
Cruiser most closely relates to the type first introduced in the 1995 Tacoma.  
One of several ads that began appear
in off road magazines touting the
engineering superiority of the FJ
Cruiser.  This one shows the front and
rear diffs and axles.   The FJ Cruiser
has 8" diffs both front and rear, but the
front is IFS, while the rear is a solid
axle.  The axle shafts are both 1.31"
front and rear.   A locker is available for
the rear, but not the front.
This Page is still under construction.

More photos, pictures and information will be forthcoming

in the future.

2003 Concept Links


2005 Production Concept Introduction


Pre-Production Reviews and Test Drives

coming soon

Full Production Reviews and Test Drives
Return to my Toy Tech Homepage

Return to my Main Hompage
Copyright © 2006 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved.
Note:  Some photos and information contained here is copyright by the original owners.