The hardest question for me to answer. There is never one solid answer. It will vary depending on my mood, a price range, location, practicality, the weather, and did I mention my mood? So if you were to ask me this question today, and then ask me again in a few days, chances are the answers will be different. Oh, and by car I don’t mean a sedan. It could be a truck, car, SUV, and yes, sometimes a van.
But then sometimes I’ll come across one vehicle that speaks, and pulls ever so hard at my heart, that I know immediately that this is the one. And that how can anything else compare? This right here is what I will have. It’s what I should wish for. It’s what I want. Ladies and gentlemen, here it is:
The Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60. Built in the 1980s. It’s about as powerful as our Ford Focus station wagon, but slower. Let’s talk some specs, ok? This example had 257K miles on its odometer. It has crank handle windows. It has a long stick coming out of the floor to row your gears and a smaller shorter shaft to change your 4-wheel drive modes. The modes are normal 2-wheel drive, normal 4wd (called 4 Hi in the business) and low-range 4wd (4 Lo). No fancy push buttons here. And before you can actually put it in 4wd, you have to get out, go to the front wheels, and engage the 4wd hubs/diff lock. Then get back in, put the normal drive gears in neutral, then shift into 4wd. Oh, and you probably couldn’t go faster than 40 mph in 4wd. If you were in 4 Lo, then you can only go at a crawl speed. One more thing, it wasn’t recommended to leave the hubs locked permanently since then it would increase the rate at which your front hubs would wear down. It didn’t have independent suspension cushioned by coil springs, but instead a leaf spring suspension setup, which is basically what horse drawn carriages have used since the dawn of… er… horse drawn carriages. You will feel every single bump on the road. You might actually be more comfortable on a horse.
So why all this desire for this? It doesn’t have the prettiest of faces. Looks somewhat lame instead macho/rough n tough. It’s not going to get you anywhere fast. But, it will get you anywhere. And with all that space behind the front seats and with the roof rack, you could also live anywhere you want. But the main reason I want/dream of/desire/wish for this model range of Land Cruiser is because of Zambia and one of my earliest memories of bundu-bashing was in this model.
Our good family friends Beth and Jordan (who have lived the most amazing lives ever) had this type in a brown sand-like color. The 2nd farm house we lived in had this one particularly bad stretch of dirt road that became this deep, churned, sticky mud pit which was the venus flytrap of anything without 4wd. During the rainy season and before we got ourselves a 4wd pickup, we had to take the long way around from our house into town. But in Beth and Jordan’s Cruiser, this was not necessary. Remember what I mentioned about getting out of the vehicle to “engage the hubs”? A distinct memory I have is just that action. I was sitting
bitch in the middle on the backseat on the way to our house when we got off the paved road and started on the dirt road. I remember Jordan coming to a stop, putting the car in neutral, pulling the handbrake and getting out of the car and moving towards the front wheel. I then saw him stoop down, disappear out of sight, and then come back up and walk over to the other side. I think I asked my dad what he’s doing, to which he (probably) replied “locking the hubs.” Why yes, of course, as a 8 year old kid, I should have known.
Jordan gets back in, moves the short gear lever into 4 Hi and then the main gears into first and we’re off. Well, it being a bad bumpy (remember, leaf spring suspension!) road, it’s not exactly a sprinting start. We reach the really bad mud section and without skipping a beat Jordan just pilots the rig right into it.
If you’ve never had the chance to go bundu-bashing through mud, it’s a great sensation of being out of control but at the same time in control. The car will slide and slip and face another direction but move in a different one while during all this you’re spinning the steering wheel all over the place. Forget your 10 to 2 position from driver’s ed. There’s no dramatic engine revving since you actually don’t want to spin the wheels and floor the “Go” pedal, but rather just steady it through in one constant speed. You floor it and pray when the movement and direction of the car starts taking you towards a tree. Some people might get nervous, some car sick, and if you’re an 8 year old obsessed with cars and mud and cars in mud, then you’ve just formed an imprint. We just went through it like it was nothing.
Welcome to all that is glorious about the Toyota Land Cruiser sonny-boy (That unfortunately neither my dad or Jordan said to me, but I think it may have been God that whispered it).
And then poof, here I am, back in present day, as a 30 year old, in this parking lot in North Carolina. That whole memory replayed in my mind and just like a movie everything had disappeared around the Land Cruiser and I was sitting in Jordan’s Cruiser going down our dirt road. I now stood in the parking lot, just looking all around it. It’s in great shape. Someone is obviously taking care of it. There’s no “For Sale” sign on it and if there was, I’m not sure what I would have done. I took this photo, and again just stood there, imaging it what it would look like in our driveway. Picturing Beth driving this thing around. I know she can handle old 4x4s pretty well:
In fact, she drove that Jeep really well. And looked so good doing it. And it’s so rustic and connected to so many memories… wait, what did I just say my dream car was? 😉