The Spearhead of Foreign Expansion
Since just right after Japan's recovery from the war and its aftermath, Toyota already had future visions to export its domestic vehicles overseas. These forward-thinking Toyota employees knew just how important the Land Cruiser was to take this large step forward into further making their dreams a reality.
The Toyota Crown was first released in Japan in the mid-1950s when Toyota was working fast to build a domestic sales network to handle the demand. It was in such circumstances that from 1956 on, as part of Toyota's strategy the company decided on what was called the Land Cruiser strategy for foreign markets. Given the fact that its performance could hold its own against rival models such as the Willys Jeep and Land Rover, Toyota decided it was the right time to expand in foreign markets, and whenever the opportunity presented itself Toyota was there with the Land Cruiser right out front. The Land Cruiser helped Toyota establish a bridgehead, and the idea was to follow with sales of passenger cars.
In this way with expansion into foreign markets, Toyota gained competitive strength by making the necessary changes and improvements through model changes, thereby effectively extending its export sales channels. Whereas the BJ-type Land Cruiser was originally built for military use, its design in time was modified to serve industrial expansion in peacetime, partly for the purpose of stimulating domestic demand for Toyota vehicles. Then in 1955, alongside production of the BJ-type Land Cruiser the 20-series made its debut.
At first, the B-type engine that was installed in the BJ25 was produced alongside the F-type gasoline engine (3,878cc, 105HP) that went into the FJ25, for which the prototype had been completed in 1948. When the B-type engine was phased out of production, leaving only the FJ-type. The wheelbase on this chassis was made a bit shorter, and the drive power improved, the 3-plate springs were replaced by 4-plate springs developed for the Crown (the BJ-type Land Cruiser had 9-plates), thereby making it a more comfortable ride.
The engine in the early model FJ20 was an F-type engine with a compression ratio of 6.8 and an output of 105ps. However, by the later models in the series the compression ratio had increased to 7.5, and the output to 125ps.
The FJ25 was positioned as the standard of the FJ20-series for the domestic market, but in all there were 10 variations available from FJ20 through FJ29. There were two variations on the wheelbase, 2,285mm and 2,430mm, and along with the FJ26, 27, 29, and others, there was also the 4x2 Land Cruiser made for the National Police Agency. In 1958 the wheelbase was extended to 2,650mm, and a van body FJ35V was introduced.
After the increase of demand during the Korean War, Japanese automakers were invited to bid to meet further demand for military vehicles by supplying the U.S. Army Procurement Agency in Japan (APA). For this reason, in 1957, test vehicles supplied by Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi, ranging from compact to large-sized trucks were gathered at the Aberdeen proving ground on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland for a comparative test run. This test was overseen by Toyota Chief Engineers Inagawa and Iritani. The result of the test run was that the Toyota 750kg capacity truck (2FQ15L) and the 2.5-ton capacity diesel truck (2DW15L) were adopted for procurement.
The performance of the FJ25L was not bad, but unfortunately it was fated to not be selected for procurement. However, by this time the superiority of the Land Cruiser had been acknowledged by the U.S. military, and as a confidence builder, this was all that was needed to convince Toyota that the time was right to expand in the American market.