Sometimes you gotta go back, to move forward.


It’s 7:30 on a Friday. My wife is dropping us off at the airport. AJ has the clothes on his back. I have a (tiny) sling bag with some papers and a license plate. A new JDM Journey has begun.

But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind. To the actual past. (Try and keep up…)

I’ve been daily driving my SWB gen3 Pajero for almost 2 years, and in that time I’ve made many changes to it, trying to get it right. But little things were bothering me. Things that shouldn’t. Here’s my list of “irritations” such as they were. (I know they’re dumb, and sound like excuses from a spoiled brat)

-The cargo area isn’t big enough.
Well its a shortie, after all. If you wanted cargo space, why didn’t you buy a 4 door?
-The power driver’s seat takes a full 45 seconds to move forward, and thus the space behind it is inconvenient.
Its a three door, not a ONE DOOR, you lazy schmuck. Walk around to one of the other doors damnit.
-It’s white. I really wanted blue.
What are you? Five? Get a wrap. Get a paint job. Get a LIFE!
-The monocoque introduces more noise, vibration and harshness into the cabin. I’d prefer body on frame.
Admit it: You just wanted to say MONOCOQUE. Never mind that its way stiffer, allows more space, a lower roofline, and is what the majority of people on the road are driving.
-I sincerely miss having a manual transmission.
All right – all right… I get it. Enough with the excuses.

Let’s start looking

As you probably gathered from my last post (So – You Think You Want a Land Cruiser?), I had my sights set on a Land Cruiser diesel for my Daily Drive. What could be cooler? Front and rear leaf springs, naturally aspirated diesel @115hp, and possibly power windows if I looked long enough? Hmmm… The more I looked, the more I realized I’d have to pay, and the more compromises I’d have to make in terms of mileage and condition. This would truly be a giant step back. And not to the future. Not quite 1955, but… leaf springs? Oh McFly!?

And let’s face it, there is nothing “wrong” with my current daily. Hell, most folks would be super happy to drive such a cool rig. But still, I watched, and searched…

The 90’s Were Cool

Not the decade: The truck! There IS a version of the Land Cruiser out there, little known on this side of the pond, which shared as much with the 4Runner/Tacoma as it did anything else. Toyota produced it beginning in 1996 as an attempt to compete with, coincidentally enough, Mitsubishi’s wildly successful second generation Pajero. They did a 2 and 4 door version, made it a little longer than the Pajero in both guises, and gave it a choice of 4 cylinder, V6, or turbo diesel engines. It also had limited availability in a manual transmission. In true Land Cruiser fashion it was body on frame, except with coilovers paired with dual wishbones up front, and coils in the back. Finally, it was permanent ALL WHEEL DRIVE with a lever to lock the differential in 4hi or low (2.5 to 1). This was called the Land Cruiser J90, Land Cruiser Prado, or Land Cruiser Colorado, depending on which market it was produced for.

A few years later in 1998 they took the lessons forged from the 90 Series and built the legendary 100 Series. The similarities are there if you look closely. The 90 continued with only cosmetic changes until 2002 when it bowed to the 120 Series, recognizable to us as the Lexus GX models.

Why the lesson on Land Cruisers?

Back in June of this year, I happened upon a video from a Canadian importer, which gave an in depth walk around of a sweet blue 2 door 90 Series in Japan, before it was shipped to its Canadian buyer. It caught my eye at the time because it had the round headlight option (available on some 2 doors up until 99). Moreover, it was a 5 speed manual DIESEL. The importer talked about its rarity, then went on to rave about its condition. He characterized it as “top 5 percent condition” when bought from auction. Mint might not be sufficient a word?

Here’s a link to the Youtube video of the actual vehicle, for as long as it stays online:
1999 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 90

So when my wife, in late September, sent me an Autotrader ad from British Columbia for a blue 90 Series with diesel engine and manual transmission, I turned into some kind of CSI investigator, where the “C” stands for CAR.

After watching the video countless times, and comparing it to the pictures in the ad, I made the determination that they were one and the same. This unicorn was already in the country, and ON THE MARKET. Okay, it was 7 hours away and in a different province, but compared to Yokohama? Practically in my backyard!

An anxious call to the seller revealed he was as passionate about Toyotas as I was about Mitsubishis. He was talking about the little things he had done to it after he got it, and I felt like I was talking to my Toyota doppleganger. He hinted that he didn’t necessarily want to sell it, but it was taking up space, and he was doing a home reno. Regardless, he could put it in storage, and would only maybe let it go to a buyer who would “appreciate it”? I promptly sent him a pic of Pajero Evo no.581 to show him I was an enthusiast, and could be trusted to “honour it properly”. We quickly struck up a deal, in which I would take the truck, on snow tires, plus brand new BFG AT’s on new wheels, plus the factory wheels as well. Additionally, he threw in a brand new water pump and timing belt (due soon).

I just needed to go and get it.

So here we are. Its 7:30 AM on a Friday morning and my wife has just dropped us off at the airport. We have an hour flight, and heading due west into Pacific Time. So we’ll get there almost before we arrive. I can only hope that this “Back to the Future” trip yields a Toyota as amazing as Marty’s was in 1985.

(to be continued)

Recommended Posts

2 Comments


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.