Buying A Vintage Land Cruiser

The collective knowledge (and opinions) of many fine Land Cruiser enthusiasts.


This page is intended to help educate a new Land Cruiser buyer although any Land Cruiser lover should find some value here. This article is biased towards 40 series Land Cruisers, although it can be applied any model.  If you’re interested in later models see the Newbie Guide - Information for new '91-'97 Toyota Land Cruiser 80 series owners.

Parts of this may sound a little like a sermon since for many, Land Cruiser ownership goes beyond possessing a vehicle and well into the realm of obsession.  Are YOU willing to make a sacrifice for your Land Cruiser?

Furthermore, this article should be required reading for the new Land Cruiser owner.  Running through the pre-buy checklist will help you find potential problems in your new truck, and see what maintenance needs to be done.


Buyer Beware!  If you ever get a reply to an inquiry about a vehicle and it reads like this, rest assured it's a SCAM - Remember, if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't.  Don’t be fooled.


Subject: Re: Question for item #300154112591 - Toyota : Land Cruiser

Date: September 25, 2007 11:56:40 AM CDT

To:   gregoverton@mchsi.com

I'm really sorry for this late reply but I've been very busy lately and away from a computer. The truck is located in Clarksburg, NJ. It has all the papers(complete). This was my husband's truck who passed away 4 months ago, it only brings me bad memories. I want this transaction to be smooth as I am caught in the middle of some very important events and I don't have much time at my disposal. The truck is in perfect condition, no scratches, no special marks, no need for additional repairs what so ever, no leaks, rust free. A great truck ready to be yours. It has a clear title.

The price is $4,500 including shipping costs anywhere in the continental US. There are no other costs regarding this transaction. I require a deposit for $2,000 before the truck is delivered. Regarding payment I am aware of the eBay's rules and we will use Vehicle Purchase Protection Program which will hold the deposit until you receive the truck. If you are interested please provide me the following informations necessary to take a decision:

-your eBay ID

-any negative feedback and if so .... for what reason .

If I receive the requested information you will be informed by eBay during the next hours with details about your purchase.

Thank you

Lucia Battle.


So you want to buy a Land Cruiser.  First, some words of warning.  If you're looking at a USA FJ40 series, the vehicle will have been produced before 1984.  It was built as an off road vehicle and as a result has probably taken more of a beating than a car of a similar vintage.  It will definitely require more upkeep than a new vehicle.

Land Cruisers are rarely 100% Toyota by this day and age. I prefer the more stock variety but many people will offer Land Cruisers with V8's conversions and/or custom transmissions like the SM420 etc. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just not stock. You need to decide what YOU want in your Land Cruiser and how much you want to spend for it. Obviously the lower miles the better but beware that if the seller has no documentation to substantiate the miles, what you see is what you get. A Land Cruiser with 45,000 to 70,000 original miles will not have a brake pedal showing metal through the side of the rubber pad and a rubber floor mat with a hole worn through it where the heel of the drivers foot sits. It's very easy to swap the instrument cluster or roll back the miles so dated service receipts with mileage are big plus. In the case of extensive restorations, mileage is often a moot point.

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s as much about the person your buying from as it is about the item your buying. Talk to the seller on the phone or in person and find out how long they've had the vehicle, get some history and details on their description (i.e. "your ad said 'some rust', where is it and how extensive is it?"). Ask about maintenance records. One important question is "Why are you selling it?". If it's about to die for some reason, has been nickel and diming them to death, you may want to stay away. The best kind of answer is that they need to sell it to fund their other Land Cruiser projects, and/or they just don't drive it much any more, can't afford the mileage, that sort of thing. Many old Cruisers spent a good deal of their lives being towed behind a motor home or sitting around waiting for the next hunting or fishing trip. People get older and want something more comfortable. Check out this LIST OF QUESTIONS you can use as a starting point.

With all Land Cruisers, newer is definitely better in many areas. Unlike the Jeeps whose "quality" varied widely from year to year until Chrysler "neutered" them all and Land Rovers where some Series are shunned because their headlights are in the wrong place, Toyota was continually improving the Land Cruiser.  Check the production timelines in the FAQ to determine which features you can live without and hence how old you're willing to go.  The only exception to this rule is if you're living under a fascist regime such as Kalifornia where ancient frames are prized for their smog exempt status.

If your looking at a "restored" Land Cruiser's, you will find that the definition of "restored" is all over the map. It can mean some Bondo and paint or a complete "frame off" restoration or anything in between! You might want to take a magnet along and see how much of the truck is still metal.

Usually long before someone decides to sell a Cruiser, they decide that they should stop pouring money into it.  Therefore, shortly after you purchase your truck you can expect to have to dump a whole lot of money into it to fix little things the previous owner couldn't be bothered to do.  This can be VERY discouraging.  Don't worry.  Once you get your truck into a roadworthy state, it will remain there for quite some time.

Older FJ40 Land Cruisers don't make great daily drivers. They're loud, they suffer from a relatively harsh ride and vague on road handling, and the gas ones get marginal fuel economy.  Thanks to brick like aerodynamics, side winds quickly become tail-winds.  You don't want to do a long commute in an FJ40. I have driven an FJ40 across from East Hampton, NY to Yosemite CA and it was fun but I you don’t want to be in a hurry!

Anyway, that said, there are some requirements that I believe a Land Cruiser owner should meet.  They need to have an income.  If you're a starving student, you're probably better off with a used Camry. 

If you've got a significant other, your relationship has to be up to the stresses imposed by the new arrival.  It may take a long time for your spouse to adjust to being a "Land Cruiser widow"  If a Land Cruiser is brought into a weak relationship, there's always the chance you won't get to keep the house then you'd be without a garage to work in!

Actually, a garage is pretty much required.  Lying out in the street is hazardous and people tend to walk off with tools they find lying on the sidewalk.

I also firmly believe that it's a good thing to learn to work on your Land Cruiser.  If you have a professional mechanic attend to all you maintenance, you'll be out of luck when something goes wrong miles from the nearest gas station

So you've warned anyone that cares about you that their only contact with you may be standing in the garage yelling at the underside of your truck.  You're mentally prepared to become the caretaker of a disappearing breed. Time to go shopping.

You should start scanning the web, craigslist, ebay, cars.com, local classified ads and truck traders for a couple of months before you actually begin to shop in earnest.  That way, you can begin to check out the market.  In certain parts of the U.S., you may not see many Cruisers.  You will learn that FJ40 prices range from a few hundred bucks to tens of thousands.

When the time comes to go look at Land Cruiser spend a good 15-20 minutes of "quality time" crawling around underneath. Bring a flashlight so you can get a real good idea of (1) where the rust is (2) where the leaks are and (3) what kind of work has been done to it. Then spend another 20 minutes or so poking around under the hood, looking for what's stock and what's not, evidence of maintenance, color of oil, mixing of engine components from different years, etc. Pay special attention to the zerks on the tie rod ends and u-joints. Have they seen any grease this decade? By now you may have found hidden rust, bad leaks, lack of maintenance and shoddy repairs. Hack wiring jobs, botched welds and lots of non stock bits and pieces or perhaps all is going well! If you take it for a test drive, obviously listen for how it cranks over, how quick it catches, etc. Brakes, steering, shifting and engine strength and sound should all be evaluated. Does everything work, from the turn signals to the door locks to the windshield wipers. Test the 4WD, does it go in and out smoothly?

The things you should watch for can be grouped into several categories.


Many times you will not find your Land Cruiser in your own backyard. It may be across country! It’s a good idea to pony up $150 and have the seller take the vehicle to a Toyota Dealer or mechanic to do a compression test and look the truck over.  These things are made to run on Mexican goat urine and  three cylinders so get it checked out if you can’t do it yourself.  If you’re actually there to see the truck first hand, check to see that it is cold, then if it's at all cool outside you will likely have to pull the choke, turn the key and give her a little gas. She should start right up and hopefully there will not be a huge cloud of smoke behind her.  Smell for exhaust fumes in the Cruiser, I've heard that the intake manifold tends to crack if the truck has been overheated and the exhaust manifold often need attention. It may have an exhaust header on it so look it over and check the condition. Again, it's a good idea to check the compression on each cylinder. 150 psi would be perfect but I understand that 130 psi or above is very acceptable. Note that (PSI) should be reduced 3% per 1000' of elevation so you will never see 150 psi if your in Denver!  The cylinders should be within 10% or so of each other. Check for coolant leaks from the hoses, water pump, and radiator.  Next check for oil leaks from around the push rod inspection plate that the blow-by tube comes from, Rear main, oil pan, etc. It's very common to have some degree of oil leaking out of an FJ40 so no leaks is a great sign. Pull the spark plugs and check them for oil fouling.  If they're coated, oil is getting into the cylinder past the rings and valve guides.

Diesel Engine

When the engine is fired up, watch how quickly the oil pressure builds.  If the idle is high (the engine feels smooth instead of causing the whole truck to shake)  There's probably either a hole in the diaphragm or the vacuum lines that go to it.  Both are relatively cheap and easy to replace provided you buy Nippondenso and not Toyota parts.  You can test a diaphragm by pulling off the top end of the "clear" vacuum hose that goes to the rearmost nipple on the injection pump and blowing into it.  If you can build pressure, the diaphragm is still good.

It is normal for a cold diesel to blow a little white smoke at start-up.  Black smoke usually means that the injectors need service, white smoke indicates under injection of diesel (probably due to a perforated diaphragm), and blue smoke shows that oil heavier than diesel is burning (Uh oh!)  When the truck is running, check for excessive exhaust coming out of the blow-by tube.  If the truck has a
noticeable miss as it warms up, one of the glow plugs is shot.  They have to be replaced as a set.  The amount of blow-by will indicate the amount of wear in the engine.

Cooling System

With the engine COMPLETELY cold, remove the rad cap and check the coolant level. If you can't actually see any coolant in the radiator, there's probably a leak.  If a B/H series diesel is overheated or run with inadequate coolant, the heads are prone to cracking.  Carefully look at the radiator.  Usually leaks will show up as whitish stains.  When you return from a test drive, mist the rad with water. If all the water evaporates then the tubes aren't plugged. If there are areas where the water evaporates and others where it doesn't [cold spots, usually vertical sections of the radiator] then the radiator needs to be serviced [power flushed or rodded-out]. You can also check for cold spots by using your hand but there is often not a lot of space between the grille and the radiator and you could burn your hand. Be careful.


In both gas and diesel Cruisers, check the alternator for excessive play.  A brand new one is worth a small fortune.  Rebuilt 12V ones are difficult to find and 24V ones are virtually impossible.  If a diesel alternator with a vacuum pump on the back shows any signs of oil leakage, it's probably shot.

If you find that there are accessories (radio etc. attached to only one battery of a 24V diesel, you can expect to replace the battery shortly.  Drawing 12V off one of the battery loads them unequally leading to undercharging of one and overcharging of the other.

In 1974 and up 40 series, a dead bulb, bad ground, or wiring problem in a turn signal will result in the indicator light in the dash sticking "on"

In 60 and 70 series the same type of problem will show up as the indicator light flashing "double time"


Check for leaks in all the gaskets and seals. Chances are, if a seal is leaking, the bearing behind it is shot.  Ask the owner what kind of lubricant they're using.  Synthetic gear oil will often manage to seep past a seal that's good enough for regular oil.  If a seal is weeping synthetic gear oil, chances are it's on its way out anyway.

Check for lateral play in the output yokes from the transfer case.  Movement indicates bearings that are in need of replacement.  If the movement is greater than 1/8" chances are the gears themselves have been damaged once that occurs, the transfer case gets expensive to re-build.

If a 40 series has been lifted more than 2", check to make sure that the notch in the skid plate the front drive shaft passes through has been enlarged. Otherwise, the rearmost yoke on the front driveshaft will bang on the plate causing the bearings in the transfer case to fail.

With the truck parked on a level surface, take out the transmission fill plug. If gear oil pours out of the plug, the seal between the transfer case and transmission is probably shot.  This is a cheap part, but replacing it pretty much requires pulling the transfer and transmission.  I also believe that when this seal goes, it's not a bad idea to rebuild the transfer anyway.  It is usually the first internal problem that develops, and rebuilding the case when it goes ensures that all the gears will still be in good shape.

A leak from the rear output flange of the transfer usually results in destroyed parking brake shoes in pre 1981 transfer cases.

When test-driving the truck, feel how smoothly the truck shifts.  It is normal for four and five speed transmissions to be a little balky when they're cold. The H55F 5 speed tends to be worse in this respect.  If the transmission is difficult to shift when warm, chances are the synchros are shot.

Transmissions/transfer cases popping out of gear is a desperate cry for a rebuild.  Left for any length of time, it will lead to severe gear/shift collar damage.


Check for play in the universal joints.  Although a worn joint is cheap to fix, if the truck has been driven with the excessive vibration of a failed joint for any length of time, the transfer case and pinion bearings can suffer.  Dents in the shafts can also cause vibrations and premature failure.  Grab the shafts on either side of the slip joint and try to rotate each side in the opposite direction.  If there's movement, or worse yet a "clicking" the slip joint splines are worn and will need to be replaced.  Check that the universal joints and slip joints have been greased, but NOT just prior to your arrival.  (There should be SOME dirt stuck to any traces of grease on the zerk fittings or around the joints)

Grab the driveshaft on either side of the slip joint and try to rotate the two halves relative to each other.  Any movement indicates that the splines in the slip joint are shot and either the driveshaft must be cut and the splines replaced, or the whole driveshaft must be replaced.

Rear Axle

Check the pinion flange for excessive play.  Usually slop here will result in an a destroyed ring and pinion.

While inspecting the brakes, check for any signs of gear oil on the backing plates or brake shoes.  Gear oil that has leaked past the seal at the outboard end of the axle tube will saturate the brake shoes and destroy them.

It is rare for a Cruiser to experience wheel bearing failure unless they've REALLY been abused.

Front Axle

The above rules for checking the pinion bearings apply along with some potential problems for the steering knuckles.  Check that there is a thin coating of grease covering the knuckle balls from top to bottom.  Accumulations of crud on the knuckle balls can indicate one of two things.  Grease indicates that the knuckle seals are shot.  Gear oil indicates that the seal inside the axle tube. Either problem requires complete disassembly of the knuckles.  If the balls are dry, they've been run improperly lubricated for quite a while and at least the upper knuckle bearings will be destroyed.  If the tire can be grabbed by the top and rocked back and forth, either the wheel bearing is loose, or the knuckle bearings are shot.  Get someone else to try and rock the wheel and watch if it's moving relative to the knuckle or if the knuckle is moving relative to the axle tube.  Quite often if the wheel bearings are loose, they are simply in need of re-packing and adjustment.


In manual steering equipped Cruisers, check for gear oil in the steering box by removing the breather vent located on the top.  If there is none, the pitman arm seal has failed and the bearings are probably almost gone.  If there is grease in the steering box, the seal has failed, and the owner has at least tried to extend the life of the steering box.  It may be salvageable, but pulling the pitman arm to replace the seal will require a very stout puller and possibly a little heat from an oxyacetylene torch.

Have someone rock the steering wheel back and forth through a 90 degree arc while you inspect the steering box and center arm (on 40's-55's)  The center arm should rotate with no sign of "wobbling"  If the steering tends to "stay where it's left" while driving rather than returning to center, the seller has probably cranked up the center arm to try to hide slop.

Check the ball joints with a pair of water pump pliers.  Squeeze the ball joint from the top and bottom (taking care not to put pressure on grease nipples, if present) if it "compresses," it is worn out.  Replacing worn tie rod ends is relatively easy, but ensure that there's only play in the ball joint and not in the threads between the rod and the end.  This will require replacing the rods themselves.


To check the brakes, push the pedal down and hold it.  If the pedal travels slowly to the floor, there is a leak in the system.  If it is apparent the system is leaking, start off by checking at each wheel.  Remove each wheel in turn and check for leaks.  Look for leaks from the calipers on disc brake equipped vehicles, and wheel cylinders on drum brake equipped vehicles. On drum brake vehicles, put each drum back on and feel how easily it pulls off. It is usually very difficult to coerce a drum to come off, but once you've broken the "seal of rust," they should only be slightly snug, if they come off too easily the wheel cylinders need adjustment.  Out of adjustment wheel cylinders will also show up when you depress the brake pedal in the form of excessive pedal travel.  Check the shoes for reasonably even wear and thickness and look for any signs of scoring in the drums.  Try to turn the adjusters on the wheel cylinders.  If they're seized, they will need replacement.  You can get a rough idea if the drums are warped or not by putting them back on the truck and spinning them.  There should be even resistance thought a complete rotation.

Check all the steel lines for excessive corrosion or kinks.  Flexible lines can be checked by "kinking" them back on themselves.  If the edge that is in tension shows signs of cracks, it needs replacement.


Many people will replace the factory suspension anyway, so for them damage here is of little concern.  If the stock suspension is to be retained, there are a number of items that should be checked.  Check the spring packs for broken or bent leaves.  If there are no shoulders on the bushings or the shackle pin doesn't appear to pass through the center of the spring eye/spring hanger the bushings will need to be replaced.  Check at there is no movement of the shackle pin relative to the shackle plate.  Pre-81 stock shackles are prone to the pins working loose.

Looking at the condition of the U-bolt ends below the spring plate will give clues to the use of the vehicle.  If the U-bolt ends are bent/scraped, the truck has seen some off road beating.  While looking under the U-bolt plate, ensure that you can see the nut and spring pin.  The pin will sometimes break in the middle of the spring pack causing the bottom chunk to fall out.  Replacing the pin requires removing/replacing the U-bolts as well.

Check that the shock mounts on the rear cross members and u-bolt plates aren't broken. Frame/axle mounted broken pins must be cut out and new ones welded in.  On 40 series, the top front shackle mount pin will sometimes develop play relative to the shock mount tower.  If that is the case, it can temporarily be fixed by adding another washer to the large nut end of the pin, but will eventually require proper replacement which involves welding/boring out the tower.


This is probably where you'll find the greatest variance in Land Cruisers.  Some trucks are pristine and have been hermetically sealed in their garages all winter, whereas some have been used to launch boats in the ocean.  The former will have a body.  The latter won't. It's rare that you will find a Land Cruiser with a rust free body in the Eastern or Midwestern USA unless it's been brought in from out west. Most of the well preserved trucks spend most of their lives in the Southwest or Western states.

Click HERE to look at the common FJ40 problem rust spots.

The problem areas primarily for 40 series but also 55 series are: (probable order of occurrence)

-along the seam between the sides of the rear quarter panels and the tops of the wheel tubs
-under the back doors
-behind rear taillights where mud can get trapped
-the "box section" that runs under the door sills
-the lower edges of all doors
-on the fenders around the turn signals
-on the fenders where the support brackets from the frame attach
-along the sill that runs down in front of the doors
-the windshield frame under the rubber gasket
-the lower edge of the hard top and the steel drain sill under the fiberglass
-don't forget to pull back all the floor coverings and look for holes in the front floor boards and rear bed
-along the seam on the front of the hood. The above is for an FJ40/ FJ55.

The problem areas for the 60's and 70's are
-the lip around the fender wells
-the lower edges of all the doors
-the rear quarter panels
-under the rubber gasket around the windshield
-under the mud flaps
-basically any seam around the rear wheel wells.
-the seams in the front foot wells

Finding a 60 that has the dealer installed aluminum running boards is a good sign.  Intact running boards indicates that the vehicle had never really been used off-road and they also prevent the rocker panels/lower door edges from being hit by spray from the tires, decreasing the likelihood of rust.


The most common areas for frame rust on a 40 series are the gusset plates above the rear-most spring hangers, the rear cross-member, and the diagonals that run from the frame rails to the cross-member.  As long as the frame rails themselves are okay, most of the gussets/brackets can be replaced.  If the steel looks like its "de-laminating," it is shot.

On pre 1981 trucks, the frames also tend to crack where the boxing ends above the front most rear spring perches. The crack tends to run longitudinally from the rear-most rivet on the perch towards the back of the truck.  The spring perches can also be tweaked, especially if the truck has been running extended shackles.  As you sight along the frame rails the shackles should be perpendicular to the bottom flange.  Tweaked fixed pin spring perches are rarer, but if a rear one is out of alignment, chances are the frame has cracked. Because of the stronger design, perch/hanger problems aren't as common on post- '81 40s and 42s.  Feel through the holes on the inboard sides of the frame rails.  Large flakes of rust are a sign of problems to come.

60s and 70s only real problems stem from rust.  Their frame designs don't have the same large holes as on 40s so they're harder to clean and more prone to trapping crud and rusting.  Feel through the small access holes for signs of rust flakes.  The worst spots for frame rust on 60s and 70s are where the muffler is next to the frame.  It is possible for the steel to be weakened to the point that a screwdriver can easily be poked through it with no outwardly visible warning signs.  The other big problem area is the rearmost section of the frame where it is just a channel (as opposed to fully boxed).

Edited by Rob Mullen & Greg Overton

Information shamelessly pilfered from:

Against All Odds: The Story of the Toyota Motor Corporation and the Family that created it
   by Yukiyasu Togo & William Wartman; New York, USA : St. Martin's Press,1999 ISBN 0-312-09733-6
Das Grosse Toyota Land Cruiser Buch
   by Martin Braun, Thomas Ronnberg; Munich, Germany : AC Verlag, 1993. ISBN 3-86087-140-4
Downey Off Road Manufacturing Catalog
Specter Off Road Catalog (Thank You Marv!)
TLC Engine Conversion Kit Instruction Manual (Advance Adapters)
Toyota Land Cruiser: 1956-1984
   Compiled by R.M. Clark; Surrey, England : Brooklands Books Distribution Ltd. ISBN 1-85520-0473
Toyota Parts Microfiche
Toyota Trails (TLCA Newsletter)
Toyota Truck & LC Owner's Bible
   by Moses Ludel; Cambridge : Robert Bently, Inc., 1995 ISBN 0-8376-0159-2
Toyota USA and Japan Service Bulletins
Toyota:  A History of the First 50 Years
   by Toyota Jid&oring, sha Kabushiki Kaisha; Toyota City, Japan: Toyota
   Motor Corporation, 1988.
Toyota,  Fifty Years in Motion:  An Autobiography
   by Eiji Toyoda, Tokyo; New York : Kodansha International, 1987.
Toyota Repair manuals
Various 4x4 Magazines

Contributors (Although they may not have realized at the time :)
Rory Arms, Paul Bech, Gary Bjork, Drew Eckhardt, Lars Gottberg, Neil Kapperman, Steve Kopito,
Kerry Manning, Willem-Jan Markerink, Andrew Murphy, Greg Overton, Park Owens, Marv Spector, Ian Staines, Roy Stockman, Jeff Zepp, Toyota Canada Inc.

Happy Cruisin'


BUYERS GUIDEInventory.htmlshapeimage_10_link_0