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There’s no doubt that it was the Toyota 40 Series that really put the LandCruiser badge on the map in Australia. But by 1984, the world had moved on and even purchasers of these simple and rugged machines were demanding more. Toyota had already split its focus to arrive at the family-wagon line-up (the 55 Series and later 60 Series) to cope with private owners, but for its fleet and trade customers, it took the successful elements of the 40 Series, went back to the drawing board and sketched up the 70 Series family of vehicles. And of those, the 75 Series was the smash hit.
There was still a market for the short-wheelbase (BJ and FJ70) and mid-wheelbase (BJ and FJ73) but as kids got bigger, caravans got heavier, holidays got more elaborate and expectations got higher, bigger was definitely better in four-wheel-drives. Which is why the long-wheelbase 75 Series was the star of the LandCruiser workhorse line-up virtually from the word go.
The 75 Series tag was applied to all the long-wheelbase variants including the pick-up, cab-chassis and the Troop Carrier. That said, the 75 name was dropped for those vehicles in 1999 when Toyota facelifted the model. Suddenly, what had been a 75 Series pick up or cab-chassis was now a 79 Series, and a 75 Series Troop Carrier became a 78 Series. Yes, it’s largely academic, although those later cars were much improved with coil-sprung front suspension and longer leaf springs at the rear for much better ride quality. Technically, though, the 75 Series only ran from 1984 to 1999, even though the 70 Series family as a whole is still soldiering on largely unchanged.
Like all LandCruisers, the 75 Series was built on a separate ladder chassis with the body mounted on top. It’s a crude way of building a car (even in 1984) but it’s also a good way to make the end result super strong and capable of taking its share of rough treatment without getting bent out of shape (literally). Compared with the 40 Series it replaced, the 75 (as did all 70 Series cars) got a chassis with boxed members making it even stronger and more flex resistant than before.
Styling wasn’t a radical departure from the 40 Series either but the dashboard was a huge step forward with a proper padded section and much more modern (and easier to read) gauges. The rest of the interior was still pretty bare though with vinyl seats and floor coverings but, back then, that’s how folks wanted it. The cabin on the pick-up and cab-chassis was a strict three-seater with none of the extra-cab or king-cab thing going on. The dual-cab 79 Series was still many years off, too. The Troopy, meanwhile, could be had in three-, six- or 11-seat layouts with a front bench, a front and rear bench or a front bench and jump seats running lengthways in the back respectively. Folks in the rear of the 11-seat version did it pretty hard, especially as they were sitting side-saddle.
The four-wheel-drive system is resolutely old-school. Forget viscous couplings, centre differentials and full-time AWD, the 75 Series got a part-time system with a transfer-case to give two distinct sets of gear ratios. On the bitumen, the vehicle ran in two-wheel-drive. If the track got a bit greasy, you could select high-range four-wheel-drive. And then, when you were hopping over boulders and climbing cliff faces in the scrub (which, incidentally, the Cruiser was very good at) you selected low-range 4x4 and let those super low ratios do their thing. You could also forget about rotary-dials and electronic switches to shift between those modes, too; the 75 Series subscribed to the old mantra that a proper off-roader has a minimum of two gear-sticks.
Initially, the 75 Series was available with two engines, a choice of petrol or diesel. The petrol six-cylinder was the 3F with a claimed (but possibly very optimistic) 110kW of power while the diesel alternative was the familiar old 2H with even less poke (76kW to be precise). Both were tied to a four-speed manual transmission and both offered performance that was, er, relaxed. The diesel in particular didn’t actually accelerate; it accrued speed like you or I accrue sick leave.
Ride quality with the leaf springs at both ends was on the jouncy side, too, so perhaps it was just as well the 75 was no slingshot. The live axles also contributed to a fair bit of unsprung mass and the way they walked around at highway speeds meant you had your hands full making little steering corrections to keep the vehicle on the straight and narrow. A 75 Series with wear in the suspension and steering is a proper handful.
But all that was forgotten when the outskirts turned to the mulga, and the Cruiser was suddenly in its element. It could tackle the toughest tracks with the best of them and soon became the default vehicle for anybody who wanted to go seriously off-road. It’s no accident that the majority of off-road wheel-tracks in this country are 1415mm apart (the exact width of the 75’s track measurement).
Toyota gave the 75 Series the diesel engine it deserved in 1990 with the arrival of the 96kW, 4.2-litre 1HZ. Although it lacked the grunt of a modern turbo-diesel, the overhead camshaft design was smooth, flexible and, provided you had optioned the factory snorkel kit, would run under water. And it would do so with just basic maintenance for somewhere in the region of a million kilometres. A five-speed manual also turned up at the same time.
In 1993 the last real facelift arrived before the 75 became the 78 and 79, and at that time, Toyota finally replaced the old 3F petrol with the 1FZ-FE. It was simply a better thing and although it was still a six-cylinder, it was now 4.5-litres in size and made a thumping 158kW of power. It had a fine thirst, however, and you can expect any petrol 75 Series to use at least 15 or 16 litres per 100km on the highway (more if you have a roof rack fitted) while a diesel is a little more frugal at around 12L/100km for the same journey. Both these later engines are excellent off-road, but the main difference is on-road work where the petrol has a much higher cruising speed (well, the later 1FZ-FE, anyway).
Toyota also used the 1993 upgrade to fit the LandCruiser with four-wheel-disc brakes which was a good thing in one way; namely stopping power and the fact that disc brakes don’t suffer the same fade problems as drums when you’ve just dunked them in a creek or river crossing. But the downside was that the park-brake moved to a drum-within-disc design and was so prone to getting out of adjustment, it’s become a standing joke among the Cruiser community. It’s no coincidence that 75 Series owners never park their vehicle in neutral.