The Toyota Jeep BJ, what would become the Land Cruiser, is released on Aug. 1, 1951.
The Jeep BJ was developed for use by the National Police Reserve Forces -- now the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force -- in 1951. The chassis of Toyota's Model SB small truck was modified for a four-wheel-drive vehicle and was fitted with a six-cylinder gasoline engine. It featured a rudimentary open body and a suspension borrowed from the Toyopet, a passenger car.
While the BJ's large-displacement engine provided outstanding performance, the National Police Reserve Forces ended up choosing a Mitsubishi Jeep -- a licensed production version of the Willys Jeep in North America -- because it had a more extensive track record.
But Toyota went back to the drawing board and made other improvements.
Toyota test driver Ichiro Taira drove a BJ prototype along an old pilgrim route to the sixth station of Mount Fuji in 1951, prompting the national police to order nearly 300 for production.
Toyota's light utility vehicle also served at the request of the U.S. government, which still occupied Japan after World War II and was looking for a vehicle to use during the Korean conflict. The BJ prototype was larger than the Jeep used by the U.S. military and featured a more powerful 3.4-liter six-cylinder engine, compared with the F-head four that powered the Jeep. The early BJ prototype had 4wd but didn't feature a low range.
The Toyota Jeep BJ was adopted for civilian use and went into production in 1953.
Because the Jeep name had been trademarked in the U.S., Toyota changed the name of the Jeep BJ to Land Cruiser in June 1954. With the name change, Toyota launched exports, with Pakistan receiving the first shipment in 1954, followed by Saudi Arabia in 1955. It went on sale in the U.S. in 1958.
The Land Cruiser is the longest, continuously produced vehicle in Toyota history.
Toyota is marketing a special Heritage Edition of the Land Cruiser for the 2020 model year.