1990 Land Cruiser 80 series
The Land Cruiser, Toyota’s longest running series, has been going strong since the early 1950s when it was a jeep-like vehicle christened with a Land Rover-inspired name. Over the years, the Land Cruiser evolved into a much larger vehicle, but it never strayed from its serious off-road heritage.
Toyota launched the 80 series in early 1990 (1991 in the US) as a luxurious replacement for the aging 60 series. Its smooth lines initially disappointed off-roaders who associated boxiness with rugged design. However, the fresh styling broadened the Land Cruiser’s appeal around the globe and eventually won over enthusiasts as well.
The 80 series introduced the Land Cruiser’s first full-time 4WD system. Part-time 4WD with manual locking hubs was also available in Japan, but not in the US — a good reason for Americans to consider importing secondhand models from Japan.
A totally new suspension gave the 80 series better handling and ride comfort than its predecessors. The old leaf springs were replaced with front leading arms and coil springs plus a full-floating solid axle with coil springs in the rear.
Off-road performance is supported by the solid axles, increased suspension travel and a respectable 8.1 inches of ground clearance. Many serious off-roaders remove the side steps, add lift and mount bigger wheels than the standard 15 x 7-inch alloy ones to prevent under body scrapes.
In Japan, three engines were available in the 1990-1992 models; a naturally aspirated 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder gasoline engine (3F-E), a naturally aspirated six-cylinder diesel engine (1HZ), and a turbocharged 4.2-liter straight-6 diesel engine (1HD-T) with direct injection.
The turbocharged diesel engine, the most powerful of the three, was borrowed from the 70 series but made lighter, stronger and more compact. Toyota also refined it to produce less noise and vibration. This sought-after engine generates 165 PS of horsepower at 3600 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 1400 rpm.
The selected engine is mated with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission in Japanese domestic models, but only the gasoline powerplant with a 4-speed automatic transmission was exported to the US. So Americans seeking the 5-speed manual transmission or turbocharged diesel engine have even more reason to import 25-year-old secondhand models from Japan.
The interior of the 80 series is roomy, comfortable and luxurious with more modern styling than its predecessors and optional leather seats. Generous luggage space in the rear cargo area can be expanded by folding the third-row seats up against the sides of the car and/or folding down the second-row seats.
This particular, well cared for 1990 HDJ81V Land Cruiser with turbocharged 4.2-liter straight-6 diesel engine and silver and maroon finish was the top-of-the-line model with a VX Limited grade.
25-year-old Land Cruisers still look great and are quite affordable. Many have only had a single owner because they are so reliable, practical and well-built that owners have little reason to upgrade.
Many North Americans are importing them directly from Japan for everyday driving and off-road pleasure. The 80 series offers more off-road options than later Land Cruisers sold in North America and can easily be modified for hardcore off-road use. There are kits for converting the full-time 4WD system to part-time 4WD, but it’s more satisfying to import an original part-time 4WD model directly from Japan.
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