It’s amazing what objects of 4X4 desire come up in Japanese auctions!

JAPAN HAS A thriving car auction scene and while there’s plenty of Nissan GT-Rs, kei cars and peoplemovers you also find a lot of interesting offroaders from yesteryear. Here’s a selection of vehicles you know you’d love to own:

Toyota FJ40 LandCruiser
More than 50 years ago, FJ40 LandCruisers tempted Australians out of their Land Rovers and into a Toyota, earning the brand its reputation for reliability that endures to this day. Most have led a hard life, and original examples are now coveted investments around the world. Japan is no exception, but excellent examples do appear for sale quite regularly.

Suzuki LJ
Exactly how light and simple CAN you make a 4×4? The Suzuki LJ/SJ answers that question. An exercise in minimalism, the 20 series Jimny features only what you need and nothing more. The early models even had a 2 cylinder, 2 stroke engine! Its this spartan quality that makes the Jimny so endearing and fun. These appear quite often at auction in Japan, as they were (and still are) very popular.

Toyota BJ44 LandCruiser
The BJ44 Landcruiser is something of a unicorn. Sold in Japan only, the slightly longer body afforded room for front-facing rear seats (Australian SWB Cruisers had side facing jump seats in the back). Equipped with the desirable 3.2 litre B series 4 cylinder and disc brakes, they were also available with luxuries unheard of in a 40 Series, like air conditioning and power steering.

Pajero Evolution
The Pajero Evolution is no ordinary Pajero. Built as a homologation special so Mitsubishi could participate in the Dakar Rally, everything under the metal is unique to the Evo. Double wishbone front suspension, 4 link rear suspension, 3.5L V6 Mivec engine with 194kw, underbody skidplates, the works. Even the interior copped special treatment with carbon fibre trim and Recaro seats. Only 2500 of these special machines were ever made.

J58 Jeep
The J58 Jeep isn’t so much a Willys Jeep, as it is a Mitsubishi. Built under license from 1953 until 1998, the early versions were a carbon copy so true to the Willys blueprints they were even left-hand-drive. This soon changed as Mitsubishi refined the design, engines, and relocated the steering wheel to the correct side. Despite the incredibly long production run, the ethos remained true to the WW2 Jeep, with all the durability this implies. This one is, of course, modified.

VR161 Safari Patrol

The Safari/Patrol never managed to achieve the sales numbers of its LandCruiser counterpart, especially in Japan. This isn’t to say the Nissan is the inferior vehicle though, far from it. Equipped with the well known and venerable L or S series diesel engines, reliability is implied. Also as a fortunate aside for we buyers, the Safaris were usually very well optioned from factory with winches and other desirable accessories.

1979 Daihatsu Taft
Daihatsu and its parent company Toyota have a long, long history of collaborative efforts. The Taft was sold in Australia as a Daihatsu Scat, and the rarer Toyota Blizzard. Both featured Toyota’s indestructible L series diesel engines, which in a body this small certainly made them entertaining, especially offroad. For this reason, non-rusty examples are sought after both here and in Japan.

FJ60 Fire Truck
Japan’s volunteer fire service vehicles are finding homes all over the globe, most having been put back into service as functioning fire tenders at racetracks, showgrounds, and large properties. The examples you’ll see at auction in Japan are usually bespoke-built trucks, with extra seats for firefighters, storage for specialised equipment, and of course pumps and hoses. They represent great buying as they are meticulously maintained, and seldom have more than 20,000kms on the clock.

The vehicles featured here have now been auctioned, but there’s more where they came from. We’ll post a few more in due course.

Why own one?

Well, if you have to ask you probably won’t understand. None of these cars are daily drivers, unless you feel particularly keen on making everything a mission. Their fuel consumption, safety, comfort and handling is a long way off modern standards, as is their offroad and towing capability. You don’t buy these instead of a modern 4X4.

Instead, you buy them because you really want to experience driving as it should be. Each and every one of these vehicles will be a real, true driving experience from the process to start the engine and every minute or metre thereafter. You’ll feel far more connected and in touch with the vehicle than you would with any modern 4X4, and therefore you’ll have much more fun and a sense of satisfaction as you, the driver, has to do the work and not a software engineer who has programmed an ECU. And you know what? Keep these cars in good condition, and you may well find you’ve got an appreciating asset in your shed.

Want one?

All the photos and the information are courtesy of Iron Chef Imports, the people you want to see if you’re interested in importing a Japanese vehicle. More information here:


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