Future classics

Future classic: Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon

by Andrew Frankel
24 January 2023 3 min read
Future classic: Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon
Photos: Toyota

Do you know what’s cool? It’s not a convertible Ferrari, or a blacked out Porsche Cayenne Turbo. It’s not a BMW M5 nor even a brand new Aston DBS. Cool is an ancient Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon. I call it ‘Amazon’ despite it being a name used for only part of its life so as to distinguish it from the everyday common-or-garden Land Cruiser.

The Amazon, or whatever it is called, is the full-sized car, seven seats with space to spare and no weedy four cylinder motor under the bonnet, but a brawny V8 petrol or long-legged straight six diesel. Or, if you’re very lucky, one of the last with a 4.5-litre V8 diesel engine. They were sold in the UK from 1998 to 2016.

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Spend much time in race car paddocks and you’ll come across a few of these invariably battered and preternaturally heroic warriors, brimming with tools and spares, towing something convincing like a Lola T70 up to its parking space. It’ll be driven by a quiet and modest man who’ll get the car off the trailer, bolt on a fresh set of rubber, rumble off to the assembly area and blow everyone else off the track. After the race he’ll be seen enjoying a quiet beer with his mechanic. He is, of course, a multi-millionaire.

He drives the Amazon because he understands fitness for purpose like few others. He became rich by understanding that reality and perception are not the same and is therefore able to distinguish the real deal from the dressed-up tat. And, believe me, the Amazon is the real deal.

Many years ago I borrowed an Amazon to tow a two tonne vintage Bentley to Scotland and back. I calculated that the weight of the entire rig – Amazon, occupants, Bentley, spares, tools and trailer must have bordered six tonnes but were it not for the vast Lucas headlamps that met my gaze every time I looked in the mirror, I’d have forgotten all about our unusual cargo. The Amazon barely noticed it either.

I have a friend who owns one of the last, a 4.5-litre V8 diesel and despite being offered ever more absurd amounts of money from an endless array of suitors, he refuses to part with it. Another owns a 20-year old car with a quarter of a million miles on the clock which looks like it’s never been washed and it still carts him and his race car all over Europe as reliably and easily as an old and well trained Labrador fetching a stick.

So what is it about these things? Well, there are sound, tangible reasons they’re such good cars. For a start, they’re built like lorries. Seriously. Each car sits on a ladder chassis that looks like it could be used as a support for the Severn Bridge. They take punishment like no other car I know, which is of course why if you go on safari, it’s almost always in one of these: if you’re going to get nerfed by a cheesed off bull elephant, you’ll want to be in something that can take the hit. They scarcely ever go wrong and appear to thrive on neglect too.

True, they don’t have the image of a new Range Rover, but to most that’s actually part of the appeal. If there is an inverted snob lurking within you, the Amazon will tease it out. One of the aforementioned chums also uses his to go shooting and delights in turning up in a field full of flash Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi SUVs in his Amazon. He’s pulled them out of it more than once too.

Why do I like them so much? Because like all great cars from the original Mini to the Ferrari F40, it knows what it is for. It’s not bothered with going fast, or having thrilling handling, it’s just a workhorse, the ultimate workhorse that you can take for granted for decades at a time and it will, touch wood, never let you down. I think it’s the down-to-earth honesty of the car that lies at the core of its appeal.

Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon

Yet cleverly it does just enough of the soft stuff to make you want to use it. It rides remarkably well, is quiet enough to take all the pain out of long journeys and is more than adequately kitted out with the little luxuries in life from seat heaters to cruise control.

And they’re still quite cheap, unless it’s a V8 diesel you want, some of which are advertised at over £50,000. But an earlier 4.2-litre six cylinder diesel car is the sensible choice and if you look carefully – and you do have to be very careful – a nice car can cost as little as £15,000. And yes, it might have 150,000 miles on the clock, but in the world of the Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon that’s what’s described as ‘nicely run in’.

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  • Daniel says:

    You’re confusing multiple generations here. The Amazon is the Landcruiser 100 series, they are the ones you could get in petrol and diesel versions and were available between 1998 and 2006. The newer Landcruiser, the 200 series was only available in the diesel version and was known as the Landcruiser V8.

  • RB says:

    This information is incorrect:
    The Amazon, or whatever it is called, is the full-sized car, seven seats with space to spare and no weedy four cylinder motor under the bonnet, but a brawny V8 petrol or long-legged straight six diesel. Or, if you’re very lucky, one of the last with a 4.5-litre V8 diesel engine. They were sold in the UK from 1998 to 2016.

  • Tony Prior says:

    I have owned three 7 Seater Land Cruisers over about 30 years – amazing they were all Diesels – I sold the last one an Amazon in the Summer for £13,250 we only paid £20,000 for it in March 2010 – it was an 04 with 160,000 and would happily do 32/33 MPG with seven people and luggage – I do miss it but we don’t need anything with its capabilities any more.

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