Back in 1995, Toyota was tasked with building a new all-terrain transport for the Japan Ground Self Defence Force, or JASDF. Clearly taking inspiration from the American Humvee, the vehicle Toyota put together combined off-road expertise gleaned from decades of Land Cruiser production with packaging big enough for military use. The result was the Mega Cruiser.
At more than five metres long and a little more than two metres wide, the Mega Cruiser really was mega. And inside that massive body, Toyota did its best to make the machine as manoeuvrable as possible even in the face of the challenging obstacles you might run into should you need to defend mountainous home islands from enemy invasion.
A stout 4.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel powered the Mega Cruiser through a four-speed auto and three locking differentials. Much like the similar-looking Humvee, the. Mega Cruiser has independent suspension at all four corners, a central tire inflation system, and inboard brakes. Those special brakes help keep unsprung weight down and also prevent anything important from getting chopped up by obstacles underfoot.
Though the Mega Cruiser was designed first and foremost as a military vehicle, Toyota knew there would be a civilian market for the machine as well. Mega Cruisers saw use as rescue vehicles, but some enthusiasts looking for extra mobility picked some of them up as well.
Toyota says around 100 civilian examples were sold until production ended in 2001, and that while all were originally sold in Japan, some have found their way to other markets like Australia, where the right-hand-drive setup makes the Mega Cruiser particularly desirable, and Russia, where what side the steering wheel is on matters a lot less than what kind of terrain you can withstand.
Now that the Mega Cruiser is finally cresting 25 years since launch, it’s time to start thinking about how we can get some of them stateside. One Mega Cruiser has already made it to America. It’s living at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum in Utah. But one isn’t enough. I implore you all to find the Mega Cruisers and bring them here. Even if you’ll have to drive it on the right.