With all the news on the Toyota recall problems I think back on my old 1976 Toyota FJ. Here is an old Polaroid photo that has been on my bulletin board for a long time.
In 1982 we had just settled into out first home. In anticipation of our first dog, potential offspring and the need for a new car we settled on a Ford Fairmont station wagon. It was the most boring automobile I ever owned. The wife had an uncle who worked for Ford and was able to get us in on the employee purchase discount. We paid $5500 for it new. It allowed us to haul stuff and the mileage was OK.
A year or two later a professional photographer I traveled with on many company on-location assignments mentioned that he was selling his Toyota Jeep, or “FJ” for $2500. It was a 1976 model he had parked at his summer home near Hayward WI. and used it for running to town and four-wheeling on old logging roads. Being bored to death with the Fairmont and feeling the need for a 4WD vehicle for deer hunting trips and towing the boat peaked my interest. After convincing the wife that having a backup vehicle was a good idea and that this was a good price we bought it.
Toyota had yet to become a top brand. I also had issues with buying foreign. Because I was buying a pre-owned vehicle it eased my guilt about not buying American knowing a fellow American was benefiting from my purchase.
This thing was more of a truck than a Jeep. If I remember correctly it took eight quarts of oil. The inline 6 was powerful but far from quick. To engage the 4WD I had to stop it, get out and manually twist a knob on the front hubs. It had 4WD hi and low ranges and as with all 4WD vehicles at the time it was not recommended engaging it on dry pavement,
The thing was a rust bucket from front to rear. During the four years I owned it you could hear the rust form. The turn signals mounted on the front fenders were plastic and they attached to the metal fenders without much engineering thought. When rust ate away at the area where the turn signals mounted I used what else? Duct tape to the rescue. Problem with that was eventually I needed to replace the duct tape about every other month. No matter, it provided me with many great memories.
Once my grandmother asked me if I would help remove a pine tree that was in the way of her driveway expansion. I dug a hole under the roots and attached a chain to the hook on the front bumper. Using 4WD low in reverse the FJ pulled the 20 ft. pine out of the ground, roots and all. Now that’s power.
On a January day in 1985 the FJ and I managed to crank it up and go exploring on the coldest day ever on record for Chicago. It was -27 with the wind chill recorded at -83. Few autos were on the road that day. The metal frame made noises I never heard before or after but the thing just worked. Ice Road Fvckers we were.
I used the FJ to haul my 14’ fishing boat on trips, get back into the swamp where I hunted deer, dared many flooded cornfields and made general errands around town. If anyone ran into me they would get the worst of it. It felt invincible. The term "SUV" was just a gleam in Algore's eye.
One day I decided that watching rust fall off this thing onto my driveway and cleaning it up each week was enough and put it up for sale. It sold within a few days.
No regrets. It as a ton of fun and one in a long line of Jeep / 4WD vehicles I would own.
The best part about the FJ was that the accelerator never stuck and the brakes always worked.