TN Post Wh*re
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Bellingham, WA
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So, I'm going to throw a wrench in your plans here....
The FJ Cruiser is a weird vehicle - I love toyota, but I hate what they did and how they did it with the FJ Cruiser. That's my opinion. In my opinion it was a poor attempt to bring an iconic 40 series to modern times, and it fell flat - the Land Cruiser community was not impressed. That doesn't make it a bad vehicle (though the cracking firewalls might make you question things) by any means, but Land Cruiser guys are pretty tough to impress. The Land Cruiser was, and really still is, the best Toyota 'flagship' major production vehicle in the world. There's a reason it's used by militaries and the UN.
Comparing the FJ Cruiser and a Rubicon is an odd comparison, even though most FJ Cruiser owners would disagree. They're both probably similar in basic off road abilities and with the FJ Cruiser you'll get far better reliability and less potential for breakage, and the Rubicon you'll be far better offroad (since the Rubicon is F/R solid axle with lockers).
Here's the wrench..... consider an older Land Cruiser.... whether it's a 40, 60, 80 or even 100 series (that basically covers 40 years of Land Cruisers) there's a lot of variation and options you can go for.
A 40 is limitless in what you can find.... from a pile of rust to be built up or an incredibly expensive ICON and everything in between. Basically from the 60's up to 1983 in the US.....
A 60 - I would recommend finding a stock drivetrain with a manual.... 1983 until 1990
An 80 - there is no manual - biggest downside by far. 1991-1992 had an earlier version of the F engine, 1993-1994 had the upgraded 1fz engine and older/stronger AT transmission, 1995-1997 were the rest of the years. Find one that's triple locked. This was the last body style, in the US, Toyota offered front and rear solid axles of any vehicles in their lineup. The 1998 100 series and on are IFS.
An 80 series is about the size of a 4 door Wrangler, in wheelbase/length. You can find really great examples with lockers, under 200k miles (don't let mileage on these scare you - ours is at 306k, 400-500k+ isn't unheard of) and modified in the price-range you're looking. I would say an 80 series, that's locked, would give a rubicon a run for it's money - depending on what your plans are.
If you want a vehicle that will do mild off-road and will require the least amount of hands on work, find a 100 series landcruiser or an FJ Cruiser. The only reason an 80 series doesn't fall in this category is because even the newest is 20 years old - and as such, connectors get brittle, maintenance should be done (etc). Doesn't take away from their abilities, though.
If you love older Jeeps, then seriously consider an actual FJ40. I do have one, and it rarely sees any use because I have had to build it so much, but to be fair it was a pile of rust when I got it. As a comparison, friend has an FJ40 he bought for around $15k and it had 36's on it and a rear locker, front limited slip..... friend brought a 2010 Rubicon with a lift and 35's.... The Rubicon surprised us in it's otherwise stock form - however, there were plenty of times the 40 was the support vehicle, and never the other way around. Your money does go further when you start to look at older, but modified, vehicles.
1) Frame-off "Rusto-Mod" FJ40/350/350 2) 2001 Lexus LX470 3) 2017 Prius V4