By DAVID MORLEY
Tuesday 20 February 2001
Has the bubble burst for the big, traditional four-wheel-drives, as every industry observer professed it
must? It's starting to look like it, and this time around, it's all down to petrol prices.
One of the hardest hit was Toyota's big off-roader, the LandCruiser, which, late last year, was knocked off
its customary top spot in the sales charts by none other than the smaller, trendier and more fuel-efficient
Quite simply, with petrol at more than 90 cents a litre (and diesel a bit more), folks are being scared off.
That mentality is going to filter down to the used-car market, too, because there's no difference in the fuel
guzzled by a brand-new LandCruiser and the consumption of a second-hand version.
And since there are plenty out there already, the used market is set to become, if not actually flooded, at
least damp underfoot with LandCruisers.
The good news this time around is that people buying LandCruisers are more likely to have a specific
off-road task in mind for the vehicles rather than running them as glorified brat haulers through the week,
as has been happening.
Why is that good news? Because as off-roaders, they don't come much better than an 80-Series Cruiser,
but as a family car, they're bought for the fashion statement they make rather than any inherent design
But if putting fuel in the fashion statement means there's nothing left for food on the table, fashions change
Despite the fact that Toyotas have always held up pretty well resale value-wise, there's no escaping the
market forces that dictate that any rush of a particular model on to the second-hand market will have a
serious effect on its price.
Which is another way of saying that second-hand Cruisers could be about to become much cheaper. And
assuming you have a valid reason for needing one, what are you buying?
The 80-Series LandCruiser was launched in 1990 to much fanfare and an audience eager to update from
the hoary old trucks that previous LandCruisers had been. The 80-Series addressed that issue with a new,
smoother, rounded body, full-time four-wheel-drive on all but the most basic fleet model and some fantastic
diesel engines. In fact, the diesel engine is the only one to opt for if you're buying a pre-'92 model.
The normally aspirated diesel is great, while the turbo-diesel is an absolute gem. Either version,
meanwhile, will give much more realistic fuel economy than the petrol version.
Speaking of which, it was a dawg. Available only as an automatic, the petrol engine was a carry-over from
the old range and still used pushrods and stone-age specification. It was gutless, breathless and drank fuel
like a supertanker. Many were converted to LPG, which only served to make the lack of power more
pronounced (and even LPG isn't cheap any more).
Things improved for LandCruiser buyers in 1992 when Toyota unveiled its all-new petrol engine. Now this
was better: twin overhead camshafts, capacity punched out to a full 4.5 litres, four valves per cylinder and
158kW on tap.
All of a sudden, the 'Cruiser could lift its skirts and actually overtake with some authority. The only trouble
was it still had a drinking problem.
On the plus side, an 80-Series LandCruiser (the early petrol version excepted) is a ripper off-road. Not
much this side of a buttered cliff face will stop one.
On-road, they're less happy, with slightly vague steering and plenty of body roll in corners, but those are
inevitable side-effects of the things that make them so good in the bush.
It's also the other main reason that people who use these behemoths as family cars are viewed strangely
by this column.
But having said that, if off-road work is why you want a second-hand LandCruiser, then there are few (if
any) better options.
And now the best option looks like it might be about to get a lot cheaper. It remains to be seen whether
Toyota Australia starts lobbying the Prime Minister for fuel excise relief, but given the PM's response to
similar pleas by the state premiers' collective, it needn't bother.
What to pay
The cheapest 80-Series are now the early petrol-engined mutts at about $20,000, but, frankly, you wouldn't
The excellent turbo-diesel from 1990 is fetching about $5000 more and is vastly superior, although that
parity could change with the petrol version losing more value soon.
The later generation petrol-engined version from 1992 is worth about $26,000, but it, too, could be due for
a fall. Watch the classifieds.