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This 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado Explains Toyota’s Success In a Nutshell

An imported right-hand-drive SUV from Toyota’s days as an up-and-comer helps explain how Toyota became the world’s number one producer of automobiles.

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With the '67 to '69 model year Camaros left in existence all polished gems costing six figures, and the Mustangs, Corvettes, Chevelles, and old MOPAR iron all but snatched up, car-crazy collectors and restorers have been looking to SUVs as much loved project cars. At the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA), more than a few of the members now have special SUVs that they have brought back to life or invested in keeping in better-than-new condition. My Friend Kamil Kaluski recently joined me in collecting a vintage Toyota SUV.

1996 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

Kamil found an imported right-hand-drive Land Cruiser Prado somehow on the world wide web. When he acquired it, it was a runner. Sort of like a well-loved but certainly not polished daily driver. Kamil is a Land Rover fan for life, and he has had some epic adventures in SUVs all over the world. His daily driver is a new Ford Bronco. Which replaced a 4Runner. You could say Kamil knows a good SUV when he sees one.

1996 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

When Kamil bought the Prado, its interior was in shockingly good shape. The soft cloth seats look like they are five years old, not 27. Cruise over to the Tesla fan clubs and see how many posts are from dismayed owners of almost-new vehicles with white plastic seats that are showing premature staining, color transfer, and wear.

1996 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

The six-cylinder engine of the Prado was in outstanding condition. It’s a little dusty, but the Prado wears that with pride. Kamil recently spend a few dollars, and we really mean few, to have spark plugs changed and the alternator needed to be replaced. Even the "Prado" sticker Toyota applied to the front of the vehicle in 1996 is still in great shape.

1996 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

Kamil upgraded the Prado’s tires and suspension. Nothing too crazy. Just the equipment a vehicle with the Land Cruiser moniker deserves.

The interior is almost bone stock. Luckily for Kamil (and me as well on my old Toyota SUV), the folks at Toyota used a double-DIN hole for the Asian-market “radio.” So that has been replaced with a more modern head unit. Anyone who has an older vehicle with that space can now enjoy Apple CarPlay, and the popular Google Maps, Waze, Spotify, Pandora, Audible, and Apple Music apps we all really want.

Kamil was generous enough to let some of his fellow NEMPA members drive the Prado. I had a go, and it was my very first time driving a right-hand-drive automobile. What struck me immediately was the starting sound. It sounded exactly like my 2007 Highlander. Looking at the dash and interior, I noticed the ‘96 Toyota had the same steering wheel, switchgear, and door cards as my 2007 Toyota SUV. I told this to Kamil, and his response was, “Toyota is a company that resists change.” For sure.

On the road, the Prado drives so much better than one might expect. Despite being the very definition of a body-on-frame SUV, it drives a lot like my similarly-sized unibody Highlander. It’s not exactly the same in corners. That’s likely due to the difference in tire designs, but it sure feels like a Highlander going straight down the road.

Like me, Kamil takes his SUV each weekend and points it north towards New England's rural places. He actually uses his SUVs as SUVs, not just for city use. The ski racks on the roof are the perfect accessory.

What conclusions did I draw after having a chance to drive this special vehicle?
-Toyota makes the most durable vehicles in the world.
-Toyota’s resistance to change is not an accident. It’s a strategy for success.
-Many who appreciate what Land Rover represents own a Toyota for obvious reasons.
-Toyota has been a “global” automaker for so long that we’ve forgotten that it was once a novel idea.
-The brand’s signature look and feel have earned it many loyal fans.

You can read more about this special Prado at these links:
This is my “new” JDM Toyota Land Cruiser
My Land Cruiser Prado – Modifying It; Part 1

Here's a short Tik Tok video walkaround of the Prado.

If you liked this overview of Kamil’s 1996 Land Cruiser Prado, why not drop a note in our comments section below?

John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his ten years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and TikTok @ToknCars, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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Steve (not verified)    February 18, 2023 - 6:41PM

I daily drive a 90 series Prado in outback Australia.

It has 300,000kms (whatever that is in miles) and yes, the seats are still like new. I also replaced the head unit (the tape deck and cd stacker didn't work unfortunately), but it hasn't needed a whole lot else. Clutch and alternator needed replacing, and the timing belt.

It's got some rattles my newer car doesn't, and it's not as good for overtaking (4 cylinder diesel vs the straight 6 barra in my Ford Falcon), but damn I love driving it.

The 90 series are still pretty common in Australia, and while I'd love to be able to afford a newer 4x4, I also really like the idea of keeping this and doing it up. One of my favourite things is it doesn't beep at me like new cars do!