Goodbye, JDM Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

In the summer of 2022, I bought a freshly imported ’96 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, also known as the 90-series. At the time, this Japanese-market Land Cruiser was unique in the United States as 1996 was the first year of that generation of medium-duty Land Cruiser. Given the 25-year import rule, 2021 was the first year that it could be imported to the United States. Since that time, the 90-series has become a lot more common on our shores as the JDM craze keeps on growing.

What is it?

For those not-in-the know, the 90-series is considered a lighter-duty Land Cruiser. It came with four- or six-cylinder gasoline engines, or a four-cylinder turbodiesel. It shares many components with the third-generation US-market 4Runner but is a little bigger. Unlike the 4Runner it has a third-row seat, and the rear opens like a door and not a hatch. One can think of the 90-series as a predecessor to the Lexus GX.

Why did I buy it?

At the time I was simply looking for a decent 100-series. I have sold my 4Runner some time prior and I kind of missed it. I honestly couldn’t find a non-rusted or not-beaten model for decent money. Then I saw a Facebook Marketplace post for this one and was intrigued.

When I bought it, I knew that I wouldn’t keep it for much longer than a year. I get bored with cars and I also knew that it wouldn’t be a great car for my daughter to drive. The right-hand-drive car wouldn’t be a good thing for an inexperienced driver. If the Prado encountered any body damage, it would require sourcing obsolete parts from across the world. The lack of readily available parts is also what pushed me to sell it. For instance, I had no idea how I’d go about getting a replacement windshield if needed. That’s the kind of stuff that kept me up at night.

For me personally, the Prado did several things. First, it was a JDM car, giving it a level of coolness and instant cred among dorky enthusiasts. I always wanted something JDM for no good reason at all – for the same reason one would want an Alfa Romeo, a Land Rover, or some other cult-ish vehicle. Secondly, since it was far from perfect, I knew it was going to be a cool project car, something that I hadn’t had in many years.

Project Car Status

And what a project car it was! I had a lot of firsts with it. It was the first vehicle that I installed a proper lift kit on. It was the first vehicle for which I bought a brand-new set of aftermarket wheels. It was the first vehicle that I wrapped, even if partially. While I installed plenty of aftermarket radios, this was my first time with an Apple CarPlay and a reverse camera. I’d have added a sweet amp and speakers had I had enough time and energy.

I should also mention that I did a ton of maintenance work on it. Older cars are always behind on maintenance, and doing mechanical stuff is what I get a kick out of. Getting a 25-year-old car to truly run like new took a lot more than an oil change. I changed out all (ALL!) the fluids and filters. I swapped out plugs and wires, making sure that I got the proper ones. Common issues with the 5VZ-FE engine are knock sensors and the idle control valve. That entailed the removal of the intake manifold, something that I promise even the most reputable importers don’t do.

Live and Learn

In all, I loved my time with it, even if all the mods didn’t turn out to my liking. For instance, with the lift kit, I wish I spent an additional $400 for the better shocks. I loved the BFGoodrich KO2 tires but their load E rating, the only available in that size, made for a harsher ride. Slightly smaller and lighter load C tires would have made a big difference in the ride as well as performance; acceleration, braking, and fuel economy. Live and learn.

My issue was that I don’t think I would have ever been truly happy with it. There would always be something that I’d want to improve on. I felt like it was going to need a new exhaust. Having stripped the old brown Japanese tint, the fishbowl was begging for some new ceramic tints. While partially wrapped, some of the worn paint was still bothering me. It was also too slow for me and a fix for that would have been a pricey supercharger. I still needed to install speakers and an amp, and being OCD I couldn’t do that without dynamat-ing the whole thing. In the end, I’d keep dumping my money and time into it in the name of never-ending improvements. I had my fun and I decided that now was time for it to go. No more project cars, until the next project car.

Selling was shockingly easy

To sell, I was going to auction it off on Cars-and-Bids. I got a little uneasy feeling as they insisted on a no-reserve sale. While it would have probably sold well, I just did not want to take that gamble. For the hell of it, I posted it on Facebook Marketplace. Some annoying dreamers and internet trolls replied but the first real call didn’t come until the second day. Right away I knew this was a good buyer – an adult, he researched and knew the vehicle, he had some bad experiences when trying to buy a similar Prado, and therefore he asked the right questions. I think he was happy to find a good seller, too. I sold it on day two for my asking price.

Now what?

My daughter will have her driver’s license in March of this year. My mom, being a cool grandma, gave her an old, 2006 Acura MDX. My stepfather said that the MDX was in perfect condition despite the 206,000 miles on the odometer. Guess what, it wasn’t. Or at least my definition of perfect does not align with my stepfather’s. More on that later.

I still have my custom-ordered ’22 Ford Bronco. I don’t get to drive it much as my wife took a liking to it and won’t give it back. Once my daughter gets her license, my daily commute will be strictly by mass transit. I will need something for all the other times, but I currently have no idea what that thing is. I’m browsing but not seeing anything. It’s nice to have the comfort of time when shopping for some kind of an interesting car.

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One response to “Goodbye, JDM Toyota Land Cruiser Prado”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    How about an Equus as the next project? You could throw out the V8 and electrify it.