1996 land cruiser prado s90 95 series

This is my “new” JDM Toyota Land Cruiser

I needed a second car. I knew what I needed functionally but wasn’t sure what I wanted. Actually, I wanted my Bronco, but my wife wouldn’t relinquish it. So I started looking for something else. I looked at so many cars that I started to hate looking at cars. Ultimately, I bought something I didn’t look for or expect to get.

Looking for… something

Ideally, I’d have my Bronco but buying another Bronco wouldn’t be smart; it’s pricey, and order times are long. But since I like ragtop 4x4s, I looked into Wranglers, which are equally pricey. And it would be silly to have two functionally identical vehicles. Then I concluded that a pickup would be a good match for the Bronco. The Jeep Gladiator fit that bill and was a ragtop, but those are equally pricey. I really like the Ford Maverick, but those require a special order and a yearlong wait.  

Looking for… something old

Having no real choice or other desire for new cars, I turned to used cars. I kept thinking about what vehicles I really wanted to own over the years. I concluded that I always wanted a Range Rover. I started looking around and even placed a few bids on BaT and CarsAndBids. I researched them more and then came to the obvious conclusion that a used Range Rover is a horrible, no good, bad idea. And then it hit me… WK2 Grand Cherokee.

I reviewed the ’14-’20 Grand Cherokee on these pages here a few times. I always loved them. They were spacious, they drove great, and even the V6 models were powerful enough. Further, upper trims are downright luxurious. I always considered them Range Rovers for half the money (your opinion may vary). And I found an ideal one; a 2015 Overland model, one OCD owner/driver, garage kept, meticulously maintained. I put a deposit on it and was happy as a clam.

Everything is a challenge

The issue was that the seller was waiting for his new GMC Sierra Denali to arrive. The arrival of that truck kept getting postponed by his dealer due to manufacturing and part supply issues at General Motors. I was willing to wait a little bit, but at some point, I simply needed the car. We agreed that I’d look for another vehicle, and if I found something he’d just refund my deposit. So off to FaceBook Marketplace, Craig’sList, Cargurus, and other websites I went.

I was really getting tired of looking when I found this weird JDM Land Cruiser. It immediately raised several red flags, but I decided to inquire further. Turns out that it was imported by the seller for the purpose of resale in the United States. But the seller was not an official importer or a dealer. Rather, it was just an individual doing this on the side. It, therefore, was already federalized and titled in the state of Massachusetts.

Looking and Inspecting

I grabbed a friend, Tony Sestito of BangShift, and we went to look at it. This is what we saw upon our inspection:

  • Well-optioned model: power sunroof, keyless entry, power-folding mirrors, JDM radio with JDM navigation system, TV tuner, cassette and CD players.
  • Absolutely rust-free chassis. The frame, the floors, the skid plates, the axles – it looked brand new.
  • Paint damage from the sun. It seemed like this Land Cruiser spent its life in a warmer climate, outdoors. In lieu of the lack of rust, there was un-faded paint on the roof and the hood.
  • No leaks. None. The engine looked very clean. The transmission, transfer case, and axles all were dry. All fluids were clean and at proper levels. All rubber components looked very good. Tie-rods, bushings, and control arms all seemed in good condition.
  • No accident damages. All body panels looked original and properly aligned, except for molding on the rear left door, which seemed to have come from another vehicle. Not a single dent, and nothing broken.
  • The Interior was very clean, but the once vibrant fabric was slightly faded. Everything worked, including AC. All lights, inside, outside, and dash worked.

Tony and I looked at each other with that silent “bro, this looks really good” look. We kept looking, taking individual turns, making small talk with the seller. We decided to go for a ride.

The Test Drive

Adjusting to driving with the steering wheel on the right-hand side wasn’t much of an issue for me. I was focused on the car’s mechanicals: sounds, vibrations, and dynamics. A quick spin revealed worn factory shocks and not much else. The power seemed fine, no dash lights, the transmission shifted smoothly, and the brakes seemed fine, too.

When the drive was over, I started thinking, which is never good. On one hand, it’s a 26-year-old truck. On the other hand, it’s a 26-year-old Toyota truck that’s been well-maintained. On the other hand, it’s a cool, obscure JDM RHD Land Cruiser. On the other hand, it’s a mixed bag of third-generation 4Runner and 80-series Land Cruiser parts. On one hand, this is really stupid. On the other hand, it’s really cool.  

In the end…

I made a spontaneous decision. I made a fair offer. Seller accepted. I left a deposit. To make a long story short:

  • I bought it.
  • I insured and registered it. (Insurance was a bit tricky due to weird VIN)
  • I drove it daily for two months.
  • Nothing bad happened.
  • It actually turned out better than I expected
  • I made a lot of mods – more on that later.

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14 responses to “This is my “new” JDM Toyota Land Cruiser”

  1. Batshitbox Avatar

    Was this what you posted a sort of Mystery Car photo of a while back? I forget who posted that, but it had us all looking up JDM spark plug applications and oil service specs. I think we zeroed in on mid-90s. (Add a link to that post if it was one of yours; complete the circle, like.)

    Anyway, Cool! Don’t let the tin worm get at it; tin-worm is mighty in New England.

    1. Kamil Avatar

      Yes! Maybe. I don’t know, I don’t remember to be honest.

      I have made adequate protections from natural weight savings that should last at least a week!

  2. Manic_King Avatar

    What can you see through that black mirror- thingy next to the headlight?

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      At a guess, it gives an unobstructed view of regulatory compliance.

    2. Kamil Avatar

      Absolutely nothing. It’s useless but it looks cool.

      1. Manic_King Avatar

        I guess it can be adjusted to show how much room there is between the bumper and a wall. In urban setting in Japan this car would be a giant and owner would struggle with parking all the time.

  3. mdharrell Avatar

    “But the seller was not an official importer or a dealer.”

    That’s been my experience, too, although it my case it was individuals who imported cars for their own use and then put them up for sale after a few years. I have no reason to avoid the professional route, aside from being an irredeemable cheapskate, but things just never have happened to go that way.

    Insurance with an unexpected VIN format can indeed be tricky, as you mentioned, but my secret to success has been to keep throwing weird issues like that at my insurance agent every few years so that now the entire office staff has grown used to it.

    Congratulations and best wishes with it!

    1. Kamil Avatar

      “ugh, it’s the weird guy again!”

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        No, they know me by name: “Ugh, it’s Mike again!”

        Sometimes it pays to have long-established business relationships.

  4. Idaneck Avatar

    Oh man, that is cool! I’ve toyed with something like this, because we have the modern and luxury Prado already.

    Maybe I missed it, did the BAT sale of the Integra go through?

    1. Kamil Avatar

      Yes! That sold like 18 months ago. I may have missed writing it up. My life has been wacky lately and my writing had to take a back seat.
      (Get it, “back seat”? Get it? I’ll show myself out)

  5. David Sanborn Avatar

    You made exactly the correct decision. You now own a vehicle that will only appreciate in value and will generate conversations everywhere you go.

    Our right hand drive Nissan Pao turned out to be a great daily driver too. Sitting on the right is almost never an impediment to anything other than drive throughs. Shifting a manual with my left hand is fun and became natural within a few days and probably also constitutes amazing theft prevention.

  6. TurboTony Avatar

    Are you driving it this winter? That’ll be one way to customize it with some New England rust.

    1. Kamil Kaluski Avatar
      Kamil Kaluski

      I am. It’s a car.