**AS SEEN ON THEGULFCOASTSPORTSMAN.COM
When I was 15 I went to my father one night and started the dreaded dialogue of “can you buy me my first car?” The conversations lasted about four to six months and they were filled with every profound reason a soon-to-be 16-year-old male needed a 1977-1983 Toyota FJ40 LandCruiser. I can tell you from experience, the reasons can really be damning to the opposition and convincing is a devil’s game. Safety was his concern, as well as dependability. Needless to say, rationality on my dad’s part won out and I ended up with a much newer, yet still cool, more practical ride (that I was very proud of).
Not much later, I worked to convince a friend of mine that he needed an old FJ40. His parents must not have cared about him quite as much as mine did, and he ended up with one that he constantly poured money into. He constantly complained about being hot or cold or it taking a long time to start…What a wimp. Of course, these were all the problems I wanted to have.
The navy sheen of Taylor’s Land Cruiser is still seen in the peripherals of my mind’s eye and the times spent tearing up the dirt and mud with friends in that cruiser have never left my heart.
Fast forward 15 years or so. I finally had the means to entertain owning a vintage Land Cruiser of my own. The discussions with my wife were very similar to the ones with my father years before – but ultimately her love for me and my powers of persuasion won out and she gave me the “ok” to find and buy one.
I was very particular about what I wanted in this cruiser. I looked. And I looked. Then I looked some more. This one was too rusty, this one too expensive. This one was perfect. Wait, what? Yea, this one. In Louisiana!
I called the seller and eventually solidified the deal and bought it. I can remember committing to buying it and feeling that the 15 year old inside me had finally gotten what he’d always wanted. It was a 1977, Rustic Green Fj40, 4-speed, with disc brakes and mud tires. It even had the hard top (which was to be promptly removed upon arrival, because it was summer and, damn it, I needed the wind and sun in my face).
My friend and I loaded up in the truck, hauling a gooseneck trailer, and headed to Louisiana. As we crossed the state line I noticed a trailer tire was going low. Amped up on Toyota mojo, we decided to press on in order to meet the seller before nightfall. We’d worry about the tire once we sealed the deal. Which we did. I remember plain as day counting out the money on his coffee table while his old lady checked my math.
It was hot that day. Really, really hot. We got the green beast loaded and headed back to Texas.
Then a trailer tire blew.
“Ok, lets change it.”
“Nope. Spare is flat.”
I had really made an “F”. My need to get this cruiser had rendered me unable to make rational decisions and prepare for the trip. Putting along at 15 mph for 45 miles towards the next town was really fun. And then the “low diesel” light came on.
I recall driving down the highway (at a snails pace) with my best friend just thinking how screwed we could really be should we run out of gas, with a flat tire, in a strange place, at night. I remember looking at him and us just laughing. And laughing.
We made it to town. Got the tire fixed, stayed the night, and drove home the next day.
On the way home we talked for hours about music, movies, life, and the times we had in high school and college. That drive home – well, we could’ve blown all four tires and it would have been worth it. We made it home safely and promptly removed that top.
See, the thing is, what happened after I got the cruiser was unexpected. Sure, like any other 30-something year old vehicle, shit needed fixing and it needed some TLC – which was expected and I shelled it out. Plenty of it. I spent time working on the clutch (the dang hum), or the master cylinder, and then ultimately, the transmission.
I took my wife for a ride in it. We went on a date into Austin- top off at night beneath the stars. It was great. I can remember her hair blowing in the wind and thinking how all my dreams had come true. Great wife. Good life. Cool car.
Over the next year I spent time tinkering with it. Driving it. Adding to it things like lights, gas cans, tires, a new battery, then a second battery. I replaced nasty bolts and enhanced the interior. Of course, it had to have stereo. All the cool stuff I wanted as a kid. I have babied it and also tested its limits off-road.
Every fall my dad comes out to the ranch after summer fades away and there’s a fresh nip present in the air. We put the top on, make a drink and go for a drive around the ranch. We just enjoy driving something old and being together.
When my daughter was born three years ago, I couldn’t wait to get a picture of her in the cruiser. The more she grew, the more she wanted to ride in it. Now we often ride around old backroads as she screams, “Faster dad. Faster!” It melts my heart.
The 15 year old me probably would’ve rolled the Land Cruiser. I may have seriously injured myself, or worse. I wasn’t ready to own it. When we’re young we see the world as if it is ending today- there is no horizon. Everything must happen right now. My short-lived adulthood has taught me to appreciate the sense of youthful exuberance that owning this vehicle brings me.
The Land Cruiser has brought me so much more than that, however. Sure, I have a sense of accomplishment from being able to have it. More importantly, it’s given me a connection with family and friends that wouldn’t have come otherwise. That ride home with my buddy, the fall evenings with my dad, “Faster dad. Faster!”, and my beautiful wife’s hair blowing in the wind. All these memories remind me that I am surrounded by love. The Land Cruiser has taught me that, just because something doesn’t happen today, it doesn’t mean it cannot happen tomorrow.
Maybe it wasn’t the Land Cruiser that brought me so much joy, but it was the medium that allowed me to share so much with the ones I love. And that translated to other things in my life, like seeing that I didn’t need an old car to spend time with my dad, or go on a road trip with my best friend, or take my wife out on a date.
It taught me to live for those moments. And make them on my own.
Every day I walk by that Land Cruiser and I think of all the good times I’ve had in it, and I smile thinking on the great times I will have in it. But what fills my heart is all the great people I had those times with.
One day I’ll watch my daughter take it down the road and I’ll know that everythinghappens for a reason. We just have to be patient. Having it now has taught me to appreciate the relationships I have, more than I could ever appreciate the car.