February 29, 2024

60 Times 6 Plus TE37: The Neosteel 6×6 Land Cruiser


When we imagine a country that adopts the bigger is better stance, the majority of us will default to the ‘Merican way of life.

This is home to the Big Mac after all. A country whose love affair with the V8 motor dates all the way back to 1914. And, if you’ve ever driven between California and Las Vegas, you’ll know it also boasts the world’s largest thermometer. Obviously.

DSC00098

Clearly, the attitude of excess isn’t one usually associated with a country like Japan. Its capital city – Tokyo – remains one of the most densely populated areas in the world, cramming 38 million residents into just 13,000 square kilometres.

DSC00825

To give that a bit more perspective, New York manages 19 million people in a similarly sized area. But what about Texas? Try 30 million across a state that’s actually 1.8 times larger than the entire country of Japan.

message-editor_1577761227443-img_2299

Big cars obviously exist in Japan and have done for many years. Look back to 1995, and you’ll see Toyota released the Mega Cruiser – essentially a Hummer H1 run through Google Translate. While its original use was for the Japanese military, that didn’t stop Toyota making 3,000 road-going versions too, despite the Mega Cruiser being almost twice as wide (and long) as a typical kei car.

DSC02005

If we’re talking legendary Toyota 4x4s however, there’s one model whose following transcends way beyond its country of origin. One which has quite literally been a global backbone providing aid, supplies and access to some of the most remote parts of the world beyond its use as a family vehicle or off-roader. The one and only Land Cruiser.

DSC01926

As the saying goes, ‘If you want to go into the Outback, take a Land Rover. But if you want to come back out again, make sure it’s a Land Cruiser.’

For the last 73 years, Toyota has produced a variation of the Land Cruiser with an estimated 10 million units sold worldwide. That might not sound like much compared to Ford’s F150, but the Land Cruiser has found its way into no fewer than 170 countries, which might just be a record in itself.

DSC02826

The Land Cruiser story is one which really deserves multiple Speedhunters posts, because its history goes far beyond anything I could ever do justice. So, for the sake of this story and the Land Cruiser in question, we’ll focus on one of the most widely recognized generations – the FJ60, aka 60-series.

DSC02027

Produced between 1980 and 1992, the FJ60 was designed to be a rugged off-roader but with more emphasis on comfort and features to compete better within the emerging SUV market of the time. No longer did Toyota need to create just a capable 4×4 because in 1984, production of the infamous 70-series began (pictured above). And while it received the odd facelift, fundamentally that generation has been the same for nearly 40 years. The reason? Well, the 70-series became the go-to choice for NGOs (non-government organisations) and various humanitarian outfits like the United Nations.

DSC02840

One of the ideas being that – regardless of production year – a 70-series Land Cruiser could be repaired quickly and easily no matter where in the world it is, often using parts taken from other 70-series, irrespective of age. Some may call it basic, but with minimal electrics to go wrong and Toyota’s famed reliability, it takes the term ‘dependable’ to a whole new level.

DSC01976

Unfortunately, that versatility and durability has meant the 70-series often gets used for some slightly non-humanitarian things, like sporting an anti-aircraft gun on its pickup bed while somewhere a bit sandy.

DSC00217

And while the 70-series was doing it’s bit for humanitarian aid, the more ‘luxury’ 60-series – and subsequent generations after – then built a gigantic cult following all around the world making it the ultimate adventure 4×4. Stylish, tough, and in recent years easily retrofitted with anything from a roof tent to a full-blown awning and pop-out accommodation.

DSC00136

And, when a car becomes a cult classic with enthusiasts, it leaves the door wide open for a little more interpretation too. Something Yukata Kasaho has taken advantage of by converting one of the world’s best 4x4s into a genuine 6×6 monster, complete with locking diffs and roof-stacked exhausts.

DSC00164
DSC00188

Now put that in the backdrop of Tokyo and the result is a car so outrageous that even the most reserved Japanese motorist will crick their neck for a cheeky look. What possesses a man to create this kind of lunacy… and where can we get one too?

DSC00233

“I first fell in love with the Land Cruiser back when I was at school,” Kasaho-san explains. “I remember seeing some of the elders drive them and thinking, ‘wow, that car looks cool!’ So, when I got older, I knew I would one day own one.”

DSC00123

Understandably, this wouldn’t be an isolated incident. In the years after leaving school, Kasaho-san bought and modified a range of different 4x4s which inevitably led to him starting his own business focused on upgrading them. That business – known as Keep Slant – is still going strong today, with Kasaho-san’s specialties being leaf springs and lift kits that he designs and engineers himself.

DSC01068

Here lies the foundations for a perfect storm. An enthusiast obsessed with Land Cruisers – whose business focuses on modifying them for all kinds of use – decides it’s time to promote said business with an eye-catching build. What could possibly happen next?

DSC00286

“Being a Land Cruiser fan for so long, you get to meet many other enthusiasts and see many other cool builds,” Kasaho-san adds. “The 60-series Land Cruiser has always been my favourite generation. It is iconic around the world, and because they are very simple it is easy to modify for different off-road use.”

DSC00183

“I began to wonder, ‘what has not really been done with the 60-series?’ It would need to be something that could not be produced from the factory; something which requires a skilled specialist to achieve and not produced on a large scale.”

DSC00681

The only thing more dangerous than a wild idea is finding a skilled team or individual willing to make it a reality. In this case, it’d be the mad scientists at Neosteel – a 4×4 specialist located all the way down in Kumamoto, Japan. Bespoke fabrication is Neosteel’s bread and butter, ranging from simple overland creations to those rock-crawling monsters with full exoskeletons. And if you’ve ever dealt with a fabricator before, you’ll know the way to their heart is by challenging them to create something they’ve never built before.

DSC01084

“Truthfully, the idea for 6×6 came from Tatsuya Kuwata of Neosteel,” Kasaho-san points out. “I wanted to do something unique that I could use to promote products like the leaf spring kits, but Kuwata-san always had the dream of building a 6×6! I thought the idea was crazy, but I loved it. Plus, because of his excitement, I knew Kuwata-san would not stop until it was complete and functional.”

DSC00199

For Kuwata-san at Neosteel, builds like the 6×6 60-series are what keep him awake at night for all the right reasons. Just like Kasaho-san, his background and introduction into the world of Land Cruisers spans multiple decades – 25 years in fact – after embracing total freedom in his twenties by exploring the mountains most weekends in various 4x4s.

DSC00185

“I work on all kinds of off-road vehicles, but the Land Cruiser really impresses me the most,” Kuwata-san explains. “I knew Kasaho-san for a long time before the project. It was a dream of mine to build a genuine 6×6 vehicle for many years, around the time Mercedes unveiled the G 63 AMG 6×6 back in 2013.”

DSC00201

“Kasaho-san wanted to incorporate leaf springs into the build because of his business, which added a lot of challenges to the build. Japan is a country with strict car safety standards, so we ended up creating different variations to retain the use of leaf springs correctly. In the end, we did manage to get a solution that worked including all three axles being controlled independently too.”

DSC00233

Kuwata-san didn’t share too much information into the full extent of fabrication – not helped by my lack of Japanese – but was keen to point out the use of a Suzuki Jimny transfer box to join the additional axle to the rest of the drivetrain, allowing it to be engaged and disengaged along with the locking differentials too. All-in-all, the project has taken nearly four years from start to finish, but it’s far from a show car.

DSC00459

Make no mistake, the addition of six 20×9-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37s does add a certain ‘show’ element to the Land Cruiser, but Kasaho-san hasn’t shied away from using it – the scars from rock crawling is apparent on several of the wheels.

DSC00290

It’s a similar story inside. Bride front seats combined with a Navajo pattern wouldn’t be your first choice in any Land Cruiser, but aside from being stylish as hell they add a certain level of comfort to the otherwise ‘uncompromised’ ride.

DSC01092

“The goal was to create an eye-catching 60-series which also remained a genuine off-roader,” adds Kasaho-san. “It is more than just a demo car for my business and the work of Neosteel; it is a car I continue to use most days and enjoy with friends during expeditions.”

DSC01110

“In Japan, it is unusual to see such a big vehicle especially with six wheels. But the Land Cruiser is an icon to many people here, and to see such a vehicle modified in an unusual way brings myself – and many other people – happiness. That is what I love most about car culture.”

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni
mark@speedhunters.com





Source link