1981 Toyota BJ 46: Unleashing the Untamed

1981 Toyota BJ 46: Unleashing the Untamed

Engine Inline 4Horsepower 90 hp at 3,500 RPMTorque 159 lb-ft at 2,000 RPMEngine Location Front, longitudinally-mountedDrive Type AWDWeight 1,975 kg | 4,354 lbTransmission 4-speed manual 

The Toyota BJ 46 played a pivotal role in shaping Japan’s automotive landscape and setting a remarkable benchmark for off-road capabilities. Its distinct attributes and rugged design not only solidified its status as a Toyota emblem but also served as a testament to the remarkable ingenuity and design prowess within the realm of Japanese automaking.

Source: Vintage Car Collector

Originally conceived with military utility in mind, the Toyota BJ 46 transcended its initial purpose to become a celebrated automobile that substantially contributed to the evolution of Japan’s automotive sector. Its robust four-wheel-drive configuration and unwavering durability quickly propelled it into the public consciousness, captivating a wide audience with its resolute performance both on and off the beaten path. The true marvel of the BJ 46 lay in its exceptional aptitude for conquering even the most unforgiving terrains with unmatched finesse. From surmounting formidable boulders to effortlessly traversing rivers and threading through dense forests, this vehicle emerged as a paragon of reliability and capability. Its resilient chassis and dependable powertrain endeared it to outdoor enthusiasts and explorers alike, who found solace in its unwavering strength and adaptability to various adventures.

The origins

Source: Artcurial

In the early 1950s, Toyota’s chief engineer, Hanji Umehara, recognized the need for a rugged and capable vehicle that could navigate Japan’s rough terrain. At the time, the brand primarily produced small, efficient automobiles for the Japanese market. However, Umehara believed that a more robust vehicle could serve a niche market for farmers, foresters, and others who needed a reliable off-road vehicle. Umehara began work on the project in 1951, with a team of engineers including Akio Kondo and Takeji Miyagi. They began by studying the design of the Willys Jeep, a military vehicle that had become popular among farmers and outdoorsmen in post-war Japan. The team identified several areas for improvement, including better suspension and drivetrain components, a stronger chassis, and a more powerful engine. Over the next several years, the team developed and refined a prototype vehicle that would eventually become the Toyota BJ. The prototype was completed in 1953 and underwent extensive testing in a variety of off-road conditions. The team responsible for the car made a multitude of alterations and enhancements to the vehicle based on their testing results, including the installation of locking differentials, an improved suspension system, and increased ground clearance. The initial production model of the Toyota BJ made its debut in 1954 and was renowned for its off-road capabilities. However, the vehicle was not readily available to international markets until the 1960s. The introduction of the BJ40 model in 1960 saw a range of enhancements implemented, such as a more powerful engine and an enhanced interior. Today, the Toyota BJ and its various models are recognized as icons of off-road driving, with the Land Cruiser and 4Runner being favored among adventurers and off-road enthusiasts worldwide.

The 1981 model year

Source: TrucksNL

The 1981 model year had notable enhancements from previous versions, including a more powerful engine, improving its capability in challenging terrains. The 3.4-liter diesel engine produced 90 horsepower and 159 lb-ft of torque, a substantial improvement from the previous year’s 3.0-liter engine that generated only 80 horsepower and 141 lb-ft of torque. The new engine was also more efficient, providing better fuel economy. The BJ 46 had a few exterior changes, including a redesigned front grille with seven slots, replacing the previous six-slot grille, a new front bumper, and a new set of wheels. The rear of the car had the same tailgate and rear bumper as the prior year. Inside, the 1981 model had minor upgrades, such as a new steering wheel design, updated instrumentation and controls, and improved sound insulation that made for a quieter ride. The addition of power steering was the most notable difference, making the vehicle easier to handle, especially in tight off-road situations. The new four-speed manual transmission provided smoother shifting and better performance than the previous three-speed transmission. Overall, the 1981 model was a significant improvement with a more powerful engine, updated exterior design, and several interior upgrades, making it a go-anywhere vehicle that was easier to handle and more capable in off-road situations.

Did you know?


1981 version of the offroader was one of the first vehicles to use a snorkel air intake system. The snorkel was an optional accessory that allowed the vehicle to wade through water without damaging the engine. It consisted of a long tube that extended from the engine bay up to the roof of the vehicle, where it drew in clean air. This prevented water and other debris from entering the engine’s air intake system, allowing the vehicle to safely navigate through rivers and other bodies of water. The snorkel air intake system would later become a popular feature on many off-road vehicles and is still used on some modern 4x4s today.

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1981 Toyota BJ 46: Unleashing the Untamed

Engine Inline 4Horsepower 90 hp at 3,500 RPMTorque 159 lb-ft at 2,000 RPMEngine Location Front, longitudinally-mountedDrive Type AWDWeight 1,975 kg | 4,354 lbTransmission 4-speed manual 

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