For 2011 Toyota New Zealand is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its legendary Land Cruiser.
The Land Cruiser is an iconic model for Toyota and has been part of New Zealand’s forestry, farming and off-road heritage for nearly six decades. As a key part of its celebrations, Toyota is challenging television presenter Marc Ellis to drive a new FJ Cruiser, which is unashamedly a tribute to the original FJ40, from Cape Reinga to Bluff — entirely off tar sealed roads.
The adventure dubbed ‘Top to Bottom — Off road’ is a tribute to the legacy Land Cruisers have forged after 60 years, says Neeraj Lala, Toyota’s Assistant General Manager of Marketing and Product.
“In many ways, this trip reflects the celebrated Kiwi spirit of giving things a go. Toyota believes ‘if you dream it, you can do it’, and we’d like New Zealanders the length of the country to help us make the dream a reality. Perhaps they can open up a private track or suggest a secret route the vehicles can use to avoid a road, offer a splash of petrol if things get tight in the back country, or they might just like to invite some weary travelers in for a hot cuppa.”
Ellis will set off down Ninety Mile Beach on 21 February. Meeting up with the intrepid travelers at points along the way will be a fully restored Kiwi classic — a late 1970s FJ40 Land Cruiser which Toyota bought from a customer after a long search for the classic and will give away to someone who helps the team achieve its goal.
“It’s quite fitting for the new FJ Cruiser, which un-mistakenly descends from some of the most iconic Land Cruiser models, to be the vehicle to attempt this epic journey,” says Neeraj Lala.
Toyota expects the team to take 16 days of driving to reach the southern tip of New Zealand, via seven checkpoints. Ellis is set to meet national and local legends on the way.
Ellis has been challenged to only use back country roads, farm trails and tracks. If he wants to go on tar seal he has to earn credits to do so by meeting further challenges.
The vehicles will head south on the North Island’s western side as far as Taranaki, traverse the island to Hawke’s Bay, and on to the South Island via Wellington. From Picton, the FJ Cruiser will go through the centre of the South Island high country and the heart of Otago.
The old FJ40 was restored at Toyota’s Signature Class facility at Thames. Neeraj Lala says Toyota’s specialists normally only refurbish late-model cars for the premium used car market.
“In the spirit of this trip, we asked our team in Thames for a favour. They jumped at the chance to turn their expertise in paint, panel and mechanical servicing to totally retransform the 1970s FJ40 into a near new vehicle once again.”
The adventure team looks forward to saying ‘gidday’ to the public at the seven checkpoints (see below). To follow daily podcasts from the road and to offer Marc help on his journey visit www.toptobottom.co.nz.
Top to Bottom, Off Road itinerary
Start: Cape Reinga — Monday, 21 February
1. Auckland, 22 February (Giltrap City Toyota, Grey Lynn)
2. New Plymouth, 24 February (Tasman Toyota)
3. Hawke’s Bay, 28 February (Hawke’s Bay Toyota)
4. Wellington, 2 March (Rutherford & Bond Toyota)
5. Christchurch, 4 March (Miles Toyota)
6. Dunedin, 6 March (Cooke Howlison Toyota)
7. Invercargill, 8 March (GWD Toyota) following journey to Bluff.
There will also be an open day at Toyota’s Palmerston North headquarters on 26 February.