Potential Purchase of the Week: 1996 Toyota Mega Cruiser

After nearly 50 years of production, Toyota's Land Cruiser is nothing short of an icon in the off-road world, but it isn't the biggest, baddest SUV ever produced by the automaker. That honor goes to the rare Mega Cruiser -- two examples of which are apparently up for sale.

If this looks like Japan's version of a Hummer H1, you're not far from the mark. Although reportedly engineered completely in-house by Toyota, the Mega Cruiser was designed primarily as a military vehicle, although Toyota built a handful for public consumptions. It wasn't uncommon to see Mega Cruisers decked out as police vehicles, fire trucks, or mobile missile launchers -- but it was a spectacle to behold one used as a family hauler.

All Mega Cruisers were gifted with a full-time four-wheel-drive system, complete with locking front, center, and rear differentials. 37-inch run-flat tires helped aid mobility, as did a whopping 16.5 inches of ground clearance, which blessed the Mega Cruiser with an approach angle of 49 degrees and a departure angle of 45 degrees. To help aid maneuverability of the massive machine, Toyota blessed the Mega Cruiser with four-wheel steering.

Like the H1, the Mega Cruiser was fitted with a turbo diesel, but in a much different form. Instead of utilizing an aging GM diesel, power came from Toyota's 4.1-liter turbo-diesel I-4. Rated at 150 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, the engine reportedly pushed the 6400-pound 4x4 from 0-60 mph in 20.6 seconds. Why would I want one?

Hummer H1s themselves are pretty spectacular, but -- generally speaking -- are a fairly common sight. Not so the Mega Cruiser -- Toyota has never revealed how many were built between 1995 and 2002, but only a handful escaped life as a government-owned machine. Although the chassis appears to encroach into the interior like the H1, the cabin design and materials appear to be a step above what was incorporated in the majority of civilian Hummers.

Why can't I have one?

Thanks to it's young age, neither of these two 1996 Mega Cruisers are eligible for importation into the U.S., and you'll have a heck of a time getting it across the border with a show and display exception.. If you're interested in owning one, you'd better have a place in another country -- Canada, for instance -- where importation laws are relaxed.

Source: Jap-City Motors

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