Toyota Australia is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and the company is celebrating the brand’s early years in the country. The back story starts with the Snowy Mountains Scheme, Australia’s largest construction project. With seven power stations, 16 large dams, and 140 miles of tunnels, it took 25 years to complete. Toyota’s involvement began in 1958, about midway through its construction, when Leslie Theiss, owner of the company tasked with building the massive infrastructure project, privately imported 12 Land Cruisers to use on site.
Thiess was so impressed with the Land Cruiser that he quickly started a new company, one to officially import and distribute Toyotas in the state of Queensland. It was a time when Aussies were rapidly expanding inland, and Theiss had plenty of infrastructure projects that required Land Cruisers, like the Beef Road network connecting remote areas of rural Australia, and the Bass Strait-Melbourne gas pipeline (lead photo), both in the 1960s, or the Sugarloaf Dam of the 1970s.
Theiss of course acquired more Toyotas to help complete them. As shown in the video above, these included Stouts, HiLuxes, Dynas, and DA100 and FA100 heavy-duty dump trucks. “We were never let down,” Jim Crocker, a Snowy Mountains Scheme worker for 30 years, says of the Toyotas.
It wasn’t just construction. Toyota helped with science as well. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation used FJ45 and FJ55 Land Cruisers on research expeditions across the continent, traversing unpaved wildernesses while towing campers nonetheless.
There were plenty of other uses for Toyotas, from agriculture to tourism, that put them in the harshest of terrains. Last year, Toyota sold its one millionth Land Cruiser, while globally the model topped 10 million in sales.
Toyota trucks and SUVs are still widely used across Australia. In the 170 countries where the Land Cruiser is sold, but it is Australia that has bought more than any other country, a full 10.6 percent of worldwide sales. It’s an amazing legacy, and one that won’t likely see the company willy-nilly canceling its more storied nameplates.