I've been a long time fan of Land Cruisers. I have owned an FJ40 since about 1996 or so... so when Toyota announced their rebranding of a retro-like SUV named the FJ Cruiser I was immediately excited. I was a Toyota mechanic at that time and I had access to some really early marketing materials, because the parts guy, Paul, stacked that stuff in the back of his storage area. He handed me the 1st copy of the newsletter that employees get which featured the FJ Cruiser concept vehicle gracing the cover. I knew I'd have to see it. Inside I learned that it would make its world debut at the Chicago Auto Show in 2005. I was absolutely going to see it there, and I did. I decided right there, standing in front of that Voodoo Blue that I would own one of those wacky trucks one day. My FJ40 was laid up in my mom's garage because I lost (destoryed) the engine on a high speed journey. I was driving a Toyota 4x4 pickup at the time, but it was no Land Cruiser, and it was certainly not that shiny new FJ Cruiser.
I eventually decided that being a mechanic wasn't such an awesome career. After having moved to Indianapolis, I began my career as a computer nerd at a large car dealership group in Indianapolis. In our IT role we were required to spend a lot of time driving around to the 10+ locations around town. The company had a policy where we could eventually select a company provided vehicle to make our travels not so costly to us personally. I survived the 6-month grace period and when it came time to pick out a car, I asked if it was really any car I wanted? Yea. Wow... My coworker had a Nissan Pathfinder, which was a good fit, it could tow the generator, haul computers, supplies, and equipment. I suggested the possibility of an FJ Cruiser, and my boss was all for it. Seemed perfect. She suggested I head on over to our Toyota dealer to see what they had lying around & to let her know what I found. Well as luck would have it, they had just moved a really handsomely equipped Voodoo Blue FJ Cruiser that was the dealership owner's demo. It had about 1,500 miles on it and they were ready to set it on the lot later that day. I asked the sales manager what FJ Cruisers they had, and he mentioned the blue one. He said they had two other units in stock, but none of the other ones had all of the options the big boss' demo had, they had special ordered that one for him to check out. The fancy stereo, premium interior package, upgraded seats, factory leather wrapped steering wheel, literally everything but the subwoofer. He threw me the keys and a dealer plate so I could take it for a drive & see if it's what I was really looking for. That was nice, but yea, it was EXACTLY what I was looking for. I drove it anyway... I put $5 of gas in it after taking it out and I'll say, it really was perfect. I called my boss and she said, no problem, get me the stock number and she would take care of the details. I was super excited, I told the sales manager, in the calmest voice I could muster, that Dee would let him know what was up, but that was the vehicle I was interested in having as a company car. He was happy to have to not worry about selling it. He said he would let me know when it was all wrapped up. I gave him the keys back and headed back to my 300,000+mile 4x4 and smiled a lot about a dream that just came true for me. Two days later I rode with my coworker to the Toyota dealership where my brand new Voodoo Blue FJ Cruiser was all cleaned up and waiting for me to drive it home. New plates a fresh wash, and a full tank of gas. This was in 2007, the first model year of the production version of the FJ Cruiser, my 1st day of a vehicle I'd wanted since its inception, it was mine.
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Having a company car is actually pretty amazing. I did feel kinda fancy. It was a great deal, a super perk of the job. They paid for the truck 100%, they paid for the registration, the insurance, the freakin gas... all paid for. I absolutely do not have a single thing to complain about with that situation. The deal was it was my car. I could use it to go to and from work, anywhere I wanted to take it. Drive it to my mom's house on the weekend, vacations, drive it. it was mine to use, take it to the dealership for oil changes and maintenance. 100% covered. Very cool situation indeed. The thing that probably trained me to be patient and ultimately was a benefit in the long run, was... you're not putting a lift kit on a company car. Just not something I was willing, or really able, to do... I drove the vehicle as a company car for about three years... zero mods... in a world of mods... zero mods.
During that three years I did, however, rescue my mom from the FJ40 in her garage, learn how to weld, buy an aluminum body tub for the FJ40, get out of a horrendous relationship, put together a 2F engine for the 40, swap that 2F out for a chevy small block, and in 2009, during the massive downturn in the economy and high fuel prices, doubled my salary and took full advantage of the opportunity to buy the FJ Cruiser, for pennies on the dollar, from the company... It was at this point my budget was the only thing between me and the world of modifications built specifically for the FJ Cruiser...
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