Who remembers when new four-wheel-drive vehicles came with any factory tools beyond a cheesy scissors jack and a dog-leg lug-nut wrench, and maybe an OnStar account?
It wasn’t always that way. In the halcyon days of Series II and III Land Rovers and 40-Series Land Cruisers, it wasn’t considered a sign of weakness or a failure of the accounting department to acknowledge that hard-working vehicles needed maintenance and repair now and then, and it was presumed that the owners of those vehicles would be doing a good bit of that work themselves. A decent tool kit was a selling point that actually showed up in ads. (The only automotive corollary I can think of is the exquisite trunk-lid tool kits that used to come with high-end BMW sedans. I'm not sure how many of those saw any owner use . . . )
When I bought my 1973 FJ40 Land Cruiser, the excellent factory tool kit was still in place and complete. It included screwdrivers, wrenches, a spark-plug tool, and more, in a vinyl roll that stored under the driver’s seat. Sadly I can’t furnish a complete inventory or photo, because it was stolen when I stupidly left the vehicle unlocked one night. Since this was before eBay and Craigslist, I simply fumed and vowed to find another some day. It’s not like I didn’t have plenty of other tools, but the Land Cruiser just felt incomplete without its own kit.
Then, about ten years ago, I happened to stop by the shop of the local lord of Land Cruiser used parts, set amidst a sprawling three-acre compound of partially disassembled vehicles. An old shipping container next to the shop was a sort of trove of odd and rare bits. As we were looking for a turn signal switch to fit my 40, Tim said, “Aren’t you interested in factory tool kits?” I allowed as to how I was, and his eyes twinkled. “Then I have something for you.” He ducked into the container and brought out a roll—oiled canvas rather than vinyl, redolent of the military surplus store I worked at after high school—and laid it on the workbench. It seemed fatter than I remembered my old kit, and when he unrolled it I saw why.
“Never seen another quite like it,” said Tim. And neither had I.
Nestled in stitched pockets was a superb selection of Toyota-branded tools, still sticky with cosmoline preservative. In addition to the screwdrivers and wrenches I remembered from my kit, this one added a wood-handled ball pein hammer, pliers, a crescent wrench, a compact grease gun, and, in a little pocket on the side, a plastic bag, still sealed, filled with a selection of spare fasteners: bolts, nuts, and washers, and a wheel stud. That last piece proved beyond doubt that someone who knew what was likely to go wrong in the bush had assembled this kit.
In true orderly Japanese fashion, a clear corner sleeve held a numbered content list.
One thing I’ve never been any good at is cool bargaining. I knew Tim already knew this, so I just sighed and said, “How much?” He named a price that was . . . high. Absurdly high. High enough that I would have been insane not to walk away and pick up an equivalent assortment from a Snap-on tool truck for the same price.
So I said, “Okay.”
At least now my FJ40 once again boasts its own proper set of branded tools.
That is, when I work up the nerve to bring them along. They’re worth too damned much to actually use.
(Got a vintage - or otherwise - vehicle with a proper tool kit? Send me a photo.)