The Toyota FJ Cruiser is shaping up to be one of the best automotive investments in the modern era. Well-preserved examples with low mileage have sold recently for over $50,000, far north of the truck’s original MSRP just a few years ago. Even heavily used examples still command close to their original selling price.
Any FJ Cruiser is worth its weight in gold these days, but the Trail Teams edition is especially desirable with its special wheels and TRD-style suspension, among other upgrades. All Trail Teams models came standard with four-wheel-drive and were available in one color, which changed for every model year.
Toyota built 3,200 units of the Trail Teams FJ Cruiser, which — for a Toyota SUV — seems like quite a limited run, but this version of the FJ was far from the rarest. That honor goes to the Cruisers equipped with Upgrade Package 3. All 51 of them.
That is, approximately 51. Much like the Enzo, the FJ Cruiser “Not So Special Edition” has a group of enthusiasts dedicated to accounting for every example in existence. Some estimates put the number as high as 88. Either way, it’s an incredibly rare spec — for every NSSE FJ Cruiser, there are between two and three Mercedes Benz R63 AMGs.
Perhaps even more confounding is what the Not So Special Edition included. Or rather what it did not include. The NSSE was essentially the same package as the Trail Teams Edition. Except without the upgraded suspension. Or gauges. Or badging. It didn’t come with the accessory power outlet or roof rack either.
What’s more, not only did it not come with the upgraded wheels from the Trail Teams edition FJ Cruiser, it didn’t even come with the wheels from the base FJ Cruiser. Instead, the NSSE rolled on steelies. In fact, it shared little in common with its Trail Teams older brother beyond a color-matched roof and interior trim. Speaking of color, all NSSEs were painted in Army Green, a color which made them seem even more rudimentary.
Of course, there is a question at this point: why? Why did Toyota only make a few dozen of this stripper FJ? The answer is rather unfortunate. We’ll start with the fact that the NSSE was a 2011 model, and that Toyota built the FJ Cruiser in Japan.
These facts are significant because that year in Japan, disaster struck. A staggering 9.0 magnitude seaquake triggered a colossal tsunami that devastated the island nation. The incident damaged a nuclear power plant, placing a constraint on the country’s power supply. This meant electricity had to be conserved, and automobile production slowed as a result.
Based on these facts, one might conclude Upgrade Package 3 was the result of the tsunami that uprooted Japan’s economy. Perhaps the vehicles were assembled to a certain point, and the disaster put a stop to fitting the Trail Teams upgrades, so the trucks were shipped as-is. Inexplicably, this was not the case.
The Not So Special Edition began to hit US dealers about two months before the tsunami. The trucks were actually the result of a Toyota manufacturing error, and production promptly ceased once the Japanese automaker realized their mistake. The disaster delayed shipment of 2011 Trail Teams FJ Cruisers to US shores until about 2012, but Upgrade Package 3 was unrelated.
Nowadays, the NSSE FJ Cruiser is absolutely impossible to find. Given the spike in value these trucks are seeing, it’s quite unlikely collectors will want to sell. And next time you see a green Toyota SUV on steel wheels, give it a second glance — you may be looking at something rarer than a McLaren F1.