Toyota Land Cruisers are the mining industries’ vehicle of choice. In fact, the mining sector is one of Toyota’s largest clients in Canada. The customized vehicles are made on order in Japan. Their engines and exhaust systems are adjusted to meet air quality standards and operate within requirements of the mine ventilation system. The trucks are durable and require minimum maintenance. Since driving in an underground mine can be tricky, the vehicles have to respond fast to speed change, and allow the driver to maintain precise speed under varying loads and turn around on the spot. The Land Cruiser is the longest running series in Toyota’s history. This vehicle is a legend!
I have been trying to acquire a Land Cruiser for the collection since 2009. It was not an easy task. The large trucks barely fit into an elevator. They go down the shaft in pieces; they are assembled and maintained underground; and they are used for decades. At the end of the truck’s working life, miners salvaged any spare parts, and transport the remains of the vehicle back up the shaft to the surface.
Land Cruisers from an underground mine rarely or never make it to an Auto Trader or Kijiji. My best bet for acquiring an operational Cruiser in a good condition was a Canadian distributor. The Land Cruisers are sold in Canada to the mining industry since 1975 by ENS Industrial, located in Saskatoon. At the time when I contacted ENS, the Museum was working on an exhibition on Potash. The exhibition gave us some leverage. I discussed a potential donation of the Land Cruiser to the national collection with ENS in exchange for sponsorship credits in the exhibition. The vehicles are very expensive, and a donation or even a discounted price would be of substantial value for the Museum. ENS expressed interest. However, since the vehicles are made on order, we would have had to wait over two years to move ahead through the priority list.
The only option was to appeal to the mining industry. As I mentioned above, it is very difficult to remove the Land Cruiser from an underground mine without compromising the integrity of the artifact. I was asking the industry to go into a considerable expense and inconvenience. Fortunately, the Public Affairs Department at the Mosaic Company proved sympathetic to my plight. The Mosaic PA staff listened to my material culture arguments for saving one of the Cruisers and removing it from the mine in one piece.
Although it took months, they finally located a decommissioned, but still complete vehicle for the Museum in the K1\K2 mine complex in Esterhazy – the largest potash mine in the world. The Public Affairs staff then arranged with the miners underground to preserve the truck intact until it could be brought to the surface. Finally in October 2013, the Toyota Land Cruiser arrived in Ottawa, complete, functional, and still full of potash dust.