Interview by: Joe Micciche - April 2004
|4x4Wire's Toyota Staff encourages all Toyota 4WD owners to support TLCA.
Editor's Note: The Industry Insider series offers glimpses into the "backroom" of 4-wheeling. Ordinarily we cover talented and innovative fabricators: however, for this installment, we talked with the President of the oldest and largest Toyota 4WD Association, Tony Twiddy - President, Toyota Land Cruiser Association.
4x4Wire: TLCA recently celebrated 25 years as an organization. What would you say have been the most significant accomplishments over that period?
Tony Twiddy: I would venture to say that surviving for over 25 years is a major accomplishment but probably most TLCA members would note taking Toyota Trails from a black and white newsletter to the premier color publication it currently has become would be the most significant accomplishment.
4x4Wire: What are the benefits of becoming a member of TLCA? Toyota Trails is a first-rate member-only publication - what other benefits do members receive?
Tony Twiddy: I believe the second largest benefit of becoming a TLCA member is access to TLCA Sponsored events such as the Great Smokey Mountain Trail Ride (GSMTR), Cruise Moab, Black Hills Cruiser Classic, Rubithon, McGrew Trail Ride and the Gambol. These events are for TLCA Members only, offer trails for all levels of experience, are located in some of the most beautiful areas in the US and have Toyota savvy folks around to help if trouble should be encountered. The other benefits include reduced membership to organizations such as Blue Ribbon Coalition and United; access to technical help via Mark Whatley for Cruisers and Roger Brown for Hilux/4Runner; and the most difficult to quantify, the intrinsic value of belonging to the only Toyota only association.
4x4Wire: Members also receive some generous discounts from vendors as well, don't they?
Tony Twiddy: Yes, many of our Associate Members provide various levels of discounts but I have noticed that many have curtailed those discounts over the last few years as the economy went through some trying times. I have refrained from actually calling that a benefit because the results have been mixed. Gulf Toyota in TX, Stevens Creek Toyota in the San Jose Area offer a discount to TLCA members as does Freeman Toyota in Santa Rosa, CA; which is not an Associate Member. So while discounts are a benefit, I don't believe its still a substantial benefit.
|Tony and his Mini on the Dusy-Ershim trail.
4x4Wire: Does someone have to be a member of a local or regional TLCA chapter to join TLCA?
Tony Twiddy: No, any Toyota manufactured vehicle owner can join TLCA and need not be affiliated with a local Chapter. However, I strongly encourage Chapter involvement and have stated that 'Chapters bring TLCA home to the member'. Chapter Members currently equate to approx. 20% of our membership.
4x4Wire: So those who are nowhere near a chapter can join TLCA. What does it take to start a new chapter?
Tony Twiddy: Yes, anyone owning a Toyota Manufactured Vehicle can join and they do not need to be affiliated with a Chapter. A group of at least 6 TLCA members can initiate a new Chapter. There are some specific requirements which are defined in our By Laws (such as all Toyota owning members joining TLCA) and our Individual Representatives (IRs) can also lend assistance but I also feel I need to add a caveate here... TLCA is much more interested in seeing Clubs developed that can stand the test of time, than a Chapter developed which fails after a few years. Start a successful club first, then ask your membership if TLCA Chapter status is what they want.
4x4Wire: What are the largest opportunities or challenges facing TLCA near-term, and longer-term? As President, what are your top priorities for the organization?
|Tony on Fordyce.
Tony Twiddy: I'm going to be honest... TLCA suffered some bad 'word of mouth' recently due to personality conflicts at the Board level. We see this all too frequently in various clubs and associations. Membership was beginning a downward trend and suffered some serious set backs (getting back to that major accomplishment question).
When I was asked to accept nomination to the President, I set specific and attainable goals which could be embraced by everyone: Rebuilding trust and friendship at the Board Level was primary, and increasing membership by focusing on: Membership, Toyota Trails and TLCA Events.
That has been my top priority and membership results have been showing a steady and consistent climb. I believe TLCA will achieve its 2004 goal of 4000 Members! I also very proud of all the TLCA volunteers and consider myself fortunate to work with such a fantastic and diverse group of people.
4x4Wire: TLCA has traditionally been Land Crusier-centric, but within the past few years you've really started reaching out to the mini truck and 4Runner crowd. Bringing Roger Brown on board as the Mini/4Runner Tech Editor was quite a coup! What role does the mini, 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra crowd play in TLCA's future?
Tony Twiddy: I believe our non Land Cruiser owners, along with the newer style Land Cruisers (FJ80s, UZJ100) are the future of TLCA. Lets face it, they don't make FJ40 and FJ55 series Land Cruisers anymore and the ones still around are either being kept original in fantastic shape, are being highly modified to the point of barely resembling a Cruiser, are being parted out to help sustain the existing stock or are simply rotting away in a field somewhere. Embracing the Hilux, 4Runner and Tundra owners opens new opportunities for TLCA while still helping us preserve the history of the Land Cruiser.
And yes, getting Roger Brown to help us was a coup, but I also want to note that TLCA has had an excellent Land Cruiser Tech in Mark Whatley. Together, Roger and Mark provide an extremely valuable benefit and service to TLCA.
4x4Wire: Toyota is still making some amazing LC's overseas. How extensive is TLCA's reach overseas, and is there any possibility of leveraging that to strengthen the entire organization?
Tony Twiddy: Yes, the U.S. receives very few of the extremely capable and utilitarian trucks that Toyota still produces. TLCA does have an international presence but it is somewhat limited for two reasons. First, other countries already have strong Toyota oriented associations much like our TLCA and second, the additional cost to international members can be a limiting factor. Primarily, shipping of Toyota Trails. Plus they receive very little of the benefits we discussed earlier. Our presence is strongest in Canada and Australia, where we are also working to develop alternative methods of shipping (including Bulk distribution) in an effort to make membership more appealing.
Also, there is a natural transition to the Hilux and 4Runner. Remember, the Hilux is the Son of a Land Cruiser, is already sprung over, has an extreme level of durability to abuse, has the optimum wheel base, is light weight and has plenty of room for gear along with a 5 spd for decent fuel mileage. We refer to this transition as 'Going over to the Dark Side' as I mentioned and I too succumbed to this fate... willingly I might add.
4x4Wire: Does Toyota support TLCA in any way, aside from an advertisement in Trails?
Tony Twiddy: We've worked hard with Toyota to impress upon them the devotion of Toyota owners but to date, they have only reciprocated with advertising. But hey, at least they didn't sue us and tell us to remove the words Toyota Land Cruiser from our logo. I am sure this will be an ongoing effort for us and one we should never lose sight of.
|In the Little Sluice, on the Rubicon.
4x4Wire: Which Land Cruiser is the best? or which model Toyota is best?
Tony Twiddy: Now you are trying to get me in trouble. I will use the politically correct response. Everyone should determine the use for their Toyota, and then choose the model that meets their needs. Lets face it, Toyota is a quality product and every model excels in specific areas. I can state that buying a Toyota over any other off road vehicle is probably a wise choice; and then joining the TLCA is the next best choice.
4x4Wire: C'mon - you never get into spirited campfire debates about this? I guess as President, you are allowed a non-answer. :)
Tony Twiddy: Actually, I get into them all the time as the TLCA President who drives a 1982 Hilux (mini truck)! And ironically, I have seen many FJ40 owners adding the Hilux to their off road stable due its amazing off road ability, durability to abuse and availability of parts at a reasonable price. I also believe everyone will be seeing many more FJ80 Series Land Cruisers on the trails in the future as this truck is also incredibly adept at off roading and the prices for an early 1990s model are coming within the reach of most folks. While nothing looks as neat as my 1964 FJ45 short wheel base truck, the Toyota Hilux and 4Runner are my off road trucks of choice.