In Memoriam: Marv Spector, The Patron Saint Of The Land Cruiser

The off-road universe lost another fine soul this year. Marv Spector, four-wheeling fanatic and preeminent Land Cruiser aficianado, passed away in January 2014 from cancer at the age of 65.

A shot of Bill Sander’s propane-powered FJ40, which won the 1973 Baja 1000.

Spector was one of those lucky few who really “made it” in off-roading. His budding passion back in the 1980s for Toyota Land Cruisers eventually blossomed to the point that when those in the know talked about the legendary Toyota 4x4s, Spector’s name would eventually come up. Charming, knowledgeable, and always ready to lend a hand, Spector made friends easily as the years went by–so easily, in fact, that ICON’s Jonathan Ward mused, “It was a qualitative phrase among Cruiser fans to say ‘I’m a friend of Marv’s.”‘

Spector was credited with creating one of the few New World Meccas for Land Cruisers just on the edge of the sprawling Los Angeles metro area, in the then-unremarkable Chatsworth, California. Specter Off-Road was the place to go, whether someone needed a new axle or just a good buddy to talk to. Regular mail orders from places both foreign and domestic kept the business thriving, as Spector’s business savvy and peerless customer relations kept people coming back.

Marv and his wife, Kay, were treated like royalty at the Land Cruiser’s ARACO factory every time they visited. You can also see here Marv’s finger point, which became his calling card.

So far and wide was Spector’s fame that whenever the man and his wife, Kay, journeyed to the Land Cruiser’s ARACO facility in Japan, they would always be treated to a grand tour from the SUV’s chief engineer. Kay’s recollection of these “vacations” always ends in a funny anecdote.

“Every time we would take a vacation, it turned into work,” said Kay. “It wasn’t really work, but we’d be looking at Land Cruisers, then we’d be buying Land Cruisers, and we’d be filling containers with Land Cruiser parts, and soon enough there went the vacation.”

A few weeks ago, many of Spector’s friends, fans, and acquaintances gathered in front of the 40,000 square-foot Specter Off-Road shop to celebrate the legend. As tragic as his passing was, you wouldn’t have guessed it from looking at the dozens of Cruisers parked around the block, or the people laughing or munching on an In-N-Out burger. The mood was upbeat, just the way Spector would have wanted it.

Dozens of incredible Land Cruisers showed up to Spector's tribute.

Said Steve Kopito, Spector’s longtime friend and ally: “He was the most friendly and giving guy that I ever met,” continued Kopito. “If I needed something done that I couldn’t do myself, he’d be the first to call. It worked in reverse, too. If he called me for help, I’d be the first out the door.”

We express our condolences to Kay, Steve, and all those who knew and loved Marv. It’s not often that a person like him comes along and affects so many so deeply. His legacy will continue on through his shop, where memories and passion will be handed down for future generations.

In a typical Spector pose, those who came to his shop to celebrate his life, point to the heavens.

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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