Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Motoring Evolution: Toyota's take on remembering its roots

1957 was a year when the Chevrolet 150, 210 and Bel Air models with the tail fin styling were very popular with the general public.  It was also the year many Elvis fans claim was his most pivotal in propelling him to become the "King" of Rock and Roll.  However, 1957 was also significant for a company from Japan.  This company introduced their first vehicle to the U.S. called the Toyopet Crown.  It's been nearly 55 years (officially on Oct. 31st this year) since the first Toyota drove onto U.S. streets, and quite a bit has changed for the company from their early days. 

The original Toyopet Crown.

The Toyopet Crowns were powered by 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine with approximately 60 horsepower, and it simply was not able to provide enough power to maintain speed on the highways.  The car had a MSRP of $2300, which was expensive for a manufacturer with no previous history.  (Average vehicle prices were $2200)  Needless to say, the Toyopets did not sell well, and it was not until 1965 that Toyota began to make an impact on the U.S. auto market.

Fast forward to 2012 and Toyota is the number 1 auto manufacturer in the world.  Their midsize Camry sedan is the best selling midsize vehicle in the U.S., and their Corolla is also a high volume seller.  You would think a manufacturer enamored in selling so many vehicles would surely lose touch with their enthusiast base.  One one hand you might be right as Toyota currently has nothing even remotely sporty on sale.  The only "sports" cars the company offers is through their luxury division Lexus' F cars: Notably the LFA, IS-F, and soon the GS-F.  Those cars are not easily attainable by the average consumer since they all cost well north of the average car price of today.  (~$30,000 according to

Previously, consumers used to have the opportunity to buy the Celica, Supra, MR-2, and a host of other cars which had enthusiast appeal.  For now those cars are relegated to the history books, but they are not forgotten and have a large following.

The Toyota Owner's and Restorer's Club (T.O.R.C.) is a club dedicated to the preservation of not only the sporty offerings of Toyota's past, but even their pedestrian vehicles.  The main goal of the club is to maintain and promote recognition of pre-1985 Toyotas, however the group does include enthusiasts who like Toyota's newer vehicles too.  Members of the club own everything from vintage first generation Celicas and Coronas, to the familiar JZA80 Toyota Supra (for those who don't know, the car is the main vehicle in the 2001 movie The Fast and the Furious) and Scion xB.
Scion tC

The original Scion xB is still a popular car.

The club holds an annual event called the All Toyotafest, and Toyotas/Lexus/Scions are all invited to attend the event.  At the event, show goers will be able to see a variety of cars such an all original Toyota Crown from the 1960s to the Japanese influenced "VIP" cars like the Lexus GS300 and LS400.

One of the most iconic Toyotas, the Corolla GT-S, more popularly known by its chassis code AE86.

The great part about the show aside from the cars is that Toyota themselves take a large part in the show.  At last year's show, the company arrived with a 18 wheeler trailer and had several vehicles on display such as their 2000GT, Celica GT racecar, and a racing off road truck.  The company also brought out their then new Lexus LFA, and gave attendees a real treat by starting up the V10 motor:  Lexus LFA Engine.
Lexus LFA 

Toyota 2000GT

 Toyota also gave away free items, and had plenty of other interactive booths for people i.e. making your own Scion themed screen print tee shirt.  It was fantastic to see such support of the car community from Toyota, and the company again rolled out in force at the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) held at the Queen Mary last September.  Again they brought their trailer of vehicles. 

This presence at enthusiast gatherings really shows the company does care about their customers, both past and present.  No one forced the company to show up, and there is nothing to gain by attending the show, but seeing Toyota's passion for its roots and allowing the public to interact with the company on a personable level is refreshing.  Mazda must have taken notice as they also showed up at the last JCCS event with some historic vehicles of their own.  (Note:  Mazda does show up at Seven Stock, an annual gathering of Mazda rotary enthusiasts)
Mazda showcased some of their cars at the JCCS event in Sep. '11.

Toyota also created a museum dedicated to their history located in Los Angeles, CA.  The museum is viewable by appointment.  We know Toyota and Mazda are not the only manufacturers to go to enthusiast events, and we applaud the others as they form a closer bond with their customer base, and hope to see an increasing number of manufacturers join in at enthusiast gatherings around the country. 

The next ToyotaFest is scheduled for May 5th, 2012 at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.  Mark your calendars as this is a great event to attend!   Details here:  ToyotaFest 2012

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