27th November: 1951 Toyota BJ
This week’s #ThrowbackThursday remembers one of the very first automotive challenges undertaken by the fledgling Toyota Motor Corporation.
In 1951, the revised and extensively improved version of Toyota’s lightweight, four-wheel drive prototype was presented to potential buyers in pre-production form as the new Toyota BJ. As a publicity stunt, two BJs, accompanied by Japanese police and other officials, drove up the old pilgrim route to the sixth station on Mount Fuji – a feat of man-and-machine that had never been accomplished before and that eliminated any doubt as to the off-road capabilities of this new vehicle.
The success of this challenge led to the BJ being chosen as the official vehicle of the Nation Police Agency and its establishment as an official production model within Toyota’s growing line-up. Soon afterward the model name was replaced with the now legendary moniker Land Cruiser.
Read more: History of the Toyota Land Cruiser
20th November: 1990 Toyota Sera
In the week that Toyota launched the new Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, we also discovered that the name means future in Japanese. Which got us thinking about an historical model named and inspired by the future – the Toyota Sera.
The Sera was a domestic market 2+2 coupe based on the underpinnings of the Starlet supermini but with the more powerful 1.5-litre engine found in the Paseo coupe. On its launch in March 1990 it looked incredibly futuristic with its bubble-like glass canopy that incorporated butterfly doors and an all-glass rear hatch that had no supporting metal framework. Innovative styling cues like these inspired the design of other vehicles, from the doors of the McLaren F1 supercar to the rear hatch of the current Toyota Aygo.
The name Sera means will be, and is derived from the future tense of the French word for being. You may recognise the word from the song Que Sera, Sera – whatever will be, will be – although in truth the phrase does not make grammatical sense in either French, Italian or Spanish. Que sera indeed…
13th November: 1973 Toyota F101 concept
Displayed at the 1973 Tokyo Motor Show, the Toyota F101 concept must have looked incredibly futuristic when compared to newly launched production vehicles such as the Publica Starlet, the headline car that year.
Promoted as the saloon of the future, the Toyota F101 was in fact neither a saloon or hatchback but a coupe with an extremely unusual asymmetric and longitudinally-hinged gull-wing-style boot. Under the bonnet was said to be the 2.0-litre engine from the contemporary Corona, while Toyota later commented that the F101 inspired some aspects of the forthcoming second-generation Celica – perhaps the silhouette of the three-door Liftback model.
6th November: 1987 Toyota Celica Turbo IMSA GTO
Regular visitors to this blog may recognise something familiar about this race-prepared Celica, and that’s because its race livery inspired the graphics fitted to the Speedhunters GT86 project now being displayed at SEMA.
Toyota entered Celica in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) race series in 1982 but it wasn’t until Dan Gurney’s All American Racing (AAR) team took charge of the vehicle in 1983 that it truly punched above its weight in the GTU class. Indeed, in its first year the Celica recorded seven pole positions, three fastest lap times and two wins.
Despite being powered by an engine that was almost a litre smaller than the regulation maximum, the Celica was more technically advanced than most of its competition and was constantly developed by AAR to stay ahead of the pack. Because of this it moved into the higher GTO class in 1985 and continued progressing. In 1987 the Celica Turbo won the GTO class thanks to winning eight of the 17 races it entered.
Read more: History of the Toyota Celica