Museum Classics: Toyota Megaweb Fantasy Garage (Part 1B) – The Toyota Rally Cars

One of the absolute highlights of my Tokyo trip was visiting the Toyota Megaweb Museum with Tatra87.  Besides being free of charge and remarkably uncrowded while the Tokyo Motor Show was going on literally next door, it was filled with amazing vehicles, both from Toyota as well as other makes in an easy to navigate setting with plenty of opportunity to study the vehicles as T87 has demonstrated in his first part yesterday.

Being a huge fan of the rally sport I was completely agog over the rally cars and T87 graciously left them to me to cover here.  Toyota has a rich rally history going back decades and including Group B, the pinnacle of the sport in the 1980s.  While Group B was dominated by Audi, Peugeot, and Lancia, Toyota had been caught somewhat flatfooted when the shift towards AWD started and they were stuck with their RWD Celicas which were strong and competitive in certain events but not overall.  This post begins at that point in time, not the least reason being that those older cars are mostly in the Cologne, Germany headquarters of Toyota Team Europe, their continental racing arm, and any in Japan were tucked away out of sight while the Motor Show used some of the space of the Megaweb complex that normally Toyota would use for more displays.

When Group B was in full swing, and the cars were growing ever faster and more exotic, the continual thorn in the side of the manufacturers was the requirement to build 200 roadgoing examples of the racing machines.  At that time they all had serious problems unloading those cars to the public, of course every one of those is now among the most desired and expensive cars that exist on the collector market with very few actually being used on the road, the Audi Sport Quattro I drove some years back being one of them.

So in response to those concerns the governing body (FISA – Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile) started to design the successor series to Group B and named it Group S – the biggest advantage to the manufacturers was that only ten publicly sold examples were required.  To cut a long story short, the proposed rules for Group S were changed several times mid-stream and eventually once Group B was banned due to several horrific accidents Group S also was cancelled, leaving about a dozen manufacturers with a stillborn program.

The car above and following this was Toyota’s effort, obviously (very loosely) based on the recently released Toyota MR2.  First conceived as a Group B car and then modified to conform to several iterations of Group S proposals, it along with many of the other designs were mid engine and all wheel drive, that having become the proven formula for speed, power, weight, and thus success.

Known as the 222D, this car first began development in 1984 as a Group B car with the first prototype completed in February of 1985.  Initial testing showed numerous areas in need of further development, which began in June of that year and was completed later in the year. However at that time FISA decided to implement Group S to fully replace Group B, which necessitated redoing the entire body structure for safety reasons. So back to the drawing board.  While the cars were being redesigned/rebuilt, Group B had its fatal accidents and it as well as Group S was cancelled completely.

Toyota had ended up building eleven vehicles, of which eight were either crashed or destroyed by other means and only three survive to this day.  Two are black, of those one is at TTE in Cologne, one was sold to a collector, and this white one is the third.  Differing mainly by dint of an extra 50mm in length and color vs the two black ones, this is fairly close to what the final rally car would likely have looked like.

The front obviously has completely different lights than the pop-ups on the MR2 for reasons of reliability and serviceability with extra lighting below and mounting for auxiliary lighting on the front end.  The entire back end is one large clamshell that tilts up for unfettered access to the engine.  Underneath the car is AWD with a torque split arrangement in order to also be fully RWD or a split arrangement as needed depending on the race in question.

Numbers differ slightly depending on source and version of rules being referenced but the car was targeted to weigh 2200 pounds with power output of at least 500hp and rumored to be as high as 750hp, all from a turbocharged engine that varied in potential size from a 1.2liter unit to a 1.8liter unit depending on which set of proposed rules was being worked on and the various restrictors and/or equivalency formulas in play.  Yes, it was quite confusing with most of the uncertainty generated by Jean-Marie Balestre, the somewhat mercurial head of FISA and his numerous reappraisals of the program.

The existing car that this one probably hews closest to that fans may be familiar with is Ford’s RS200, which was a purpose built Group B car with no roadgoing “base” car, not that this car has much if anything in common with any actual MR2 either.  Of course Audi was also developing a car very similar to this one and the RS200 as were some of the other makers.

While it’s always exciting to look at a prototype, it’s still amazing to see how close this actually looks to something that is real and easy to visualize it as an actual racing car, in fact many if not most racing cars in this type of class are pretty much prototypes in final form, i.e. there really is no “assembly line”, everything is custom made and hand fitted, but this Toyota looks close to actual production car quality.

Group S definitely ended up as a mere footnote in the rally history books but as bonkers as Group B was at the end, Group S had the potential to be even more so.  While the aim was to reign in the unsafe builds with the lightweight, brittle bodywork, ludicrous practices such as fuel tanks under seats, and plenty of instances of, if perhaps not blatant cheating, at least trying hard to circumvent the literal rules without getting caught, in the end it was viewed that Group S likely would not be able to stop those practices.

The 222D is a car I was not even aware of before this day, so it was even more amazing to see and learn about.  Like most rally cars of the era, it is somewhat brutish and abrupt, but still quite closely resembles the production MR2, which while also somewhat origami-designed, I’ve always found to be a quite pretty car in an unconventional way.

After Group B and the proposed Group S was banned, the sport headed in a more controlled direction, named Group A, requiring production bodyshells and minimum builds of 5000 vehicles.  By necessity this eliminated most of the excesses that had been developed and the sport really did enter an era of vehicles much closer to what one could actually purchase in the showroom for somewhat reasonable sums.

Toyota went back to the Celica and developed an AWD chassis for it that was sold as the GT-Four (ST165) with a turbocharged engine and full-time AWD.  This generation of GT-Four was sold in the US as the Celica All-Trac Turbo and produced about 190hp in street spec.

These cars all wear Cologne (Köln), Germany, license plates (that’s what the “K” denotes) as rally cars are registered for the road due to their transit stage requirements and Toyota Team Europe is based in Cologne.  This particular car is the 1990 Safari Rally (Kenya) winning car piloted by the Swede Bjorn Waldegard and co-driven by Britain’s Fred Gallagher.  Note the body damage at the rear that was left in place, although this car is remarkably damage free for a Safari Rally competitor.  Still, to finish first, first one must finish, right?  Notably the third and fourth place finishers were also in the same model cars, but second place was taken by a Lancia Delta Integrale.

In rally trim, the turbo 1988cc engine produced 295hp and the car weighed 1100kg (2425lbs).  Obviously some weight has been added in order to beef up the structure such as a roll cage, seam welds, extra lighting, and timing componentry but other weight has been stripped out as allowed by the regulations.  Still, at this point in the sport, this was the pinnacle and fairly similar to what one could purchase and drive to work.

Carlos Sainz, who finished in third place in the 1990 Safari Rally, went on the win the driver’s championship for 1990 and this car was notably the first Japanese AWD and turbocharged entry to win trophies and titles on the world stage.  Toyota had arrived in a big way.

Toyota’s next generation of GT-Four (ST185) was an even bigger success. Entered starting in 1992 this car gave Carlos Sainz his second World Driver’s Championship and racked up twelve outright wins over two years, as well as giving Toyota back to back Constructor’s as well as Driver’s Championships in 1993 and 1994 (Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol).  This was Toyota’s most successful rally car.

This particular car is the winner of the 1993 Australia Rally, piloted by Finnish driver Juha Kankkunen and co-driven by Britain’s Nicky Grist.  The weight of this car was up to 2645lbs with a power output of 299hp, again a turbocharged 2-liter.

The last rally car on display here in this room is the final Celica that was raced, the GT-Four (ST205).  Although this particular one is a replica it is built to the Rally du Corse (Corsica) race winning car spec for 1995.

Piloted by Didier Auriol of France and co-driven by Denis Giraudet (also French), this car weighed about the same with the same output as the prior generation car in race trim.  It featured a new suspension known as the “super strut” in front and MacPherson strut rear.  While the “super strut” front caused some controversy it was also very difficult to set up correctly, in short it’s sort of a blend between a MacPherson strut and a multi-link design.

This is the generation of cars with which Toyota got caught using an illegal turbo restrictor at the Rally Catalunya; Max Mosley, the FISA technical delegate at the time considered it the most sophisticated device he’d seen in thirty years of motor sports.  As a result the punishment was severe – the three drivers were stripped of all their accumulated points (Kankkunen had been in contention for the Driver’s Championship up until that point) although it is not believed that they had any idea as to what was going on.  Toyota Team Europe was also banned for the entire 1996 season, but the car itself still raced under other independent teams’ auspices.

After the Celicas, Toyota switched to the Corolla WRC car and continued with more successes.

Photo Credit: “Tommy” on Flickr

The Corolla was positioned outside of the room that contained the D222 and the Celicas, somehow T87 and I both missed taking a direct photo of it as we sort of took in the museum in a roundabout way (and perhaps backwards?).  In any case, this Corolla above is also merely a replica of the actual vehicle (i.e. this one did not race) but the car debuted in mid-1997 and went on to win four races as well as secure the 1999 Constructor’s Championship, after which Toyota pulled out of rallying in order to focus on Formula 1.

This car is similar if not identical to the last of the Celicas in layout and power, again with AWD and a 299hp 2liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine.  The most famous memory of it (the sister car actually) is likely when Carlos Sainz with Luis Moya as co-driver were fighting for both the Driver’s as well as Constructor’s championship for 1998 and were within sight of the finish line in the 1998 RAC Rally and the car just stopped (relevant portion starts at 1:42 in the video above, but watch the whole thing, especially to the end).  Sainz just looked utterly stunned when the car died but Moya was just beyond believing what had occurred, and then slammed his helmet through the rear hatch glass due to frustration.  It turned out a connecting rod had just let go with no indications of anything going amiss, an utter heartbreak after a splendid season.  The museum, unsurprisingly, did not have the video playing or make mention of the incident.

In all, this part of the museum was a comprehensive little display and an exciting opportunity to view and study the vehicles in peace without many others around.  Rally is a very exciting sport to watch but also one of the more difficult sports to watch in person, as a result it usually requires extreme effort to see the cars in person, and thus all the more welcome when a manufacturer such as Toyota puts something like this together.

Related Reading:

Tatra87’s Toyota Megaweb Museum Part 1 – The Toyotas