Welcome to one of the coolest car museums around. Hope you enjoy the tour, just like Jim Klein and I did last October. The term “Megaweb” has always left me a bit perplexed. Sounds like you’re about to get eaten by giant spiders. But “Fantasy Garage” is an apt description – it’s not too big, but full of goodies. Today, as this is Toyota’s car collection, we’ll focus on them exclusively.
The museum is on two floors and can be divided into three sections. Upstairs is a re-creation of old Tokyo, where a majority of the cars are. Then there are some cars scattered about the café / terrace areas, usually outdoors, on both floors. Finally, there is a temporary exhibition area on the ground floor, which was dedicated to rally cars. I’ll let Jim walk us through that one when he has a moment. I’ll just start us off at the downstairs café area, where we could admire this 1957 Crown RS Deluxe – the oldest Toyota on display.
This car participated in the 9000-mile Round Australia Rally and managed to finish it – no mean feat. They came in 47th out of 52 (34 cars did not finish). This was Toyota’s Toyopet’s first venture into competitive racing.
There were two Sports 800 coupés in this collection. An important car, as this was the first sports model Toyota ever produced. This gray one was pretty much guarding the entrance of the museum, ready to pounce onto incoming visitors.
The other one was much easier to photograph, being in a quieter part of the museum and outdoors. I therefore went to town on it, because I’d never seen one of these in the flesh before. Toyota only made about 3000 of these from 1965 to 1969, so they were never too common.
It’s such a terrific design. Tiny, squat and streamlined – completely out of step with its era in many ways. Just chock full of neat little touches and oozing character. Under the hood lay an air-cooled 44 hp flat-twin displacing 790cc. It’s just like a Panhard, but RWD. Love it.
The Sports 800 was derived from the Publica 700, Toyota’s first small car. Launched in 1961, the Publica didn’t sell that well initially because it was too small and basic. Toyota remedied this by adding a Deluxe option and a sweet little cabriolet version, to give it a touch of glamour. The engine grew by about 100cc as well. By 1964, the Publica was a decent seller for Toyota, though it never reached its full potential. Production stopped in 1969.
Let’s face it: Toyota’s main strength was bigger cars (by JDM standards). I’ve already featured this museum’s 2nd gen Corona / Tiara in a previous post, so here’s a lovely example of its successor, the good old shovel-nosed Corona T40.
I’m not as familiar as some of you with these, but I’ve always thought they looked rather ugly. The front end is definitely not my favourite angle. Plus this JDM version is still branded “Toyopet,” a peeve of a name if there ever was one.
But the rest of the car is rather good, especially in this coupé version. It still won’t make my personal Toyo Top Ten, but I’m warming to it. The interior was just great, too. Terribly difficult to capture on camera. The Toyoglide selector was worth the effort, though.
While we’re in the ‘60s section, let’s check on the Crowns. The S40 is a true classic, as celebrated in this post by our esteemed and googly-eyed colleague Don Andreina. Shame about this one’s placement and lighting, which hindered any attempt at photographing anything but the front.
Same issue with this S50 coupé – it’s all well and good to recreate a Shōwa-era street and all, but please give us some 21st Century lighting!
The lovely ’66 Corolla was much more cooperative. Better than the wagon I captured on the street later that day, anyway. When I wrote that one up, I waxed lyrical about this car’s competent looks. I stand by that assessment, but time to bring out the big guns.
This was my first 2000GT experience. After I picked up my jaw from the floor, I tried looking at this car from every possible angle to see if I could find a bad one. Nope. Impressively flawless. It all screams high performance, sophistication and exclusivity – like no Toyota before it and very few since. Definitely some family resemblance with the S800, but with much more panache.
Toyota built 351 of these in four years, including 62 LHD versions like this one for export (mostly to the US) and two convertibles (because You Only Live Twice). The car was developed by Yamaha, who first offered it to Nissan. They declined, so Toyota took it up. I had always thought that Albrecht Goertz was involved in its styling, but the Interwebs now say that no, he wasn’t. We owe this incredible car to the talent of Satoru Nozaki.
Moving on to the ‘70s – a woeful decade styling-wise for many, but not so over at Toyota. This Corolla Sprinter is perhaps a bit of a comedown after the 2000GT, but then almost anything would be. At least you don’t have to pay $1 million to own one of these nowadays. Finding one as nice as this would take some doing, though. The interior is especially scrumptious. I remember seeing one of these in Bangkok, but in a creamy light yellow colour. This dark forest green works much better for it, in my opinion.
I really fell for this Celica. Hard. I hadn’t seen one in ages, and perhaps never in such great condition.
The detailing on this car is amazing. Nothing wild and weird like the Kujira Crown, just a lot of very cool touches brought together by a fantastic shape. The interior was also very, very cool.
It’s not a very original design, but there’s no harm in that. It’s like they saw a late ‘60s Mustang Fastback and decided to right-size it. And in doing so, they made an even better-looking car. Most Japanese and many European cars emulated Detroit’s styling cues in those days, with very mixed results. In this case, it’s a total winner.
Onto the ‘80s with the first Soarer – this one is new to me. Definitely less interesting than the older stuff, but still. A nice big Toyo coupé, even with origami styling, is still a nice big Toyo coupé. And the key to appreciating this one is simply to peek inside.
The bigger Japanese cars of this era strike me as a very happy medium between the austere yet stylish European-style cabins and the gaudy Bordello-Brougham padded cells of the Big Three. Even the rear seats look inviting, provided you don’t have legs.
Let’s close this post on the driftermobile par excellence – the Corolla Levin AE86. I found one in the wild this summer, in uncharacteristically poor condition. It was a notchback, too. This one is a showroom-condition hatchback, but I’m still preferring the other body style.
That’s it for the Toyota side of things. Next week, we’ll do a walkthrough of the rest – and there were a lot of non Toyo and even foreign cars there, all from the same era as these. Something for everyone, I promise. Till then, best regards from —
Car Show Classic: 1965 Toyota Sports 800 – What If We Make a Sports Car?, by Geraldo Solis
Curbside Classic: 1969 Toyota Corona – It All Started Here, by PN
Vintage Review: 1965 – 1970 Toyota Crown – You Can’t Always Get The Gold, by GN
Vintage Review: 1968 – 1970 Toyota Corolla – Smaller Bug Killer, by GN
Vintage Review: 1968 Toyota 2000GT – April 1968 Car and Driver Road Test, by GN
Curbside Classic: 1974 Toyota Celica Coupe – Betting on The Wrong Pony, by PN
CC Analysis: An Objective View Of The Corolla AE86, by Geraldo Solis
Megaweb is a great place for Toyota fans or just JDM fans in general – and you can’t beat the price of admission…
Glad you and Jim enjoyed your visit. Jim.
That is a great looking Celica; I’d call that my “best of show,” too.
I like the Sports 800. It seems like the friendly cartoon version of an Avanti.
The 2000GT still does it for me!
There’s just so much good stuff there, the Celica, Soarer, T800, the green Corolla, all so tasty!
I just realized the Celica has a different tail panel than what we got over here, the lights are different in that “busy” way that the Japanese did so well on their rear ends.
That museum held two of the five T800’s I saw on that trip, I think I’ve seen two or three others prior and it never fails to amaze me with its diminutive size but large presence. One of my top three Toyotas of all time I think.
And the Soarer, that perfect expression of ’80’s Toyota luxury in all its brown and gold button tufted velour magnificence in a square wrapper.
A wonderful museum and a must see for any auto fan in Japan, very family friendly, not crowded, and everything very accessible. Less than an hour to get there via the excellent Metro from most anywhere in the greater Tokyo area, and other things to do in the area as well. I’m looking forward to your next installment!
The Celica liftback was built like that for JDM and some export markets in 1973. We didn’t get the liftback until MY 1975, and by then it had been toned down somewhat and of course also had the 5 mile bumpers. That made it look decidedly less delicate.
That Celica fastback! My dream car for half of the 1980s I haven’t seen one in the metal in decades.
Lots of goodies here to feast on. I understand your ambivalence about the gen2 Corona: it was not a looker. But there was something about it that grew on one; maybe just the fact that it successfully exuded its intrinsic solidity and reliability along with its decidedly non-sporty attributes. It looked honest; no pretense. And that endeared it to a huge number of US buyers. This is the car that defined Toyota in many key ways.
And yes, that Toyoglide quadrant is an absolute delight. Its best detail.
And yes, the Corolla that then joined it looked very light and delicate in comparison. Quite the contrast.
I remember seeing the concessional 2000GT on the streets in LA in the mid-late 70s. Stunning. And remarkably low and small. I don’t even want to think about trying to get myself into one, although back then I would have in a heartbeat.
Fascinating! Tatra87, I always look forward to your posts. I was surprised to see an Origin (as I know it) as a rally car.
9,000 miles at speed on dirt roads was quite a feat back in the day for any car but totally unexpected for something from Japan, equally unexpected were the T140 1300cc Coronas getting up to 90mph lapping Bathurst reliably in the late 60s, those didnt have the awful two speed auto though, 4 speeds manually shifted like a proper car. I drove a mid/late 70s Corolla that was like that nice coupe it was a brand new rental, a free upgrade from Avis to replace the BL Mini which died part way through its contract, the Toyota was nicely finished inside but its road manners needed some fine tuning, very noticeable after the Mini. Love the old Crowns they used to be fairly common when I lived in OZ rarely seen in NZ now. the sports models not seen at all.
Absolutely love the Celica Liftback. This early JDM model, without the safety bumpers and with a little extra surface excitement, looks even better than the North American version, which was the first Toyota with styling I really liked.
I also like the Corolla Levin AE86. A good grad school friend had one of these and that car handled and rode well compared to the Escorts, GM J-Cars, Sentras, and Omnirizons that so many of our classmates were driving. If I remember correctly, he was able to keep that car for about 15 years, truly an amazing feat compared to what went before it.
“GOOD LORD!” spat out of my mouth (along with some coffee) when I saw the interior shot of the Soarer. Unreal. I could drool in that place for days on end.
Wonderful tour! There’s so many fascinating specimens here, it’s hard to know what to celebrate first, but the one that really sticks out to me is that S50 coupe — too bad the back three-quarters of it is cloaked in shadows.
And I would love to just spend some time admiring a 2000GT in the flesh. When the topic of favorite car designs come up, I somehow tend to forget about these. That car is so stunning, it even looks good in white.
And of all car names, one that puzzles me is Levin. Where on earth did that come from? Was there a Mr. Levin who worked for Toyota at some point? Very unusual name choice.
Thanks so much for these pictures; looking forward to the next installment!
Corolla Levin and the sister model Sprinter Trueno make sense once you know what the trim names mean. Levin is lightning in Middle English, Trueno is thunder in Spanish. The originals of these cars carried the same 1.6 DOHC motor from the JDM Celica GT, and were wicked quick for that type of car in Japan then. “A perfect storm”, if you will.
Thanks for the explanation — I never would have guessed!
The original badge approximates lightning bolts:
Just lovely! That Celica and the 2000GT are my favorites. Can’t wait to see the future installments!
I visitied the Megaweb when I was in Japan about 5 years. I could have gotten lost in there…..in a good way.
That Corona hardtop photographed is an early model and is not a 1600GT, and not even a semi sporting 1600S. It is a bog standard model, complete with strip speedo and 2 speed column automatic. By the time the 1968 1600 GT came out, the front end looked better, the tail lights were different, and there was a much more sporty dashboard to go with the Yamaha twin cam.
The RT50 Corona and the S50 Crown hardtop are my favourites of the cars photographed.
Thanks for the correction — fixed it.
The Corona was a spindly, droning thing, with a rather severe and overcrowded face stamped on a shovel, yet the coupe performs a miracle – by some alchemy, it all comes good, face included. It’s a pretty car, which we only got in sprinkled handfuls. Mind, with Toyogloop and standard suspensions it would still be like a three-legged tortoise to drive, only slower.
If I were a rich man, I would have one long 2000GT coming up and another one customized, just for show. The custom would keep the exact shape, yet remove all the distracting spots and wee gargoyles the Japanese then insisted on having, and the clean result would be a car substantially better-looking than an E-type.
I’m taken by the tiny Sports 800 convertible, but for that name. It reads either as Pub Licker, conjuring the distasteful image of a drunken desperado lying in the puddles on the floor of the local, or Pube Licker, who, if he is in the pub, I’m leaving right now.
We did get the Publica sedans here for a while, but sold as the Toyota 700 – probably for the reason you so aptly give.