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
CC Analysis: An Objective View Of The Corolla AE86, by Geraldo Solis