Toyota once took turbines very seriously indeed. We look back at Aichi’s efforts.
Automotive technologies have a natural tendency to evolve. With Rover of Solihull firmly closing the door on gas turbines by the mid-1960s, we open an eastward-facing door, to see how Toyota took up the baton.
First mooted in 1965, sixty months of intense development took place at an undisclosed cost. The results brought forth a two-shaft gas turbine, intended for a bus chassis. A further five years of research entailed, the outcome being a car based turbine, the flagship Century being the chosen home for such a noble power unit. With its V8 removed, the gas turbine was not mechanically connected to the drivetrain. Instead, those ultra high revolutions charged a bank of batteries, in turn feeding motors to both front wheels – the gas turbine hybrid.
Editor’s note: A version of this piece was originally published in April 2016 as part of DTW’s Japan Theme.
From a purely commercial perspective, the Toyota motor company appears to have fared perfectly well without the benefit of image-building halo cars. While enthusiasts have been well served by innumerable performance versions of regular production models over the intervening decades, the Japanese car giant has largely eschewed outright exotics. Not so fast however. As long ago as 1965, crowds at the Tokyo motor show were captivated by the introduction a sleek and beautifully proportioned coupe from that most cautious of Japan’s burgeoning carmakers. Deliveries began two years later, but by the decade’s end, and after a mere 337 cars, the Mayfly Toyota 2000 GT disappeared as quickly as it had emerged.
The story (as commonly told) begins in the early 1960s. German nobleman and designer, Graf Albrecht Goertz had forged a successful consultancy in the United States, having been involved in the design of a number of post-war BMW models, most notably the acclaimed 507 roadster. Commissioned by Nissan to assist in the design a two-seater coupe, he is said to have drawn up a low-slung concept, a running prototype of which was subsequently built for Nissan by Yamaha. Nissan’s management however opted to adapt their in-house Fairlady model along different lines, introducing it as the highly successful 240Z in 1970.
The Sera, one of Toyota’s more eccentric creations, is thirty this year. DTW remembers it and wonders what inspires the conservative Japanese automotive giant to go off-piste like this, as it has done regularly in the past.
For me, Toyota Motor Corporation has always been something of an enigma. Ostensibly, it is a deeply conservative and risk-averse company. For more than eighty years, it has meticulously and systematically developed its mainstream vehicles to align exactly with its customers’ evolving expectations. Whether you drive a Corolla, or are driven in a Century, you can be confident that the replacement model, when it arrives, will always be essentially similar and comfortably familiar, but just a little bit better.
In more innocent times when Lexus was but a glint in the Toyota board’s eye, our collective impression of full-sized Japanese luxury saloons probably looked something a good deal more like this. Not precisely of course, since this particular duo debuted a full decade after Toyota’s creative moonshot, but Mitsubishi’s 1999 flagship was both in name and appearance very much JDM plutocratic business as usual.
As such, European (or American for that matter) nostrums of luxury to say nothing of prestige car semantics were quite obviously deemed not only unnecessary, but inappropriate. Sober and imposing was what the domestic market expected and in both Proudia and Dignity models, sobriety and imposition was what they got. Continue reading “A Ship Called Dignity”
So, there fades and fizzles 2017, nearly gone. Au revoir and good riddance. What can I remember without cheating by using Google Memories*?
Or without cheating and looking at a back issue of a car magazine? Unaided I can hesitantly say about the only stand-outs are something to do with a Toyota and an Alfa Romeo. AR launched the Stelvio this year** and many suppose it to be quite good. I haven’t seen one yet so I can’t say. I haven’t seen many Giulias either for that matter and it was launched, oh, what, two years ago.
Jaguar released images of the E-Pace and, again, one of those has not appeared anywhere near my district. Or maybe they aren’t on sale yet. Is that news? Or is it a real car? I am not sure***.
The code names HT51S, E-28, W-124, CDW27 and SD-1 surely no longer remain obscure enough to demonstrate proof of your car design knowledge. Add, please, G20, G30 G40, G50 to the list. Toyota’s third Century, G60, arrives soon.
Elsewhere here I have discussed the possibility of technical updates of classic designs where the styling remains much the same even as the engineering gets revised on an evolutionary basis. The Porsche 911, the New Beetle and New Mini approximate to this ideal. Cars like the LR Defender didn’t change enough to count and nor did the long-lived original Mini or Renault 4. For an exemplar of gradual, engineering-led evolution, we must turn to the Toyota Century, now only getting to its third incarnation since 1967. Continue reading “Lineaments, Landmarks and Leys”