On Oct. 31, 1957, Toyota opened its North American headquarters in Hollywood, Calif., and for 60 years it’s been bringing fun, reliable, and awesome cars to the American roads.
“Celebrating our anniversary isn’t just about the products we’ve sold the past 60 years,” said Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz. “It’s also about celebrating Toyota’s thousands of employees who will help the company embark on the next leg of its American journey and continuing to improve our products and services for our customers.”
In honor of Toyota’s American anniversary, we’re looking back on some of the most indelible models we’ve seen from Toyota.
While many complain about snap oversteer, the Toyota MR2 is an amazing car. These mid-engine, rear-wheel vehicles can scream around corners – when properly driven. They held their own on the track against beefier cars, such as the original NSX and early GT-Rs.
And, we should know their capability. We owned a SW21 when stationed in Northern Japan and used it on many-a mountain road and camped from its trunk (with tent, clothes, food, cameras, and bedding). We also currently own a SW20 and drive it profusely on American mountain roads. So, I suppose that makes us a bit biased.
While the famous trio labeled the Hilux as “indestructible”, the Toyota Hilux is a very capable off-roading vehicle. The Hilux has continued production from 1968 to today, and is used in most countries across the globe. Except for the U.S., the Hilux hasn’t graced our shores since 1995.
We had the chance to drive Hilux’s in Japan, as they were the preferred duty vehicles for much of the base. Whereas “Indestructible Gazebos” were no match for me and my Navy brethren, the Hilux never missed a beat – and that’s saying something when going against the American Military.
In 1995, Toyota introduced the stout and trusty Toyota Tacoma, the beloved “Taco”. This standard mid-sized truck is one of the most purchased pickups on the market. While not tested to indestructible by the famous trio, the Tacoma is used by many off-roaders across the nation.
When we tested out the newest variant of 4×4 Tacoma, we even took it off-road (much to the vehicle provider’s chagrin). We found it to be a fun truck that begged to muddied.
Love it or hate it, the Toyota Prius is kind of hybrid-powered road travel. It’s been around since 1997 and has angered many left-lane users… Wait, no. Year after year, the Prius has been awarded for fuel efficiency, safety or number of models sold. It’s also the beginning of America’s love with alternative fuel vehicles, creating a demand that wasn’t there before. For the sake of starting a eco-friendly face-off between manufacturers, the Prius earns is place on our list.
We’ve driven some of the newer models and can’t disagree. While it’s not an amazing looker that many of the other vehicles on this list are, it’s one that’s been relied upon by millions of Americans and kept on going – just like the Energizer bunny.
Only 351 models were produced from 1967 to 1970, making the Toyota 2000GT has classic styling a highly sought set of wheels. It was powered by a smooth-sounding 2.0L straight-6 pushing out 150 hp (powerful for its day). It even had a drop-top variant, but only Bond-Connery got to drive it in You Only Live Twice.
We have not had a chance to test out the Toyota 2000GT, but it’s one of the top desires to drive on our list!
Because car enthusiasts can’t afford the 2000GT… No, wait that’s not it… The Toyota Supra is an iconic Japanese sports car. While it had been sold in the U.S. since 1978, it was the A80 (Mk4) that brought the Supra into Hollywood light via the Fast & Furious series. When the model ended in 2002, the cries of import fans could be heard nationwide.
And, if you haven’t guessed, we’ve driven one of these, too! We bought an A70 (Mk3) Supra in Japan and used it to tour all across the Aomori Prefecture. The inline 6-cylinder was powerful and unbelievably fun even with an automatic transmission.
Toyota has made a place for itself in America’s automotive future not just for received more Dependability awards by J.D. Power than any other brand, not just for having more IIHS Top Safety Pick+ vehicles, or for producing the longest-lasting of any full-line automotive manufacturer in America, nor for thinking outside with electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell alternative energies or because they’ve made some of the most iconic sports cars in America… Toyota has a future because it is all those things, and so much more.
Thanks for being here Toyota.
Note: If you’ve read all the way to the bottom, have a 2000GT and don’t mind strangers test driving it… give me an email! 😀
(Photographs courtesy of Toyota, except where indicated.)