Words: Nick Tuyau; Photos: Matthew Everingham
It’s early in the new year, and as just about any motoring enthusiast knows, that means it’s time for Tokyo Auto Salon. Held yearly at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba city, it’s a chance for Japan’s automotive industry to show off their new wares for the year (or years) ahead. And it’s not just the aftermarket industry who show up, as plenty of the major manufacturers and their off-shoots regularly display new cars, new technologies and concept ideas at the show.
Fortunately for our Speed Nation readers, our main man Matt has been given the incredible opportunity to attend, courtesy of Toyota Australia, and we would like to share this opportunity with you!
Day one of the Tokyo trip began with a visit to TRD’s main headquarters in Yokohama, also known as Toyota TechnoCraft. The building was originally opened in 1961, and over the years has served Toyota in many and various ways.
Of course, there is the racing division itself, and we’ll get to that, but the headquarters also plays host to a car restorations section, vehicle and engine development section (including for mainstream Toyota models) and a service and repair (including accident repair) centre for Toyota and Lexus cars.
Beyond this, there is also a special conversions section, which actually caters to over 80% of the Japanese market.The output of the special conversions business mostly covers ambulances, police cars, highway patrol cars, government cars and the like. As well as the Japanese market, they also do a lot of catering to overseas markets who don’t have the knowledge, technology and facilities to carry out the work, such as the Africas and other developing markets.
Now, onto that racing history… The department started off in 1954 as Toyopet Seibi Co. Ltd., and specialised in creating parts and accessories for the regeneration and repair of used cars. Three years later, they took control of building a Toyota Crown for the Around Australia Trial, as well as providing on-site support for the car as it competed here. It continued in similar roles all the way through to 1976, where the department’s name was officially changed to Toyota Racing Development.
During this time, in 1965, it was charged with the task of building the Toyota 2000GT for the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show, which has gone on to be known as Japan’s first supercar.
Co-developed with Yamaha – a partnership which continues to this day – and eventually manufactured by Yamaha under contract, they ran the 3M engine from the Toyota Crown of the day, but with a twin-cam cylinder head extensively modified by Yamaha and a pair of Solex carburetors to produce 150hp. In 1966 they campaigned a number of 2000GTs and smaller S800s in the Fuji 24hr race, and the cars met some success with several FIA speed and endurance records created along the way. (As a side note, the “Open Top” 2000GT that appeared in the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” was also created in the Yokohama headquarters. The car was originally designed as a targa-top, but due to Sean Connery’s height and how far his head stood proud of the car’s modified roofline, they decided to remove the roof completely. A roof was never created, just a hump to simulate where one would go if it did exist, so technically the car was not a true convertible. Two were made for use in the film, and apparently one of those resides here in Australia somewhere!)
Powered by the venerable 3s-GTE (which seemed to power almost anything and everything that competed under the Toyota brand name across the world), it was a huge force in 1997, and that tiny 2-litre engine in that huge Supra body went on to conquer even the McLaren F1 that it was competing against that year!
Here’s yet another Toyota-Yamaha monster of a collaboration: The Lexus LFA. Parked next to Toyota’s first supercar, you can get an idea for yourself the incredible way in which all our modern cars have become wider, taller, longer and heavier!
With that spine-tingling 1LR-GEU engine, Toyota and Yamaha gave us a 72-degree bank angled V10 of 4.8 litres, power of 412kW, torque of 480Nm, a redline at 9,000rpm, and an ability to bounce off its fuel cut-off of 9,500rpm so fast that an analogue tachometer needle couldn’t keep up, so a digital one had to be used!
With all the work that goes on at TRD/TechnoCraft, there are a lot of hidden gems tucked away behind the offices and factories, so as we sign off, we’ll leave you to check out the treats on display that Matt was priviledged enough to photograph for us…