We take a look at Toyota's half century in the UK.
Toyota has become synonymous with the slogan; ‘The car in front, is a Toyota’, thanks to a successful advertising campaign ran in the early-‘00s. But on the Japanese marques’ 50th anniversary of British residence, it’s worth looking behind at some the classics Toyota has graced us with.
The Land Cruiser was the Far East’s answer to Jeep and Land Rover of the West. Built as a military vehicle, it was larger and more powerful than the U.S Jeep of the time, and went on to become one of the most iconic vehicles ever produced. After years of successful sales and massive production figures in Asia, the Land Cruiser came to the UK in 1975 already a hero, and clocked up one million sales in just five years.
The 2000GT never made it to UK-shores when it was released in 1967, but it should have done. It’s European styling and appearance in You Only Love Twice helped put the then little known brand on the world map. This came despite a difficult birth. Yamaha, who held the blueprints to the car, turned to Toyota only after Nissan had rejected the concept. Years later and 337 units down the road, the car and its twin-cam straight six-150bhp engine remains one of Japan’s all-time greats. A collectors-condition one nowadays can push seven figures in value.
Toyota has a habit of continuation when it comes to model names. The Celica has been around for 45 out of 50 years for Toyota in the UK for example, but it’s the 1974 GT that is considered the true classic today. The facelifted RA25 and R28 of yesteryears provided the Celica GT with a swooping bodyline made famous by the ‘60s Ford Mustang. Like the Mustang the Celica GT was quick - it’d do 120mph with the 124bhp it had from the twin-cam 1600cc engine. Despite a rust crisis most GT’s have been fully restored in recent years, and a decent one can be found for £6000 upwards.
Toyota Corolla GT (AE86)
In 1983 Toyota forecourts were the breeding grounds of both front-wheel and rear-wheel drive Corolla GT’s. Naturally it was the tail-happy rear-wheel variety that really made a name for itself, thanks to its simple nature and eccentric performance. A favourite among rally-goers and Dads who wanted a bit of fun, the Corolla GT saloon nearly topped one million units sold, and today is one of Toyota’s British and global success stories. One keeping the rust at bay in today’s money can command up to £11,000.
The MR2 was and is the Toyota sports car. It was the first mid-engined Japanese car ever to go to market in when it was released in 1984, and sold well straight from the off. The standard car came with the 1.6-litre 16-valve engine seen in the Corolla GT, which made it nippy as well as well balanced. The UK never saw the later supercharged-editions, but did receive the removable roof panels and uprated suspension from the model. A solid one today can cost £4,000.
The Mk2 didn’t turn out to be a difficult second album at all for Toyota, as the MR2 name continued to go from strength-to-strength. It looked sleeker, went faster, and sold well as a result, even in the face of the chronic oversteer associated with earlier models produced. Britain received the basic Mk2 MR2 with 119bhp, followed by the 158bhp GT and GT T-bar, the latter coming with lift-out roof panels. Sadly the Turbo version never made it ashore. That said either of the GT versions can command up to £3,000 if in mint condition.
Toyota Carina-E BTCC
Like most popular saloon carmakers of the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Toyota got caught up in the British Touring Car Championship. After titles in ’87 and ’88 with the Corolla, the marque introduced the Carina-E for the 1994 season in the iconic Castrol-livery. In truth, its results weren’t spectacular, even if the colour scheme was, with a best result of 5th in three seasons persuading Toyota to pull the plug.
The Mk4 Supra was a massive advance on the Supra’s before it, and met with critical applause upon its release in 1993. Made of sleek aluminium body panelling, armed with a six-speed manual and complete with a twin sequential turbo 3-litre engine. The Supra quickly reached the cusp of supercar territory and gained a cult following after its starring role in the first of te Fast & Furious film franchise. Toyota quit producing the Mk4 in 2002. A good one that hasn’t received streetcar treatment can reach prices in excess of £12,000.
The third MR2 was officially known as the MR2 Roadster in Europe, and had the pleasure of going toe-to-toe with all-conquering Mazda MX5 in the small two-seater sportscar market. Surprisingly, it held its own in performance terms yet struggled in sales. All of this means it wasn’t quite the complete car it could have been, but as far as a modern day undervalued sports car goes, it’s an absolute bargain. One can be found for £4000 in good condition
Released in 2012, the GT86 marked Toyota’s return to the lightweight two-seater sports car market. The GT86 was well received, although some people thought it needed more power and was too expensive. This was a car built for driver involvement though, not pure speed. The high-revving 2.0-litre boxer engine complimented the purposely low-grip tyres fitted and rear-wheel drive chassis, delivering a fun-filled and often sideways approach to motoring. Early models can be found in the classifieds for around £15,000 now, although numbers of used examples relatively small due to low numbers sold in the UK.
Words: Joe Diamond