Home » Here Are All The Interesting Old Cars Hidden In Toyota’s Texas HQ, Plus A Robot That Plays The Trumpet

Here Are All The Interesting Old Cars Hidden In Toyota’s Texas HQ, Plus A Robot That Plays The Trumpet

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I’m here in the aching beauty of Plano, Texas, where Toyota plopped down its headquarters. The brand is showing me lots of Very Important new cars and technologies, but what I’ve been most excited to see are the few heritage collection cars stored in a little museum-like area here. Since you and I are so tight, I’m going to show you all the good stuff; consider yourself lucky, because the security team here at Toyota HQ assured me that otherwise there’s no way it would let you in the building, especially dressed like that.

Toyota has a larger heritage collection, various PR people assured me, so what we’re seeing here is a pretty small sampling. In a way, that makes the curatorial choices even more interesting, as you can see that Toyota is attempting to explain a bit of its history. So let’s see if we can get a sense of how Toyota sees itself via these cars.

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First up we have this little charmer:

That’s a 1958 Toyopet Crown — an extremely important vehicle because this was the first Japanese car to be exported to America; what makes the story of this car so interesting is just how much of a failure it actually was in the USA.

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The target of the Toyopet Crown was the iconic Volkswagen Beetle, which was the best-selling imported car in America and proved that a market for a small, fuel-efficient car actually did exist in the land of the colossal, thirsty, chrome-slathered land yachts built by the Big Three.

The Toyopet Crown was a car developed for Japan, for Japanese roads and speeds and people. As a quick glance at a globe will tell you, Japan isn’t America, and Toyota’s American sales director sensed this, saying of the Crown, “This thing is underpowered, overpriced and it won’t sell.”

He wasn’t wrong. The Crown shook like a man with boxer shorts full of bees at speeds of 60 mph or greater — a velocity that most drivers would rarely encounter in Japan at the time. Drive-in restaurant trays activated the horn, the name had both “toy” and “pet” in it (two words rarely used to sell cars), and the car was such a sales flop that Toyota exited the US market in defeat.

Until the brand came back with this next car:

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That’s a Toyota Corona, and it’s the vehicle that lifted Toyota back up in the American market in 1965. This was the third generation of Corona, and this one was far more suited for U.S. roads. This was a small but roomy car, and with its 90 horsepower engine had a good amount of power.

The boxy styling with a tall greenhouse and plenty of glass area made for an appealing and efficient package; this was Toyota’s first car to sell over 10,000 units.

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I’ve always like the design of these, because they remind me a bit of Lancias of the era, with their unashamed upright boxiness and elegant thin pillars and slightly peculiar face.

Plus, that pistachio ice-cream green color!

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You can’t expect any decent collection of cars to be worth a damn if they don’t have at least one example of the pinnacle of automotive design and quality — the vinyl roof. Toyota’s entry here is this kicky 1972 Corona coupe.

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The Toyota 2000GT is, of course, an absolutely stunning car. Only 351 of these lithe beauties were built (in partnership with Yamaha) between 1967 and 1971, and was a huge deal at the time of its launch because it’s the car that told the world that Japan was capable of producing cars that were impressive and desirable in their own right, and not just derivatives of other countries’ cars.

The collection here actually has two 2000GTs, with the other one being this yellowish-looking one:

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It’s actually not yellow; it’s gold, and the reason it’s gold is because it is one of two cars built for the 1967 Tokyo Motor show. The car was famously photographed with ’60s fashion icon Twiggy, who later bought one of her own, even though she couldn’t drive at the time.

This one in the collection had an interesting life as a car in a failed TV show, got repainted, then restored back to the original condition seen here. Here’s a clip of the show, if you’re curious – its full of great cars:

The show was, it seems, awful, just awful.

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There’s also a nice ’77 Celica here, and looking at it you can really see the influence from American pony cars like the Mustang. Plus, note the prominent, bold, clear sidelights, something not terribly common on American cars of the era.

At the opposite conceptual extreme but possessing equal quantities of raw coolium, was this:

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A 1984 Toyota Van Wagon! The Previa’s predecessor, a fantastic study of novel, practical packaging, complete with a mid-engine the driver and front passenger sat on. You’ll very occasionally see these on the road still, and they still feel like little spaceships.

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Since we’ve seen some fantastic vintage Toyotas here, I feel like I owe you a little taillight roundup:

There’s some fantastic taillight design going on here: the Celica’s clearly Mustang-inspired vertical cluster of three lamps (with a little parallel pair of reverse lamps nearby), the old Corona’s simple lights punctuated with that little round reflector, the old Toyopet’s archaic little lump and strange, yellowish reflector, and especially the 2000GT’s twin round lamps and that fantastic little reflector inset into its own little rocket-engine-like unit. Excellent taillightery going on here.

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There’s one concept car here, too, the 2006 F3R concept, which is a sort of development of the wildly useful boxy design of the Scion xB/Toyota bB. It had rotating seating inside, and in some ways predicted automated vehicle design concepts with its room-on-wheels approach.

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Aside from cars, there were some other weird little artifacts floating around, like some of the contents of this shelf-wall:

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Are you wondering what the hell that robot is in the middle there? You should be, because it’s a big fucking deal: that’s the first robot to really successfully play the trumpet.

Toyota had a whole series of humanoid robots known as their Partner series, and clearly one of their goals was to free civilization from the tyranny of human trumpet players, a group that has had their fingers around humanity’s collective throat for far too long.

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There’s a lot of creepy details on this robot, like that little air-blowing mouth or those odd, rubbery, bony-looking fingers. I’m assuming it’s been mothballed now, but hopefully should the need arise, this robot can be re-deployed to do all the mechanized trumpeting any given situation requires.

Here’s an interesting little insider tidbit for all you hardcore Toyota fans – Scion may be long gone in the real world, but a bit of Scion lives on inside of Toyota, in the form of the name of two conference rooms:

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And, one last, and truly baffling thing: At the Lexus presentation, we were shown a slide that showed that the Lexus brand is making real headway among younger consumers, based on some AdAge study:

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According to the research, the top six brands are Lexus, Ocean Spray, Venmo, Vans, USAA, and Crown Fucking Royal? What the hell kind of a list is that? Is the Ocean Spray thing just all because of that dude on TikTok chugging cranberry juice and singing Fleetwood Mac, or do UTIs factor in here?

Venmo is popular, sure, even if trying to make a social media network out of paying your friend back for dinner or dewormer is weird. Vans are vans, checkerboard slip-ons will always have cachet, but USAA? Isn’t that an insurance company? Why would people give the tiniest shit about them?

At least Crown Royal comes in those little velvety bags.

I don’t get what’s going on here at all, why this deeply random list of unrelated brands would have any import to Gen Z or Gen Anyone, really. Has a major automaker ever made a big deal about beating a juice company at, well, anything? This is weird, but if Lexus is happy, wonderful. You do you, Lexus.

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Jason Mason
Jason Mason
2 years ago

JT, your 2nd photo of the yellow 2000GT didn’t make it to your post, FYI!

Rich Pistachio
Rich Pistachio
2 years ago

Mmm, yes. I like that first Corona very much.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 years ago

So Gen Z is 10-25 as of right now, USAA is only available to military members and their families. There is a decent amount of military members from the last two-decade long war that are old enough to have kids in that range that are needing bank accounts.

They’re a fairly decent bank as well.

Drew
Drew
2 years ago

USAA making that list just makes me think the economy is bad and more young people are joining the military. Vans is likely a result of the 90s resurgence. Venmo is a result of Gen Z paying each other, maybe? Perhaps because they have to have roommates and split the rent? Ocean Spray is 100% because of the guy on the skateboard (and the fact that Ocean Spray gave him a pickup and a bunch of juice for making that video).
Lexus, Crown Royal, and the very concept of comparing all these disparate brands’ outreach to Gen Z are inexplicable. I guess they show high percentages of change because starting from nearly zero Gen Z consumers means any positive change is going to look really good?

Drew
Drew
2 years ago

Yeah, my first thought with a trumpet robot was to assume that it wasn’t really playing…but it looks like it does. That is amazing.

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
2 years ago

That trumpet playing robot rocks (former trumpet player here), What a great collection and as usual nice report Torch!

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
2 years ago

Chrysler/Stellantis has an interesting little 2-floor museum at their Auburn Hills HQ/mall. (Fun fact: It’s the second largest office building in the world, after the Pentagon, but despite having a giant Pentastar on the facade, they did not name the building that. ) The museum has everything from an original Town and Country to a selection of WWII military vehicles and tank engines. Definitely worth your time.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 years ago

“There’s a lot of creepy details on this robot, like that little air-blowing mouth or those odd, rubbery, bony-looking fingers. I’m assuming it’s been mothballed now, but hopefully should the need arise, this robot can be re-deployed to do all the mechanized trumpeting any given situation requires.”

“Trumpeting”

Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Eric Davis
Eric Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Everyone knows it’s supposed to be “trumpetations.”

Razoe
Razoe
2 years ago

For the F3R concept, it was the 2nd gen xB concept, as the 1st gen xB was based on the bB, while the 2nd gen was an xB from the start, then made into the Corolla Rumion.

Razoe
Razoe
2 years ago
Reply to  Razoe

Oh and there was a 2nd gen bB that was never sold here, sold as a Subaru and Daihatsu.

A F
A F
2 years ago

My parents had an ’84 Toyota Van in sort of a coppery brown color when I turned 15.5 and got my learner’s permit, so it was the first car I ever drove. It was pretty terrible on the freeway as it was underpowered and the high sides and narrow beam meant it got moved around a lot by crosswinds. They dumped it for a Corolla wagon after 1 year, the shortest time they ever owned a car.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
2 years ago
Reply to  A F

The first car I drove was a fibreglass minivan (89 Renault Espace), I know exactly what you mean about crosswinds on freeways. It’s terrifying. But the Espace did not feel underpowered, those 120hp were good to get it to 150km/h effortlessly on the freeway and I pushed it to 170km/h a few times.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
2 years ago

240Z, 2000GT, P1800 250 GT, designers from different manufacturers used to compete in a beauty contest. Now it’s just the talent portion of the contest. A bunch of baton twirling.

Slirt
Slirt
2 years ago

I am happy that Toyota upped their game and have displayed them properly; in 2016 i saw the collection in Torrance when it was less than optimal, shall we say. Picture album here: https://goo.gl/photos/FEJmjrUoHWUNsg1G9

Bob Coats
Bob Coats
2 years ago
Reply to  Slirt

I saw the museum in Torrance as well, before they relocated. Was kinda cramped, but they had some great cars! They had third red 2000GT at the time: https://flic.kr/p/2nqhunX

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
2 years ago

The 2000GT is gorgeous. Too bad they didn’t have the pop ups open on one. They look hilariously sick with worry with the headlights up. Like a toddler who just watched another toddler drop their ice cream cone on a hot sidewalk. They are concerned for their sad friend but at the same time worried they will now have to share. I love expressive front fascia on cars.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
2 years ago

My lottery win dream car is one of Mr Lucky’s 2000gt replicas.

Jason Masters
Jason Masters
2 years ago

Toyota R&D in Ann Arbor (well, York Twp not the north AA office) has a similar collection in their lobby. Last time I was in there they had a very early toyota truck and a celica amongst their collection. David Tracy should check that one out.

JohnTaurus
JohnTaurus
2 years ago

I’d take the ’65 Corona. And a matching Stout, please.

Stephen Bierce
Stephen Bierce
2 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBOQcQO0IFI <- What that robot reminds me of.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
2 years ago

I had a 1988 Toyota van, similar to that one up there, when I lived in Japan. Still miss it. Absolutely the best device for a part-time scuba enthusiast. Music was better then too.

I want to go back to the mid-1990’s. The 2020’s have turned out to be a dumpster fire.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
2 years ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

The fire started a few years earlier; four to be exact.

Eric Gonzalez
Eric Gonzalez
2 years ago

Am I the only one seeing a Mercedes F1 car showcasing DRS instead of the gold 2000GT? Am I going crazy?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 years ago
Reply to  Eric Gonzalez

Me too

FUCK YOU
FUCK YOU
2 years ago
Reply to  Eric Gonzalez

Not just you.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
2 years ago
Reply to  Eric Gonzalez

Am I the only one seeing the similarities to the 240Z of that era?

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
2 years ago
Reply to  Eric Gonzalez

Yeah, it’s the wrong image. The gold 200GT is probably the one from the top image.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
2 years ago

That van dredges up a lot of fun memories. Back in the late 80s when I was in high school I had friend that drove a Toyota Van. We would get high and bomb around town blasting Metallica and Oingo Boingo, and just generally do stupid shit. Anyhow, last I knew he was like a head systems engineer for a huge tech company, or something.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 years ago

“I’m here in the aching beauty of Plano, Texas”

I’ve been to Plano plenty of times. I get the “aching” part, but “beauty”? You sure you’re in the right place?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 years ago

Plano where old Toyotas live forever, and where one lives when their dreams die. AKA Florida’s stepbrother…

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 years ago

“but USAA? Isn’t that an insurance company? Why would people give the tiniest shit about them?”

Hey now! They are my insurance company and they are damn good (as far as insurance companies go).

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
2 years ago

Of all the insurance companies I interact with while mortgage processing USAA is by far the nicest, easiest to deal with and most helpful.
I’d use them if I could.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
2 years ago

I forgot how great the wheels were on those early Toyota vans. All the Japanese manufacturers’ alloy wheel games were strong in the ’80s, really.

Also, a couple of years ago, I test-drove an old Ford Probe that had a grubby Crown Royal bag for a shift lever boot. You can extrapolate the rest of the car’s condition from that one data point, I imagine.

FUCK YOU
FUCK YOU
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

That’s a great thing for the cop to see when they pull you over for some minor infraction and do that thing where they walk up to your window and search your car with their eyes. Good chance you’ll be asked to step out so they can search with their hands, at that point.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
2 years ago

So can you just wander in and see this stuff? I live like an hour East of DFW but work all over the metroplex and pass their headquarters somewhat often.

Primer
Primer
2 years ago

Get ready for The Ugliest Girl In Town reboot, coming to Paramount Plus!

Not really. But probably.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 years ago

I really appreciate the spinning wheel front emblem on the Corona. It’s a cool easter egg from Toyota’s origin as the inventor of the Model G automatic loom. Little details like that just do it for me.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 years ago

Did not notice that, thanks for pointing it out!

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