My visit to the Toyota Automobile Museum in Japan was an amazing experience, and amazingly I think the most memorable part of my visit did not involve ‘real’ cars at all. Now I’ve already spent two posts sharing with you guys some of the highlights of the Toyota 75 Exhibit, but for me that stuff was just half of the fun.
In addition to the array of full-size vehicles seen in my previous posts, the Toyota 75 exhibit also included an unprecedented display of 50 models – all 1:5 scale – sourced directly from the Toyota Design Center.
For a long time these hand-made models have been built for the purpose of design study and archival purposes. Normally, a selection of these models can be seen at the Design Dome at Toyota’s headquarters, but access to them is extremely limited. First of all, the public is not allowed inside the Design Dome at all and even most Toyota employees are restricted. Needless to say, photography is also strictly forbidden in this top secret area.
So when it came time to organize the Toyota 75 exhibit at the museum, it was decided that these models would be put on public display for a limited time.
Some of the organizers of the Toyota 75 exhibit were actually former vehicle designers themselves and they thought it was a shame that this incredible collection of hand-built models was hidden from the public eye. It would be the perfect addition to what was already a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit.
As the exhibit was set up, the models were meticulously transported from the Design Center to the museum, joining the impressive collection of real vehicles that had already been gathered for Toyota 75.
In addition to the models that were on display inside the Design Center, they also brought out a large number that had long been put away in storage.
The result was perhaps the most incredible display of scale automobiles I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. I’d been planning to visit the museum regardless, but getting the chance to see this wonderful temporary display was just perfect timing and I’m so glad I was able to record this to share.
The simple sight of the models set up in special display cases was absolutely amazing. As cool as these things look in photos, it was even better in person.
In fact, I’m actually a little worried that simple photographs won’t be enough to these models proper justice.
First of all, there’s the sheer size of these things. I know 1:5 scale is not a common scale among consumer model cars and diecasts, so you might be wondering just how big these cars are. Let’s just say they are huge.
Here I’ve inserted my approving ‘thumbs up’ sign to give an idea of the scale we are talking here.
Because of their large size, the level of detail on these models is simply incredible.
I have little doubt that if you took these models out and photographed them in a more natural setting they could easily be mistaken for real cars.
From 100 percent accurate wheels and tires…
… to fully modeled interiors with all of the correct knobs and buttons in place. You can almost smell the authenticity.
While I’m not entirely sure what methods were used when building these things, it’s clear that the professional modelers at the Toyota Design Center are very good at what they do.
As for the actual assortment of scale historic Toyotas presented at the exhibit, the range is quite impressive.
On the classic end of the spectrum you have examples like this fully detailed replica of a second generation Toyopet Corona from the early 1960s.
The assortment then moves on to include cars from ’70s, ’80’s and ’90s right through to the beginning of the 2000s.
It’s also a fine way to see the 1:5 scale history of some of Toyota’s most important models. Cars like the Celica, seen here in first generation liftback form…
… and on to the second generation car of the late ’70s…
… and right up to the late ’90s and the introduction of the seventh and final iteration of the Celica.
And while the models are massive in terms of scale replicas, they still take up a lot less space then full size cars. The means there was room for many scale models of cars that couldn’t be squeezed into the main exhibit. I’m sure many of you will be happy to see that the Supra was represented nicely in the display.
As was the lovable Toyota MR2…
… in both first generation AW11 form…
… and in the form of the newer MR-S roadster.
Just look at the detail on that interior!
But in addition to some of the Toyota’s most famous models like the Celica and Mark II, it was also nice to some of the brand’s more obscure models represented.
I’m talking about cars like the sixth generation Corona liftback for example. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these things in real life.
Of course, that was just one part of a huge line of scale Coronas on display. Here’s the handsome looking third generation hardtop coated in perfect shade of 1960s metallic blue.
The equally attractive Corona Mark II has also been perfectly recreated in scale form by the modelers at the Design Center.
As strange as it might sound, I think I may have spent more time looking at these models than at the real cars that were part of the Toyota 75 exhibit. It was just that good.
That also means I have plenty more to share from this 1:5 sized selection of top secret Toyota history. Look for that story coming soon.
These are amazing and leave me with a few questions. The older interior on the Toyopet Corona looks much more detailed, instrumentation and radio with legible numbers, etc. than the newer MR-S. Is that generally the case, there's more detail to the older cars? If so, any idea why? Are the models with tinted windows (the final Celica) detailed on the inside?
Why did Toyota commission these, for public display or were they part of the development process? What are they made out of? Do doors and hood open? Are there engines beneath the hood?
Really enjoyed the photos. Thanks!
@Shervinator Not on display at least.
@ma70jake Such an '80s color isn't it?
Great to see the old models, even at scale. I have a 78 Corona 6th Gen liftback in the same gold as the model one. Ex Japan so comes with the hockey stick front mirrors as in model. Still goes, and still in great shape!
What a great Article, a great experience for the writer, a chance in a lifetime to see what so few have seen in person, and glad you decided to share it with US! Keep the Models coming. I think any car enthusiast is also a model car enthusiast in varying levels. Whether they build them, buy them, or collect them. You should have a section devoted just to them.
@DerrickCordray Thanks a lot! I'll be sure to keep 'em coming.
Is there a TE37 corolla or a KE35 corolla coupe, I have searched the world for a model of one of these and the best I have ever come up with is a te37 the size of a matchbox car! Someone please help me...
Mike as I said in your last post, I'm a absolute model car whore and now I'm all sticky :D keep em coming mike great work!
+1, I am dissapoint.
Owning both a '91 MR2 T, and a '95 Supra TT, I'm bummed there was only a 1/4 shot of a silver/light blue MKIV Supra in this post.
1/5 and 1/4 scale are pretty standard for car design models. When we aren't working in full size that's what we go for.
It's cool that Toyota made so many of these for public display. Saves square footage in the museum I guess? lol ...
@ericbauer Haha, good point! Yeah I was thinking a lot car companies would have something similar, but I've never had the chance to see any of them before. Amazing!
@Mike Garrett @ericbauer thats also a great scale for radio controled cars, Please Toyota can i have one of these bodies to put on my 1/5 scale FG radio control chassis? No? What a shame. Great story Mike, keep them coming.
@jzx81 Glad you enjoyed it :)
Dammit why did computers have to come along and ruin everything, I bet these guys smoked in the studio and wore polyester too... Genuinely amazing :)
@Speedhunters_Bryn I think you are correct! Hahah.
@greenroadster I don't even want to think about what these would be worth on the market.
@Mike Garrett For sure more than the original cars that they copy!
@LouisSoon Would make a nice souvenir wouldn't it?
@KAG Same thoughts here!
thumbs up for the thumbs up scale!
would love to buy that celica 2000 liftback; sigh...will have to settle for a much smaller die cast one though
@azmedaj Maybe you can build your own?Just needs a little practice.
@Styles Agreed. Very good lines on those cars!
hmmm....someone give me specs and a 3d printer, stat!
If I'm this amused seeing these pictures...it must be mind-blowing seeing these in person!
@V35 It is indeed!