Historic Car Brands



The production of Toyota automobiles was started as a division of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, under the direction of the founder’s son, Kiichiro Toyoda. Its first Type A engine was a 3.4-litre copy of an American petrol six and it first powered a prototype Toyoda G-1 light truck and an A-1 sedan in 1935.


1936 Toyoda Standard Sedan AA – Bertel Schmitt


Production vehicles  – the AA car and DA truck – came a year later and were originally sold under the name ‘Toyoda’, from the family name of the company’s founder. 

However, since toyoda literally means ‘fertile rice paddies’, changing the name prevented the company from being associated with old-fashioned farming. Also, there are Japanese-language attractions, including the need for only eight brush strokes in Japanese calligraphy, not 10, for using ‘Toyota’ instead of ‘Toyoda’.

The newly-formed word was trademarked and the company was registered in August 1937 as the Toyota Motor Company.

The early AA cars bore a striking resemblance to the Dodge Power Wagon and 1930s Chevrolet, with some parts actually interchanging with their American originals.

Although the new Toyotas were cheaper than American cars, they were unreliable and needed on-road repairs and regular factory updating. The company may not have made it through this difficult period without support from a Japanese Government that was anxious to improve Japan’s car and truck manufacturing self-sufficiency.

Japan severely restricted foreign competitors – principally Ford and General Motors – from importing knocked-down automobiles into Japan and they had to close down their plants. That move didn’t go down well in Detroit or Washington, as war clouds began to gather.


Toyota Su-Ki amphibious light truck


During World War II the company was dedicated to truck production for the Imperial Japanese Army. Toyota also produced the Su-Ki equivalent of the amphibious US Army Duck.

Because of severe shortages in Japan, military trucks were kept as simple as possible. For example, some trucks had only one headlight in the centre of the bonnet. The war ended on the day US B-29 bombers scored direct hits on the Toyota factories in Aichi.

Although permission to begin full production of passenger cars in Japan was not granted until 1949, limited production was permitted from 1947, and the Toyota SA design work started at the end of 1945 when the Occupying Powers let it be known that authorised commercial production of vehicles for the general public would be commencing soon. This model was introduced in January 1947.


1947 Toyopet Model SA – Mytho 88


The SA was Toyota’s first post-War design. It differed from previous Toyota cars by having a four-cylinder engine, four-wheel independent suspension  – previously using rigid axles with leaf springs – and a smaller, aerodynamic body. Although the suspension and styling mimicked the VW Beetle, the SA had a liquid-cooled, four-cylinder, front-mounted engine.

Japan took a long time to recover from the devastation caused by the War and car sales were poor. A labour dispute almost sent Toyota into bankruptcy and bank finance was tight.


1950 Toyota BJ prototype


However, a prototype Land Cruiser, coded BJ, was developed by Toyota in 1950. Powered by the .4-litre six it was designed to compete with the Willys Overland Jeep and was marketed to the military, civil authorities and the general public as an all-purpose off-road vehicle. 

The BJ generated much-needed cash flow and went on to establish the ubiquitous LandCruiser name.

Most Japanese car brands had overseas links for local assembly of imported vehicles – Nissan built Austins; Isuzu built Hillmans and Nissan did Renaults – but Toyota couldn’t find a suitable partner.

Forced to fend for itself, Toyota developed a civilian version of the BJ and launched the Crown sedan in 1955. Then came the ToyoAce light truck.

To expand its reach, Toyota came up with a second level of dealerships that sold ‘Toyopet’ small-sized vehicles and the name was used on some export vehicles.

By 1959, Toyota’s sales had reached 5000 units, but in the next year that figure doubled. 


1957 Toyopet Corona – Mytho 88


The company looked for export markets, to get around the problem of the sluggish Japanese market. Australia took an evaluation FX Toyota truck in 1951 and Brazil imported some Land Cruisers in 1955. Australia took Land Cruisers, starting in 1957.

Also in 1957, Toyota sent two Crown sedans to the USA, but soon reasoned that they weren’t able to cope with constant freeway speeds. In the domestic market, the new Corona was judged a ‘lemon’.

In the late 1950s Japan’s Ministry for International Trade and Industry (MITI) announced its support for a ‘people’s car’ (sound familiar?). Toyota offered the one-litre ‘Publica’ model.

Toyota went back to the drawing board with the Corona and then relaunched it with a series of TV clips showing it being abused without failure. Sales took off.


1960 Toyopet Corona – Mytho 88


By 1962, Toyota had produced one million vehicles and was actively using the USA-origin Deming principles of measuring and constantly improving quality control. 

Australia was among the early countries to take Toyota export cars and 4x4s, and by 1965 was Toyota’s largest export market.


Toyota Down Under

Coverage of Toyota’s world-dominating export and offshore manufacturing businesses is beyond the scope of this article, so we’ll concentrate on its model history in Australia.


Early Toyota FJ Land Cruiser


In the period 1951-61 small numbers of FJ 25s were imported, powered by 3.6-litre petrol six engines, with single-speed 4WD transfer and four-speed main transmissions.

From 1962, imports were done by Thiess and is successor companies, starting with the Toyopet Lite Stout and Land Cruiser FJ43/45 models, with three-speed main box and two-speed transfer. Also imported were Tiara sedans.

In 1963 came the Crown sedan and the FJ45V wagon. Local assembly of the Tiara began.

The Publica arrived in 1964, along with the Corona and upgraded Lite Stout and Stout utes.


Toyota Publica  – Ypy31


In the next year came a Corona upgrade and the GT Hardtop version; more FJ45 variants and local assembly of the Crown.

In 1966 came a new six for the Crown and a restyled Corona, plus a 1600S version.

In 1967, the Crown was styled and the HiAce was introduced. The 2000GT broke cover in Japan, but only 337 were made.


1967 Toyota 2000GT


The Crown and Corolla scored auto options in 1968 and the two-door Corona 1900 and Sprinter fastback models were released.

In 1969 the FJ55 4×4 wagon was released, with 3.9-litre petrol power and the next year saw the release of the Celica and a GSS with a twin-cam, 1900cc engine.


1970 Toyota Celica – Mytho88


In 1971-74 there were upgrades across the range and a diesel was added to the Land Cruiser range.

In 1975 came new petrol and diesel engines for Land Cruisers and body changes for the Crown and Corolla.

The Celica got new bodywork in 1976 and a two-litre engine option.


1966-1967 Toyopet Corona – TTTNIS


In 1977, the Cressida 2.6-litre replaced the Corona Mk2 and Celica two-litre models were announced. The next year saw a face-lifted Crown.

The Corolla and Corona scored locally-made engines and the Corolla had a five-speed option in the following year. Land Cruiser ‘Troopy’ bodies with hard and soft tops were released.

In 1980 an imported Crown Royal replaced the locally assembled one; the T18 hatch arrived and in the following year a third generation Celica arrived, with a two-litre engine.

In 1982 there were several upgrades across the range and in 1983 came the Tarago, Supra, Sprinter and an all-new Corona. An eight-seater Land Cruiser wagon was released, along wit the tercel 4WD wagon.


1975 Toyota Corona 2000GT – TTTNIS


In 1984, the Cressida was upgraded with a 2.8-litre injected engine and independent rear suspension and the Corona Avante also scored injection. The first HiLux-based 4Runner was announced.

The LandCruiser 70 Series was launched in 1985 and a 2.4-litre wagon added to the Corona lineup.


1989 Toyota MR2 4AGZE Supercharged


The Twin Cam Corolla broke cover in 1986, a did the Supra convertible and a FWD twin-cam Celica, plus twin-cam Cressida and Crown.

In 1987, the 16-valve Camry was released, along with the MR2, mid-engined sports car.


1972 Toyota Corona Coupe – GPS56


In 1988 the Corolla 4WD replaced the Tercel and in came an imported V6 Camry, turbocharged Supra and upgraded Cressida.

A year after the Nissan Patrol fitted coil springs came Toyota’s answer, in the form of the 80 Series. The new Corolla had a twin-cam engine and the Commodore-based Lexcen was released.

In 1990 came the potent AWD, turbocharged Celica GT-Four, a new MR2, Lexus LS400, a new Tarago with underseat engine and a V6 for the 4Runner.


Toyota Supra – Dave 7


The Supra and Celica were upgraded in 1991 and there were new Corolla, Paseo coupe and Celica GT-Four Group models. The following year saw a restyled MR2 with revised suspension; Lexus ES300 and 1.8-litre engine for the Corolla Seca.

In 1993 the Camry got fatter; the Vient V6 included the Touring series and there was a Celica WRC Trophy model.


Toyota Celica XX 2000GT – TTNIS


In 1994 came the sixth-generation Celica, including a GT-Four Group A model; the RAV4 SUV; a new 13-model Corolla range and revised Lexus LS400 and ES300 models.

The LandCruiser (note the combined word spelling then adopted) 80 Series had a four-valve per cylinder, turbo-diesel option.

In 1996 a new Corolla range was launched, along with a new 4Runner, Prado wagon and new ES300. The next year saw a new Camry/Vienta range; Lexus GS300; repowered LS400.

The 1998 releases were the new 100 Series LandCruiser range and the Lexus version, called the LX470.


1991 Toyota Supra MA70 Smith & Morgan – Jeremy


Stay informed and receive our updates

From Jim Gibson & Allan Whiting directly to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!