Toyota

Toyota were one of the first Japanese manufacturers to export their cars into the UK, the first imports were a tentative selection of Coronas in October 1965, Toyota sold around 100 or so of these cars in their first year, but the next year ended with around 1000 sales and by 1967 they had established 85 dealers. The reputation that Japanese cars soon had for dependency, build quality and equipment allowed the range to expand outwards through the 1970s, building customer trust and recognition. Corolla sales started shortly after the Corona, and in keeping with its eventual status as the most popular car in the world status, it sold consistently well in the UK, usually appearing in the UKs top 30 highest selling cars throughout its lifetime. The Corolla also spawned several off shoot models, some which successfully allowed the Corolla to compete in motorsport. Like Datsun whose range shared a remarkable similarity (both companies are close rivals in Japan, with Toyota usually outstripping Datsun sales) the range mostly consisted of worthy but somewhat unexciting cars with the exception of the Japan only S800 and very desirable 2000GT. It wasn’t until the launch of the pony car influenced Celica in 1970, did the brand start developing a more sporting side to its cars. The Celica added some glamour to the ever confident range and became a permanent fixture in the Toyota range for 36 years. The Carina was launched at the same time, essentially a detuned Celica with 4 doors. Unusually for a Japanese car, it remained in production with the same basic body shape for 6 years. It was after this period that the Carina and Celica started to divert mechanically, the Celica heading closer towards grand tourer, while the Carina maintained the general family car market. Next in the pecking order was the 2-litre Corona/MKII/Cressida models, all these cars have direct ancestry to the original Corona but typically diverted into their own lines. Toyota UK had several cars to chose from to fill in the gap in between the Carina and Crown, starting with the MKII X10, then the Corona T100 and finally the X30 Cressida. The range topper in this period was maintained by several versions of the Crown. It always had some appeal, offering smooth comfortable motoring, with an extensive equipment list but recorded registrations in the UK were a trickle compared to the smaller models.

Toyota were the first to import commercial vehicles into the UK, a pick up truck, the Hilux was introduced in 1972 with reasonable interest, the Hiace appealing to camper van converters and building contractors. The line up of closely overlapping saloons and estates was rationalised in the 80’s when Toyota finally converted their range to FWD, one of the last big manufacturers to do so. Like Datsun, Toyota used their rally pedigree to full affect with their models being involved in some sort of motorsports.

By the mid 80’s a new series of innovative and innovative cars started appearing, which included several niche cars, while not totally original in concept, helped to encourage the genre. These included a people carrier, the 1983 Toyota Model F/Space Crusier, the Toyota Tercel 4WD, a Subaruesque concept of combining estate car comfort with off road abilities, and while the range of 4WD Toyota vehicles were still quite rare in the UK, Toyota were recognised as world wide leaders when it came to 4×4 vehicles. The Celica had grown in size and had become a technological showpiece, offering all wheel drive and advanced suspension and chassis design. The Supra model had developed into a different beast, and would later become the fastest Toyota for sale. Another new model was launched in 1985, the mid engined 2 seater MR2. The car was universally praised for perfecting the concept and it became a best seller. Even the slow selling Crown was used as a basis for what was to become one of the worlds best luxury cars – the Lexus.