I guess it’s a matter or perspective: Toyota’s news release about its display of 30 vehicles at the 2016 SEMA Show focused on “Extreme Builds” and promised the Toyota stand would include six extremely modified vehicles, one each of a Land Cruiser, Corolla, Sienna, Tacoma, 86 and Prius.
“Unlike many builds at SEMA, all six of these vehicles can be driven,” the news release noted. “Luxury, speed, performance, handling, detail, nostalgia and the unexpected are aspects explored in these builds.”
Perhaps, but how excited can anyone get about a customized Land Cruiser or Sienna minivan? And “extreme” and “Prius” seem inherently oxymoronic.
So it was with low expectations that I finally made my way to the far back end of the massive Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center to see what Toyota had on display. Now, however, I can report that in the years I’ve been going to the SEMA Show, and I’ve attended nearly half of the 50 annual shows of automotive aftermarket excess, the Toyota stand was the best I’ve seen by an automaker.
But not from the perspective of extreme builds, but from the sense of corporate history and the array of classic cars.
To showcase those six extreme builds, Toyota displayed them next to an unaltered version of the vehicle and perhaps the earliest example of the vehicle from the corporation’s U.S. museum.
Approach the Toyota stand and the first vehicle seen is a 1966 Toyota Stout 1900, an immaculate two-door, short-bed pickup truck. Toyota sold 4,219 such trucks in the United States between 1965 and 1967. Next to the Stout was a brand new Toyota Tacoma, and next to the Tacoma was a Toyota truck taken to the extreme, a Tacoma TRD Pro race truck that Camburg Racing will enter in the Mint 400 off-road race in March.
A few steps farther was the museum’s stunning pale green 1961 Toyota FJ25 Land Cruiser, parked next to a 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser and the SEMA extreme version — the turbocharged, 2,000-horsepower Toyota Racing Development Land Speed Cruiser.
Parked just behind the Land Cruisers were a 1969 Toyota 2000GT, the original Japanese supercar, the 2017 Toyota 86 sports coupe and the American debut for the 2017 Toyota Motorsports GmbH GT86 that will race in Germany’s CS-Cup series.
Along the back wall of the display, adjacent to a huge “Past Present Extreme” sign, were a trio of Prii — original, current and race-ready (yes, there are people who race Prii, or at least modify them to see just how fast if frugally they can go) — and three minivans — a 1983 Toyota Van LE, the current Sienna and the Extreme Sienna, a wide-body minivan built by Real Time Automotive to be a road-going private jet equipped with air suspension, reclining seats, home-theater system and refrigerator.
And then there were the Corollas, the Toyota model celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The first-generation was represented by a 1969 model, and the Xtreme Corolla was the newest version taken the sport-compact extreme by Cartel Customs.
But wait, there’s more…
Over by the door was the 1970 Corolla that took part in the model’s 50th anniversary celebration by competing earlier this year in The Great (vintage vehicle cross-country) Race, and parked just outside were examples of all 11 of the Corolla generations.
A Toyota spokesperson explained that the past/present/extreme theme to the cars on display paid recognition not only to the customization of cars seen at SEMA but to the parts provided by SEMA-member companies that are needed for the restoration and preservation of historic vehicles. The goal was not just to show some modified cars, but to tell the stories of the various models.
By the way, with the modular setup of the show, don’t be surprised to see some of those vehicle trios at other automotive events and music and other festivals in the next year.
My expectations exceeded, I lingered and left with two thoughts: Should I make plans to visit the Toyota museum — or had I just done that visit at SEMA? — and while the SEMA customized contingent may not have been impressed by the vintage vehicles, the Classic Car News audience would love them.
Photos by Larry Edsall