By Steve & Tamami Laser
The Tokyo Auto Salon is called “one of the world’s leading automobile extravaganzas.” The 41st annual show, held at the Makuhari Messe convention center from Jan. 13-15, welcomed exhibitors, sponsors, supporters and legions of fans.
There was something for everyone, with customized vehicles, the latest products and technologies for tuning-up and dressing-up rides, displays of car-related products, merchandise and accessories, stage performances, talk sessions, and outdoor demonstrations.
This story highlights the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) and Modellista Displays.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Toyota AE86 Trueno H2 and Levin BEV Concepts
Toyota tugged at the heartstrings of enthusiasts by bringing two new concepts based on its collectible, vintage AE86 series, upholding its theme “Leaving No Car Lovers Behind.”
“There are lots of people here at Auto Salon who want to enjoy their car life with their favorite cars,” said Akio Toyoda (above right, with Koji Sato). “Although AE86 conversion technology is still under development, by talking about this today with car lovers, I hope to dismiss the fear that we won’t be able to drive our beloved cars when we go carbon neutral. On the contrary, there is a carbon neutral path that car lovers can take.”
“This Trueno has a hydrogen engine vehicle. However, this is not the engine from the Super Taikyu GR Corolla. We converted the original 4AG into a hydrogen engine,” said Toyoda.
Employing experience gained with TGR and Rookie Racing in Japan’s Super Taikyu Series, the AE86 H2 Concept is a hydrogen-engine vehicle conversion of a 1986 model. Two Toyota Mirai fuel cell high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks are positioned in the rear, while other mods, including fuel injectors, pipes and plugs, are said to be kept to a minimum.
The AE86 BEV Concept is a battery electric vehicle conversion that features electrification tech including a Tundra HEV electric motor, and a Prius PHEV battery. Toyota says the robust character of a BEV delivers a fun-to-drive experience enhanced with a manual transmission.
“The Levin on the other hand, is a battery EV,” said Toyoda. “The name has been around for half a century, but the two letters ‘EV’ have always been hidden within its name. So it took 50 years for us to finally install a battery and motor to Levin. The original 4AG is a treasure so we removed it with the greatest care. However, the manual transmission is untouched. Clutch and shifting operation can still be enjoyed.”
Working with aftermarket parts suppliers, both AE86-based concepts have rejuvenated used seats, seatbelts, and seatbelt pads made from recycled parts.
GR Yaris Rally2 Concept
Toyota Gazoo Racing introduced the GR Yaris Rally2 Concept, a model said to meet the Rally2 regulations used by customer motorsports teams.
TGR is planning to refine the concept by competing in the Japanese Rally Championship this year, while using input from customer motorsports teams with the aim to gain homologation by the start of 2024. The GR Yaris Rally2 Concept participated in the outdoor demo runs at the Tokyo Auto Salon (above).
Show attendees and racing fans were thrilled to watch as Jari-Matti Latvala (above left), TGR WRC Team Principal put the GR Yaris Rally2 Concept through its paces at the Makuhari Messe parking lot “test track” with surprise co-driver, “Morizo” Akio Toyoda (right).
GR Yaris RZ High-Performance Concepts
TGR introduced two special Toyota GR Yaris models at the Tokyo Auto Salon. They were developed under the supervision of TGR World Rally Team members Sébastian Ogier, who won the driver’s title in 2021, and Kalle Rovanperä, who won the driver’s title in 2022.
Koji Sato, President of the Gazoo Racing Company, is shown above during the concept intro. Both models are said to feature vehicle settings that match input from each rally driver, with input for the exteriors and interiors.
“At last year’s Rally Japan, Morizo declared he would make a new GR Yaris. This is the GR Yaris RZ ‘High-performance Sébastian Ogier Edition Concept’ and ‘High-performance Kalle Rovanperä Edition Concept,’” said Sato. “To commemorate their driver’s title win, we incorporated their preferences and ideas, and created the cars together. We hope customers who purchase this model will become our partners in competing in the WRC.”
Both concepts gain enhanced engine torque, a 4WD mode select switch with control exclusive to each edition, special exterior colors, wheels, stabilizers, and interior color stitching, along with WRC plates on the front console. TGR says the commercial release dates and additional vehicle details are planned to be announced later.
Lexus RZ Sport Concept
Based on the new battery electric Lexus RZ, the new RZ Sport Concept takes this SUV to the next level with an array of enhancements. Produced by racing driver Masahiro Sasaki, who was involved with the RZ development program, the new concept delivers enhanced performance along with customization.
RZ Sport is fitted with high output 150kw motors in the front and rear with DIRECT4, while the ride height has been lowered by 35mm. Features include custom aero parts front and rear, hood scoops, rear twin carbon spoiler, overfenders, and 21-inch Volk Racing GT090 wheels with 295/35R21 tires.
The RZ Sport Concept gains full bucket seats in the first and second rows. “Hakugin” exterior color treatment combines a clear white base with blue accents to accentuate the sporty image and dynamic EV performance.
Toyota Prius Modellista
While the new Toyota Prius is the sportiest and most technologically advanced model in the nameplate’s 25 year history, it can be made even sportier. Toyota Modellista presented two customized Prius styles at its Tokyo Auto Salon display.
Neo Advance Style (above) and Elegant Ice Style are said to be based upon the Modellista design philosophy of “Resonating Emotion.” An array of custom parts includes signature illumination, front spoiler, side skirts and garnish, a rear styling kit, and 19-inch Wing Dancer XIX alloy wheels.
Modellista was founded in 1997, and originally developed conversion vehicles. For the past 21 years, it has focused on accessory parts, including body kits, wheels and tires, and exhaust. Modellista offers accessories for a wide array of Toyota and Lexus models in Japan, including the Land Cruiser 300 and Prado, Crown, Voxy, Noah, RX, NX and UX.
Note: Some vehicles in this story are concepts and are not for sale. Features, specifications, accessories, and launch timing for Japan market production models are subject to change without notice.
News sources and photos courtesy of Toyota Motor Co., Ltd., Toyota Gazoo Racing, Toyota Customizing & Development Co., Ltd, and Tokyo Auto Salon Association (TASA)
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