It’s no secret that Toyota is the largest, the wealthiest, and, by many standards, the best automobile manufacturer in history. Also the greatest Toyota cars. Yep, they’ve got more influence and bigger budgets than America’s own Ford and GM (and better profits, too). How’d that happen? Well, it took the Japanese hard work, dedication and a special kind of Zen that only Asian folks know how to make sense of. The tremendous efforts paid off fully, and today the company is dominating the market with delicately executed marketing and engineering moves. Did you know that Toyota started as a producer of automatic textile looms? Aha, that’s how far you can go if you put your heart and your soul into it. And I guess that’s part of the Japanese wisdom.
80 Years On The Market. Eighty!
The company has been on the market for almost 80 years (give or take), and, to be honest, it’s pretty hard to pick the greatest Toyota cars, because – right hand to God – they’re all pretty awesome! You think it’s easy? Try for yourself – share your list of personal Toyota favorites in the comments! A quick note: in this article I’ll be only talking about the cars available here in the US. Next time I’ll make sure to tell you about the other half of the story – the Toyota cars that are available elsewhere around the world but the US (they’ve got some pretty awesome ones, trust me). But today I’m in that patriotic mood and so this time around we’ll discuss America-friendly Toyotas that have been roaming our streets for decades and that made the greatest impact on our lives, our minds and, of course, our industry. Let’s go!
The Greatest Toyota Cars: 1960 Land Cruiser FJ40
I know, most of you must think I’m an old dude know still remembers the Great Depression days and that’s why I’ve got the 1960 Cruiser on my list, but that’s not really the case. You gotta understand that this car has a very special place in the company’s history: first of all, it’s Toyota’s longest running series; second, even though the Toyopet Crown was the first Japanese model to hit the Us market in 1947, the Land Cruiser was the first car to stand it’s ground and make it in the land of dreams. Yep, it’s that big of a go-getter, so, historically speaking, it doesn’t get much bigger than the FJ40. It was equally popular in business as a strong and sturdy truck and among civilians for that aggressive look and a mighty powertrain. The next 20-some years the Cruiser was getting better and better, with new engines, new designs and new markets to conquer. But it was the 1960 model that made the most impact, and that’s why it’s #1 on my list. It wasn’t luxurious or anything, but rather quite tough, and so, pretty great in all kinds of ways. The last FJ40 was sold in 1983 in the US and in 84 in Japan.
The Greatest Toyota Cars: 1964 Stout
After the big success of the FJ40, Toyota decided it was time to hit the market hard and came up with the Stout truck. This is the first pick-up from the Japanese brand and the big daddy to all the Tacomas, Tundras and Hiluxes you see pretty much in every corner of the earth (including the Middle East with those machine guns and rocket launchers mounted on them). Furthermore, this is the first pick-up sold in the United States, and it came packed with a then-mighty 1.9-lit 4-cyl engine that was capable of 85 Horsepower. Square-rigged and aggressive, it was already an instant hit and set the “ground rules” for all the new Toyota trucks to come. As a matter of fact, in terms of design the Stout wasn’t much different from the modern-day models from the Japanese brand, and that says a lot about its iconic status. There’s no way around it: everybody owns a Toyota pick-up truck today or knows a relative/friend/neighbor who does. And with the current sales, future developments and the never-fading reputation, I guess the same would be true for the generations to come.
The Greatest Toyota Cars: 1965 Corona
Even with the good sales of the FJ40 and the Stout Toyota was still an outsider on the American market. However, after they introduced the highly reliable and functional Corona it all changed. With this model the company established itself as one of the leaders in the industry. Just take a look at the pics: ain’t it just super-adorable? That bolt-upright blue-ish color, the nosey-shaped grille, the overall shape – it all added up to the awesome picture. The T40 and T50 series Coronas became the Toyota cars in the eyes of the US citizens, and that was the biggest achievement one could think of. Some experts even say that if the Corona never turned out to be a success, Toyota could very well let go of the American market and roll back to working only in Europe and Asia, or maybe even turn fully Japan-exclusive. Could you imagine that? A world without Toyota cars in every parking lot?
The Greatest Toyota Cars: 1971 Celica ST
Before the 1971 Celica Toyota was sending only ordinary and utilitarian cars to the United States, nothing special or out of the order. But, when they decided to explore uncharted lands, it didn’t take them long to create a 100% hit. Basically, they took Ford’s design approach with the Mustang and applied it to some of their own developments. And the Celica was the first sign that the Japanese had bigger plans and ambitions and that they were here to stay. In my opinion this car was Toyota’s first attempt at making the greatest sports cars ever, and over the next 15 to 30 years they perfected the art of fast, edgy and sexy cars like no other brand. Check out my “Toyota + Sports Cars = Love – The Best Models Of All Time” and “Outrunning A Bullet – Toyota’s Fastest Cars Ever” articles and learn about the company’s amazing sport models, including the legendary MR2, GT-One, Celica, and, of course Supra.
The Greatest Toyota Cars: 1990 Lexus LS400
In 1990 Toyota managed to start another minor revolution in the industry with the introduction of the Lexus brand that was all about premium-level luxury sedans. The LS400 was a true masterpiece, a combination of everything great that was going on in the world of cars at the time. You had the build quality of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, an interior more comfortable and tech-packed than Rolls-Royce could ever think of, and, of course, a super-mighty and super-silent 4.0-lit 32valve V8 (DOHC) that was good for 250HP. And all that glory could be yours for a ridiculously low price: 35K large. Toyota had some serious world-domination plans with the Lexus (and the LS400 in particular) and they invested huge bucks into making it the best luxury brand on the planet. And it worked! Hey, nobody was really surprises, though, because, again, that level of quality would cost you almost double if you picked something from BMW, Audi or Jaguar. With Lexus you could have it for 35K!
The Greatest Toyota Cars: 1992 Camry
Come on, even if you turn around and close your eyes (and/or ears) every time you hear folks talk about cars and the automobile industry, I bet you still know about the Toyota Camry: it’s the legendary mid-size sedan that’s been the best-selling car in American for almost 15 years! So, why the 1992 edition? Was it the first one? No. The first one assembled in the States? Nope. However, it’s the first truly American Toyota Camry, with little to no regards to the Japanese or the world-wide market. It was a 100% success, and, with those limousine-style doors, attractive exterior design (remember, this was 1992 – 24 years ago!) and an interior that was comfortable, robust and spacious, that’s no surprise. The Camry is known in the industry as the strongest workhorse on the market of mid-size sedans, as you can still find 1992 editions roaming the streets like they were born yesterday. True, Toyota is known for extreme reliability and durability, and the iconic sedan is no exception.
The Greatest Toyota Cars: 2000 Tundra
After spending a couple of years on the T100 model that wasn’t much of a hustler (it was bigger than the mid-size Tacoma but couldn’t really compete with the scary rivals like the Chevrolet Silverado or the Ford F series), in 2000, right at the beginning or a new century, Toyota finally introduced the Tundra, the first full-size truck. As you could imagine, it wasn’t easy to challenge the American monsters on their own field, their homeland; however, the Japanese did the near-impossible thing and drilled their way into the top-3 of the highest-volume and highest-profit segment of the market. Gotta admire that kind of dedication, don’t you think? Today the Tundra (along with the Tacoma) is one of the best trucks in the industry, with a high resale value, strong powertrain, class-leading durability and love for wild nature.
Check out this video now: Top 10 most cult \ best \ coolest Toyota cars.