A couple of weeks ago I thought I’d take a break from car spotting. Well, it was more taking a break from the awful humid and hot Japanese summer weather and went into a place I don’t often go into – a shopping mall.
It was a family day out but being Tokyo, there were a few surprises in said mall. Now if you’re reading this and thinking this going to be some diary entry about the great bargains you can find in malls in Japan, you’ve come to the wrong website.
Because inside Venus Fort mall in Odaiba, Tokyo is a car museum. I kid you not. This is the only acceptable reason to go into a mall. That is, unless Scarlett Johansson is doing a meet and greet session.
I’ve talked about Toyota’s Mega Web and the History Garage in a before but since I hadn’t been back in some months, there have been some changes. I really had no plan or intention of visiting Mega Web, I was there simply by pure chance. But since I was in the neighbourhood I thought I might as well give it a visit.
Luckily for me there was a special exhibit going on at the time. Usually the History Garage will have a variety of classic cars from Japan, Europe, and America on display but from June to September this year they had a ‘History of Toyota WRC’ display.
It was a great trip down memory lane as it reminded me of the countless hours I used to play on Gran Turismo and WRC games on my old PlayStation 2. The mid-90s Celica GT-Fours that I grew up with in full Castrol liveries also reminded me of a time when Japanese manufacturers had a whole raft of affordable sports cars.
This exhibit was produced in conjunction with the Toyota Automobile Museum so it was no surprise to see some of the company’s oldest rally cars there. Take the 1985 Celica TwinCam Turbo which was a Safari Rally winning car despite being rear-wheel drive. Still, it managed to take on 4WD and mid-engine rivals.
Also from 1985 is the MR2 Group-S Prototype. It never went further than the prototype stage as the Group-S scheme faltered. A shame because this is one properly good looking thing.
A new decade and a new chapter for Toyota’s rally cars. The 1990 Celica GT-Four was made in compliance with Group A regulations. It was also the first Japanese car to win the WRC driver’s championship with Carlos Sainz behind the wheel. The car displayed was a Safari Rally winning car.
Moving on to the ST185 generation Celica and the 1993 ’Number 6’ car was an Australia Rally winning car while the 1995 “Number 3” car also won a Safari Rally. With Yoshio Fujimoto at the helm, he became the first Japanese winner of the Rally. The last Celica rally car on display was the 1995 GT-Four ST205 (the one with the round lights). This example is a replica of the Corsica Rally winner.
The only Corolla rally car, this WR-Car prototype was based on the European market Corolla. It would eventually go on to have four victories and win the manufacturers’ championship in 1999.
Fast forward to 2015 and the Yaris WRC Test Car. It’s a test car as Toyota are still developing it with their Gazoo Racing division in preparation for a WRC return in 2017. Yes, Toyota will be taking a Yaris rallying. But hey, at least they’re getting involved with WRC again and the more Toyota gets involved with various motorsports the better.
They’ve got the cash to back up a team and they say the Yaris WRC car will have a “high-power engine” and a 4WD system. Well, obviously. Let’s hope a WRC return will lead to a return to affordable sports cars and more fun cars in the future. A Yaris GT-Four anyone?
The Toyota Mega Web and History Garage are definitely places worth visiting on a trip to Tokyo. The exhibits change frequently so you’ll never know what you’ll see.
How to get there: Mega Web History Garage, Venus Fort Mall
Aomi Station: Yurikamome Monorail Line.
Tokyo Teleport Station: Rinkai Line.