A special project team worked on reviving a Toyopet Racer, Toyota's first racing car from over 70 years ago. This next-to last installment tracks the vehicle's assembly, first run, finishing, and installation as a museum exhibit.
Finally ready for a full run!
For the Toyopet Racer revival project team, the biggest—and, in effect, the final—outing came on November 5, 2021.
On this day, the project members conducted a test drive of the Toyopet Racer at the Toyota Safety Education Center “mobilitas,” a driver training facility at Fuji International Speedway, where they attempted to reach the 100 km/h top speed.
As they watched the nearly complete racer clad in its beautifully hand-beaten metal panels, project members reflected on the formidable challenges faced over the past year, unlike anything in their regular work.
Some parts remained unfinished: the body hadn’t been painted, the speedometer and other gauges weren’t installed, and the shift lever sat on the floor due to an incomplete linkage. Yet with Sugimoto behind the wheel, the Toyopet Racer clocked 81 km/h.
Other members also took turns taking their hand-crafted racer for a spin around the mobilitas track, racking up a total distance of 100 kilometers.
From there, the Toyopet Racer received some aesthetic improvements, including a paint job, repositioned shift lever, and ride height adjustment, while the engine was put through its paces on a test bench. Some of Toyota’s executives also took test drives.
During a run on the test course at Toyota’s head office, the Toyopet Racer finally reached its top speed goal of 100 km/h.
Currently, the racer sits on display at the Fuji Motorsports Museum, within the Fuji Speedway Hotel, as part of an exhibit showcasing the origins of Toyota’s motorsports-driven approach to carmaking, which began with company founder Kiichiro Toyoda.
For roughly a year, project members found time among their daily work to revive—as closely as possible, based on the handful of remaining photos and documents—the first racing car that Toyota had sent out into the world more than 70 years earlier, in 1951. Their grand endeavor, following in the trial-and-error footsteps of those original creators, had finally drawn to a close.