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The cars of their time

In the Toyota Museum, outside Tokyo, the evolution of vehicles is on show

Gulf News

There is plenty of history around the Toyota Automobile Museum - and not just for car buffs. But, if you have even a passing interest in motoring, the many evolutions that car have gone through is laid out in minute detail. And this retelling of history is not limited to Toyota and its models.

The museum features not only Japanese-made cars but those from US manufacturers and others. Vehicles date back to the 1800s through the 1960s to the present.

An imposing red and black Ford Model T, the car that put America on wheels, is in a class of its own. Kept in mint condition, it is hard to tell this 20 hp four-cylinder car was launched as far back as 1908.

Not to be outdone is a model of the powerful, fancy, 1929 convertible Duesenberg Model J, in bright yellow. This town car takes you back to the heady days of the 1930s and the lives of the rich and famous. On the display piece, the Duesenberg is described as being built by America’s finest coach builders, with an engine that rivals that of any race car.

The displays line the museum, located in Nagoya, about 400 kilometres from Tokyo.

The Toyoda Model AA , the first passenger car produced by Toyota is a big hit with visitors. The brainchild of Kiichiro Toyoda, the prototype of Toyota’s first passenger car was built in 1936. The engine was modeled after the Chevrolet engine, a water-cooled inline 6-cylinder OHV unit.

The black, spacious four-door car represents Toyota’s break from alliances it had formed with Ford and GM which had manufacturing plants in Japan at the time.

According to Shinji Hamada, assistant director of the museum, the biggest draw is the 2000GT, an extremely popular sportscar.

Tucked away in another floor was the 1966 2000GT convertible Sean Connery rode, in the 1967 James Bond movie ‘You Only Live Twice’.

According to Hamada, cars go through model changes every four to six years. Looking at the older model cars and trucks, the evolution is noticeable over the years as their box-like shapes and sharp edges become more streamlined and rounded.

The 1974 Land Cruiser, for example, had a more rugged look, suited for rough terrain. Today it is still suited for the purpose, but there is a radical difference is appearence.

Visitors are also given a glimpse of the future in the section displaying Toyota’s hybrid cars. It is fascinating to see the transition and contrast between the chunky Toyoda Model AA to the Prius, an almost futuristic compact car.

The museum welcomes more than 275,000 visitors a year, according to Shinji Hamada, assistant director at the Toyota Automobile Museum. It is a big draw for school field trips. The young get to try their skills at building a car through interactive zones.

The busiest time is during the summer months when the tourism season peaks.

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