A look back at the birth
of the Toyota Truck
Toyota's first foray into the pickup truck market was the Stout,
introduced to America in 1964. For 1969, Toyota was determined to
develop and sell an all-new light truck worthy of the company that
produced the Corolla. With a newly developed four-cylinder 1.9L
engine designated 3R, the Hi-Lux was the vehicle Toyota had been
looking for. It was somewhat spartan inside (as trucks were
utility vehicles first and foremost at that time), with a metal
dashboard, a bench seat and a sturdy cargo area.
Changes were few in the early
days of truck production, with a new engine, the 1.8L 8R-C, making
its debut in 1970, and subsequently being replaced by the 2.0L
18R-C in 1972.
Designated a 1973 (but released
in Spring 1972 -- a 1972 1/2), the next generation Hi-Lux looked
less utilitarian, and began to take on a car-like quality -- all
the while retaining its Toyota-like
tendencies to be strong, reliable and inexpensive to
operate. Styling was updated, and turn signals originally
installed on top of the fenders were now built into the body.
For the official 1973 model
year, the Hi-Lux took a large step forward in utility. Now
available as an option was a 7 1/2-foot Long Bed model providing
Americans with the type of hauling ability that had long been
possible with full-size domestic vehicles. The combination of long
bed models and car-like ride and handling, made Toyota's Hi-Lux,
an immediate strong seller in the market segment. In 1974, the Hi-Lux
was awarded the honor of "Pickup
Truck of the Year" from Pickup, Van & 4WD.
1975 saw the introduction of
the 3rd generation Hi-Lux. It was now powered by a 2.2L version of
the 18R-C, called the 20R, and was also available (for the first
time on a Toyota utility vehicle) with a 5-speed manual
transmission. In 1976, the U.S.-version of the Hi-Lux lost its
name, and was to be called "compact truck" from
that point forward. Truck
sales were booming world wide, and in September 1977, the
one-millionth pickup truck rolled out the factory in Japan.
1979 saw the introduction of
the SR5 model. With its
five-speed manual transmission hooked to the powerful gasoline
engine, the SR5 was intended to appeal to a new type of customer
-- the sport-truck buyer.
The 1979 model change (the
fourth generation) was the most sweeping yet. It resulted in a
well-appointed vehicle, with the emphasis toward passenger comfort
while retaining its reputation as a true workhorse. Power remained
the same with the continuation of
the use of the 20R engine for two more years, but in 1981 the
"legend" took its place under the hood of the truck.
That legend was the 22R engine, and is still used today. The 2.4L
gasoline 22R was joined by a 2.2L diesel engine in the same year.
The 1984 truck represented the
fifth generation, and saw changes that continued to make it more
car-like. An Xtracab model
provided additional storage space behind the seats, and engines
now included turbo-charged versions of the diesel and the 22R.
With gasoline becoming more
affordable, diesel models of the truck were discontinued in 1986,
with the turbo-charged gasoline model being discontinued in 1988.
1988 saw the introduction of
the sixth generation truck, optionally available with a new V6
engine. Equipped with the V6, the truck was capable of towing 3500
pounds, and was still able to return excellent gas mileage.
From 1988 until 1994, there
were very few changes to the truck. Styling was updated regularly,
and luxury soon became part of the truck equation. Trucks could
now be equipped with an Xtracab, sport seats, air-conditioning --
even a CD player! The pickup truck was as strong, rugged and
versatile as ever, but provided the owner with everything that a
luxury car could.
In 1995, Toyota introduced an
all-new pickup truck, designed and built in America -- the Tacoma.
Tacoma featured an all-new line-up of high performance engines. A
142-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 160 lb.-ft. of torque
was standard on 2WD models, while 4WD models offered a 150
horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder producing 177 lb.-ft. of
torque. Available on both configurations was a newly developed 190
horsepower 3.4-liter V6 producing 220 lb.-ft. of torque, which the
Tacoma shares with the T100.
Putting Tacoma's newfound power
to the ground was a redesigned suspension offering a coil spring
double-wishbone configuration, which replaces the Hi-Trac torsion
bar double wishbone suspension on the previous generation. The
lower arm uses a closed cross-sectional structure that adds
strength while reducing un-sprung weight. Suspension travel on the
4WD models increased from 5.9-inches to 7.7-inches, improving both
on- and off-road performance. Tread width on both 2WD and 4WD's
also increased, improving steering stability and ride comfort.
Tacoma continued to use the tried-and-true
leaf-type rear suspension with refinements to layout design.
Because safety is a major
concern, a standard driver-side airbag, center high-mount
stoplight and adjustable seatbelt anchors, improved side-view
mirrors, along with optional four-wheel ABS were added.
Additionally, Tacoma received
side door impact beams and three-point, automatic and emergency
locking retractor (ALR and ELR) seatbelts in outboard positions,
with an ELR seatbelt on the driver's side.
For 1997, Tacoma remained
mechanically unchanged, but received a redesigned front-end.
Headlights were faired into a new grille, and the whole assembly
is more aerodynamic and stylish than before.
saw the addition
of a passenger-side airbag one year ahead of the Federal standard
for 1999. For increased
safety, the passenger-side airbag could be turned off with the
ignition key. But for redesigned sound systems and the addition of
new colors, the 2WD Tacoma carried over unchanged.
The Tacoma PreRunner was
introduced in mid-year. The new 2WD pickup combines the rugged
styling and off-road ability of Toyota's 4WD pickup trucks with
the affordability of a 2WD model. For model year 1999, a Regular
Cab model with an automatic transmission equipped with the
2.7-liter four-cylinder is added to the PreRunner
The 2000 model year also saw
the addition of the Tacoma StepSide, a sporty stepside package
that added a youthful alternative to the Tacoma lineup.
The 2001 Tacoma entered the new model year with aggressive new styling
changes, several new upgrade packages and four new exterior
colors. In addition, the Tacoma lineup became more diverse with
the addition of the four-door Double Cab and sporty S-Runner 4x2.
The 2002 Tacoma carried over
with no changes.
The 2003 Tacoma carried over
with no exterior changes. A Child Restraint System lower anchor
was made standard for the front passenger seat on Regular and
Xtracabs, and for the rear outboard seats on the Double Cabs.
Anti-lock brake systems were made standard on all models.
2004 Tacoma enters the new model year with Vehicle Stability
Control with Traction Control as standard equipment on four-wheel
drive and PreRunner models.