Shannon Love Professional Auto Consultant 

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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.

1998 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 line-up.

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.

The 2004 Tacoma enters the new model year with Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control as standard equipment on four-wheel drive and PreRunner models.


Copyright -- 2008 Shannon Love

Shannon Love  Professional Auto Consultant -- Call (206) 251-6428

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