It had been 20 years since Toyota had created Toyota Sports Corner (TOSCO) as their motorsports division. Those two decades had seen countless trophies held aloft and numerous records set by its drivers. During this time, the first turbo race car—the Toyota 7—entered the scene, and a Corolla 1600 was the first World Rally Championship winner.
But in 1979, TOSCO got a complete overhaul and Toyota Racing Development (TRD) was born.
The powers that be recognized "what wins on Sunday, sells on Monday". Race wins were helping build a global brand image of a winning company. TRD continued to drive Toyota’s racing interests around the world. But now it also began developing performance-oriented accessories for Toyota vehicles.
Toyota owners and racing enthusiasts around the globe cheered in unison. And then went to work on their cars.
There were a lot of big wins in the 80s—more WRC wins, Dan Gurney-tuned Celicas crushed all in sight, and Toyota-powered Formula 3 cars placed 1-2-3 in the inaugural Macau Grand Prix.
None of it compared to what would happen with the Ironman.
In 1983, Toyota teamed up with Precision Preparation, Inc. Their star driver was Ivan Stewart, already an accomplished off-rod racer—nicknamed "Ironman" for having completed the grueling Baja 1000, by himself, in a single-seat vehicle.
What followed was over 30 years of unparalleled success in stadium and desert racing. Stewart dominated every track he drove. During the 12-year history of the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) stadium series, Stewart won three driver’s championships and holds the all-time record with 17 MTEG wins.
When he took to the desert, Stewart drove to six class wins, including two SCORE World Championships—in the first two years. By 1985, Stewart was the only single-entry driver in SCORE Class 1.
Toyota/PPI, Stewart and Rod Millen continued to dominate off-road racing throughout the 90s. In '93, Stewart won the "Crown Jewels" of desert racing: Mint 400, Baja 500 and Baja 1000. And all of TRD’s racing experience was really starting to find its way into consumers hands.
A founding goal for TRD had always been to build parts that raised their level of performance for Toyota cars—while still maintaining Toyota’s world class durability. Well, in 1995, car enthusiasts got their hands on the first supercharger for a Camry. When bolted on to the engine, performance got a major shot in the arm. The supercharger instantaneously provided more power compared to lag associated with a turbocharger.
The Tacoma got the TRD love, too. In 1997, you could order yours with the optional TRD Off-Road Package. These were outfitted with exclusive TRD parts, straight from the factory. After the success of the Tacoma TRD Off-Road Package, a special Tacoma PreRunner Xtracab model was developed in conjunction with TRD in 1998. So many TRD trucks, so much joy.
Toyota had also been winning on pavement during this time. From 1999 – 2005, Toyota-powered cars won 38 races and 44 pole positions in open-wheel racing competition. You could barely see a podium at CART or IRL IndyCar races without a Toyota driver on them.
But this decade was really all about the big, red-white-and-blue daddy of them all: NASCAR.
In 2000, Toyota became the first Asian car company to even attempt to race in NASCAR. They knew there’d be a steep learning curve, so they started from the bottom (cue Drake). But it didn’t take long (3 years, to be exact) before Robert Huffman became Toyota’s first-ever NASCAR champ in the Goody’s Dash Program.
The next year, Tundra drivers would go on to win 9 races and 13 pole positions in the first year Toyota competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. By the end of the decade, Toyota would secure multiple wins in the Xfinity and Sprint Cup series.
Oh, and while all this NASCAR business was going on? Toyota also started to take home trophies in NHRA Drag Racing. Kon'nichiwa, race fans.
In the last ten years, TRD had moved up to Top Fuel and won two NHRA Championships. Johnny and C.J. Greaves prove they are the family to beat in TORC racing. Matt Crafton becomes the first driver to win back-to-back division championships in the 2013 and 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The four-wheel-drive Supra HV-R became the first hybrid to win an endurance race, the Tokachi 24 Hours.
But for truck fans, the best part was the rollout of the TRD Pro Series Tundra, Tacoma and 4Runner.
Imagine taking the lessons from over 35 years of off-road racing victories. Then smelt it all down into the most adventurous TRD models offered. These trucks are an amazing mix of TRD engineering and head-turning style—that you could drive off the lot and straight into the desert.
And now you can purchase TRD parts and accessories online at parts.toyota.com making it faster and easier than ever to customize your ride.
On the horizon—the race-tuned TRD Camry and Avalon in 2020. These sedans look mean and sound even meaner. Your HOA won't know what hit 'em.
What's that? You heard about the Supra? Yup. 40 years and we’re just getting started.