Thursday, 31 May 2018

Toyota's Sera; a Starlet with style, a Paseo with pizzazz.. the excitin' EXY10.

Just one of the many wonderful children of the late-80s Japanese asset price bubble. A concept car for the streets, as if plucked straight from the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show.. 

Almost literally. It's Toyota's 1987 Tokyo Motor Show AXV-II turned 1990 Toyota-showroom Sera.

Familiar Starlet/Tercel underpinnings wrapped up in a whoooole lot of unique parts. For a niche model with a line-up that peaked at less that 2 million yen new? That's keen, Toyota, very keen...

The example above represents about as much money as you could've parted with for a Sera at launch: the 1,881,000yen 'SUPER LIVE SOUND' automatic car. 27 years and 35,000km later it's at a dealer in Japan ('Marumi Auto' in Saitama) for over 60% of it's when-new price. A strong return. Sure it's an excellent example of the model so listing at a premium.. but it's still not a whole lot of money. It really works to paint a better picture of just how cheap these were when new...

..and with ~16,000 made in the five-odd years of production, it's likely safe to assume the Sera wasn't much of a money-spinner for Toyota. Again, just one of the many absurd models - from Nissan's Pike cars to the Mazda/Suzuki Autozam AZ-1 - which manage to represent the era they were developed so perfectly. It's silliness that doesn't come around often..

Parts-sharing? What the hell for..?!

I genuinely always thought these were a good looking thing. It's certainly more of a quirky cruiser than the sporty styling suggests.. but not everything has to be fast. You want dynamic excitement? Loosen a couple wheel nuts.. 

..speaking of which; while this example has had the two most major 'options' fitted (the elaborate Super Live Sound System and auto trans), the options list was seemingly chucked aside from there! Most of the Seras I've seen are sporting a pretty set of teardrop alloys very similar in style to the hubcap above. Luckily it's never too late.

Moving inside... an interior just as unique as the exterior.. 

...well, other than a few familiar and awfully-out-of-place pieces!

That minuscule cluster's unique though! While fairly basic functions-wise, the graphics are great and the tacho's nice to see..

An impressive amount of thought/care hiding fasteners here..

The tweeters and "center loudspeaker" components of the elaborate Fujitsu Ten "Super Live Sound System" option..

Love the shape of these seats...

..a comment that extends to these awesome divided bucket rears.

The Super Live Sound System's Rear Loudspeakers.

"The speaker orientation changes from the upper to the lower position when switched from the Casual to the Funky mode. The speaker orientation is switched to give the effect of "presence" by spreading the sound reflected by the rear window or for reproducing direct sound from the speaker. This function helps the DSP have effective sound field control..." 

Oh yeah, they're motorized..

..which is as good a segue as any to shove in a shot of Sera's.. urgh... errr.. not a 4E-FTE. Yep, while there's an extra 200cc of capacity on the side of the Sera's standard-fit 5E-FHE, it's just quite enough to make up for the forced induction on the EP82 Starlet GT's 4E-FTE. 
Still.. over 100PS and 7000rpm, less than 1000kg of tin; whatever.. it'll do. 

Moving on again now, because...
..interestingly, I happened to stumble across an almost-identical one of these at the wreckers earlier this year! Similarly low kays, the Super Live Sound System, and in the same damn Dark Gray Mica Metallic paint. Yeah, I'd slip that under "interestingly"...

The Sera's party-trick.

Actually that reminds me.. the hell did the dealer's listing above not include an entire exterior set with the bloody doors open? Isn't that what you do when given this opportunity?!

Let's play the Google Images confirm-my-point-with-results game:
"Toyota Sera"


"Mercedes 300SL"

"Mercedes SLS"

 "McLaren F1"

"Tesla Model X"

"Toyota Corolla"

"Honda Accord"

...yeah, there's a pattern there. As if to irk me as much as car shows on grass; that DMC-12 I'm strolling past at a car show? You better believe those doors are open...

Back to the task at hand.

I don't know what hurts me the most here; that it's painfully tidy and original, that the car's a five-speed, or that I didn't get there first. Usually I wouldn't have bothered with a photoset at this point, but bloody hell there's still a nice Sera in there...

...complete with some leftovers from the original Super Live Sound System?! The high-spec AM/FM/CD/Cassette double-din unit?!? With Warp button?!! Don't for a second think I left that behind...
That adorable little cluster in person. In a Toyota with whisker over 40,000mi and no signs of accident damage: this had a LOT more to give...

..but nope. That was it. There it was. What a bloody shame..


Would absolutely love to go for a spin in an unmodified one of these one day. A tremendous little time-warp of a thing.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

GM J-Body: Australia

That's right, get those faces set to EXCITEMENT. It's time for Australia's version of the General Motors J Platform - the blank canvas of small-medium FWD economy-car potential GM used to gift the world everything from the borderline-cool Isuzu Aska to the poster-child-of-good-decision-making-that-was the Cadillac Cimarron.

It's GM J-Body Australia; in that top-tier, final-form peak:
A JE Holden Camira SLE. Twenty one thousand 1988 Australian dollarydoos of near-grille-less, front-driving, 3/4-scale Commodore.

I came across the car above on a regular wreckers run earlier this year. They're absolutely few and far between on the roads these days, and rare to even see a complete/tidy example in the wreckers to take a photo-set! They just didn't last. I certainly didn't hesitate to rip my phone out when spotting this top trim-level example (the SLE or 'SL/E') of the final 1987- JE revision of the model. It's just a bonus the blue-on-silver two-tone on this one makes it quite handsome as far as Camiras go!

...Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier, Isuzu Aska, Oldsmobile Firenza, Pontiac 2000, Pontiac J2000, Pontiac Sunbird, Opel Ascona, Vauxhall Cavalier... 

..speaking of handsome, that gloss grey block-o'-chocolate garnish (and matching tail-lamp treatment) was part of this final JE update, and standard across the range.. is rust around the rear windscreen when you don't bloody engineer in any way for water to drain! Sigh...
Jokes to take my attention away from those decals. As I rambled about in the EA Fairmont Wagon post recently, these little stickers are an all too painful reminder of the now-lost Australian automotive manufacturing. Not as though many would have considered the Camira as much of a step in the right direction on that one...

Only the finest aerodynamic roof carrier systems for this high-performance machine. Love the U-bolts..

The Holden-built GM Family II engine, which had blossomed to two-litres for that final 1987 JE Camira update. The Camira's specific 20JD/LE4 variation of the fuel-injected, cross-flow, single-over-head-cammed four producing its ~85kW/114hp at over 5,000rpm... still enough to (very importantly) get your Camira airbourne, no doubt...!

..and finally, the built/trim plate, compliance plate and body number.. painfully reminding me yet again that not only was this Australian made, but Melbourne made. Aww.

It's easy to joke about this half-hearted GMH commuter; but with fewer and fewer of these things on the road, and not a whole lot of enthusiast love (that I'm aware of) there to save the ones that are.. well it's worrying to see any decent original example that makes it way into/through the wreckers. I'm sure as hell hoping someone out there remembers to save one!