1999 Tokyo Motor Show Part I

October 20, 1999

Tokyo’s Motor Show takes place at Makuhari Messe, a complex of warehouse-styled convention halls northeast of Tokyo. Every other year, the world’s major car players bring the best they’ve got – concepts and production vehicles sold in Japan – to the party out by Tokyo’s international airport.

This year’s bumper crop of concepts and cool cars filled the usual three halls at Makuhari with glittery sheetmetal and carbon fiber. Volkswagen showed the way for its future Bugattis, while Nissan blocked out the stage for its recovery and Toyota asserted its dominance in Japan with a huge display and six concept vehicles (more than twelve, actually, if you count those from subsidiary Daihatsu).

To make it easier on your backs and feet than it was on ours, we’ve arranged our Tokyo Motor Show photo galleries in three halls, the same they occupied in the show. Don’t forget Makuhari hall two and Makuhari hall three – and don’t forget to read the rest of our Tokyo Motor Show special reports, either.

BUGATTI EB18/4 VEYRON Here’s the shape of things to come – specifically, that of the first VW-designed Bugatti coupe expected within a couple of years. It’s called the Veyron, and it comes complete with the 18-cylinder engine from Chiron sedan concept shown at Frankfurt. The unconventional powerplant, a 6.3-liter with 555 hp, has its cylinders splayed in a W shape, rather than a more conventional vee. Named for former Bugatti factory driver Pierre Veyron, who won Le Mans in 1939, the newest Bugatti concept has an oddly bulbous shape, with tri-tone blue and black paint and massive chromed air intakes on the roof, behind the cockpit.

1999 Daihatsu concept Kopen

1999 Daihatsu concept Kopen

DAIHATSU KOPEN Here’s the first of a quintet of fun microcars, all sharing some basic mechanicals but distinguished with wildly individualistic bodies. The Kopen (as in Hagen? Or just getting by?) is an open-air two-seater with a 0.66-liter twincam four-cylinder with turbocharging, worth 64 hp. Its convertible top is power-operated, a decidedly upscale idea in this micro-speedster. With front-wheel drive, a four-speed automatic, and a double-wishbone suspension, the Kopen seems to us like an Audi TT thrown in the dryer too long. As Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

1999 Daihatsu concept EZ-U

1999 Daihatsu concept EZ-U

DAIHATSU EZ-U The people mover of the Daihatsu quartet, the flexible EZ-U has rear suicide doors, with multi-adjustable seats that can be moved front to back, and side to side. The back bench also can be positioned in "limousine" mode, all the way in the back of the EZ-U. Practicality ranks high, but we’re not so sure about driving fun: the EZ-U uses a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) to extract its 52 hp from a 0.66-liter twincam three-cylinder.

1999 Daihatsu SP-4

1999 Daihatsu SP-4

DAIHATSU SP-4 A four-wheeler way smaller than a RAV4, the SP-4 has projector headlamps, a silver-framed shaped with colorful door panels and bumpers, a faux aluminum instrument panel, flat-folding rear seats for cargo space, and yes, four-wheel drive with a Low gear. Its 0.66-liter turbo three-cylinder spins out 64 hp, through a four-speed automatic.

1999 Daihatsu Naked concept

1999 Daihatsu Naked concept


1999 Daihatsu Naked concept rear

1999 Daihatsu Naked concept rear

DAIHATSU NAKED We’re not exactly sure about the name, because none of the various editions of this teeny urban assault vehicle were without cover. But we like the idea: a nifty city car with a flexible interior and a plainly mechanical exterior shape that offers plenty of room for personalization. With removable rear seats, user-defined body panel colors, and a funky sort of ascetism, the Naked left us . Powered by a 0.66-liter three-cylinder, the Naked offers anti-lock brakes and traction control to put the damper on its 52 hp (64 if you opt for the turbo 4WD model).

1999 Daihatsu micro concept

1999 Daihatsu micro concept

DAIHATSU MICROS The profusion of Smart-type vehicles at Tokyo didn’t miss Daihatsu, which exhibited the Micros-3l, its own two-seat commuter tryke capable of sipping only three liters of fuel per 100 km. The Micros uses Daihatsu’s twincam three-cylinder with a CVT to achieve hyper fuel economy. For pleasure, the Micros has a removable T-top panels, and the rear glass descends into the body a la Honda’s late, unlamented del Sol.

1999 Citroen C3 concept

1999 Citroen C3 concept

CITROEN C3 A cartoonish compact four-door sedan with four pillarless doors, the C3 looks to us like a new styling direction for the Citroen brand. The C3’s rear door open suicide-style, a long wheelbase and compact exterior, and a hatchback that accordions to open easily in tight spaces make the bubbly Citroen a qualifier for cool city-car status. Interchangeable seatbacks and cushions make the interior as flexible as a campaign promise, and the removable armrests that double as handbags catapult this entry to the top of the chick-car list, along with the Toyota Celica ST and the Dodge La Femme. Incidentally, the powertrain is a 90-hp 1.6-liter four cylinder with a clutchless five-speed manual.

1999 Toyota HV-M4 concept

1999 Toyota HV-M4 concept

TOYOTA HV-M4 It’s what Toyota bills as the first hybrid four-wheel drive in the world – and it owes a lot to the progress they’ve made on the Prius hybrid sedan. Like the Prius, the six-seater HV-M4 uses both a gas engine and batteries in tandem to provide leaner, cleaner power. But in the HV-M4, there’s a new twist: all-wheel drive. The HV-M4 uses a pair of electric motors and a CVT to extract the most efficiency out of its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Under light loads, the batteries are used to power the electric motors at both the front and rear axles; under heavier loads, the engine is used to supply the thrust. Under very heavy acceleration loads, both are used. To engage its four-wheel drive, the HV-M4 senses when a wheel is slipping, then diverts enough energy from the spinning wheel to reduce its spin – and sending the extra power to the rear wheels to even out traction.

1999 Toyota Celica cruising deck

1999 Toyota Celica cruising deck

TOYOTA CRUISING DECK Ever wonder why they didn’t "el Camino" the first Celica? Obviously, they were waiting for the seventh-generation car, which gets the open-back treatment in its transformation into the Cruising Deck concept. The Cruising Deck pops off the newest Celica’s rear hatch, installs a rumble seat and a picnic-table sized rear spoiler, and heads for the sun. (Maybe that’s where the designers have been spending a little too much time…) The trucklike bed can be pulled up and fixed on to the spoiler to create a deck chair, believe it or not, and the Cruising Deck has a side-hinged tailgate for parties out of bounds. A hitch for towing watersports vehicles has been installed, too. A 1.8-liter four with 187 horsepower provides power, and a six-speed manual is the gearbox of choice.

1999 Toyota NCSV concept

1999 Toyota NCSV concept

TOYOTA NCSV The Audi TT has become a popular touchstone for coupes, but for wagons? This quasi-family hauler from Toyota sports a TT-esque roofline melded with a wagon back to spell practicality with two doors. Its sliding rear seats allow its assumed sporty, fun, young drivers to expand the cargo area, which is covered by a hard tonneau. When they get bored in traffic, they can always consult individual monitors that carry information and entertainment, just like People magazine.

1999 Lexus Sport Coupe concept

1999 Lexus Sport Coupe concept

LEXUS SPORT COUPE Everything about this aluminum hardtop roadster screams production – as in spring 2001 – but Toyota insists the Lexus Sport Coupe concept is just that. The Sport Coupe, designed in Europe and engineered by the same Toyotan that penciled the GS sedans, offers a V-8 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission to power its speedster shape, which looks more curvaceous and subtle than digital photos would suggest. The Sport Coupe has swaths of wood covering its dash and console, and the 2+2 rear seats look at least large enough to hold children. Lexus promises the trunk, even with the hardtop retracted, will hold a set of golf clubs.

1999 Toyota open deck concept

1999 Toyota open deck concept

TOYOTA OPEN DECK One of the plague of square vehicles at the Tokyo show, the Open Deck is your basic four-door tall wagon melded with a short-bed pickup, with a strong measure of economy car thrown in. Its usable mini-bed can be enlarged further by lowering the rear seats and opening a rear liftgate. The interior can also be changed about like a big rumpus room, with a variety of seating positions for the pairs of bucket seats and washable floors for that easy to hose out gestalt. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder with a four-speed automatic resides under the hood, but it hardly seems to be the point.

1999 Toyota Opa concept

1999 Toyota Opa concept

TOYOTA OPA A five-seater demi-wagon, the Opa has easily reconfigured seats that lower to create a flat luggage floor nearly six feet long. A direct-injection, 2.0-liter gasoline engine with variable valve timing and continuously variable transmission, says Toyota, endows the Opa with good fuel economy and good acceleration. The name, by the way, is a Portuguese idiom for surprise – much like we would be if this one weren’t put into production in Japan.

TOYOTA WiLL Vi More than a new kind of vehicle, the WiLL Vi is a new way of marketing cars in Japan

1999 Toyota WiLL Vi concept

1999 Toyota WiLL Vi concept

– and some analysts said it was the most significant vehicle of the Tokyo show. It was designed and built as a part of the Virtual Venture Company (VVC), a subset of Toyota that sought out partners in other Japanese industries (computers, beer, etc.) to create a new, common brand image for its youth-oriented products. A compact four-door sedan, the WiLL Vi is targeted at young women and has a decided nostalgic feel with its ribbed side panels and jaunty rear windshield shape. It’s got room for five, with just two options: a canvas roof and an upscale audio system. A variable valve-timing equipped engine is equipped with a plastic intake manifold, and a column-mounted automatic transmission shifter adorns the back-to-basics dashboard.
1999 Toyota Origin concept

1999 Toyota Origin concept

TOYOTA ORIGIN It’s a celebration, and Toyota’s harking back to its oldest Crown models for inspiration on the Origin. The Origin commemorates Toyota’s 100 millionth vehicle produced, by mimicking some of the Crown’s flashy Fifties style. The instant nostalgia is topped off with a walnut dash, rear-hinged rear doors, and huge amounts of chrome on the toothy grille.

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