EVENTS – THE TOYOTA 86 GALA FESTIVAL
Mirrors on the Ceiling, Pink Champagne on Ice… No, this is not the Eagles’ Hotel California, this is the entrance to a very exclusive, invite only ‘Toyota 86 Gala.’. When Adam first called me saying we had been invited to a very special event by Toyota, my ears perked up immediately. Following several Press Conferences, Demonstrations and Motor show Events, the new ‘Toyota 86’ is just about complete and ready to purchase. What better way to put it all together than to have another final and official 86 Launch Party. Having already seen the car back last summer at Fuji, and then again at the Tokyo Auto Salon, I just can’t get enough, so had to attend!
Arriving at the Makuhari Messe, I was greeted by a well dressed Gentleman holding a ’Toyota 86 Gala’ sign. ‘Right this way Sir’ he said. After checking through a very strict security system, I was finally inside and waiting to tick my name of the Invite List. A few moments later I was greeted by a wonderful young lady from Toyota. Amiko Tomita would be looking after me for most of the day, and I can honestly say, the service was of a different class than I have ever experienced before.
After a quick glass of champagne, we entered the main Event Hall. The lights were off, and it was quite a moody setting. Tables of stunning delicacies and beverages were on hand, and everything we wanted, we were given. After some more networking and meeting more of the great Staff from the Toyota Motor Corporation, it was time to set up my camera and try my best to fight through the already growing crowd of Japanese Press.
Right on time, the lights went out, and we were hearing what sounded like, and can only be described as, Electronic Engine Revving but little did we know how wrong we were. As the Stage opened, we were greeted by some of Japan’s finest Guitarist musicians; M.O.V.E playing some serious heavy metal music.
Accompanying them was a huge back screen showing you guessed it, The ‘Toyota 86’. After a 5 minute session, the screen lifted and out drives Toyota President Akio Toyoda in his brand new ‘Toyota 86’.
The excitement seemed too much for many people, though I was trying to stay calm and focus on how I could squeeze my way through to the front of the crowd, dodging TV crew and Cameramen along the way. After some adjustments I made it, and settled in to listen to Toyoda San’s speech about his company’s new Sports Car.
Each segment of the speech was accompanied by video on the huge back screen. After each part, it would reveal a car in the room, which were lurking under covers. The first segment showed Toyoda-San taking the ‘86’ to Hokkaido, on a Rally dirt track, followed by Snow stages in the mountains.
This was followed by a TRD segment, showing the ‘86’ getting tested hard on the circuit, revealing the White TRD Model. There were flash backs to the AE86, and some VERY familiar faces, N2 Racing days, and so we then got the RC base model revealed, in its stock form with steel wheels and black trim.
The whole event was surreal and at one stage it felt like we had just entered the Gran Turismo game. Toyota really had thought very hard about how they were going to launch this ‘86’, with some very trick ideas.
Lastly, after another short speech and discussion between guests including the Chief of the Mazda Motor Corporation, we got to see the Official release date and pricing information.
As the day went on, I enjoying meeting more and more people, including a nice long chat with Tada-San (Chief Engineer of 86) and Akira Iida. Strangely, we mostly enjoyed talking about our original AE86’s and some secret talks about that.
Honestly though, I can safely say the best thing to happen in 20 years is this new car. The entire industry needed this in so many ways. Toyota has described the completed project with a new motto, ‘Fun to Drive again’, and I couldn’t agree more. This new car will not only make things fun, but will reignite the passion and culture similar to that of the AE86 era.
Toyota has already revealed they will be opening 283 ‘AREA 86’, which will be located at Dealers throughout Japan.
It will be a place to go and enjoy everything ‘86’, get information, test-drives, merchandise, and just be immersed in the fun of automobiles again.
They will even be providing owners with Touge (mountain pass) guides best suited to enjoying the new ‘86’.
Also by 2013, Toyota hope to once again have an all ‘86’ Race event. Honestly, it feels like we have just gone back 25 years to the AE86, but in a new generation.
This car is not out to replace the original AE86, it is just out to create that same culture and fun factor of enjoying and driving that type of sport car.
After a quick lap around the drift course outside, I can safely say I WILL be buying one in the near future, and I’m already saving my deposit for April 6.
Next up we will take a look at the TRD Model Version. It’s going to be exciting!
Having had a good chat with Tada-San about it, there is A LOT more to come, including something very special on 8/6, which is the 6th of August in Japan!
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Words and Photos – Chris Gray