1996 Toyota Classic Sedan

That’s right — 1996.

What was your first guess? 1941? 1933? Ah, so close — Toyota was hoping you saw this Pre-War-ish profile and thought, “Why, of course! That’s the 1936 Toyoda Model AA. I’d recognize that waterfall grille anywhere.” Frankly, we’d be shocked if that was your first reaction, as despite holding court as one of the most powerful and recognizable automakers in history, there is but a single example of the original Model AA sedan known to exist.

And, as part of the famed Louwman Museum collection, that rusty, derelict AA that was first re-discovered in 2008 isn’t even owned by the automaker as of today. As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations in 1986, the entire might of the Toyota Motor Company was unable to coax any original AA out of a barn, necessitating the creation of a handful of AA replicas for ceremony. As even photographs and written records of the AA were scarce, each AA replica was handcrafted as an approximation of what the AA most likely presented as when Toyota was still “Toyoda.”

So, with a small cluster of official replica AAs in the fleet, Toyota marked its 60th anniversary in 1996 with the Toyota Classic seen here. Retro was huge in Japan in the 1990s, with Nissan kicking off the wave with its unexpectedly popular “Pike” cars like the Figaro, Pao, and Be-1, and other manufacturers followed suit, including Subaru with its Mini-aping Vivio Bistro kei-car.

The Toyota Classic took “retro” to the next level. Whereas the Pike cars and the itty bitty Bistro presented as mostly modern cars with 1950s flavor, the Classic was designed from the outset to fit Pre-War proportions over modern bones. Fascinatingly, Toyota chose the then-new N80-generation Hilux truck as the structural base, specifically the 112.2-inch wheelbase from the regular cab, long bed Hilux.

Toyota designed and positioned the Classic as quite a premium product from the get-go, limiting total production to an even 100 units for the Japanese market and priced from $75,000 when new. Toyota’s specialty Technocraft subsidiary handled assembly and development, lavishing the exterior with bright chrome accents, whitewall tires, and top-of-the-line lace wheels. Plush red leather wraps both seating surfaces and the shift knob, complimented by extended Bordeaux carpeting, extensive woodgrain trim throughout the cabin, and an elegant and very classic Nardi Torino wood steering wheel.

As the Classic was designed entirely for show without any consideration given to “go,” a 2.0-liter 3Y-E SOHC four-cylinder is the sole engine choice; 98 hp and 118 lb-ft are not quite a match for the contemporary Supra Turbo, but it’s a big bump up on the original AA’s 62-hp 3.4-liter inline-six. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is rear-wheel drive. Like most neo-classics, the Classic is best used for easy, countryside cruising.

This is very likely the only Classic to ever receive the prestigious National First Prize from the Antique Automobile Club of America, having first claimed the Junior award and later Senior plaque in 2022 in the popular Second Generation Collector Vehicle category.

As such, the car is in remarkable original condition, wearing just over 36,000 km (22,000 miles) on the odometer at the time of cataloging. The exterior paint is in wonderful condition, although there is some minor deterioration of the white pinstripe. Take note of the charming assortment of original Japanese stickers and decals, including a parking permit and inspection roundel.

The cabin is as fresh as the exterior, with tight upholstery free of any mars, tears, or wear. The carpet is similarly crisp, as is the extended wood trim that displays no crazing or lacquer deterioration endemic to so many cars of this era. All switchgear presents as new, with only the leather on the automatic shift knob showing minor wear from use. Even the documentation is complete, with maintenance manual, sticker guide, and owners manual in-hand along with spare key and tool kit.

Existing at the intersection of two distinct eras of automotive design, the 1996 Toyota Classic is a fabulous choice for cruises and local Cars and Coffees, and would be a showstopper at local-to-national level Japanese collector car events. There is no tour or casual collector car rally too long or taxing for the understressed Toyota, and it’s easily one of the most interesting entrants in any neoclassic category. Of course, aiming for a Grand National First Prize and then Senior Grand National AACA plaques would be a rewarding challenge, as would trying not to smile when your (seemingly) 1936 Toyoda starts with the twist of the key each time, every time.


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Stock number 7688

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