Let These Crisp-Looking Toyotas Show You the Brand’s Charming Side

Nope, you won’t find a Lexus here

People have been calling them names for years, mostly because of their shoebox appearance alternated with toaster looks and insert-home-appliance-name-here design.

But things were not always dull for Toyota, so we dug through the archives and came up with eight models that, in our view and no particular order, master the making a mountain out of a molehill skill when it comes to styling cues.

1937 Toyota AA

Presented in 1936, the AA was the first car to wear the Toyota name and original logo, marking the dawn of Toyota's commercial car manufacturing empire. The aero body hid a six-cylinder and upon launch, the AA spawned a cabrio version, labeled as Toyota AB.

1965 Toyota Sports 800

Another first for Toyota, but this time on the sports car side. Also, a premiere was the lift-out aluminum roof panel, working the same way as a Porsche 911 Targa roof. Toyota set up a series of test drives in America, although the 28-horsepower model (later taken to 45 hp) was never sold or imported on US soil.

14 years later, in 1979, the Sports 800 served as a base for the Sports 800 Gas Turbine Hybrid, shown at that year's Tokyo Motor Show.

1958 Toyota Toyopet

In 1957, Toyota came to the United States and established Toyota Motor Sales USA together with the brand's first two Toyopet Crown models which came off the deck of a cruise ship in August and were located to Toyota's first US sales office, located in a former Rambler showroom and sharing a wall with a Ford dealership.

Unluckily, the Toyopet suffered an early and timely death in the United States. The car was kept affordable through a small-displacement engine, and it had rear suicide doors, but that didn't stop it from becoming a flop, mainly because it was not suited to American roads and driving habits.

2000 Toyota Celica

When Celica was born, Toyota wanted a rival for the Ford Mustang. That wasn't the case, but the rare twin-cam Celica GT made a name for itself by winning four consecutive WRC titles between 1990 and 1994.

With that pedigree in its DNA, the 2000 Toyota Celica (at that time in its seventh and last generation) spiced things up with a refreshing face and a cheeky rear designed in California, with the intention of attracting a younger clientele in the United States. The car ended up being labeled as slow, overweight and expensive, but at least it could turn some heads.

1988 Toyota Supra Turbo A

The Turbo A derivate of the Toyota Supra was built for racing purposes – does homologation ring a bell? Toyota built 500 units sold exclusively in Japan, but they allowed the carmaker to flex its muscle in the Group A of the Japanese Touring Car Championship. Now, just think about 266 hp under a body kit that could have been an excellent addition to the Batcave.

2012 Toyota GT86

Known by Europeans as the Toyota GT86 and recently introduced under the Toyota 86 moniker in the US, following the Scion brand's dissolution, this sports car takes after predecessors like the 2000GT and AE86.

Besides getting the beauty side right, Toyota found a recipe for success as the GT86 was named Coupe of the Year 2012 by Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson and Best Affordable Sports Car in the US, back when it still wore the Scion FR-S badge. A facelift was operated recently for the US market, where the Toyota 86 will offer 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque.

1967 Toyota 2000GT

Obviously, we saved the best for last. It's the Japanese E-Type, or as Toyota likes to call it, the 2000GT, which, in fact, began as a Nissan project, under Albrecht Goertz's pen, who was also responsible for signing the BMW 307 and 507 sketch boards.

Today, the 2000GT is one of the most sought-after vintage classics, mainly because only 351 units were built, out of which just 61 were exported to the US, where it boasted a $7,150 sticker. Which, for the sake of the argument, was more than Chevrolet was asking for a Corvette Stingray and around the same one would pay for a Porsche 911. The second-gen model was sold under the 1970MY, and rivaled with Ferraris as far as the $9,000 price tag was concerned.