Meet the Incredibly Rare and Impossibly Strange 1997 Toyota Classic

Toyota is one of, if not the most trusted name in the automotive industry. Now, If you’re wondering why the Bizarre Toyota Classic isn’t ringing a bell, it’s because Toyota only made 100 of them, and it was back in 1996 and 1997. As much as we love funky cars, it’s clear why Toyota never made many of these incredibly rare and impossibly strange cars. 

Toyota Classic driving
Toyota Classic | Wikimedia Commons

What is the Toyota Classic? 

According to Silodrome, Toyota celebrated the 60th anniversary of its first passenger car, the 1936 Toyota AA, with a sort of weird reproduction known as the Toyota Classic. 

Toyota decided to make the homage to the first Toyota a very limited run, only 100 examples. The Toyota Classic isn’t a proper reproduction; instead, it’s a sort of visual approximation with modernity sprinkled strangely throughout. To that end, Toyota used the chassis from the rear-wheel-drive Toyota Hilux, along with its suspension, brakes, and drivetrain. Weird. Weirder still are the doors, which Toyota also sourced from the Hilux. 

Toyota gave the Classic the 2.0 liter 3Y-E OHV inline-four-cylinder engine, and buyers could choose from either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual with a column shifter. More weirdness. 

Because this was the late ‘90s, the styling was a bit polarizing despite it selling out. 

What was the first Toyota car?

1936 Toyota Model AA black and white photo
Toyota Model AA | Toyota

The Toyota AA (at the time spelled “Toyoda”) was closely modeled after the DeSoto Airflow, a popular ride at the time. Toyoda had bought a DeSoto and sent it back to the Factory in Japan for reverse engineering. While the exteriors of the two cars line up closely, the internals are quite different. 

As Silodrome explains, the change from “Toyoda” to “Toyota” happened during this time to appeal to an English-speaking market. As a result, at this time, both spellings are correct, but for the sake of ease, let’s just call it Toyota. 

The AA stayed in production from 1936 to 1943, and during that time, Toyota only made 1,404 examples. Most cars of this period used the body-on-frame construction style, and the AA followed suit. 

Toyota went on a global search starting in 1987 to find an existing original AA. Toyota came up empty-handed, assuming none survived over the years. In 2008, a Toyota AA popped in Russia, only to find the original motor replaced by a ​​GAZ-51 truck’s driveline. Despite the disappointing modifications, Toyota decided to keep it in as-found condition. It now lives at the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands. 

How much is the Toyota Classic worth? 

Red and black Toyota Classic rear end
Toyota Classic | Wikimedia Commons

Sure, the Classic is a weird piece of equipment. It has certain ‘90s features scattered throughout the interior and doors from a pickup truck, but it’s still a crazy-rare Toyota, and collectors tend to like that sort of thing. 

A 1997 Toyota Classic recently popped up on Bring-a-Trailer. Although the auction ended yesterday, the car didn’t sell. We aren’t sure what the reserve was, but the bidding topped out at a smidge over $40,000, which didn’t meet the reserve. 

Despite its rarity, car nerds are still getting worked up about the strangeness of the car over 20 years later. Check out the comments section below the ended listing if you want a good laugh.

RELATED: Avoid These 20 Most Hated Cars of All Time