WITH the advent of vehicles such as the 86 coupe and more recent wild-styled C-HR crossover, it’s clear that Toyota has an acute focus on introducing fun cars for a more youthful audience, but it’s not the first time the Japanese giant has had a crack at cool.
At the hands of former Australian champion driver Alan Hamilton, the manic track-blasting SP9R was built to demonstrate the performance potential of the big-T brand using the major components of the 2003 Camry Sportivo, not that you would recognise the sensible sedan connection from any angle.
Its 2.4-litre four-cylinder was taken from the front of the Camry and slotted in behind the two seats of the SP9R driving the rear wheels instead of the front, but using the same gearbox and differential.
By today’s standards, the 112kW and 218Nm produced by the Australian-made 2.4-litre naturally aspirated engine probably isn’t going to set your trousers ablaze, but the concept’s race car space-frame construction weighed in at almost half of the Camry road-car and performance took a corresponding boost.
At the time, Hamilton said that Toyota’s lightweight components including the all-alloy engine that contributed just 115kg to the total mass helped produce a capable track car. “That is a huge plus for the power-to-weight ratio and also the balance of the car,” he said.
With a sliver of a windscreen and the absence of any creature comforts including a roof, the one-off was strictly a circuit-only proposition and originally intended as part of a fleet of SP9Rs that would take part in a one-make racing series in 2004, but the project never made it off the ground.
The car was equipped with road-legal lights and mirrors and the hope was to eventually produce a number of models that could be registered and driven in public, but this ambitious plan also failed to come to fruition and Toyota would have to wait until 2012 to really strike it big in the sportscar market.
Interestingly, the car that now serves as the spiritual successor to the SP9R – the 86 – has a power and torque figure not dissimilar to the concept with 152kW and 212Nm. It’s a bit of a stretch to think that the SP9R’s promise of “a taste of things to come” was a prescient nod to the 86 but sometimes real life and a certain serendipity intervene.