Racy new Toyota should finally build this 2004 concept | Top Gear
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Concept

Racy new Toyota should finally build this 2004 concept

The Motor Triathlon Race Car concept was much more interesting than its name suggested

Toyota MTRC concept front end
  • What is this crazy looking RC buggy?

    Toyota MTRC concept front three-quarters

    Amazingly this car isn’t actually a remote control toy, it’s a full-size Toyota concept from the Geneva motor show way back in 2004. And what a show that was – the Fiat Multipla, Seat Altea and Peugeot 407 were all revealed to rapturous applause and widespread acclaim. This Toyota concept was such a wild design that after the sheets were removed, motoring journalists picked up the tension barriers holding back the crowds and threw them at company executives. Possibly. No one really remembers the 2004 Geneva motor show. 

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  • So this was a real car?

    Toyota MTRC concept rear three-quarters

    Physically, there were certainly display versions of the car that you could touch. A real car? It’s hard to say. Toyota called it the Motor Triathlon Race Car concept, which immediately made the thing 87 per cent less cool. It looks a bit like people imagined the future in the 1950s. It was put together at Toyota’s ED2 design centre on the Cote D’Azur in southern France, a facility assembled to try and sex up some of the Japanese carmakers previously staid designs. 

  • What was even the point of the MTRC concept?

    Toyota MTRC concept side view

    Toyota said at the time that the car was a response to future customer demands. Had customers somehow travelled back in time and made demands of Toyota? How did they get in the building? Why did they only get a concept car? If the car was for current customers, who was taking one look at their Avensis saloon and thinking that it could only be improved by ditching three seats, the roof and any comfort? A mystery. Maybe the point of the MTRC concept was just to get people talking about Toyota, in which case it worked, but only 17 years later.

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  • What was under wherever the bonnet is?

    Toyota MTRC concept rear view with engine

    You’d probably be expecting some nifty 3.0-litre V10 screamer along the same lines as the company’s F1 car of the time, but sadly not. The MTRC concept was well ahead of its time with a hydrogen fuel cell stack powering four in-wheel electric motors. The was mounted at the back of the car, and could even be slid out of the back of the car to reveal some complicated electronic gubbins and a control unit that looked like an early-Nineties video recorder. 

  • How was it supposed to work?

    Toyota MTRC concept side with door open

    The triathlon element of the car was supposed to account for its tremendous abilities off-road, on track and around the city streets. Sadly the MTRC would have been no good for the swimming portion of your triathlon event, but on the plus side you’d dry off quickly once you got back in it. And getting in the car was all very dramatic with the MTRC – a single door on the left hand side of the car peeled up in a giant single piece, taking with it half the front of the car and making access to the fighter jet-style tandem seats very easy. There was even a helmet designed to go with the car that looked like Robocop’s head and floated information in front of your eyes thanks to the latest virtual reality tech. Nothing wrong with a good old fashioned dial, of course, but concepts gotta concept.

  • What was it like inside?

    Toyota MTRC concept interior view

    To the extent that the MTRC concept even had an inside, there were the two seats and a small stowage area behind those to pop your shopping in. It was all very spartan – you wouldn’t want anything too fancy in there because it would only get wrecked as soon as it started raining. Getting the car’s 500bhp to the road was helped along by the joystick controls up front, and you could also control the ride height electronically. Presumably the latter feature was for off-road racing, but would also help with getting the car up speed bumps and pavement kerbs for parking. Very practical.

  • Why didn’t the MTRC concept go into production?

    Toyota MTRC concept rear end

    Toyota has had enough problems trying to get people to take up its eminently sensible Mirai saloon that just happens to be powered by hydrogen. Convincing people to splurge on a two-seater open-topped roadster that also runs on the scarce fuel? Seems like a bit of a tall order. But see, we were thinking that now Toyota is all cool and sporty with racy versions coming out the gazoo it could actually put the Motor Triathlon Race Car concept into production. As long as it came up with a better name. 

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  • Can I have a go of the MTRC concept?

    Toyota MTRC concept front

    Actually you can – provided you get your copy of Gran Turismo 4 out of the attic or pop down your local charity shop. The MTRC concept was added to the game as a neat way for people to see the car in action. Toyota even had a few PlayStation 2s dotted about the 2004 show stand so that visitors could have a go. Far fewer issues with hydrogen availability when your car only exists in the virtual world, you see. 

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