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Toyota knew how to throw endless dollars at a race engine

6 June, 2017


The ‘90s saw Toyota produce some of their finest engine work — it spawned the 1JZ and 2JZ, beams 3S-GE, 20-valve 4A-GE silver- and black-top … the list can go on forever.

But we’re willing to bet a decent chunk of money (the $3.20 of change sitting in my desk drawer) one that has yet to blip up on your radar is the R36V.

But that’s just a byproduct of  racing engines from Japanese carmakers not getting the same kind of love as their road-going counterparts, and hey, that makes perfect sense – Johnny Tuner may 4A-GE swap their Corolla, or cram a 1J into their Cressida, but they’re highly unlikely to get their hands on a near-on 1000hp powerplant like that of the R36V.

The R36V was based on a previously built 3.2-litre version (R32V) that was introduced by Toyota in 1990 for the Le Mans 24-hour race, World Sports Prototype Car Championship (WSPC) and the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship (JSPC). While Toyota had previously been campaigning a 3S-GE, restrictions on race fuels meant Toyota wanted to look towards larger displacement hearts.

This spawned the development of the R32V, and although it saw victory in 1988 and 1989, Toyota deemed it impossible to win a JSPC championship with. Subsequently, a revised 3.6-litre version known as the R36V was introduced as its replacement in 1990. Chuffed up by a CT 26RT twin-scroll snail and pumping out upwards of 800ps, it was crammed into the 92C-V prototype car. Three cars were entered into the 1992 All Japan Sports Prototype Championship and managed four top-three finishes out of the six races, but did not manage a win —  eventually allowing Nissan to win the championship title for the third consecutive year.

With the demise of Group C 1994, Toyota updated two cars and ran them as the Toyota 94C-V under the new 24 Hour of Le Mans  LMP1 class. Achieving a one-two finish for their class, car #1 finished second overall — almost winning Le Mans.

While it raced at other events throughout its lifespan, its last outing of note was the
Suzuka 1000km in 1994 where it was retired due to mechanical issues.

The R36V was one of those mind-bending never-to-be-repeated projects during Japan’s bubble years, where automakers threw insane amounts of money at race engines and they chassis the adorned. It was truly a time of glory-seeking race cars that we hadn’t seen before, and never really have since.


Penny’s Pagoda – Mercedes Benz 230 SL

We scouted out a few different locations for photographing this car, but they all had one thing in common. At every stop, people could not help but come up and compliment owner Penny Webster on her stunning Horizon Blue Mercedes 230 SL.
There’s something about the ‘Pagoda’ Mercedes — so-called because the distinctive dipping curve of its roofline echoes that of the famous Eastern tiered temples — that encourages people to speak up.
Many classic cars attract a second look, but in most cases people keep their thoughts to themselves. It was striking how many people felt the need to express the warmth of their feelings about this car.
The expansive glass cockpit, the friendly, subtle lines, and its simple three-box shape seem to encourage openness among passers-by.

Motorsport Flashback – Kiwi rallying in the 1970s

Rallying arrived in New Zealand in 1973 like a tsunami. It had been only a few years since the sport was introduced here and shortly afterwards Heatway came on board as the sponsor to take rallying to a new level. The 1973 Heatway would be the longest and biggest yet, running in both islands with 120 drivers over eight days and covering some 5400 kilometres. The winner was 31-year-old Hannu Mikkola — a genuine Flying Finn who had been rallying since 1963 before putting any thoughts of a career on hold until he completed an economics degree. The likeable Finn became an instant hero to many attracted to this new motor sport thing. I was one of them.