Toyota didn't do a good job of preserving their history. As the story goes, in 1987 it was the company's 50th birthday, and they wanted an AA sedan for the celebrations.
But they couldn't find one.
So they had to build a replica, which isn't even an exact replica—because they couldn't figure out exactly how the AA was built.
Introduced in 1936 and in limited production until 1943, the AA was a mid-sized sedan that aped the Chrysler Airflow: rounded grille, aerodynamic design, rear suicide doors.
Only 1,404 AA sedans were made in total—and very few survive, so when it came time to pay tribute to the AA again, they had a better plan: make a retro car that we can sell!
Sticking closely to the styling cues seen on the AA, the Classic resembles a neo-classic version of the Chrysler Airflow, or maybe an earlier Chrysler PT Cruiser.
At about the size of a mid-sized car, the Classic had flowing fenders, two-tone paint, and chrome accents everywhere.
Inside, a bespoke interior made from wood, leather, and more chrome…
…but one look at the gear shift and you'll ask yourself, "Haven't I seen that part somewhere before?"
At 16 feet long, with a rear-drive chassis, the Classic could only really be based on one of Toyota's few such rear-drive chassis. And so, logically, the Classic was built on top of the (indestructible) Hilux truck.
With 1480 kg (3262 lbs) to throw around, the Classic is a pretty overbuilt machine that won't be going anywhere in a hurry. Its only transmission option was a four-speed automatic mated to the company's 3Y-E 1998cc 4-cylinder engine.
Also seen in the Toyota Mark II sedan, Hilux, and Rocky (sister truck to the Bertone Freeclimber), the motor had a little less than 100 horsepower—so the Classic was both styled and engineered as a throwback.
With only 100 made and priced equivalent to $75,000 Usd. in 1996 (!), the Classic was never going to be a mainstream vehicle.
It's amazing that just four years later the company would introduce the Origin, another modern take on a classic Toyota machine.
With little more than 1,000 produced, they outnumber the Classic 10 to 1.
The Classic is so rare, in fact, that there are more McLaren F1 supercars on the planet than the Hilux truck-based Classic sedan.