August 24, 2009

Toyota A1 to AC

A little history

There was virtually no indigenous automobile industry in Japan when in 1933 a car design section was created within the firm Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. Under the direction of Kiichiro Toyoda, son of Toyoda’s founder Sakichi Toyoda, this unit adopted a step by step approach to automobile production, starting with the design of an engine, the Type A which was finished in 1934, then the prototype of a car using this block, the A1 which was unveiled during the following year. Automobile production started on a small scale in 1936 with the AA saloon and AB convertible saloon, which were closely based on the A1. In 1937, Toyoda officially created its automobile branch, named Toyota after Kiichiro Toyoda decided to slightly alter his name.

As with many other advanced Japanese designs of the time, “inspiration” was taken from foreign engineering. In the case of the Type A engine, this was outright copy of a six-cylinder Chevrolet, the 3.4-litre “Stovebolt Six”. The A1 chassis was closely based on a Ford, while the body was reminiscent of the Chrysler Airflow, except for the separate headlights. Actually, the main originality of the AA didn’t come from any of its features, but from the fact that most of the (few) Japanese cars produced until then, and also for many years to come, were tiny popular cars while the Toyoda was a large upscale saloon.

At a time when Japan was still largely a rural country of limited wealth, production numbers for such a hefty car were naturally low. They were reduced even further by the increasing demands of the war effort but, surprisingly, the AA/AB production was maintained: the car was mostly provided to high-ranking officials, army generals and major industrialists – all persons whose needs naturally had full priority… The lesser sold of the two cars, the drophead AB, was stopped during 1942, but an updated version of the saloon, the AC, appeared in 1943. Fortune of arms didn’t favour Japan by then though, and production of the AC was interrupted in February 1944.

Unexpectedly, the AC wasn’t to disappear for good. By 1945, Japan was beaten, its society in shambles, deprived of an army, headed by an emperor who had to renounce its divine ascendancy, but somehow still had an elite with motoring needs. To answer those, Toyota resumed the production of the AC in 1947-48, during which a few tens more of the large automobile were assembled.

About the model

Model: Toyoda AA
Year: 1936
Maker: Kyosho
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Kyosho
Acquired: brand new, in February 2007, in Hong Kong, S.A.R.

“I thought this wasn’t your kind of die-cast”, a friend told me – he knows me well, but unfortunately I only found an improbable gold-plated version of this historical vehicle, the very first car produced by the automobile industry’s world leader. As he cleverly made me noticed, the problem with this kind of models is that it is nearly impossible to restore their original finish once you set your fingerprints onto them. For this reason I made an exception with this die-cast while taking pictures and didn’t remove it from its stand.

It is hard to judge the quality of this model from this single piece. It seems rather well reproduced, with a nice photo-etched part to figure the mascot standing on top of the grille. A rating? Let’s say 13/20, but I still need to see a plain, realistic AA by Kyosho to give my final opinion.




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