On February 14th 2023, Shoichiro Toyoda passed away at 97 years old. Three days away from his 98th birthday. And as our boy Jesse Rivera said: That’s one well-deserved rest for a legend of a man. So we celebrate his life, and we celebrate his era. Hell – in a way, we’ve been celebrating his life for as long as we’ve been drawn to his cars. As enthusiasts, our passion was built around the foundation of his passion. The vehicles that Shoichiro Toyoda created inspired us & moved us. In many cases, they have been a part of our best memories & adventures. We’re kindred spirits.
It fascinates me to think of what Shoichiro Toyoda has seen in his lifetime.
You can only imagine how he’s seen the automobile (and global relationships post WWII) evolve during his lifespan, and how it’s changed the pace of… literally everything. I wonder what he’s most proud of; I wonder what he’d do differently in hindsight.
Shoichiro really began to come into his own within Toyota Motors in the 60s – under his father’s lead.
Here in America in the 60s & early 70s, the successful American muscle-car formula went like this: 1) put a bigger motor in it, 2) make more power, 3) viola it’s cooler. And hell, that was a great formula while it lasted lol.
But by the mid-70s – big-displacement, sexy muscle cars got regulated into emission-suffocated, big-bumpered, ugly ducklings. And that sucked. American car companies didn’t know how to react or adapt. And American car culture was left in a void (a lot like now actually).
But Shoichiro Toyoda had a different approach…
He became president of Toyota Motor Corporation in 1982, and was influential in creating cars that were passionate & spirited again in new ways. Lightweight, agile, fun-to-drive, engaging, smaller-displacement vehicles that were eager to take anything you threw at ‘em. Sure, Toyota wasn’t the only import car company taking this approach… but Toyota was a big part of ‘the momentum’. They pushed the boundaries of motorsports, and they pushed other car companies.
Shoichiro Toyoda helped create a new ‘rad era’ of car culture through the 80s & 90s.
A new generation of car enthusiast. T-tops, targas, pop-ups, polyurethane bumpers, turbos, mid-engines, strong colors, tough 4x4s, etc. These cars (*snap) sparked all the senses. The magic was there again, and people got it. You could FEEL the engine in the steering wheel; you could FEEL the wind in your hair & the sun on your face. It was a driving experience. Shoichiro Toyoda wanted people to feel what he felt in cars. It was a gift he gave us.
And I think in America right now…
We are overall undervaluing the wisdom & perspectives of older generations. The true leaders amongst us are aging out, and we’re replacing more & more of them with corporate yes men. We don’t have the right amount of respect for our heritage & history. And it’s causing us to lose our way & be increasingly manipulated by media, government, big tech, and corporate agendas. We’re absolutely drunk with an obsession for technology… but it’s the wrong kind. And we’re bulldozing down a dangerous path… dismissing all warning from people who have been around longer & seen more than us. So as we celebrate the life & accomplishments of Shoichiro Toyoda… let it sink in. Let it remind us of a time where passions made it to production more often. Where it all was just more straightforward & less muddied. And let it remind us of who we are & what we value.