Down On The Mile High Street: Toyota MasterAce

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
down on the mile high street toyota masterace

Here in North America, Toyota’s marketing wizards figured out that a vehicle name that sounds like “Master Race” would be something of a liability, so they put in a bunch of grueling all-nighters and produced… the Toyota Van Wagon. Not so fast, said Volkswagen, claiming that the name sounded too much like “Vanagon,” and Toyota lopped off the “Wagon” to create a van name so boring that we still can’t quite believe it ever existed: Toyota Van.

Despite the terrible name (why couldn’t we have had Toyota Space Vans, as Europe did?), the Toyota Van turned out to be an excellent machine. Cockroach-grade indestructible with car-like manners, you’d think the thing would have sold like crazy on these shores.

The mid-engine layout ate up a lot of interior space, however, and Chrysler’s minivan was so much better suited for American tastes that sales of the Toyota Van were mediocre at best. Today, you still see them in use as work trucks, as is the case with this example I found parked on the Denver street. Californians might also see an Audi-powered race version in the near future.

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  • FuzzyPlushroom FuzzyPlushroom on Apr 20, 2011
    "Californians might also see an Audi-powered race version in the near future." Aha! I first heard of this thing well over a year ago, but forgot about it when it never surfaced... and finally, it's official! Oh, and there were a few of these in my small New Hampshire town when I was growing up - they seemed to be silver and light brown, perhaps occasionally white or light metallic blue, just like most Toyotas of the period. This being New Hampshire, I haven't seen one for several years - though I've glimpsed a Maxima wagon and the first second-generation Accord that I've seen in many years in the past week, so maybe one of these vans is next...
  • Diseasel Diseasel on Apr 20, 2011

    Ah, the Wonderwagon...I've always liked the look of these things. Anyone know if the 4WD model was available with the dual sunroof and refrigerator like you could get on the LE version? That would be a fun adventure machine. Years ago my dad drove one that belonged to a friend of his; apparently the cabin became uncomfortably hot after a few miles because of the engine's location. I can see that becoming rather annoying.

  • Lorenzo They may as well put a conventional key ignition in a steel box with a padlock. Anything electronic is more likely to lock out the owner than someone trying to steal the car.
  • Lorenzo Another misleading article. If they're giving away Chargers, people can drive that when they need longer range, and leave the EV for grocery runs and zipping around town. But they're not giving away Chargers, thy're giving away chargers. What a letdown. What good are chargers in California or Nashville when the power goes out?
  • Luke42 I'm only buying EVs from here on out (when I have the option), so whoever backs off on their EV plans loses a shot at my business.
  • Dusterdude When there is a strike the union leadership talk about “brothers and sisters “ . They should give up that charade . Bottom line is they are trying to wring out every last penny they can and could care less ( putting it politely) about the future of the industry 5 - 10 years+ down the road
  • Ronin They all will back off, because the consumer demand is not there. Even now the market is being artificially propped up by gov subsidies.