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First look: Toyota goes for sport

Project Go is go: This slinky two-seater is powered by the Toyota Camry's new 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine.

Toyota has revealed its involvement in a new sports racer

Toyota logo23 Oct 2002

TOYOTA'S ongoing drive to boost its sporting image was emphasised by the surprise unveiling of the Project Go sports car at this year's Sydney motor show.

The light-weight two-seater was one of six concept cars on the Toyota stand, making the Sydney show Toyota's largest ever collection of all-new cars and concept vehicles.

Project Go is powered by the new Camry 2.4-litre VVT-i four-cylinder engine, local production of which has boosted former Australian sports car champion Alan Hamilton's dream of a purpose-built, mid-engined two-seater sports car.

Designed by Melbourne-based Todd Willing, Project Go (or SP 9R as it is also known) weighs just 600kg and features fully adjustable suspension and aerodynamics, plus an Australian-designed and built MoTec engine management system capable of data acquisition and engine parameter adjustment.

Mr Hamilton says the car's adjustability approaches that of the most sophisticated racing formulas in the world, including Formula One.

It is hoped Project Go will form the basis of a one-make sports car series in 2004, while Mr Hamilton also intends to make a limited number of pupose built two-seater Project Go sports cars for road use.

Leading the remaining Toyota concepts in Sydney was another open-top two-seater, the Formula One-inspired Toyota MR2 Street Affair concept, which was built by Toyota Motorsport Germany.

Constructed from fibreglass and using carbon-fibre panels with multiple air scoops and doors hinged upwards, the Street Affair concept was designed by the same team behind Toyota historic Formula One championship assault. Street Affair produces 193kW from its turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine and accelerates to 100km/h in six seconds.

Toyota also unveiled its RSC (Rugged Sports Coupe) 4x4 concept vehicle, a sporty two-plus-two, fuselage-style body with four-wheel drive hardware and what Toyota says is "a fresh variation on rugged-vehicle thinking".

Other show vehicles from Toyota included the Fujitsu Ten Corolla fitted with an Eclipse CD8061 CD tuner, which won the 2002 Sound and Image magazine award for car audio head unit of the year. The unit includes 16-volt balanced line outputs and feeds five 620-watt 33240 two-channel Eclipse power amplifiers.

A turbocharged 110kW Echo concept featuring 17-inch wheels and a Panasonic Racing Camry show car rounded out the big Toyota concept car display, while Japan's largest car maker also showed its new four-cylinder and V6 Camry range, plus the V8-powered 2003 LandCruiser 100 revealed last week and the updated, automatic V6-powered HiLux.

Finally, Toyota also used the Sydney show to launch a new-look Celica with a more aggressive nose and revised suspension, plus an updated MR2 Spyder with sequential manual transmission as standard.

The upgraded Celica gets a new front bumper, wider mesh upper grille, light-within-light rear combination lights, new rear garnish, glass moonroof and new exterior colours including Quick Silver, Racing Green and Santorini.

Suspension changes include improved pistons and base valves, different oil and new oil seals, all aimed at better grip from a flatter and more comfortable ride. There are also improved head-impact absorbing measures in the front pillar garnish and roof rails, while a 10-tumbler key and key cylinder aim to improve Celica's anti-theft capability.

Interior improvements include a new Dark Grey interior colour, new seat trim, centre console colour changes and new heater control knobs. Celica continues to be available in SX and ZR guises, with pricing starting at an unchanged $40,570 for the Celica SX manual.

Meantime, in addition to a six-speed SMG, the upgraded MR2 Spyder now features vehicle stability control as standard, while rear wheel diameter has been increased to 16 inches with wider 215/45-section tyres added.

Rear suspension braces and recalibrated dampers at both ends have also been fitted, along with a larger brake pedal and steering changes aimed at improving feel. Externally, there's new projector-type low beam headlights, a new front bumper with integrated foglights, colour-coded side air intake, new rear grille, larger exhaust diffuser and new rear lights.

New Slate and Quicksilver paint colours are available, along with new seat trim, and a new Fujitsu Ten six-CD in-dash audio unit. The upgraded MR2 Spyder is available now at $48,990 - an increase of more than $2500.

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