1 Feb 1983
The first-generation Tarago (named after a NSW town), with its futuristic wedge shape, wowed buyers with its futuristic design and car-like packaging.
But it was still essentially a forward-control rear-wheel drive commercial vehicle-based eight-seater passenger van, with its engine slanted underneath the driver’s compartment.
Known as the Space Cruiser in Japan, Toyota did incorporate a number of improvements over regular forward-control vans designed to overcome their inherit safety and stability concerns.
Car-like coil suspension with anti-roll bars and a less truck-like steering wheel angle were the most obvious.
Initially three models – base DX, GL and luxury GLS – were launched, powered by a 57kW/140Nm 1.8-litr 2Y-C four-cylinder petrol engine.
From July ’83 the DX could also be had with a 48kW118Nm 2.0-litre 2C four-cylinder CR21RG diesel engine.
Gearboxes were a five-speed manual only except for the four-speed auto found in the GLS, which also included power steering, dual zone air-con, power windows, a sunroof, alloy wheels, an ice box and – from October ’84 – cruise control and front seat armrests.
On all models three rows of seats could accommodate eight with the latter two capable of reclining down flush.
The Tarago’s attractive styling and interior made it an instant hit.
In March ’83 Toyota responded to the petrol engine’s lacklustre performance by replacing it with a 65kW/162Nm 2.0-litre 3YC four-cylinder unit.
These are known as the YR21 series Tarago.
The DX and GL also gained a three-speed auto option
The Road to Recovery podcast series