Sometimes, there’s no greater reason for doing something than ‘For the hell of it’, and that’s exactly what we did in 1997, when we created a barnstorming one-off ‘Sport Turbo’ version of the humble six seater Toyota Picnic MPV.
Registered in 1996 as P593 APF, the Lucerne Silver Picnic started life as a standard £17,260 ‘GL’ model with a 2.0-litre, 126bhp, four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet. Top speed was 109mph and the benchmark 0-62mph sprint took 11.2 seconds.
How did the Picnic Sport come to be?
For the first year of its life, the Picnic was the company car of Toyota GB press fleet administrator John Brooks, and when the time came to hand the car back, a decision was taken not to sell the car off, but instead, to spice it up.
Following a briefing, the car was handed to the technical experts at our press workshop.
What modifications does the Picnic Sport Turbo possess?
The standard engine was replaced with the 3S-GTE engine from the legendary second-generation Toyota MR2 Turbo. In the Picnic, this turbo-charged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit put out 210bhp at 6000 rpm and boasted a healthy 305 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, increasing the Picnic’s top speed to 120mph and slashing the 0-62mph time by 3.7 seconds to 7.5 seconds.
For a sportier driving experience, the suspension was lowered and the 17-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels from the Toyota Camry V6 Sport were added under flared arches. Official Toyota Team Europe (TTE) front skirts appeared at the front, while at the rear a sports exhaust was added for a throatier note. The car’s front-wheel drive layout was retained.
Inside, the grey patterned cloth seats were re-trimmed in high-grade red leather by now defunct coach builders Connolly – ‘Sport’ was stitched into the seat faces and the door cards and steering wheel were also trimmed in the same material. The dash remained standard, save for a boost gauge and Toyota Team Europe (TTE) stickers.
What happened next?
For the next few years, the Picnic remained on the Toyota GB heritage fleet, often popping up at events and product launches – in 1999 the car served as a support vehicle on the launch of the first-generation Lexus IS 200 – and was available for loans to the British motoring press.
Soon after, the car was sold to an Irish dealer who used it as a support car for a number of local rallies. During this time, the car suffered a broken piston as the turbo was stuck on full boost and, worst of all, it lost the beautiful alloy wheels from the rare Camry Sport – recent estimates suggest there are fewer than 30 in the UK.
Fortunately, all was not lost, and in 2012, a member of Toyota staff spotted the car up for sale, and PR and Social Media General Manager, Scott Brownlee – who originally came up with the concept of a Picnic Sport Turbo – insisted that it be returned to the heritage fleet.
Where is the car now?
After the technical team repaired the broken piston and gave the car a thorough valet, it was officially returned to the heritage fleet. The car now rides on 17-inch, multi-spoke Team Dynamics alloy wheels and lives a cosseted life in our heated press fleet workshop – long may it remain.