Calty Design’s 1991 Toyota Avalon Concept looked nothing liked the production sedan but allowed California’s Toyota design studio to flex its designing muscle.
Earlier this year I came across a wild-looking concept car from Toyota on Instagram dubbed the Toyota Avalon Concept. Contrary to its production namesake, this concept in no way, shape or form, resembles any Toyota Avalon we see on the road today. It is a concept.
Here’s the Instagram post and some photos of this wild looking concept below.
View this post on Instagram
1991 Toyota Avalon Concept. If you want to see something that gives the definition of weird here it is. 🚫🚫┬┴┬┬┴┤ Tags├┬┴┬┴🚫🚫 #japan #toyota #gt86 #brz #frs #subaru #2jz #1jz #turbo #tuning #lexus #lx570 #v6 #v8 #ft86 #scionfrs #boosted #drift #widebody #scion #sti #supra #ae86 #bmw #bmwz4 #mkvsupra #mkivsupra
From what I can gather from half an hour of internet searches and looking at press photos, this car was made specially for the 29th Tokyo Motor Show. According to Toyota, the 29th Tokyo Motor Show focused on “Discovering a New Relationship: People, Cars, and the Earth as one.”
Here’s a little video I shared on Twitter showing this concept at the Motor Show.
The clip I'm looking for kind of, '91 Toyota Avalon Concept. Supposedly the windscreen and passenger compartment can fold flat. I'd like to see THAT in action. pic.twitter.com/0PhvJmtG5o— Paulo nonVTEC Acoba (@ferio_252) November 19, 2019
As Toyota’s theme suggests, concept cars for this show from Toyota didn’t focus on performance, safety, or technical engineering. Rather, design was the focus, one that tied humans with nature around them.
“…the Avalon concept was considered a “concept for designers,” explaining its appeal was directed more at artistic peers than average car buffs. “
This explanation fits well with Toyota of the time, Calty designing vehicles and drawing inspiration from abstract shapes rather than smooth and rounded surfaces of the time.
According to a now closed GeoCities page, the most interesting feature of this Concept is the cabin which opens and closes by bending what windshield and two transparent side panels.
“Applied to the Avalon was a technique in which elastic paper is stretched on a wire framework while tension is applied.”
As you can imagine, with the Avalon Concept’s panel and windshield folded flat, this car was low to the ground, only 37.8 inches, 2.2 inches shorter than a Ford GT40.
When closed, not only did the panels protect the interior from thieves and the elements, there were solar panels incorporated into the glass which could gather enough energy to operate the opening and closing of the panels. This concept did not go unwasted as Toyota’s of today have solar roofs as an option.
Inside, the Toyota Avalon Concept sported four bucket seats, the interior spacious thanks to an open-concept design.
Since this was more of a design exercise than an actual car, I assume there wasn’t even an engine under the hood or trunk.
A lovely little happenstance that I can contribute to this Avalon Concept’s story is an Instagram comment from a student at the Art Center of Design in California. His teacher, Dennis Collins, was Calty’s main designer of this concept car.
According to @oa.design.werke
“Yassss my teacher Dennis Campbell was the leader of this project! This concept was way ahead of this time! It had on board cameras, a very early navigation system prototype, and yes the 3 panels really did electrically fold down, making it impossibly flat when parked. All this in 1991! 🙏 Much respect to Dennis! “
Professor Collins has been teaching for the ArtCenter since 2005.
For a 28-year-old concept, this Avalon Concept was ahead of its time, still looking striking today.
Open-air motoring is a hallmark of California cars and I appreciate how much California flavor is injected into this concept. This car, like the promotional images suggest, finds its home next to any sandy shore and its surrounding beach cities.
I do wonder where this concept is today. Like most, this one’s probably recycled for scrap metal, already. It’d be nice to find out that it’s stashed in some basement somewhere.