Toyota Publica was a small car that remained in production from 1961 to 1978. The idea behind designing this car was to produce a family car that accomplished the demands of the ‘national car concept’. It was the Toyota’s smallest car at the time and was outmoded by the Toyota Scarlet, a model that launched as Publica’s version. A 2-door vehicle with a lot of diverse body styling that ranged from the base sedan to a convertible, station wagon, coupe and a pickup. Toyota Sports 800 or Toyota MiniAce generated from this vehicle.
MITI “National Car” Concept
In 1955, the invincible Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry came up with an idea of “national car” concept that led the basis for the Publica. The concept was a thorough plan that described the requirements in detail for the target car, for instance, the car should have a weight below 882 lb (400 kg), the maximum speed should be somewhere around 100km/h (62 mph), fuel consumption should not exceed 1 liter per 30 km while driving at an average speed of 37mph or 60 km/h.
From Concept to Reality
Initially, Eiji Toyoda thought of taking advantage of the then FF concept, i.e. front mounted engine with front-wheel drive, but later realized that it was not easy as easy for the engineers meet the deadline for a project and hence dropped the idea and concentrated on traditional FR layout. Despite the fact that the Japanese government waive off a substantial tax for the cars having engine displacement of less than 500cc, the company opted to go for something more powerful up to 700cc. Hence, the engine used was an air-cooled 697cc ohv 2-cylinder boxer, generating 28 hp (21kW), designated as Toyota U engine. The Toyota remained lucky here as the tax incentive announcements didn’t put into practice instantly.
The resulted car was a 2-door sedan that could accommodate 4 people and also had a storage trunk. The double wishbone suspension used in the front while rear received a semi-elliptical springs.
The sales of the Publica (internally designated as UP10) started June 1961 with an introductory price of ¥389,000. The Publica was not sold via the Toyota and Toyopet dealerships rather new dealership network was acquired by the company. The Publica was not a big hit as it lacked even a radio and heater.
A 2-door station wagon was added in the lineup in 1962 followed by derivative model as Toyota Sport 800. The company announced the ‘Deluxe’ trim level with basic luxuries like radio, heater, reclining seats in 1963 that helped boasting the sales of the Publica. This deluxe trim was internally designated as UP10D.
The revised Publica range called the UP20 was launched in 1966 with a substantial increase in the displacement from 697cc to 790cc. a forward control van, Toyota MiniAce was introduced in 1966 followed by the Publica Super version in 1968.
1969 saw the entire new generation of the Publica which was in fact the scaled down version of the corolla supporting of shortened Corolla wheel-base. A new version appeared in the market with minor modification in 1970 followed by a facelift version in 1972. The Toyota Publica Starlet appeared in 1973.