Toyota Racing Development better known as TRD has a long history of putting high-end performance into street and racing cars.

A Half-Century of Racing Development

Racing Toyopet Crown -
Racing Toyopet Crown -

Toyota has been racing since the 1950s but things became more serious for the brand when it revamped its racing department in the mid-1970s. Over more than four decades, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has crafted some incredibly impressive cars from those that you’d find on the street to those that you’d only ever see on a race track. Today, we’re going to take a deep look at TRD, its origin, its track record (get it?), and how it managed to continue a legacy of winning both on the track and the dealership lot when other brands went astray.

Start Your Engines

1968 Toyota 2000GT -
1968 Toyota 2000GT -

The seed which TRD grew out of was planted all the way back in the mid-1950s. That’s when the brand decided to go racing before entering its very first competition in 1957. At the time, Toyota called the division Toyota Sports Corner or TOSCO for short. In that very first race, the brand entered a Toyopet Crown and despite coming in 47th it was still a success as more than 30 entrants didn’t even finish the race.

Toyota continued to press forward, winning its first race as a factory-backed team in 1958. Just under a decade later it continued that tradition and became the very first winner of the 1000 Km Fuji endurance race with a 2000GT on the podium. In the next two years, a TOSCO-prepared Toyota 7 took the crown. Clearly, the division was moving from success to success but it wanted to make a bigger impact in America.

WRC Toyota Corolla -
WRC Toyota Corolla -

In 1973, a Corolla won at a World Rally Championship event in Michigan. Just three years later in 1976, Toyota changed the name of its racing division from Toyota Sports Corner to Toyota Racing Development and in 1979 it created its American wing, TRD USA. Think of it as Toyota’s answer to other performance divisions like Dodge’s Mopar or Chevrolet’s Performance.

Taking The Checkered Flag As TRD

Toyota in 2003 Indianapolis 500 -
Toyota in 2003 Indianapolis 500 -

Right away TRD USA made an impact on the American motorsports scene. It entered off-road and desert competition with its truck platform and won 11 manufacturer’s championships in the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Stadium Series from 1983 through 1994. In 1993, Toyota-backed trucks won at the Baja 500, Baja 1000, and Mint 400. Success didn’t just come when the road ran out though. Toyota was the very first Japanese manufacturer to ever win a championship in IMSA GTO competition during the 1987 season. Then, in 1993, it won 21 of 27 total races that it entered.

Over the next decade, TRD turned its attention towards the highest forms of racing in America. Namely, it took 38 wins between CART and IndyCar including a victory at the 2003 Indianapolis 500. Even those successes might be dwarfed in some way by the fact that Toyota also managed to be the very first foreign car company to enter a NASCAR event in more than four decades when it did so with a Tundra back in 2004. Since then it’s moved up to the full-fat Cup Series where it secured a driver’s championship in 2015 and a manufacturer’s championship a year later in 2016.

Successes in the Lineup: Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

2014 Baja 1000 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro -
2014 Baja 1000 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro -

While all of these successes were happening on the race track, Toyota was applying what it had learned there to its road cars too. In fact, a large part of the rebranding from TOSCO to TRD had to do with the fact that the automaker wanted to branch out into performance accessories and parts for its road-legal cars. To that end, it applied improvements to off-roaders early on. TRD-tuned parts can be found on the 4Runner, the Tacoma, and the Tundra. In fact, TRD specifically built a supercharger kit for the Tundra that owners could have installed and backed with a factory warranty at any Toyota dealer.

Today, each of these models has a specific TRD trim associated with it instead of just parts or components designed by TRD. In fact, it’s worth noting that over the last few years, TRD has become more and more focused on the off-road sector of Toyota’s lineup. Gazoo Racing or GR has taken up much of the road racing and sports car tuning that TRD used to be responsible for on cars like the GR Toyota Supra and the GR 86. Still, it isn’t completely gone from the sedan side of the family. TRD tuned the Avalon for a year before the model was axed in favor of the Crown. It also built the Camry TRD which is by far the best-driving Camry in the history of the model.

The Future Of TRD

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro -
2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro -

While Toyota is pretty tight-lipped about long-term future projects for TRD we know a few things. Firstly, its focus will continue to skew towards the off-road side of the business. To that end, we expect more TRD-tuned SUVs and trucks from Toyota and Lexus over the next decade. If cars like the RAV4 TRD Off-Road edition are any indication, it’s a bright future that we can look forward to.

Related Pop Culture Articles

The King’s Garage: Richard Petty’s Cars

Cool Car Find: 1948 Studebaker M5

Automotive Art of the World

Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

  • 1

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *