There were several significant classics and performance cars that crossed the auction block at the BH Auctions last week, but there is one more machine worth mentioning. The LM07 Toyota Group C race car wasn’t particularly successful, but it kicked off a tradition in one of Japan’s most unique car cultures that lasts till this day. If you’ve ever wondered why so many kaido racers run Olio Fiat logos on their cars, you’re looking at the reason.
When it was announced that Fuji Speedway would be included on the World Endurance Championship calendar in 1982, it was considered a big deal. Formula 1 had withdrew in 1978 after a tragic accident killed a photographer and security guard. That, combined with the pullback on racing during the oil crisis, nearly bankrupted the circuit. The WEC was the first high-profile international series since the accident, and all eyes were on the Fuji 1000km.
During the 1980s, the Porsche 956 and 962 dominated Group C, but if the WEC was held in Japan it was only natural that home-grown enterprises would try their hands as well. As the name implies, the LM07 was the seventh race car to come out of Le Man Garage, one of several Japanese constructors attempting to break into racing’s elite ranks. Early efforts were powered by a variety of Nissan engines, but when Nissan officially began supplying the VG30 to bigger-name and works teams, the firm switched over to Toyota engines.
Initially, the 1986 LM06C was powered by the Toyota 4T-GTE turbo four, which also found homes in Toyota’s Group B Celica rally car and Group C prototypes. The LM07 is essentially the same chassis with a Toyota 3S-GTE motor and a new sponsor, oil company Olio Fiat.
Olio Fiat was a founded in 1910 as a subsidiary of Fiat, producing “first fill” lubricants for Fiat vehicles. Eventually, they expanded into performance oils and began sponsorship of rally and Formula 1 race cars, gracing famously the Fiat 124 and 131 Abarth, Lancia 037, and Ferrari F1 cars.
Although Ferrari and F1 were also influences, the main reason why kaido racers festoon their Toyota Mark II, Soarer, and Celica XX customs with Olio Fiat logos is the LM07. Eventually, the logo spread to non-Toyota kaido racers as well but this was the origin.
It wasn’t a stellar performer by any stretch The car ranked as high as as 7th place at the All-Japan Fuji 1000km in 1987, 10th at the Fuji 500-mile, and 7th at the Suzuka 1000km. However, it being a Toyota when Nissans and Mazdas were more favored performance marques was reason enough for the tiled letters to appear on countless zokusha.
As for the the LM07 itself, according to the listing it was recently restored to running condition by an unnamed Japanese specialist. However, a shakedown and setup of the individual parts are still required. The winning bidder paid ¥35,200,000 (USD $320,200 at current exchange rates), far above the $182,000 estimate.
Images: BH Auction