QotW: Which historic auto industry figure would you visit if you could time travel?

A recently published Japanese novel tells the a sci-fi story of what would happen if Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda traveled back in time to meet his grandfather Kiichiro Toyoda, the man who founded Toyota Motor Co. If time travel were real — and while we’re at it, a Star Trek-style universal language translator too — there are so many inventors, executives, race car drivers, designers, etc. whose brains we’d love to pick or whose brilliance we’d love to witness. It’s hard to pick just one.

Which historic auto industry figure would you visit if you could time travel?

The most entertaining comment by next week will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What was it like in the least powerful car you’ve ever been in?“.

A number of commenters risked it all low-hp adventures in non-Japanese cars. That makes sense as most readers don’t live in Japan, or else we’d have nothing but a list of kei cars. Among them were fuel10922‘s 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit diesel, Franxou‘s Volkswagen Fox, and crank_case‘s 1997 Fiat Cinquecento. Also, Brett‘s Kent-engined Ford Escort sounds amazing, honestly.

Among the Japanese entrants were Jeff Koch‘s Nissan S-Cargo, Fred Langille‘s Honda Z600, and Chris‘s Honda Today. daniel‘s Isuzu pickup took honors for least powerful truck, while Jacob B claimed the car that was most designed for driving fun, a Toyota 86. Clay‘s Geo Metro was a close runner up, but this week’s winner was Alan and his ode to his 1989 Tercel:

Exhilarating. Like those sage words proclaim, “driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow.”

I’m talking about my first car, an ’89 Tercel hatch with a 1.5 liter 3E-E that hammered out 78 horsepower and 87 lb-ft through a gloopy, soupy, slushy 3-speed automatic. It handled like a wayward shopping cart; all understeer, all the time, unless you tossed it into a turn like you were mad at it, in which case it would understeer, oversteer, and attempt to turn turtle all simultaneously. It also had no rev limiter, and would wheeze up to what sounded like 8,600 rippums while taking repeated neutral drops without complaint. I loved that car.

She’s in the great junkyard in the sky now. Rust in peace you miserable, wonderful old shit bucket.

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14 Responses to QotW: Which historic auto industry figure would you visit if you could time travel?

  1. Fred Langille says:

    In order to make such a visit, there would have a need to speak the language so, for me anyway, it would be either Henry Ford or, Karl Benz. Both of these giants left their hefty mark on the industry. To see how Ford built his first car and have it running would be historic. The same goes for Benz … since I am fluent in German as well. Since we know that time travel, if ever possible, could change the history as we now know it today, it would be a more or less shadow visit as an observer WITHOUT DIRECT CONTACT! Such a visit would corroborate details that only an observer could make with as slight an impact on history as we know it.

    • Steve says:

      We included language translators in the list of tech you’d have access to! 🙂

      • Fred Langille says:

        True but, would it contain the patois of the time period? As a 3-language polyglot (English-German-Morse Code … it IS a language!), I could understand how and what the speaker meant as well as said plus, the inflection and tone. A Star Trek translator, at THIS stage and not “uptime” would not be able to do that now. English would not be difficult despite the fact that idioms etc. from either time would need translation and understanding … the German could be horrendous but, as a decent speaker (with a Hessian accent still), I know I could do it. Joe Blow without language aptitude for German might not thus, draw attention to himself and not be that shadow visitor that such a trip would need to be made.

  2. BlitzPig says:

    Enzo Ferrari, hands down. Go back to see the days after WW2 when he was reorganizing what was left of his shattered machine tool business and forming the foundation of the automotive empire that became Ferrari in the post war world.

  3. Dillon says:

    I would want to visit during the time that Toyota and Yamaha began their works in the 2000gt. What a time to be alive when you have masters of Sewing Machines, Motorcycles, and Woodwind instruments, to build Japan’s million dollar super-car.

  4. Lakdasa says:

    I would like to visit Andre Citroen and talk him out of his gambling habits. Tell him what has become of his beloved Citroen brand now. He used to think out of the box and was a genius when it came to marketing and gambled just like Musk does with his products. It was a sad story if anyone happens to read about the man. Michelin and later of Peugeot pulled them out of trouble. When it comes to Japanese I would like to visit Mr. K and understand his strategies and see how they would work in todays world, a good read for any start up company.

  5. Franxou says:

    I started writing something in a funny tone, but I changed it all since it made me think way much than I initially thought…
    I want to meet Jujiro Matsuda, having lived through the Hiroshima blast, seeing everything in shambles around him and then starting the plant up again to build his city and its economy back. Seeing what started as Toyo Kogyo building stuff, then motorized tricycles, then pretty much always being David in a Goliath car world, betting on weird tech, their choice of driving dynamics…
    I have seen some documentaries about Toyota and Honda, but I do not think I have seen anything about Matsuda, only in written form.

  6. Alan says:

    I know this is Japanese Nostalgic Car, but I’d go back and visit Hans Ledwinka. The unsung Austro-Hungarian engineering genius behind streamlined, rear-engined, air-cooled cars with swing axles. The guy Hitler’s best bud “looked over the shoulders of” when designing the KdF Wagen, later to spawn the 356 and 911, et al. (Look up the Tatra V570 and Tatra/VW IP settlement if you’re unconvinced.)

    Anyway, I’d give him a high five, share a toast of becherovka, eat some pierogies, and go for a 100 mph rip to visit Mies’ Villa Tugendhat in a center-drive, magnesium V8-powered Type 77, taking the utmost care to not lift even a millimeter on the throttle in anything but an arrow-straight line, lest we end up like all the Germans who commandeered these modernist wonders, earning them the nickname “Nazi killers”.

    Either that or I’d go hang with Soichiro and cruise around Tokyo in his red Firebird convertible, perhaps chill at a Hokkaido ski resort with him and his good bud and astronaut/moonwalker Gene Cernan, tooling around in a T360 with snow tracks.

    • Brett says:

      You beat me to it; so would I.

      Ledwinka was an engineering visionary and genius. I would love to take a ride with him in a Tatra 87; the air-cooled V8 was a marvel of its time.

  7. Legacy-san says:

    I’d like to meet Walter Chrysler. Got started in the auto industry as the production manager of Buick when Buick was a serious luxury car. Chrysler then took over some failing brands, renamed them Chrysler, and built roadsters that were entered in Lemans. Chrysler did take risky chances with the Chrysler Airflow, which caught the attention of Mr. Toyoda who then built the very first Toyota AA. His company had built a reputation for engineering excellence, but the leadership who followed after he died made risky and expensive mistakes, like the Chrysler Turbine, and now the company is about to disappear.

  8. Ian G. says:

    The Dodge Bros. I’d bring my iPad and then I’d show them YouTube clips of The General Lee and modern day Chargers and Challengers doing their thang, and that one commercial showing them enjoying driving these MOPAR wonders. Then I’d ask him to put a clause for the future to make a Magnum with the Hellcat engine. I’d show them that the future they envisioned is glorious even during the dawn of the EV era.

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