We’ve waited to talk about the Toyota Kikai because we were hoping to get an answer from Toyota about one of the most bizarre easter eggs we’ve ever seen on a concept car. We still don’t have it, but hopefully by raising the question we can find someone who has the answer. [UPDATE: Actually, we may have found it. Scroll to the bottom.]
First, a bit of background. Kikai means “machinery” in Japanese, and the concept is all about putting the stuff that’s usually hidden from view on display. The engine, exhaust, suspension and frame are all there for you to gaze upon, like finely crafted works of art.
The Kikai is retro in another ways too, but none of them could be described as automotive. It looks like a fantasy of what a car might be in an alternate steampunk universe. With its rear-mid engined layout, sliding doors, and 1+2 driving position, it’s brilliantly unlike any car that exists today, as if it followed a completely different evolutionary path. Its license plate, however, is still delightfully reminiscent of pre-war Japanese license plates.
So what’s the easter egg? Well, it’s pigs. Skorj first noticed it when we were hanging around the car watching a video of it play on the screen next to it. On one of the four gauge pods is what looks like a charmingly primitive GPS system. In it, the LCD silhouette of a pig appears to indicate how much distance is left until the next instruction.
Then, Brandon noticed that a pig was on the whitewall of tires as well, their reverse-mounting a clever nod to hot rod culture. See the porcine profile walking along the inside of the tire?
It wasn’t till after the show when I was going through my photos that I noticed an orange pig keychain dangling from the ignition as well. So what gives?
We asked the Toyota representatives at the booth during the show, and none of them knew. We’ve also sent emails to Toyota USA representatives but none have been able to solve the mystery for us.
While nearly every automaker in the world is racing to develop the electric, drive-by-wire and altogether self-driving cars, the nostalgia of the Kikai seems totally reasonable. Says Toyota, it was “designed to explore and emphasize the fundamental appeal of machines: their fine craftsmanship, their beauty, simplicity, and their fascinating motion.”
The car conjures images of the old clockwork taiyaki machines that you see at the temples, clicking away seemingly anachronistically in the modern world (Here’s a simple one, but there are total Rube Goldberg style ones as well). Toyota said of the Kikai, “As the products of human creativity, dedication, and knowledge, machines should be objects of admiration.” It seems fitting that such an homage would come along at the twilight of the mechanical automobile.
UPDATE: From DesignerD: “Straight from the design department (not the actual designer, but one who knows the project): ‘I bet it relates to the proportion. Toyota is big on Form Studies. Basically breaking your car down to some simple or iconic basic shape.”
kikai can also mean strange or unusual, can’t it?
i don’t think so but it can also mean chance or opportunity.
Almost as simple as my 1967 RL411! There’s is a lot to be said for non electronic controls. I know just what every wire under my hood and trunk does!
Maybe because it sort of looks like a pig? Well the head of a pig anyway. The engine and grill are the snout, headlights are the nostrils, and hell the exhaust even sort of looks like a curly tail.
Don’t know what the pig means, but it’s reminiscent of the Camatte57s kids car Toyota was showing off last year, which, in a sense, is the antithesis of modern automobiles that hide under plastic and deter owners from customizing/working on their cars.
That front 3/4 view looks..well….like a pig. I assume that’s the main reason? Certainly a case of so odd that it is beautiful!
I agree about the 3/4 view.
Looks funky ! Something different then all those Modern sleek stuff.
As an architect, it reminds me of the Lloyd’s of London building:
Mechanical systems and other saucy bits on the exterior, public spaces on the interior; function before form, and all that rot. (sorry) It would blow a few minds on “any vehicle detailed for $59.95!” day, no question about it..
Am I the only one who thinks the wheels look a fair bit like baby Supras?
Yeah i guess a little like the OEM mk1 supra wheels maybe, but not really… I think they went for sort of a almost steel wheel wheel look but in aluminum. Sort of like the american racing outlaw wheels, that look just like multi hole steel wheels.
Steam punk wouldn’t quite be it as a label, but there’s a certain amount of “mecha” or Art Deco punk in it which is popular in Japan…. The artist /designer Range Murata of Last Exile fame is a great example of this:
Once my friend explained their methodology in form study metaphors though, it totally makes sense. I like it!