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.”