In 1973 Toyota released a 20-minute promotional film called “In Small Packages”. It was created to introduce the company and its various models to Americans. Not only is it filled with beautiful footage of Corollas, Celicas, Coronas, and Land Cruisers, but it delves into how the cars were built before they landed in the hands of the customer. Keep in mind that it was filmed less than 10 years after the Corona clawed back some of the embarrassment that was the original Crown, so Toyota still had to convince us that they made dependable cars.
The film brings the camera behind the scenes, starting with the clay model in the studio. Designers sketch illustrations and pick out fabrics for the upholstery — concepts like the EX-III even make an appearance — while engineers subject the cars to wind tunnels, climate and crash testing, and performance trials.
Factory footage shows raw steel being pressed into body panels and axles. Then massive ro-ro ships carry the finished cars to the US. Drool-inducing clips of ports packed with minty fresh Celicas and Coronas, rare as Sasquatch fur today, but available by the thousands back then.
One interesting item to note, as the narrator lists the types of cars Toyota makes —sedans, wagons, sports cars — but even back in ’73 Land Cruiser was already its own category. What surprised us most was how the cars were prepped before being put on dealer lots. According to the film, each one was washed, test driven, and examined for functionality, right down to the cigarette lighter.
In these early days of imports, US customers often had concerns about parts availability (justifiably, thanks to European brands). So the film reassures Americans that Toyota has a vast parts network and giant distribution warehouses. The narrator even boasts that they have enough parts to build one whole new car for every three sold.
Further peace of mind is instilled by showing that Toyota is doing its part to train service technicians. There’s even a mobile classroom in the form of a semi that travels from dealer to dealer. And apparently Toyota donated cars to high school shop classes and driving schools — a good way to familiarize future buyers with this strange-sounding marque.
Today Toyota is a household name synonymous with quality. But that wasn’t always the case, and there were countless incremental steps Toyota had to take in order to build that reputation. This film is a good reminder that everyone has to start from somewhere.
Thanks to Alan F. for the tip!