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The Toyota T100: Before the Tundra

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2017

As you probably know, the Tundra is Toyota's full-size pickup truck. It's been around since 2000 -- nearly 20 years now -- and it's gone from a mediocre pickup-truck competitor to a legitimate rival to full-size trucks from Ford, Chevy and Chrysler (although the current one is long overdue for a redesign).

But did you know Toyota tested the waters with a full-size pickup before the Tundra?

It was called the T100, which I've always found hilarious, because it used the exact same naming convention as the Ford F-150, except its number wasn't as high. It's like Toyota knew the truck wasn't quite as good as the F-150, so they didn't want to step on the Ford's turf by elevating their randomly chosen number as high as Ford's. (Of course, these numbers aren't really randomly chosen; they used to signify payload capacity, but they don't really signify anything anymore.)

Interestingly, the T100 wasn't really built by Toyota. Knowing that its own experience manufacturing full-size pickups wasn't very thorough, Toyota farmed out engineering and manufacturing to Hino, a Toyota subsidiary that's primarily responsible for commercial vehicles, buses and heavy trucks. Apparently, they knew better.

From its initial launch, the T100 wasn't quite the truck that rivals from Ford, Chevy, GMC and Dodge were, even back then. When the T100 debuted in 1993, its sole engine was a 3.0-liter V6 that made just 150 horsepower. While power bumped to 190 hp in 1995, Toyota still didn't give it a V8 -- just a larger V6. And a 4-cylinder model was even offered beginning in 1994. (You can start to see why it was just the T100 and not the T150.) While the T100 added a dealer-installed supercharger option in 1997, bringing power to 245 hp, the writing was on the wall: Toyota needed more truck. The Tundra would be out 2 years later.

These days, the T100 has faded into obscurity, but a few enthusiasts remember it for what it was: Toyota's first-ever toe-dip into the full-size pickup pool. These days, with no heavy-duty model and a smaller lineup than American rivals, Toyota still isn't fully submerged in that pool, but there's no doubt things have come a long way in the 20 years since the T100.

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The Toyota T100: Before the Tundra - Autotrader