Section 2. Automobile Prototypes

Item 4. Model G1 Truck

Prototyping and launch of the Model G1 Truck

Lofted drawings of the passenger car body were completed in July 1934, and while stamping die design and manufacture based on the drawings were being conducted, a request was received around December from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of War to manufacture trucks and buses for reasons of national policy.1 In accordance with that request, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Ltd. began designing a truck in March 1935. Developments leading up to that time are described below.

Toyoda Automatic Loom Works held an extraordinary general shareholders meeting in January 29, 1934 and decided to enter the automobile business and the steel making business. The details of the decision were reported in the Nagoya Shimbun on January 23, prior to the meeting2, and the reports continued into February. As a result, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works' entry into the automotive business was known within the automotive industry and by government personnel involved with automobiles. A total of seven automakers including Toyoda Automatic Loom Works and Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (renamed Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. in June of that year) were asked in April by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of War to submit their opinions concerning the development of a national automotive industry.

On September 4, 1934, the Engineering Bureau of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry held the seventh meeting of the Ministerial Conference on Establishing an Automobile Industry.3 Kiichiro Toyoda, Yoshisuke Ayukawa (president of Nissan Motor), and Tomonosuke Kano (chairman of Automobile Industries) expressed their opinions. Also attending the conference were Kakichi Takeuchi and seven other members of the Ministry including Kaoru Ban, a middle school classmate of Kiichiro and a section manager in the Engineering Bureau.

A summary of Kiichiro's explanations and opinions is as set forth below:

  1. 1.Toyoda Automatic Loom Works began researching automotive mechanics in about September 1933 and was currently producing passenger car prototypes, but had not yet begun truck manufacturing.
  2. 2.An engine had been completed, but it was necessary to supply a large number of spare parts, so for the design, a Chevrolet engine was sketched.
  3. 3.Body stamping die manufacturing would take about six months.
  4. 4.With minimum monthly production of 700 to 800 units, price competition with American cars would be possible.
  5. 5.The company was not considering support from the government, but if offered it would be accepted. However, subsidies would interfere with cost cutting efforts and were not needed.
  6. 6.It was not known which companies would succeed in the automotive industry, so it would be desirable that all of the companies be granted manufacturing licenses.

Kiichiro was opposed to subsidies and barriers to market entry, which could impede self-help efforts. He expressed his opinion in favor of free trade so strongly that Manager Ban asked, "Do you think anything the government does is a hindrance?"

The Ministerial Conference on Establishing an Automobile Industry met for the 13th time on October 9, 1934 and held a general conference to discuss its conclusions on the 19th of that month. It is believed that the request to Toyoda Automatic Loom Works to manufacture trucks was made in or after November of that year based on the results.

As a result of these developments, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works began to produce a truck prototype. In March 1935, the company purchased a 1934 Ford truck, and based on that, began designing the chassis. Toyoda Automatic Loom Works had already completed a prototype A engine for passenger cars based on a 1933 Chevrolet engine, and a decision was made to use the same engine in the truck. The durable Ford style was adopted for the frame, a Chevrolet type front axle was selected because of the relationship with the engine mounting, while the full floating Ford-type rear axle was chosen, taking advantage of the strengths of each style. The plans called for rapid completion of a prototype in six months, and production proceeded by making use of spare parts available on the market from Chevrolet, Ford, and other companies for those parts that could not be manufactured in time.

The truck design was created by the Design Department, a part of the Loom Division's Plant Administration Department, and a prototype plant was constructed nearby. The truck prototype was hastily built in parallel with the passenger car prototype, and as a result the prototype plant was an extremely simple structure with pillars sunk directly into the ground under a roof. The No. 3 Ironworks was constructed to manufacture the truck suspension parts, and this was a full-fledged iron-frame building.

The first Model G1 truck prototype was completed on August 25, 1935 (Table 1-2). From September 13 to 18, the truck underwent a 1,260 kilometer test drive through Tokyo, Gunma, Nagano, Yamanashi, and Hakone, and the flange attachment weld of the rear axle housing broke, giving rise to concerns for the future.

Table 1-2. Specifications of the Model G1 Truck chassis (1936)

Item
Description
Wheelbase
1411/2 in (3.594m)
Distance from the back of the cab to the center of the rear axle
757/8 in (1.927 m)
Track
Front and rear 561/2 in (1.435 m)
With dual rear wheels 711/2 in (1.817 m)
Length
217 in (5.51m)
Width
611/2 in (1.562m)
Empty weight
2,936 lbs (1,332 kg)
Load capacity
1,500 kg

Despite these developments, a presentation for the Model G1 truck was held at the Tokyo Jidosha Hotel Shibaura Garage4 on November 21 and 22, 1935. The vehicle used for the presentation departed from Kariya at 5 a.m. on November 20, but the steering third arm broke while en route, and the truck did not arrive at the Shibaura site until 4:00 a.m. on November 21 because of the time needed for repairs.

The Model G1 truck went on sale for 3,200 yen for a complete vehicle and 2,900 yen for the chassis (ex-factory delivery price), but no systems had been developed to handle sales.

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