Monday, October 15, 2007

Toyota Tsunami

My Toyota Tundra earned its stripes through today's Houston monsoon.

It’s not really my truck; the fine folks at Gulf States Toyota were kind enough to loan me a new one for a week’s worth of driving pleasure. During a this evening's typical,
Houston autumn toad-choker, I was mighty glad to be riding high and dry in an ‘07 Crew Max cab, instead of my beloved two-seater.
No way could I have made it home in "The Silver Bullet" tonight.

The National Weather Service said we received over four-inches of rain this afternoon. I think it all fell on my neighborhood.

The Tundra Crew Max boasts a 10-inch ground clearance. Pair that up with 20-inch wheels, and you’ve got a vehicle that’s nearly unstoppable in this kind of inclement weather. As I passed lesser-endowed vehicles flooded-out by the torrents of water running over the street curbs, I was struck with the notion Toyota could produce a special-edition wet-weather truck and call it the Tsunami. Not very politically-correct, given recent news events, but the effect was similar as I motored through the water.

I recently toured the San Antonio manufacturing facility, where Tundra’s are birthed at a rate of one every 72-seconds. The plant is a small city. Toyota did it right.

Frames made in Mexico are carted through the back door, along with raw steel, engines and transmissions assembled elsewhere in the States, and the finished trucks roll out the front gate with a gleaming smile on their grilles.

Seats, headliners, dashboards, instrumentation, and other parts that go into the Tundra are produced in ancillary factories on the Toyota plant grounds, then ferried to the main assembly facility on trams.

Inside the factory, there’s a quiet hum of activity. The smell of freshly-applied paint tickles the nostrils in one corner; along pristine tracks of conveyors, the sub-assemblies of frames and drive trains are married to completed cabs and beds, and the final dressing of a set of new wheels and tires is applied just before the trucks roll off the line.

Ever wonder how the dashboard is placed inside? Through the passenger-side door opening, sans the door. If you ever think you want to replace the headliner, know that it is originally put into position through the windshield opening, before the glass is glued into place.

Inside Toyota’s brand new Visitor’s Center are several exhibits, including a 1966 Toyota Stout, a distant grand-father of the Tundra.

There are also two partially-completed Tundra chassis to better demonstrate some of the thoughtful designs that you might take for granted, covered by the body skin of the truck.

The exceptional 5.7-litre V-8 engine boasts standard oil intercoolers, and a unique under-the-valve-cover oil spray system that keeps the valve train lubricated and cooled.

I was impressed with the Tundra the first time I drove one. I was very impressed after touring the Tundra plant.

But today, I was just plain glad to be driving a Tundra through the rain-soaked streets of Houston, high and dry.
Oh, what a feeling.

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