Toyota Sera: A Forward-Thinking Japanese Car

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The ‘90s were full of some pretty awesome cars. Automakers were looking to innovate and push design forward as the new millennia neared, giving us some iconic looks like gull-wing doors and impossibly sleek and aerodynamic exteriors.
Coming into the ‘90s, Japan, more than most, was seeing creative new car styling and concepts due to their auto industry boom.
The Toyota Sera was one such futuristic Japanese car that has become a favorite among gearheads since its release and subsequent discontinuation. According to Toyota UK Magazine, the Toyota Sera’s outgoing design choices made it a car ahead of its time, celebrated even 30 years later.
Hand gripping a black steering wheel with Toyota logo
The Toyota Sera was a futuristic Japanese car.

What made the Toyota Sera stand out?

The Toyota Sera was released in 1990 at the height of Japan’s automotive boom. However, the concept that eventually became the Sera was unveiled in 1987 at the Tokyo Motor Show.
Toyota had created a supermini coupe concept car called the AXV-II, developed as a projection of what vehicle design would look like in the upcoming decade. 11 of them were present at the show for test driving and exposure.
The models were popular enough that Toyota decided to modify them, give them a new name, and start production on them in March 1990. The name of the car, Sera, comes from the future tense of the word être, the verb “to be” in French, chosen for the futuristic styling of the vehicle.
When it went into production, the Sera was the first mass-produced Japanese car to have gull-wing doors. Its incredible design earned it a Torino-Piemonte Car Design Award in 1991, one of the most prestigious design awards in vehicle manufacturing. Its standout features set the car apart, making it popular with first-time car buyers and young drivers in Japan.
However, despite its popularity, the automotive boom that had spurred it into existence was in decline along with Japan’s economy. By 1995, Toyota had to say goodbye to the unique model.

Specs on the Toyota Sera

The Toyota Sera had two signature elements: gull-wing doors and an all-glass cabin. Its two doors make quite a statement, wrapping around the roof of the car. They extend the windows to the roof, forming a full 90-degree angle from the bottom of the door to the top. Inside, you’ll find two seats, and the little space left is available as storage.
The iconic gull doors opened using gas struts and two hinges, located above the windshield and at the bottom of the A-pillar. The design allowed them to take up less space when open than standard side-opening doors. The large amounts of glass required standard AC and power windows to compensate for the extra sun exposure.
The Sera’s power came from the 1.5-liter, four-cylinder 5E-FHE. It was a twin-cam, 16-valve engine with 110 horsepower and 7,900 rpm, as well as high compression pistons. With its small size, the car got an economical 43 mpg combined. There was a four-wheel-drive option with ABS available as an add-on, but power steering was offered standard on the Sera.

The Sera is a rare commodity

Only about 16,000 Toyota Seras were manufactured during its five-year run from 1990 to 1995. That hasn’t stopped it from becoming a sought-after classic, though.
In the last 30 years, the Sera has become a much-loved piece of ‘90s automotive history, leading many to seek it out from across the world. Its right-hand drive has made it a popular classic in the UK, though Americans have love for it too.
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