Despite my inflated sense of self-importance, I have to admit that no one in the industry really knows who I am. But that’s okay. Even though I spent years working at some high-profile media companies, I’m at best remembered as “that one guy with the hat”. I’m flattered when people remember me enough to recognize the fact that I often enjoy wearing hats, but that’s neither here nor there. To be honest, I rather enjoy the anonymity; it keeps people’s expectations of me low. But for the one or two people who actually care about what I have to say, I would like to state here and now that I am absolutely addicted to minivans. Tricked-out JDM minivans, to be precise.
Back in 2008, I – the guy with no “steez” or a functioning media outlet – somehow convinced Toyota Japan’s corporate types to let me into the Toyota Technocraft facility in Yokohama to shoot the van you see here, the Toyota Mark X ZiO TGDA Concept. Toyota Technocraft, for those who may not be aware, is where Toyota Japan builds all its “specialty” vehicles. Everything from ambulances to JGTC cars, plus the Mark X ZiO TGDA Concept, is made at this top-secret facility, and Toyota let me in to run amok in the place.
I didn’t come alone; accompanying me was famed Max Power UK photographer Andy “Fly” Tipping and videographer Yusaku “Bento” Mizoguchi. Fly took some spectacular shots of the Mark X, which were unfortunately lost forever when his client RiceBoyTV was unceremoniously shut down. The shots you see here are photos I took myself…
This Mark X ZiO TGDA Concept was built by Mooncraft, the same company responsible for many of Toyota’s Super GT cars, so you know the workmanship is nothing less than spectacular. The only body panels this TGDA Concept shares with the stock Mark X are the roof and front doors. Everything else has been removed and replaced – or reworked beyond recognition – to create the wild minivan you see here.
Given our scene’s obsession with all things Super GT/JGTC, plus the fact that Mooncraft has made a kick-ass Super GT car or two in its day, it’s easy to think that Japan’s premier racing series provided the inspiration for this mom-mobile. But the man responsible for the car, Mooncraft’s Kenta Sano, said that his inspiration came from Germany and its DTM race series. Sano-san was quick to illustrate the DTM influence by pointing out the Mark X’s numerous ducts; this thing has more fins than Sea World. As radical as this car looks, it really is just a design exercise; the TGDA Concept’s engine was pretty much stock at the time of the shoot. TRD wanted to add some power; perhaps I should give ‘em a call to see if they gave this van the power to match its looks.
The stock Mark X ZiO is built atop the Camry platform and can be considered the JDM version of the Toyota Venza, and as such it is cursed with a soft and pillowy ride and several inches of fender gap. To get this van’s suspension DTM-tite, Mooncraft added a one-off TRD suspension kit and a custom roll cage to the Mark X ZiO TGDA Concept. While these mods would be considered mild for a time attack car, they bring this minivan’s handling abilities up to respectable levels. Aluminum BBS LM086 DBK rims sit at all four corners and are wrapped in Dunlop Direzza rubber, with Project Mu brakes peeking out from behind the LM spokes.
This is a racecar (technically), so the interior is pretty sparse… Recaro seats with Takata harnesses replace the stock car’s cushy buckets, while the Camry-esque dash and steering wheel have been replaced with sportier TRD-produced units. Not bad at all! I wonder what this Mark X ZiO would look like next to a US market Toyota Venza?
Toyota Mark X ZiO TGDA Concept
Engine: 2GR-FE 3.5L V6
Owner: Toyota Technocraft
Power: 280 PS @ 6200 rpm; 253 (approx) lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Engine: One-off TRD muffler
Transmission: Does a TRD shift knob count?
Wheels: BBS LMO86 DBK wheels; Dunlop Direzza tires
Suspension: One-off TRD suspension
Brakes: Project Mu rotors and calipers
Aero: One-off TRD front grille, front bumper, front fender, bonnet, side step, rear door, rear fender, door mirror, rear wing, rear bumper
Interior: Recaro seats; Takata harnesses; one-off TRD dash, floor panels, shift knob
A/V: Yes, please. Oh, you mean sound? None.
JGTC meets the soccer mom?
NOW THAT’S A MINIVAN! Sign me up!
I very rarely see a modern car I like these days, but that thing is awesome!
That would be so badass if you could get it on the street. Go around smoking cars on the freeway with a van full of homies lol.
i feel like im doing something bad looking at these pictures, the car -errr van is amazing… More minivan spotlights!
@thanape – I’ve got a ton of minivan stuff I’ll be posting up here (as soon as I can find it…) Unfortunately, when I went to the mecca of JDM van tuning (Takero’s), I didn’t bring my camera ’cause Fly was shooting the feature. I don’t even have shots of the Takero’s vans for myself!
Thank you for mentioning me Justin,
The original video is still alive on youtube, I suppose..
Umm…that’s a van? I’m not seeing anything remotely van-like…
@ Bento – Giving you a shout-out was the least I could do. You really helped out with this feature way back when. Once I figure out how to embed videos on this site, I’ll be sure to bring back the original video feature. Anyone reading the comments should go check that YouTube link out.
And @ Erocker – it’s hard to tell from these photos, but this car is big. It’s about Venza/1st-gen Honda Odyssey big. The car looks a lot bigger when someone is standing next to it…
Since I can’t embed photos in the comments, you can see another shot of the Mark X here:
Nice post — I’m also a big vanning fan. At TOYOTA LAND in Tokyo, we saw one of these Mark X’s and asked the floor people about it and if it is the same as the Venza (they didn’t know what a Venza is, but they gave us a bag full of info on the Mark X). Love this car!
First off, thats’ a van? wow, I mean holy crap. The bright graphics are quite busy at first glance but after I read it was a van started to look a little more slightly like one. I agree it does kinda remind me of a Venza. With Toyotas suv presence and the Sienna’s great sales I doubt they’ll bring something like that over to the US. Doesn’t Mazda make small sedan looking van but it has sliding doors. Watch Scion is going to market it under their label. That’d be cool since they don’t have any 6cyl at the moment.
Hey what’s up with the big hoop lock club thingy on the passenger rear wheel, is it because it’s on a grade and it’s to support it incase it rolls?
And if this is from an old trip in 2008 so this is an old article or why are you barely posting up now? Were you not allowed to release info on this or? and btw i got a bunch of jmags of wagons if you want.
@Herb: dude it’s from an old Japan trip, but Justin’s only posting it now cause MotorMavens wasn’t even around in 2008 yet!!! Hell, it wasn’t even around in March of 2009! haha
Hook us up with those JMAGs of wagons yo! ANDDDDDDD especially the BMs in your storage!!! Store it somewhere SAFE like the Cipher Garage! Don’t worry we can label them all so we don’t mix up our collections…! I could just never get to Kinokuniya as fast as you could, dammit!
What wonderful words
@Spencer – this isn’t quite the same as a Venza. You can see huge differences in the rear quarter windows and front end. Still the same platform. Kind of like how the Toyota Camry is different from the Lexus ES, but sorta the same…
@Herb – it’s an old feature, but a goodie in my mind. I’ve got a lot of cool old stuff that I could never properly feature in print or on the web, so expect to see a lot of that “classic” content on MM. Well, expect to see a lot of that content from me, at least.
The Mazda van you’re thinking of is the Mazda5, and good God, do I want one. I love that thing – it’s surprisingly fun to drive, too. It’s just a slightly larger Mazda3. The hoop on the back wheel of this Toyota is to keep it from rolling off the platform. Hard to tell from the angle of the photos, but the platform was slanting down a bit…
True, yeah we just saw a lot of similarities so naturally we figured it was Venza-ish. Have you been to Toyotaland? Very cool place — heres a little feature I did on the blog. Have many more pics, I should put them up!
Dang…you made it into the Toyota Technocraft facility?? Sick!!! You might as well wear a pair of Hakama Samurai!! But regarding the “van”. Think this ride will ever make it to the market? I’m waiting on another kid and think this may probably be my only way to get another toy under my belt!!!
Is it just me or does this Mark X Zio looks a lot like our North American Market Venza with a different front and rear end???
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fly here i still have all the shoots !
fly here i still have the shoots
Hi, I want to know about how much of this stuff? Thx!
Fly Andy Tipping please call me is Urgent 1-323-595-6781 its Freddie Chacon from California you shot photos of my car back in 2002 i need you call me thanks