It was 1947 posrwar Japan, and despite the bombed-out and rebuilding Japanese economy under American occupation in Japan, and American and Soviet occupation in Japan’s occupied colony ally in a divided Korea, Japan asked it’s American occupation forces to allow the nation to build a small number of new automobiles for use by government officials and others. Toyota had permission to move ahead with a design heavily influenced by Germany’s VW as well as other German German cars from Porsche. Despite work started in 1947, American approval came slowly, finally allowing Toyota to move ahead on the 149.6 inch long cars, which were powered by a inline four cylinder engine, but featured rear wheel drive like American cars. WWII permanently disrupted Japanese auto designers from as much reliance on German partners, putting Japan in much closer friendship with it’s American occupation forces who treated Japanese with great respect after the war, creating not only a lasting peace, but Japanese postwar products more geared towards possible American market sales in the future.
While prewar Toyota designs were mostly 6 cylinder models, the new 4 cylinder designs were part of a scaling-back for Japan, where both Japanese and German postwar designs were much more austere than before the war. Both countries suffered the huge setbacks of badly damaged economies as well as bomb-damaged industry, where at least a new car design was far better than no car at all. And both Japan and Germany’s positive experiences with American occupation created a respect and love for America and hopes of good trade relations for export of products. The Toyopet SA was an important first step forward for Japanese cars. And while production never climbed higher than just 215 units total, it was the first of a new generation of Toyota models.