Nascar racecars—made by brands like Dodge and Chevy—used to look like what's available in a dealership. But in the 2000s, new safety regulations required full car redesigns, and so the cars all took on a generic racecar form. Soon Nascar saw trouble: Its fans want to rock the same gear as their idols, but the car-brand identities were lost. So in 2009, vehicle manufacturers began what became a three-year process of making safety-regulated Nascar vehicles resemble showroom ones. They'll finally be race-ready on February 24 at the Daytona 500. Here's the story of Toyota's entry.
Distinctive front end:
"We wanted to make an aggressive, intimidating Camry," says Calty Design Research president Kevin Hunter, which worked with Toyota Racing Development. This front is based on the chiseled Camry SE, though cutouts for the fog lights and grille had to be adjusted to fit Nascar's aerodynamic requirements.
True headlights and fog lights would be crushed by all of Nascar's bumping and grinding, so these are all decals. The strips are applied to stamped cutouts where the lights would be on a production car, to make them as realistic as possible.
Diagonal character line:
There's a visible line from the front wheel opening to the rear spoiler. "The old cars were very flat, and this is actually a crease in the sheet metal that allows us to add character to the car," says Toyota Racing's VP of chassis engineering, Andy Graves. Though unlike showroom cars, the crease here is uninterrupted: no door handles!
True-to-showroom rear end:
For years, rear bumpers on most Nascar vehicles were flat and uninspired. But the 2013 consumer Camry has a distinctive cutout for the license plate and a unique bumper shape set off by the taillight decals. It's on the Nascar version, too.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.