Tada-san was recruited for Z Division in 2007 by none other than Ichiro Suzuki, the legendary Toyota engineer responsible for some of his company’s greatest achievements, such as the V8 of the first Toyota Century, the original Lexus LS, and the A80 Supra.
Initially, Tada-san was excited to work on the next Supra. He waited with anticipation, then waited some more. The opportunity never came. “At the time, Toyota — and all manufacturers — was moving away from sports cars. I asked Suzuki-san, ‘What should I do?'” Tada recalled. “‘You’re in charge of the Raum,’ he said.”
For those that don’t know, the Raum is a Japan-market compact minivan. It has its charms, but is as far from a sports car as one can get. “‘What are you talking about? This is a car for old people!’ I replied. Suzuki-san got really mad. ‘The fundamental approach to carmaking is the same, no matter what kind of car you’re building. You have to think about the customer, how they are going to use the car, how they are going to feel when they drive the car. You have to think about it every day. If you don’t get that, you will never build a sports car.'”
The lesson stayed with Tada-san all these years, and he clearly respects Suzuki-san a great deal. In fact, Tada is the only engineer still left at the company that worked under Suzuki, who has since passed away. As a result, Tada-san has tried his best to apply what he learned from him to the new Supra. “He would have wanted the Supra to come back the most,” Tada reckoned, “And he told me, ‘A sports car must have an inline-six.'”
“They are the greatest engines for sports cars, though difficult for packaging. They are a perfectly balanced engine,” Tada-san explained, “The way the rpms proceed, the way there’s no vibrations. The boxer engine also has minimal vibrations, but there’s still a little. Many times unnecessary vibrations ruin the driving experience. You can strengthen engine mounts, add counterbalancers, but it will never be 100 percent.”
“Plus,” Tada-san added, “The sound is amazing.”