Is there a situation in which you would look good getting out of a Toyota Sera?
Welcome to ‘3am Eternal’ – the first in a new (and occasional) series that shines a light on my lockdown sleep pattern. No matter what time I go to bed, I wake up between the hours of 1am and 4am. Wide awake, like I've downed a gallon of Red Bull.
I fill the hours online, looking at cars for sale, road tests and YouTube videos. I may even make a cup of a tea. Living the bloody dream.
My nocturnal thoughts often lead me down a blind alley, my brain tied in knots, left pondering the things nobody else cares about. Like whether or not it would be cool to own a Sera.
Within the confines of PetrolBlog, the Toyota Sera is undeniably brilliant. The clichéd concept-car-made real went on sale in March 1990, with official sales limited to Japan. Just shy of 16,000 were built before production ended in 1995, with a number of cars making it to these shores as grey imports.
Which is where this Toyota Sera for sale on eBay comes into play. “Is this the most outlandish car you can buy for £5k?” I thought to myself when most normal people were asleep. Let's face it, butterfly doors aren't something you'd associate with road cars wearing a Toyota badge.
Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and McLaren, yes, but Toyota... not so much.
The Sera has a pretty special claim to fame. Gordon Murray told Car magazine that the Toyota Sera was the inspiration for the dihedral doors on the McLaren F1. “I drove past it everyday,” he recalled. “Eventually we borrowed a Sera and the design started from there.
“The final design was fixed with Bruce Mackintosh and myself late one night when we mocked up the doors in a wireframe on the seating buck. It was necessary to remove part of the roof and part of the floor to give the driver access to the central seat so a conventional door wouldn’t work.”
This earns the Toyota Sera a place in the Big Book of Automotive History, but it brings me to the subject of my 3am brainscramble.
Arriving at a car and coffee event in a Toyota Sera will earn you many kudos points. Those in the know will appreciate the Sera for what it is and you'll be greeted with knowing nods of approval. Some people may even wander over to let you know about the link to the McLaren F1 – just in case you weren't aware.
A crowd will gather around your Sera to admire the six-piece glass roof and tailgate. Honestly, with the doors in their upright position, your Sera will be a match for anything, regardless of price. Still want that SLR or 720S?
But what happens when you're not at a cars and coffee do? In most other occasions, the Toyota Sera might look a little OTT.
Arriving at a house for a first date – not a good look. Parking at a National Trust property for some culture – oh dear. Parking on the high street outside a packed coffee shop – hmm. Turning up for a job interview with a non-car person – not a great first impression.
If you're lucky, somebody will appreciate the Toyota Sera for what it is and will enjoy your references to Gordon Murray. The bespoke headlights. The optional in-car fragrance systems. The Super Live Sound System with ‘funky’ mode. The humble Starlet platform. Etc, etc.
They may even appreciate the fact the driver's door opened further than the passenger door...
If not, you might be better off owning a Mazda MX-3, which offers similar roof-down Japanese styling to the Sera, but without the look-at-me exit procedure. Just don't mention that fact that about the 1.8-litre V6 engine on your first date...
Full disclosure: These are thoughts of a sleep-deprived man in the early hours of the morning. In the cold light of day, the answer is obvious: of course it's cool to drive a Toyota Sera.