This Camry lives up to 'bold' advertising claim

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News
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We've all seen the television commercials, the ones in which Toyota declares how "bold" its 2015 Camry has become.

I laughed at the thought of the word "bold" being used to describe a Camry. Bulletproof, yes. Dependable, certainly. Sales leader, indeed. But bold, no way.

At least that's what I thought until I saw what looked like your standard 2015 Toyota Camry sedan, so ordinary it even was painted plain gray. At second glance you may have noticed the larger wheels and wider tires on which the car rode, but you had to look pretty closely to notice a little metal peeking out from beneath the rocker panels.

Well, this Camry was indeed bold, a project of the Toyota Motorsports Technical Center to disguise an all-out drag racer as a wolf in Camry clothing.

That metal peeking out from beneath the rocker panels turned out to be a racing-style tube-frame chassis when the entire body pivoted up from the front of the car to expose what lay beneath the sheetmetal: A purpose-built racing chassis carrying an 850-horsepower, supercharged and nitrous-boosted V-8 engine pulled from one of Toyota's full-size Tundra pickups.

"This is the most extreme build we've ever unveiled at SEMA," Steve Appelbaum, Toyota's engagement marketing and motorsports national manager, said when the "Sleeper Camry" was exposed at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show. "The transformation from seemingly stock Camry to full-blown race car just shocks the senses."

The Sleeper Camry was designed to cover a quarter-mile drag strip in 9.8 seconds, yet to look like any other new Camry sedan when parked.

Several aftermarket parts were used. Suppliers include Magnuson Products, IPT Performance Transmission, Goodridge Fluid Transfer Systems, Magnaflow, Autometer, Impact Racing, Goodyear, Nitrous Supply, Optima battery, Fast Ed's Interiors and the Polishing Shop.

Special forged pistons and connecting rods were placed in the 5.7-liter V-8 engine. Suspension is by struts up front and a four-line live-axle rear.

And what do they say: Forewarned is forearmed. So be cautious next time a seemingly plain-Jane Camry pulls up next to you at a stoplight and revs its engine. It could be the Sleeper.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at

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