1999 Toyota Altezza: From Ayub Bachchu’s garage to all 64 districts
With the ever increasing market competition for luxurious sports cars, we look back at Toyota's first ever take on this immensely competitive class of cars with SK Abu Asad's 1999 Toyota Altezza.
As Nobuaki Katayama, the man behind the mighty rear-wheel drive Toyota AE86 and the MK4 Supra, worked in the front line for this project, this car had to live up to the legacy of bringing a smile to drivers' face. It had to be special.
However, to Asad, the car is special for a very different reason.
His Altezza is the same exact one that was owned and driven by the legendary Bangladeshi rock guitarist, composer, singer, and songwriter late Ayub Bachchu once upon a time.
"I still remember the day I first bought the car. It was back in 2015. I went to Ayub dada's house to get the car. He did not want to sell the car at first though. The Altezza was definitely special to him," recalled Asad.
"He made me promise to always maintain the car and to drive responsibly before he actually sold the car to me. "Never speed" - Ayub dada mentioned before handing me the keys of the Altezza," he added.
Originally launched in 1998, the Altezza was overshadowed by the market dominating BMW 3 series at first before it finally got the chance to prove itself after the launch of the later named Lexus IS300 with its heart borrowed from the legendary MK4 Toyota Supra.
However, the one we are reviewing today is a significantly tamer 2.0 litre 1999 Altezza with an inline six 1G-FE engine under its hood paired with a four-speed automatic transmission to go with.
Be that as it may, do not think this is just another boring old underpowered Altezza that would have benefited from more power. Yes, it is indeed a pretty underpowered car; being offered at only 153 HP from the factory which is a lot less compared to its rivals.
But in Bangladesh's context, a power of 153 HP is adequate. Moreover, a point might be missed here that this was made to be a fun car.
Asad did not do much to his 'Tezza' since he got it. Not in terms of performance upgrades at least. But when it comes to the exterior of the car and improving its overall aesthetics, it has been through a complete makeover.
From repainting the car to midnight purple to installing wide fenders to adding a set of deep dish rims along with custom F1 styled round headlights and aftermarket LED backlights, this Altezza is surely one of a kind. Asad did an ostentatious job on the "Tezza" and it definitely deserves a round of applause.
It was not only the exterior that received the premium treatment. The front seats have been replaced with Type R seats as well as a beautiful aftermarket steering wheel and Lexus IS like gauge cluster.
It is not necessarily a show car as one might think.
Despite Asad's lack of attention towards improving the performance, he indeed worked on improving the stability and handling. The car has been fully equipped with Ultra Racing struts both in the front and the rear along with rear sway bars at the bottom.
"I also replaced the lowerings that came with the car to Tien coilovers but I do not recommend using coilovers in Bangladesh to be honest. The roads or even the highways of Bangladesh are not very 'coilover' friendly in my opinion. You will experience a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride and can even fall sick after long drives!"
When it comes to Asad, he never planned on keeping the Altezza as a garage queen. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Asad being a traveller from heart, chose the Altezza to be his version of a perfect car to take on trips and till date, Asad and his Altezza have been in all 64 districts in Bangladesh.
"I remember going to Cox's Bazaar from Dhaka within a span of only seven and a half hours. It was a cold winter night with immensely dense fog. But somehow, we made it. I still remember the car parked in front of Hotel Sayeman as we were having breakfast."
But how hard is it actually to go on road trips with a low car in Bangladesh? We eagerly asked
He said, "It is not easy at all. The roads are bumpy and people have a tendency of running across roads.
"This one time, I was going to Pabna and had to go over a speed bump so high that one of my rear tires popped out. It was 1:30 am and I had to take a bus all the way to Dhaka only to get a new tyre," he said.
"Other than that, there were countless other times when I came home with broken body kits. But to be honest, it was worth the drive," he added.
Do you have any future plans with the Altezza?
People plan to upgrade but I am content with what I have. The Altezza holds a very special place in my heart. Not only because of the countless memories I have had with the Tezza but also because it was owned by the late Ayub Bacchu. To me, this is a collectible!
However, I drive it daily, and will be driving in the future. I will try my best to keep it fresh at the same time.
I have no plans on making it a garage queen. After owning quite a handful of rear-wheel-drive cars both from Toyota and some Europeans, I can confidently say the Altezza is the best handling, cornering, and easy to drive car I have come across till date. I want to keep it with me forever and perhaps gift it to my son in the future one day.