XCAR crew cars, as I've mentioned before, are driven long distances, parked in odd places and are used as mobile trashcans. They lead a hard life, but ferry the (almost permanently knackered) crew to, from, and around locations. We love them for what they do.
The ToyARTa was a special crew car. It's one of the things I'm most proud of having a hand in creating. It's not an epic sweeping video with a silly supercar. No, it's a Toyota Hilux with a custom wrap on it. And it was awesome.
Toyota kindly agreed to loan us a Hilux to use as our next long termer, and I happened to know that automotive artist Ian Cook (the paint spattered mind behind Pop Bang Colour) was in the business of creating custom art for car wraps. A plan formed and we were a go.
The car arrived in September 2012 and was due to leave us in December of the same year. All we had to do was get it wrapped. Ian was busy creating images for the wrap, the wrapping company was ready to start, and we were excited. Until the wrapping company went bust, unleashing a slew of 'what can go wrong, will go wrong'.
The project was delayed, but the Hilux itself was performing wonderfully. Its big load bay meant Nick had somewhere safe to sit while he was shooting cars on the move and we had a big, comfy wagon to take us from point A to point B. It was awesome. Well, aside from the fuel economy -- we were lucky to get more than 23 mpg out of it.
A few emergency phone calls were made and we had a new wrapping firm ready to go -- our Hilux was due to be given a whole new look.
I spent three days in Kent watching it get put together; watching months of work, coordination and fiddling come together. It was wonderful to see it all working out.
We kept the Hilux until July of this year, when Toyota asked to have it back. We couldn't really say no -- the car itself was on its second life. Its first guardian was Top Gear Magazine's Tom Ford who, upon hearing we were taking it on tweeted: "The things I've done in that car will make your hair curl."
He had fun with it, then.
I'd never asked what was to become of the ToyARTa. Losing it was a big deal for us, not because it was so useful, but because it was (literally) a huge part of what we did. It was part of the team in as much as a truck really could be.
I now know, though.
Toyota removed the wrap, cleaned it up (there were a few dents thanks to some Freerunners -- video embed below) and donated it to the UK's Tiggywinkles Animal Hospital.
Here's what Tiggywinkles does, from their Web site: "Tiggywinkles, The Wildlife Hospital Trust, is a specialist hospital. Using every available veterinary welfare skill, (it is) dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating all species of British wildlife. ... All British wild animal casualties brought to the hospital are treated completely free of charge and are released through a controlled programme, back to the wild, when they are fully fit."
How cool is that?! It turns out the car the ToyARTa replaced was a 20-year-old model -- while it was no doubt running just fine, I'm sure the newer model provides some peace of mind. Its look has changed slightly, which is a shame; I doubt Tiggywinkles really wanted a car with XCAR written down the side, though.
So, while I miss 'our' Hilux, I'm incredibly pleased it's gone on to do something genuinely good.
If you want to learn more about Tiggywinkles, click here.
And here's what happens when you let Freerunners do their thing all over it ...