The name Tundra itself conjures up images of rugged, remote locations, adventure and exploration. Toyota’s little pick-up that could made history Friday by towing the Space Shuttle Endeavour to its “final frontier.” At least for the last 300 yards of the journey it did.
Tundra gives space shuttle a nudge
Last weekend, the Space Shuttle Endeavour was towed 12 miles through the streets of Los Angeles on the way to becoming a permanent display at the California Science Center, near the campus of the University of Southern California.
The space shuttle was pulled by a heavy-duty truck for most of the 12 miles of its journey. However, something lighter was needed to make it the last 300 yards over the Mansfield Street Bridge that crosses the 405 freeway. That’s where Toyota stepped in. For the final leg of the journey, it was towed by a stock 2012 Toyota Tundra pickup truck.
The epic mini-journey lasted only about four minutes. The truck was piloted by stunt driver Matt McBride, with astronaut Garrett Reisman, who has piloted the Endeavour to the International Space Station, riding shotgun.
The 405 freeway was closed down under the Mansfield Street Bridge for the duration of the maneuver to prevent “lookiloo” accidents.
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Purchased back from dealer
Toyota bought the 2012 Tundra CrewMax 4×4 from a local dealer just for the event. The automaker then emblazoned it with a huge “Tundra” logo.
Exploiting the Endeavour
Toyota is not wasting the publicity opportunity. In addition to all the news coverage and attention the automaker has gotten out of the event, it is also producing its own commercial featuring the “magic” Toyota on its historic tow-job.
Some have decried Toyota for crassly commercializing the event. But Toyota is a business, and it seems unlikely that any other automaker would have missed the opportunity to exploit such a maneuver for publicity’s sake. Also, it must be noted, Toyota has had a working relationship with the California Science Center for more than 20 years. There is a first-generation Tundra outside the Science Center as part of an interactive exhibit that illuminates the principle of leverage. That Tundra will be replaced by the one that towed the Endeavour on October 30.
Some also have quipped that using a Japanese truck to haul an American icon is just, well, un-American. But isn’t the International Space Station — the primary destination of shuttle flights — supposed to be a symbol of international cooperation? Also, the Tundra is only built in Toyota’s Texas plant, by American workers.
Beginning October 30, the permanent Endeavour display will be open to the public. It will be mounted in an upright position, as if ready for take-off.