Who would have thought that a utility vehicle would someday reach iconic status? One could say that the Toyota Tamaraw is one of the most significant cars made in the country, and it just hit a significant milestone this year.

2021 marks the 45th anniversary of the Tamaraw. Granted, it rolled out in December 1976, but it’s not too early to celebrate the birthday of one of our local automotive icons. After all, it became a staple for many Filipino families and small businesses over the decades. So let’s take a quick trip back in time and see how it evolved over the years.

Toyota Tamaraw turns 45 this year image

The first-generation Tamaraw's birthday is December 2, 1976, when it arrived in local showrooms. Toyota dubbed it a multi-purpose Basic Utility Vehicle or BUV, but we know it better as an AUV or Asian Utility Vehicle.

At launch, there were two models available. The first is a "Jeepney" version that can carry 15 passengers. The other one was a high-side pickup truck with a roof. There was even a cab and chassis version available for specialized needs. In 1976, the Tamaraw retailed for PHP 21,800.

Toyota Tamaraw turns 45 this year image

The second-generation arrived in the early '80s with a longer wheelbase and body. The new Tamaraw also received a boxier redesign, just like most cars from the era. It also saw the introduction of a diesel. For those who remember, there was an ad of it with the slogan, Singkisig ng Kotse, Singtatag ng Trak. 

Toyota Tamaraw turns 45 this year image

It would be a long wait before the Philippines got the third-generation model, which rolled out of the Paranaque factory in 1993. It was a significant departure from the previous generation because, for the first time, a wagon version came out. There were two engine options available, namely a 1.8-liter gas or 2.0-liter diesel. This generation would prove to be long-lived, with production lasting nine years.

Toyota Tamaraw turns 45 this year image

But the fourth-generation model was revolutionary. Perhaps it's one of the reasons why it would be known as the Revo. It had SUV-like styling, and for the first time, an automatic transmission. At this point, Toyota expanded the appeal of the Revo with several unique versions. There was the Sport Runner that featured body graphics and a styling kit. Another one was the VX series that gave this rugged utilitarian some upmarket appeal. This generation would also be the last one to wear the Tamaraw name.

Toyota Tamaraw turns 45 this year image

The Tamaraw might not be around anymore, but its spirit lives on in the Innova. The Innova still has a lot in common with the Tamaraw, namely a truck-based chassis, diesel and gas engine offerings, along with the promise of durability and reliability. Like the Tamaraw, the Innova is built in the Philippines too.

Since its launch in 2004, the Innova quickly became one of Toyota's top-selling models in Southeast Asia. It's amazing how the popular MPV traces its roots back to the no-frills AUV of 1976, but without the Tamaraw, there would be no Innova.