The most secret of all the Rutan general aviation aircraft flown was developed for Toyota... then destroyed.

The only known photo of the Lima 1 aircraft, a Piper PA-23-250 modified by fitting a Lexus V-8 engine on the port side.

The only official photo of the Lima 2 ever released — only after the unofficial ones had leaked on STARGAZER!

Exclusive to STARGAZER, the photos above are shown for the first time, courtesy of Ron Wanttaja.

Customers:Toyota Aircraft / Hamilton Standard

Type:  general aviation experimental engine testbed

Program:  proprietary

Powerplant: 1 x 250 hp Lexus V-8

First flight: 1990 (Lima 1), October 1991 (Lima 2)

In the early 1990s, the Toyota Motor Company attempted to develop an aviation version of the Lexus engine. As a result, they teamed with Scaled Composites in 1991 to develop a fast, futuristic aircraft powered by a 250 hp version with 244 cubic inches of the 1989 Lexus V-8 powering the Japanese manufacturer's Lexus LS400 luxury car (Lexus is a division of Toyota). Scaled initially tested the prototype engine in the right nacelle of a Piper PA-23-250 Aztec N178AE (c/n 27-3189), designated the Lima 1 and certified to Dick Rutan's Voyager Aircraft in 1990. Only one photo of that aircraft is known (see left).

The Lima project was run by Yuki Togo (former head of Toyota Motor Sales, USA) and Jim Press (later head of Lexus), two very high level and highly regarded Toyota people. During the time that Mr. Togo and Mr. Press were in charge of the aircraft project they established Airflite, visited Oshkosh in the company's Gulfstream G-IV jet and took an interest in airshow activities. Lexus even sponsored Charlie Hilliard's 'Lone Star' racer. There is no clue as to the real meaning of "Lima", but it likely was an acronym. Someone suggested on a web forum that it could read as "Lexus In My Airplane". Though this is pure speculation, it would certainly be in line with some of the other wacky acronyms — such as SCAT or SMUT — that Burt Rutan seemed to be very fond of for his programs at the time...

Once the liquid-cooled Lexus engine was flight-proven on the Lima 1, it was integrated in the brand new Lima 2 prototype, which was designated the Model 191-4 by Scaled. According to Ron Wanttaja, who took the only known pictures of what he called the "Mojave Mystery Ship" in 1993, "The shape was reminiscent of Rutan's Catbird, but with an unusual cowl and no canard. (...) The fuselage is circular in cross section and has a smallish but beefy-looking door, which seems to confirm that the airplane is to be pressurized. High speed would not be a surprise." Despite more than passing resemblance between the Lima 2 and the Catbird, the fuselage lofts were rather different. Catbird was designed to be pressurized and the cabin was a bubble on top of the fuselage. Lima wasn't designed to be pressurized and the cabin was integrated into the fuselage lines.

The first flight of the Lima 2 took place unheralded in October 1991 and the flight program was conducted in the utmost secrecy. In 1996, Toyota and Hamilton Standard obtained a US Federal Aviation Administration certification for their new aircraft engine, but did not ultimately proceed with production. In fact, the whole project was shelved amid the downturn in the general aviation industry after Toyota decided there was no market for it. The final fate of the Lima 2 aircraft is known: it was destroyed on November 10, 1998 and subsequently deregistered. All the pictures published here (except for the one from the original Kitplane article) are published here for the first time anywhere.

Unless the people at Toyota never planned to cease the program and only pretended to in order to mislead the competition, they were quick to change their mind, because as early as 1999, several reports indicated that Toyota was advertising for engineers to design and certify a new four-place composite airplane. Obviously, Toyota was still pursuing a derivative engine/aircraft program, despite the demise of the Lima 2 aircraft. The new project, revealed in 2002, was called the Toyota Advanced Aircraft or TAA-1 and is still pretty much shrouded with secrecy.

As for the Lima program, it has remained a mystery to this very day, and no photographs or specifications were ever released by either Toyota or Scaled. The very existence of the Lima 2 was eventually acknowledged by the people who had worked on it or flown it, and only one line in Rutan's resume truly asserts its existence. Even though the Lima 2 prototype was destroyed and a new plane was built to succeed it, after 15 years no pics or specs have filtered. An undisclosed source even insists to this day that "Toyota would kill him" if he disclosed the photos he has kept of the Lima 2. Surely Toyota knows what "proprietary design" means!

Population: 1 (c/n 001) [N191SC]

Specifications: unknown

Crew/passengers: probably 5

Main source:
- Kitplanes, August 1993

(special thanks to Ron Wanttaja for sharing his pictures,
and to David Lednicer for the article scan)

Exclusive to STARGAZER, all the photos above are shown for the first time.