Toyota decided to get into the inboard ski boat market in the mid 90's. They enlisted the help of some of the most prominent boat designers in the industry. They spared no expense, hiring sophisticated engineering and design firms such as Shadow Composites and Maritech to design and build a state of the art boat from the ground up. The engine used in the Lexus 400 was chosen, and was marinized at the Tahara factory in Japan. It differs significantly from the automotive engine as it is designed without emission controls and has higher compression and more aggressive camshaft profiles. Extensive testing was performed on the engine, even so far as to freeze the block solid with water in the block to prove that it could handle any environment. The focus was on absolute reliability and low maintenance requirements to maximize water time.
The first boat to be released (July 1998) was the Epic 21 closed bow ski boat. it garnered great reviews and was seen as a glimpse of the future of inboard watersport boats. Later that year Toyota introduced the Epic 22 open bow, and the same boat with a tower and automated ballast package as well as some special trim, the Epic X22. It was the "Official Gravity Games Towboat" in 1999 and 2000.
In 2000, there was another model added to the lineup, a Vdrive open bow called the S22. It featured a different hull design with a deeper V bow and more deadrise in the transom. It could be ordered with a boarding package with tower. The 2000 model boats could be ordered with a "Millenium Package" that featured some extra trim on the dash, Borg Warner servo driven gauges and a multifunction gauge that could also be used as the controller for an Accuski cruise control. A tandem trailer was also part of the package.
In the 2001 model year, the premiere wakeboarding Vdrive was introduced, the Epic SX. This boat was designed with help from team riders Darren Shapiro and Danny Harf. It was one of the first boats with built in ballast tanks, and also used Jabsco impeller pumps, as all Toyota ballast systems since 1999. It was very well received, and was one of only four boats tested by Waterski magazine that year that had a "Tournament Quality" wakeboard wake. (Nautiques didn't participate, they obviously would have done well too). The other models got some trim changes and minor upgrades, but remained basically the same beautiful boats.
Follow this Link for official press releases from Toyota over the years
A new 70,000 sq. ft. factory with ski lake was opened on July 18 2001. The plan was to consolidate Marketing, Engineering and Manufacturing all under one roof. The boats had previously been manufactured by Maritech, a Florida boat company that makes high end Gambler bass boats. They even have a Dale Earnhardt signature model.
There were several factors that lead to Toyota's decision to pull the plug several months later.
Early in the game, they had decided to limit production to 500 boats a year to keep tight control on quality. With a proposed nationwide network of 30 dealers, that is 16 boats PER YEAR per dealer. That is 1.38 boats per month. Even at five or six boats a month, many dealers decided to drop the line as it is much easier to sell something that you have on the lot than a picture from a brochure. This lead to slow sales. Toyota, used to selling cars in high volume, had no idea how to do business in the comp boat industry.
To compound things, some dealers began reporting problems with the Epic 21's. While lake testing, they found that some of the boats would "chine lock", or get locked into a turn that the driver could not steer out of. After much yelling and screaming and more dealers dropping the line, Toyota discovered that there was indeed a problem, a twist had developed in the mold for the Epic 21 foot boat. Apparently, it had been left out in the Florida sun for a period of time, boats made after that period had a twist. To avoid potential injury or death and inevitable litigation, Toyota made the right decision. They recalled all Epic 21's and replaced them with BRAND NEW BOATS! This was very costly, but it was the right decision. There were no incidents of the boats "flipping" or crashing as a result, you may read otherwise on the internet in some posts by dealers trying to sell their competing products. Of course, this problem made it even more difficult to sell boats. With the economy in freefall, things were not going well for Toyota Marine. Then, September 11. The resulting economic crash was the straw that broke the camels back.
Toyota pulled out in October 2001, they formally announced it around the New Year.
All owners received letters stating that Toyota was committed to its customers, and would honor warrantees and provide parts and technical support for ten years from that date, Dec 31, 2001. They also said that they would start a quarterly newsletter for Toyota Epic owners to demonstrate this commitment. That has not happened yet, so I built this page to give us all a place to exchange our knowledge and experiences with these great boats. Toyota still provides excellent technical support, their primary service rep, Email Us , recently visited my dealer and others, looking at our boats and providing warrantee support.