Two days before the 2014 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, one of Toyota's top performance engineers is sitting at a dinner table talking shop about roll cages and performance cars. The conversation eventually turns to sleeper cars—you know, cars whose subtle appearance belies their blistering performance. He lights up. "I'm not sure if I'm supposed to talk about this yet," he says, pulling out his phone to show off some incredible detail shots of a top-secret project. He's careful to not show the entire car to a group of scoop-happy journalists.
He's talking about...a Camry. But this is easily the most awesome Camry Toyota has ever built, an 850 hp drag racing beast that'll rip your head off in less time than it takes a "normal" version to cross an intersection.
And it looks completely and utterly stock.
Seriously. This thing looks like it could be your mom's grocery getter. You'd have to be a serious Camry enthusiast to see where it's different from the outside. Even the wheels are stock Camry units, though they've been cut and widened to fit the new needs of the car. It even sounds docile and tame when it first starts up.
That's when you notice that you can't exactly see in through the windows.
Okay, what Toyota did here was build a tube-framed dragster, then fit it within a mostly normal Camry body. Then it took a V8 from a Tundra...then supercharged it. And added nitrous just for the heck of it. It really does sound eerily quiet at startup, right until the loud button on the dash is pushed, when a pair of valves in the exhaust open up, and all hell breaks loose.
That might sound simple at first, but it was really an enormous effort. The body lifts up like a funny car, but the stock doors still open up like you'd expect them to. The trick is actually making part of the cage removable, so you can get in and out without having mastered the monkey bars in elementary school.
The interior is, well, nothing at all like a Camry, unless you count those doors. Then again, in a car that can do a quarter mile in under 10 seconds, you'll never notice.
Amazingly, the whole car was built in less than three months. For an idea of the sheer quality of the work, take a look at the welds on the cage.