4:55AM EDT October 13. 2012 - A Toyota Tundra pickup towed the retired space shuttle Endeavour across the freeway bridge in Inglewood, Calif., last night, a publicity coup that helped underscore Toyota's American connections.
The shuttle is winding its way from Los Angeles International Airport to a museum near downtown Los Angeles. Most of the way, it is being towed by a tractor atop of high-tech rig. But for about 100 yards, the crews needed to lighten the load to get it across Manchester Avnue overpass to cross the San Diego Freeway.
That's where the Toyota Tundra came in.
As we've told you, Toyota has been practicing for months for the move. We learned last night that execs actually gave the operation an internal code name, Blue Ox, and that training began several months ago -- all for a move of about 100 yards.
Indeed, the wait of few hours before the pull was mostly to get crews and equipment in place for the television commercial that Toyota is shooting. A director urged workers to pretend to inspect the rig carrying the shuttle at one point. "Give me a couple of guys in front of the tow hitch, please," he said.
The pickup truck that did the pull was silver with two-foot-tall Tundra letters written across the side. On the front end was written "Born in America," making it clear that Toyota, a Japanese automaker, wants to use the shuttle pull to once again try to get Americans to think of it as an American maker. The Tundra is made in San Antonio.
Even though it practiced for months, pulling the 292,000-pound trailer turned out to be no big deal. The engine never even revved hard. When the truck started effortlessly pulling the shuttle -- in four-wheel-drive low, naturally -- the crowd of several hundred broke into a "USA, USA" chant.