Half a century of car making is no small feat considering the concept of the modern automobile is only a little more than a century old. Car making is a tough business, too. Just ask Edsel, Packard, or Studebaker. But managing 50 years in America is only part of the success story that is the Toyota Motor Corporation.

After 50 years, the company is going strong, its growth out pacing U.S. automakers in their home market during the recent sales slump. It’s hard to believe it all started on October 31, 1957 with the tiny Toyopet. The little car was never a hit itself. Underpowered, undersized and uncomfortable, the Toyopet still managed to cost more than some of its European competitors, reports CNN Money. It wasn’t that Americans were unable to love a small, economical car - the VW Beetle was a huge hit. The Toyopet was just that bad - and even Toyota soon realized it.

On the other hand, 1957 is a year remembered well by car enthusiasts, not least for GM’s tremendous offerings: Chevrolet’s Bel-Air had reached its zenith, the first-generation C1 Corvette was available for the first time with a 4-speed manual transmission, and the famous Oldsmobile F-88 Mark II was blowing minds with its sleek lines and futuristic looks. With that kind of competition it’s no wonder that Toyota’s first American success story would have to wait until a bigger, more powerful Toyota, named Corona (pictured), hit the streets in 1965. By 1967 the Corona was selling 32,000 units annually, moving Toyota from mere curiosity to fifth among import brands. From there Toyota has risen to become king of the hybrid market, global auto sales leader, and is now fighting it out with Ford for second place in total sales in America.

What a difference 50 years can make.