Toyota 2000 GT
Total Production: 351 1967 - 1970
Thrilling automotive admirers, collectors and historians for over 40 years, the Toyota 2000GT was Japan's original exclusive sports car. Created in a joint collaboration by Toyota and Yamaha, this exceptional and exotic GT is still appreciated today for not only its beauty and performance but also its historic significance. Japan's first supercar, the 2000GT was a limited-production, rear-wheel drive, front-engine, 2-seat hardtop coupe grand tourer. Stunning its audience, the car was first debuted to the public at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965 though it took another 2 years before it went on sale. In Japan, the 2000GT was exclusive to Toyota's Japanese retail sales channel dubbed Toyota Store. The price topped $6,800, over $1,000 more than the target E-Type.
Revolutionizing the automotive world's view of Japan, the 2000GT helped to change the current opinion that Japan was known only for cheaper, quality-lacking vehicles. Known for building family cars, or economy sedans models after French and English version, up until this point the Japanese were not known for their sports or GT cars. The arrival of the GT proved that Japanese auto manufacturers could in fact produce a sports car that was capable of rivaling similar European models.
Compared favorably to the Porsche 911, a pre-production 2000GT in 1967, Road & Track magazine reviewed the vehicle as 'one of the most excited and enjoyable cars we've driven'. With such positive publicity the Toyota 2000GT was well on its way to being the first seriously collectible Japanese cars and the original 'Japanese supercar'. Today these models have sold at auction for as much as $375,000.
Much of the credit for the Toyota 2000GT goes to Albrecht Goertz, a freelance German-American designer who was a protégé of Raymond Loewy. Credited with designing the BMW 507, he had traveled to Yamaha in Japan in the early 1960's to create a two-seater sports car for Nissan. Though a prototype was constructed, Nissan chose not to pursue the project, possibly because its cost and sophistication were too high for the production and marketing plans they were making. Yamaha also worked for Toyota but at the time was considered the most conservative of the Japanese car manufacturers. Toyota accepted the proposal in an attempt to improve their image, but chose to go with a design from their own designer Satoru Nozaki.
Vividly eye-catching and with a design that is widely considered to be a classic the 200GT featured smoothly flowing bodywork finished in aluminum. Pop-up headlights fronted the supercar and large plexiglass covered driving lamps framed either side of the grille in the same fashion as on the Toyota Sports 800. Barely any bumpers at all though, unfortunately, the plexi-glass driving lamp covers were easily damaged. Drastically low, the Japanese supercar measured just 45.7 inches to the tallest point of the roof. The 2000GT had a slight hint of the Jaguar E-type along with being very technologically advanced. It had a 2,329-mm wheelbase and a length of 4,176 mm.
The front of the vehicle was updated slightly in 1969, making the driving lamps smaller and changing the shape of the turn signals. The rear turn signals were also updated and made slightly larger along with some modernizations on the inside of the sports car. Some models were fitted with air conditioning and featured automatic transmission as an option. These models also had an additional scoop fitted underneath the grille, which supplied air to the A/C unit. The inside of the supercar did feature comfortable, though cramped space with luxury features that included a rosewood-veneer dashboard and an auto-seeking radio tuner. Road & Track felt that the interior of the 2000GT was up to the standard for a 'luxurious GT' stating that it was an impressive car 'in which to sit or ride - or simply admire.'
Based on the engine in the top-of-the-line Toyota Crown sedan, the engine in the GT was a 2.0 L (121 in³) straight-6 (the 3M). This engine was completely transformed by Yamaha and featured all-new double overhead camshaft heads into a 112 kW (150 hp) sports car engine. Carburetion was completed through three two-barrel Solex 40 PHH units. Special MF-12 models, nine, were constructed with the larger but SOHC 2.3 L 2M engine. The vehicle was offered with three different final drives. Getting 31 mpg, the car was fitted with a 4.375 ratio axle and was rumored to be capable of reaching 135 mph.
Driving the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission the engine in the GT was longitudinally mounted. In a first for a Japanese vehicle, all-round power-assisted disc brakes were fitted, and also a limited-slip differential. The emergency brake gripped the rear disc directly.
With figures that were comparable to first-class Italian supercar production of the time, only 351 regular production models of the 2000GT were built. The breakdown was 233 MF10's, 109 MF10Ls, and nine MF12Ls according to Yamaha and Toyota data. All vehicles were constructed by Yamaha, and it took two years for production vehicles to emerge.
The Toyota 2000GT was sold for around $6,800 in the U.S., a much higher price tag than contemporary Jaguars and Porsches. Despite their hefty cost, it was believed that no profit was made on the cars since they were more concept cars, a demonstration of ability rather than a true production car. Most 2000GTs were painted either red or white, and around 60 models reached North America. Other models were estimated to have spread thinly worldwide in much the same manner.
Coming in third in the '66 Japanese Grand Prix the Toyota 2000GT also won the Fuji 24-Hour Race in 1967. The vehicle also set numerous FIA world records for endurance and speed in a 72-hour test. The record car was unfortunately destroyed in a pace car accident and was eventually discarded. This prompted Porsche to soon prepare a 911R especially to beat this record.
Competing in the CP category, Carroll Shelby would also enter a pair of 2000GTs to compete in the SCCA production car races. Originally he built three cars, including one spare. Though they performed well, 1968 was the only season the car competed in the U.S. Toyota took back one of the vehicles and rebuilt it into a replica of their record car which today still remains in Japan. The two remaining Shelby cars still reside in the United States.
Making its most famous screen appearance in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, two custom open-top 2000GT models were built. A factory-produced convertible was never offered during the car's production run. Most of the movie was filmed in Japan. The cars built for the film didn't have roofs, merely an upholstered hump at the rear of the cabin to simulate a fold top and because of this they were not ever fully functioning convertibles.
Before they decided to make fully roofless cars, building the car as a Targa was first tried, allegedly due to Sean Connery's height which didn't allow him to fit into the ultra-low coupe version. This eliminated the rear side windows but retained the hatchback of the original vehicle. Unfortunately when the Targa was completed, Connery's head stuck out of the top so much that it was deemed too ridiculous looking and roofless version would have to be constructed if the car was to be featured in the film. The vehicle was mainly driven by his girlfriend; Akiko Wakabayashi in the film anyways. 45 years later, the Toyota 2000GT has become a true icon and now an integral part of the history of James Bond.
Though not as well known as the Nissan Z to the general public like later Japanese sports cars, many collectors esteem the 2000GT as quite possibly the first highly collective Japanese car. Well-preserved models can reach high auction prices, though parts availability can be a problem.
By Jessica Donaldson