Exactly 55 years ago the Toyota 2000GT made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show. This first supercar from Japan is a fascinating chapter in automotive history. Among the obstetricians were Yamaha and one of the toughest competitors of Toyota: Nissan. How did it come about? Follow us on a brief excursion into the history of this vehicle.
History of the 2000GT
It all began when Toyota decided to build their first sports car based on the small car Publica in the early 1960s. This gave rise to the Publica Sport concept car, which was exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1962 and was subsequently further developed into the Sports 800. This went into series production in 1965 and rolled off the production line 3,131 times. But even before the first unit arrived at the dealers, there were already plans in the background for a larger and more powerful sports car. For this, the Japanese company was looking for a development partner and finally found one at Yamaha.
Yamaha had recently worked on a sports car project for Nissan. However, this cooperation broke down before the A550X prototype could be presented. Now Yamaha was able to show this car to Toyota, where the hidden talents of the car were quickly revealed. The bodywork was redesigned by the in-house designer Satoru Nozaki. He integrated various details from other sports cars like the Jaguar E-Type or some Ferrari models. New were the pop-up headlights above the running lights in the front, which were hidden behind clear glass covers. On the rear, four round taillights in chrome-plated surrounds provided a beautiful finish.
Twiggy presented a golden 2000GT
The near-series prototype 280 A1 made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965. It differed from the later production sports car only in details such as the shape of the pop-up headlight covers or the dashboard design. The production car was presented at the same place two years later by the then top model Twiggy. Interestingly, this car was painted in gold, which was only done on a second car for the Yamaha Museum. For the customers, the colors ‘Pegasus White’, ‘Solar Red’, ‘Thunder Silver’, ‘Bellatrix Yellow’, ‘Twilight Turquoise’ and ‘Atlantis Green’ were available, but some cars were also painted black.
Under project manager Shoichi Saito, Toyota created an outstanding chassis with a central tubular frame and sports suspension in less than a year. The two-liter six-cylinder engine was borrowed from the then top model Crown, but it was extensively modified. Yamaha developed a completely new cylinder head with two overhead camshafts and integration of three Solex double carburetors. This provided 112 kW/152 hp and a maximum torque of 175 newtonmeters, which was transmitted to the rear axle via a manual five-speed gearbox. The data sheet specified a topspeed of 217 kph (134.8 mph). Towards the end of the production period, nine units of the Toyota 2000GT were produced with an inline six-cylinder engine increased to 2.3 liters. As this engine was only equipped with one overhead camshaft, it only had 103 kW/140 hp while the torque increased to 201 newtonmeters.
There were three versions of the Toyota 2000GT between 1967 and 1970. All of which were built at the Yamaha plant in Iwata. The 233 examples of the original model, internally called MF10, were followed by a slight facelift with smaller running lights behind clear glass and newly shaped indicators below the corners of the bumper in August 1969. These vehicles were internally called MF10L and came off the production line 109 times, followed by the nine examples mentioned above with the larger engine, called MF12L. What they all had in common was the coupé bodywork. However, Toyota turned two cars into convertibles in record time. The reason for this was the shooting of the James Bond film ‘You only live twice’ in 1966, where it was immediately apparent that the leading actor Sean Connery didn’t fit into the cockpit. Plans for a targa version similar to the 800 Sports never went into series production, but were realized by a later owner of a 2000GT on his own. The vast majority of the 351 Toyota 2000GTs built was intended for the domestic market in Japan. However, there were about 60 units for the US market and a few more cars that went to the UK or Switzerland, for example. Two 2000GTs even went to Mozambique.
Worth mentioning in any case are the records that Toyota could set with the 2000GT. In 1966, a vehicle was sent to the Yatabe test track in the Japanese prefecture of Saitama for a high-speed test lasting 72 hours without a break. Toyota set three FIA world records (WR) and 13 international speed records (IR), which are listed below:
- 72 hours of driving with an average of 206.02 kph (128.01 mph, WR/IR)
- 15,000 kilometers with an average of 206.04 kph (128.02 mph, WR/IR)
- 10,000 miles with an average of 206.18 kph (128.11 mph, WR/IR)
- 6 hours of driving with an average of 210.42 kph (130.75 mph, IR)
- 1,000 miles with an average of 209.65 kph (130.27 mph, IR)
- 2,000 kilometers with an average of 209.45 kph (130.15 mph, IR)
- 12 hours of driving with an average of 208.79 kph (129.74 mph, IR)
- 2,000 miles with an average of 207.48 kph (128.92 mph, IR)
- 24 hours of driving with an average of 206.33 kph (128.21 mph, IR)
- 5,000 kilometers with an average of 206.29 kph (128.18 mph, IR)
- 5,000 miles with an average of 204.36 kph (126.98 mph, IR)
- 48 hours of driving with an average of 203.80 kph (126.64 mph, IR)
- 10,000 kilometers with an average speed of 203.97 kph (126.74 mph, IR)
Porsche reacted immediately and broke most of these records with a 911 R. Toyota also used the 2000GT in the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix for Sports Cars, finishing third, and shortly afterwards took a one-two at the first 1,000 kilometer race in Japan. They also won the Fuji 24-Hour race in 1967. In 1968 Carroll Shelby successfully entered two specially prepared 2000GTs in the C category of the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) in the USA.