Toyota's 2000GT stole the show at its introduction in Tokyo in 1965 for reasons far greater than the sum of its parts. When the world's most sporting coupes were coming out of Europe, the 2000GT put the automotive industry on notice. Japan was not known for producing beautifully designed two-seater GT cars. The 2000GT proclaimed that Toyota and the Japanese automotive industry could compete with the world's best and were here to stay, paving the way for future Japanese cars of all kinds in foreign markets. While some enthusiasts turned up their noses at the thought of a sports car from Japan, many were smitten by the 2000GT'sworld's gorgeous aluminum body and performance credentials.
Interestingly enough, the 2000GT was not Toyota's idea. Yamaha, known for its motorcycles at the time, decided to begin work on a sports car, its first venture into the automotive industry. After Yamaha had completed the initial designs for the car, the 2000GT found its home with Toyota, which was, interestingly enough, Yamaha's second choice for a manufacturer. Designed by Raymond Loewy, it was intended as a product for Nissan, who later decided not to take on the project. As a result, Yamaha brought the plans for the 2000GT before Toyota. Toyota, who had a reputation for producing rather conservatively designed cars, saw this new creation as an opportunity to prove that their engineers and designers could compete on the world stage.
The engine of the 2000GT was based on the inline-six Toyota Crown. Yamaha adapted it for use in the new model by installing new double overhead camshafts, giving the engine a more sporting character. With 150 horsepower pushing a curb weight of just 2,400 pounds with a 49/51 weight distribution, the 2000GT is light on its feet and handles like a dream. The top speed was a respectable 135 mph.
Still aspiring to compete with the Europeans on all levels, Toyota ensured that the 2000GT found its way to the track. Toyota entered a 2000GT in the Japanese Grand Prix, keeping competition at a domestic level. In its inaugural outing at that event in 1966, the model placed 3rd. A year later, it won the Fuji 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota even sent a 2000GT to the Yatabe Test Track, where it set 15 records in speed and endurance, wildly exceeding Toyota's expectations. Carroll Shelby even raced the 2000GT in SCCA events in the United States, racking up a respectable four wins in the 1968 season, the only season it would compete under Shelby's name.
In 1967, the 2000GT had a brief stint on the silver screen. In You Only Live Twice, the fifth film of the James Bond series, Bond's Japanese counterpart drove 007 around the streets of Tokyo in a 2000GT. However, Connery's 6'2" frame could not fit into the 45.7-inch tall coupe. Toyota built a targa top 2000GT to further accommodate Connery, but producers ruled it out because Connery's head stuck out far above the roofline. Finally, Toyota produced a convertible that fit Connery just fine, and it was used in the movie. You Only Live Twice put the low production 2000GT in front of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Even though the car appeared on screen for a small portion of the film, it monumentally increased the 2000GT's exposure to the public, as well as Toyota's. Sadly, neither targa nor convertible ever went into production.
Completing the formula for a collectible sports car, the 2000GT is rare. When production concluded in 1970, just 351 examples were produced, and just 15% of those were imported to the United States. Toyota planned to produce nearly 1,000 examples annually, but sales were limited due to its cost. The price of the 2000GT topped $7,000 in 1967, which was over $1,000 more expensive than a Jaguar E-Type and Porsche 911 and over $2,500 more than a Chevrolet Corvette. For many, justifying the purchase of a 2000GT was difficult when there were much more established competitors in the marketplace for thousands of dollars less.
Source: rmauctions.com; www.oldschool-cars.ru
Images: Toyota; www.2000gt.net; Product Design Database