While NSX devotees continue to explain why their car should be accepted as a "real" supercar, Toyota 2000GT owners need make no such excuses
Toyota's 2000GT is widely acclaimed as the first Japanese car to be taken seriously by Western critics--the country's first "supercar." The model marked Japan's rise away from dull derivative models toward the highly competitive position it enjoys today.
The 2000GT was originally penned by Albrecht Goertz (creator of the BMW 507) for Nissan, who were hungrily looking at the burgeoning American sports car market, but when accountants vetoed the car on the grounds of cost, Yamaha (who developed the engine) persuaded Toyota to pick up the project.
The 2000GT debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965, but the first cars didn't reach owners until 1967. The model ran until 1970, but in the end just 337 2000GTs were built, thanks to a price tag ($7,150 in the U.S. in 1967) that towered above even the Jaguar E-type ($5,580) and Porsche 911 ($5,990).
If the eye was wooed by the aluminum body, the heart was won by the twin-cam engine packed with the latest technology from Yamaha's motorcycle experience. Offering a top speed of around 130 mph in road trim, the car could be tuned to 200 hp, power that was well within the limits of the Lotus Elan-inspired backbone chassis, equipped with double-wishbone independent suspension and disc brakes all round. A 5-speed synchromesh transmission, rack-and-pinion steering, oil cooler, heated rear window and magnesium-alloy knock-off wheels completed the state-of-the-art specification.
Performance credentials were established with a 3rd place in the Japanese Grand Prix of 1966 followed by a 78-hour endurance run in October that broke 13 international records and three world records, including the 72 hours, 10,000-mile and 15,000-mile records (with averages of 206.02 km/h, 206.04 km/h and 206.18 km/h respectively). This was underlined by victory in the Fuji 24-hour race the following year.
In the U.S. the 2000GT so impressed Carroll Shelby that he agreed to develop it for Production C class racing, despite strong objections from the Big Three. But after a strong start, Toyota soon turned their attentions to other sectors of the market rather than their supercar. Thus it remains one of those endearing quirks of automotive history and the source of endless musings along the lines of "what if…?" It is rare that examples of this icon reach the open market. One in this condition deserves the attention of discerning collectors. (Courtesy of Christie's)
The SCM Analysis
This car sold for $225,988 at Christie's auction in Le Mans, France, July 8, 2006.
While devotees of the Honda NSX continue to explain how and why their car should be taken seriously as a "real" supercar, Toyota 2000GTs owners need make no such excuses.
The 2000GT has it all--great looks penned by one of the most talented auto designers, a sophisticated powerplant and chassis, prowess on the track, a starring role in a James Bond movie ("You Only Live Twice"), and rarity matching the most exclusive Italian sports cars.
It's ironic that the 2000GT was originally conceived for Nissan, which of course went on to produce the 240Z and stayed in the sports car market in a way that Toyota didn't. But neither manufacturer would likely have continued production or developed the car in any meaningful way. It simply wasn't part of the overall growth strategy for Japanese companies in that period. In that way, it can be compared to another famous Goertz project, the BMW 507. That too was a neat car, but had nothing to do with BMW's ultimate success.
It's really hard to think of these cars as Toyotas in a real sense, as they were designed, developed, and built by Yamaha. That was their downfall, as Toyota's management felt it necessary to move the 2000GT from contract hand-building to in-house assembly line construction. When they asked U.S. dealers if they could sell 1,000 cars a month at twice the retail price of anything else in their showrooms, the response was overwhelmingly negative. Unable to make the economic case for boutique production, Toyota killed the project.
Nevertheless, the cars they made are sensational. Their looks equal their most pedigreed European competition, with a compact, svelte aluminum body.
Build quality is outstanding, and the cars are more usable than many sports cars, with excellent space utilization for two small people and their luggage. Small is the operative word--one of the reasons that two convertibles were made for the James Bond movie was that Sean Connery couldn't squeeze his 6-foot 2-inch frame behind the wheel.
Performance is outstanding--a real 130-mph car, with terrific torque and a 5-speed gearbox. Today they make superb vintage rally cars, with abundant mid-range power, a stable yet supple suspension and power disc brakes.
Sixty-two 2000GTs were imported into the U.S., and it is thought that 40 remain in existence. In spite of their rarity, they are well supported by an American dealer in Maine--Maine Line Exotics (www.mainelineexotics.com)--which has been active in 2000GT circles for many years.
In evaluating one of these cars, begin with the condition of the glass. Unavailable as spares, the windshield and rear window are outrageously expensive to source. In addition, the non-structural but double-skinned rockers should be examined to make sure that the jacking plates are connected to the subsill and the rocker. They are omitted sometimes in "restoration," making it difficult to raise the car without damaging the suspension.
The wheels are magnesium and subject to corrosion and pitting. Ironically, wheels are the only part of the car to be reproduced, but unfortunately the aluminum replacements tend to be out-of-round. Mechanically 2000GTs are robust and once properly set up should present no problems.
This car was sold at the October 2000 Brooks sale in Hershey, Pennsylvania for $151,000 (SCM# 10511). The sale was judged then to be "heavy money." However, the market has been moving upward, and truly collectible cars like this one have done well. I would say that the current sale price of $226k is at the least market correct, and perhaps a small bargain.
Evaluated six years ago as being in very clean #1 condition, the odometer showed 45,281 kilometers. At the time of this latest sale it has 76,326 kilometers on the clock, indicating it has been driven over 30,000 kilometers since 2000 and is still an attractive #2 car. It's a testament to the driving pleasure this rare Asian landmark offers, and I hope the new owner flogs it in the way its makers intended for many miles to come.
Years Produced: 1967–70
Number Produced: 358
Original List Price: $7,150
SCM Valuation: $175,000–$225,000 (1/06) (at time of print)
Tune-up Cost: $150
Distributor Caps: $40
Chassis #: MF1010140
Chassis # Location: On cowl; also right side chassis rail behind right front wheel
Engine # Location: Right side of block above oil pan
Club Info: Toyota 2000GT Owners Club, PO Box 617, Saco, ME, 04072; 207.282.6161
Alternatives: 1973 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7, 1965–71 Alfa Romeo GTA, 1965–69 Bizzarini Strada
Heard they go out for up to around 250K lately. Gotta love that Yamaha-built 3M engine: Twin Cam 12 Valve 2.0l straight six, 3 sidedraft Mikuni carbs, way ahead of it's time, long before BMW got mastery of the straight six art.
Before Z-Car, Before Celica, There Was The Toyota 2000GT
Work began on the 2000GT, a low-volume "halo" car to boost corporate image, in early 1964 under chief engineer Jiro Kawano. A prototype appeared at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show and was a stunning showstopper, easily eclipsing the Nissan Silvia and the rotary-powered Mazda Cosmo. It was, by far, the most exotic automobile ever made in Japan.
"Road & Track" called it "extremely handsome, purposeful in appearance, low, sleek and fast-looking." Design credit went to Toyota design staff member Satoru Nozaki. The prototype was reported to be in the 150-mph class, with power from a 200-hp, DOHC 2.0-liter engine. The car would go into production in late 1966.
Before that, however, the 2000GT went on the racetrack, with two lightweight versions entered in the Japanese Grand Prix (not Formula 1, of course) in May 1966. One finished third, behind two factory Prince R380 mid-engine prototypes; the other overheated and didn't finish. Both lightweight Toyotas not only finished the Suzuka 1,000 km race in June, but placed first and second in Japan's first-ever endurance race.
The production model appeared right on schedule, and immediately appeared on the cover of "Car and Driver." Some critics carped about the car's front end, particularly the pop-up headlamps needed to meet the laws of some countries. Big fog lights behind Plexiglas covers had a low beam feature that operated with the main headlamps retracted. Everyone loved the rear three-quarter angle, the fastback roofline incorporating a faint ducktail and a hinged liftgate. Twin round taillights were set in bezels to the outside of vertical "overriders" that served as rear bumpers. There was no front bumper other than the T-bar grille.
If the body borrowed from Jaguar, the chassis cribbed from Lotus. A central spine frame, a la Elan, was forked fore and aft of the passenger compartment. Although stiff longitudinally, it lacked torsional rigidity. The all-steel body therefore contributed extra stiffness. Front suspension was conventional double A-arms with coil springs around tube shock absorbers. At the rear, the coil-over shocks were mounted on stamped upper A-arms and tall "horns" on the backbone frame, while the lower A-arms were tubular and adjustable. Front and rear anti-roll bars were used as well.
Yamaha used Toyota's stodgy Crown six to power the 2000GT, but kept only the cast iron block, seven-bearing crankshaft and connecting rods. A new chain-driven double overhead cam head had two big valves per cylinder and hemispherical combustion chambers. Stock compression was only 8.4:1. Three twin-throat 40mm Mikuni-Solex sidedraft carburetors were used, while two three-branch cast aluminum alloy headers led to a side-by-side dual exhaust system. Ignition was by a conventional breaker point system, and an engine oil cooler was standard equipment. Maximum power was 150 hp at 6600 rpm, with 130 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm.
The 2000GT was the first Japanese car to have four-wheel disc brakes, solid discs front and rear, 11.0 and 10.5 inches respectively. Genuine magnesium wheels were used, with center locks that were tightened and loosened with a removable "spinner." Original equipment tires were Dunlop SP41 radials, 165HR15, tall 78-series tires.
The interior, though designed with American drivers in mind, was snug and had only two seats. Befitting Yamaha's piano-making business, the dash and console had beautifully finished rosewood panels. Instrumentation was complete with a 160-mph speedometer and a 9000-rpm tachometer, plus coolant and oil temperature, oil pressure, ammeter, and fuel level gauges. A novel feature was a signal-seeking radio.
But how did it go? Quite well, actually. Its $6,750 list price was not far below the $7,000 asked for a Porsche 911S, incredible for a Japanese car. But the 2000GT wasn't far off in performance, with a quarter mile time of 16.6 seconds (per "Road & Track"), compared with the 15.7 seconds for the 911S. Not bad, considering the 2000GT was trimmed as a luxury sports car and weighed 2,480-lbs curb weight. It was remarkable enough that the Toyota, a Japanese car, would be compared with the German sports car icon.
Yet Porsche continued to flourish, and with the much less expensive 240Z, Nissan apparently stole the ground prepared by Toyota. Toyota's partner, Yamaha, summed it up best: The "2000GT sent out the message that such a high-performance car would be made solely by Japanese hands, and brought new confidence to Japanese automakers that would inspire their eventual leap into world markets."
Between 1967 and 1970 Toyota built only 335 2000GT coupes and two "James Bond" roadsters for the movie "You Only Live Twice," of which a reported 62 cars, including nine single-cam models, came to the United States. With such low volume, and a price of almost $7,000 apiece, Toyota surely lost money on every 2000GT it made.
The low-volume coupe is a piece of automotive legend, which is exactly why choosing to use a 2000GT as a platform for an electric conversion strikes us equal parts blasphemous and awesome. But that's exactly what Japan's Crazy Car Project has done.
The engineers behind the exercise ditched the standard 2.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine in favor of a 161-horsepower electric motor. A 35kWh lithium-ion battery provides the system with power, and the hood has been covered with photovoltaic cells to help keep the car going. Likewise, the back glass is covered in a transparent solar panel. All told, the system can propel the vehicle to around 124 mph.
Inside, the 2000GT SEV features a modernized interior with plenty of tech-laden gadgets. The vehicle was built in cooperation with Toyota and debuted at the 2012 Tokyo Auto Salon.
My wife told me about this earlier, must have been on the Japanese news as she doesn't really follow automotive news. Look at it from the bright side: You can keep it running when there's no more petrol to be pumped out of the earth. I would have gone with retro wheels though.
Although Toyota eventually built the 2000GT, it was Nissan which originally contracted Yamaha and stylist Albrecht Goertz in 1963 to create a two seat sports car. Backing out after the initial prototype, Yamaha approached Toyota.
When the deal went sour with Nissan, Yamaha approached Toyota and the 2000GT was designed by Satoru Nozaki.