Toyota 2000GT: Nippons first Supercar
The History of a 60's Bond Car
In the 1960, motor racing was at its best in Japan, with Toyota being one of the most competitive manufacturers with its lightweight Sports 800. However, the competition was on their tail – so that the development of a world-class sports car was decided.
Just in time, Nissan ditched the joint development of the Fairlady Z with Yamaha. Genichi Kawakami, president of Yamaha at that time, asked Toyota’s president Eiji Toyoda to start the sports car project together. It was the beginning of a long-lasting friendship, which later gave way to legends like the Toyota Supra and Lexus LFA.
The first driveable prototype was completed in August 1965, before it made its world premiere at the 12th Tokyo Motor Show. The car was a sensation by itself, already gaining the title of Japan's first supercar.
It is the 2000GT’s unmistakably design that can’t be imitated by today's sports cars. Safety regulations and wind tunnels changed the shaping of sports cars fundamentally. The bodywork is a composition of elegant curves, be it the large, curved windshield or the exposed fenders. Especially prominent are the 4 headlights. The lower ones, officially the fog lights, resemble those of the Sports 800. The pop-up headlights were only implemented due to U.S. regulations, which prescribed a minimum height of 24 inches.
Chrome accents around the car finish the elegant design of the 2000GT. At the front, a T-shaped grill represents the Toyota brand. The taillights, being housed in chrome surroundings, give the 2000GT a very distinctive look from the back. Overall, the 2000GT represents the typical design of 1960's sports cars, reminding of other legends like the Ferrari 250 GTO and Jaguar E-Type.
The 2000GT features a rosewood interior
Moving from the outside to the precious interior, a dashboard of rosewood, the same Yamaha uses for their pianos, comes to sight. Five small and two large circular instruments, each one surrounded by chrome rings, give information about speed, rpm, fuel level, voltage as well as oil and water temperatures and oil pressure. The covers of the instruments were specially rounded to prevent sun reflections. The fine wooden steering wheel and the classy leatherette seats underline the high-quality characteristics of the GT.
However, not only its appearance made the 2000GT, codenamed MF10, the legend it became. It is the heart, the 2 liter straight six, sending 150 PS and 177 Nm of torque through a five speed gearbox to the rear wheels. The engine, named the 3M and based on the engine of a Toyota Crown, was tuned by Yamaha and received a double overhead camshaft head and three, two-barrel Solex carburetors. This makes the 2000GT good for 0-100 km/h times of 10 seconds, 160 is achieved after 24 seconds. The 2000GT tops out at an – for that time – astonishing 220 km/h.
A worlds first were, amongst other things, the limited-slip differential, independent double-wishbone suspension and four-wheel disc brakes as standard. Being normal for today's sports cars, back then, these items were the newest kind of automotive technology. Not even standard for today are the magnesium wheels, which were introduced to reduce the unsprung mass.
The driver sits right in front of the rear axle
The 2000GT racing cars received a stronger engine by Yamaha, producing 200 PS at 7.200 rpm. With these, Toyota achieved 3 world records and 13 international records. On the high-speed track in Yatabe, the 2000GT managed to run 15.000 kilometers with an average speed of 206 km/h. At first, the car wasn't delivering the hoped success in competitive racing. However, after entering edurance racing, the 2000GT showed its full potential, taking first and second during the 1966 Suzuka 1000km, and winning the Fuji 1000km in 1967. Carol Shelby entered the Sports Car Club of America series with two 2000GT in 1968. Even though the cars were performing great, it was the only year in the SCCA for Japan's grand tourer.
The most prominent appearance of the 2000GT has to be it’s convertible version in James Bond – You Only Live Twice. Due to Sean Connery’s height, Toyota built two convertible versions for the filming in Tokyo. In the first place, plans for a targa version were made, which were ditched in favor of the cabriolet. However, a private owner transformed a coupé with the original plans to a one off targa, which still exists today.
In 1969, the 2000GT received a minor change, changing the design of the front grille, smaller fog as well as different shaped indicator lights and introducing alloy wheels. Furthermore, a larger, 2.3 liter engine was available for the US-market, being available with a manual and automatic transmission. Just nine of the codenamed MF12 were built, of which two received the automatic transmission.
Not at last, costs made the 2000GT a rare piece of kit, with prices starting higher than Porsche 911's of that time. Thus, only 351 cars were built in total between 1965 and 1970. 337 were designated to customers, the remaining 14 cars were prototypes and race cars. Production of the 2000GT was discontinued after sharper safety regulations in the U.S. required major updates to the car.
Today, the 2000GT is one of the most, if not the most sought after car ever to come from the land of the rising sun. Its rareness, history and not at last its beautiful design allow the 2000GT to achieve up to $1.16 million at auction.
This Toyota 2000GT is part of the Toyota Collection, a classic car collection owned by Toyota Germany in Cologne. I will feature the whole collection and selected cars in my future posts, so stay tuned for that.