Today, Toyota is best known for making family sedans, SUVs, and trucks that are reliable, user-friendly, and celebrated for their assembly quality. But some say Toyotas are bland, lacking in any cutting-edge design characteristics that set them apart from their market competition. It may be hard to believe now, but in 1967 Toyota unleashed the 2000GT, a dramatic two-seat sports car with a 2-liter, double overhead cam, six-cylinder engine that produced 150 horsepower. Built to compete with the world’s best sports cars, the 2000GT completely changed America’s perception of Asian cars.
The introduction of Toyota’s 2000GT at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965 grabbed the attention of the sports car world. Designed and built-in affiliation with Yamaha, the low (45.7 inches at the highest), aggressively styled GT (Gran Tourismo) not only had a startling ‘Look at me’ design, but also had the performance to run with the best cars of its time, the Porsche 911 and the Jaguar XK-E.
It wasn’t all performance, however. A luxurious interior was highlighted by a rosewood dash with a full complement of gauges. Road & Track called the 2000GT, “An impressive car in which to sit or ride—or simply admire.”
The 2000GT is generally regarded as the first collectible Japanese car. In the early ‘60s when Japanese cars were making their first inroads into the U.S. market and were thought of as quirky, underpowered little sedans, the 2000GT was a high-performance head-turner that changed Americans’ perception of what Japanese car makers were capable of building.
The 2000GT backed up its good looks with success on the race track. Toyota retained Carroll Shelby, of Cobra fame, to oversee a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing program for two 2000GTs. Driven by Scooter Patrick and Dave Jordan, the GTs finished over 80% of their races and finished 1-2 three times.
Only 351 2000GTs were ever built, and only 62 of those had left-hand drive for sale in the United States. An unbeatable combination of dramatic design, racing success, and low production numbers has resulted in skyrocketing prices for lucky 2000GT owners. A 2000GT is the most expensive Asian car ever sold at auction, going for $1.15M in 2013. A well-known California collector car dealer has a ’67 2000GT for sale at the “bargain” price of only $950,000.
2000GT Shelby Racing – http://homepage3.nifty.com/2000gt/2000gt/shelby%20racing/shielby%20racing%20a.html
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_2000GT
Photos by Rex Gray