1967 Toyota 2000GT

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. Toyota 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)